The Village Idiots – a group of loveable music fans and fervent Winnipeg scene supporters – do more than go to shows and buy a t-shirt. The group of Winnipegers are take the city’s underground music and broadcasting live on Facebook for all the world to see – literally.
We caught up with Rylie Saunders, one of the founding Idiots, to chat about the show’s start, how technology will impact indie music, and their favourite show – so far.
Raz Mataz Magazine (RMM): First off: who are The Village Idiots?
Rylie Saunders (RS): Our full-time team is me and Kevin Repay, the creators of Live at the Roslyn and the Village Idiots, Joey Senft from jsenft photography (our action photographer), Mike Osikoya from Visual Soul Studios (our portrait photographer and videographer) and Morgan Coates (our audio engineer). We believe that The Village Idiots are not just us but anyone who wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves and we’re proud to say there are thousands of “Idiots” all around Winnipeg! To us idiots, music is love.
RMM: How did you guys come together? And how did the idea for live-streamed shows come about?
Rylie Saunders (RS): Myself and Kevin have been huge music fans for years and always supported the Winnipeg music scene. Through this we befriended many musicians along the way and grew many contacts in the Winnipeg scene. We witnessed the evolution of music into the digital age and recognized an opportunity like no other before: To have Facebook as your stage! We realized you’d have far more exposure and will reach people that never seem to be able to make it out to live shows (due to work, family, anxiety of live shows, whatever!).
We initially wanted to record shows then post them but when we first started seeing Facebook Live, we immediately realized that we could actually have everyone watching live with us from their own home while being engaged in the show through comments. The goal of starting any business is to provide something new/different/ground-breaking and we felt like this was it!
By the second episode, we realized a house photographer” was a great idea to capture it all so we got Joey Senft on board. Then Mike Osikoya, with whom I used to work, showed interest and came up with the idea of providing portrait photography for each band (a really nice touch!) and an artist named Greg Arcade put me in touch with Morgan Coates to be our sound guy (cause we had no clue what we were doing there!) which took us to another level.
RMM: What was the first show you streamed and how did it go?
Rylie Saunders (RS): The first show was done on an iPhone6 on November 2. The band was Dick Lizard and The Komodos (our friends and one of our local faves). At that point, Facebook Live was (and still is) quite limited in its abilities/quality, which gives us a ton of headaches (things like video quality, audio/video sync). We really had no clue what we were doing so there was very little production value.
We started with a short interview of the band then kicked into a 7-song set. The overall quality was quite low but the show, for us, was still an overwhelming success and gave us something to build off of. It was such an exhilarating experience and we were addicted right away. Through feedback, we quickly realized we had something that was going to be embraced by the music community and was ground breaking in nature.
RMM: How have your shows evolved since then?
Rylie Saunders (RS): We added Morgan Coates as our sound engineer for our 6th episode (we’ve now done about 15) and things changed drastically. We went away from the iPhone and began using a Logitech webcam, and upgraded our sound substantially. We upgraded to a 12-channel mixer through an interface and really transformed our living room into a studio (yes, this is all in our living room lol).
We still have so much to grow, definitely, camera quality is a big one, but we are taking baby steps, and everything has a cost. All of this has been funded by us so our means don’t equal our abilities/potential yet. Hopefully one day soon we will receive sponsorship or funding that will enable us to reach our potential/vision. At this point, it’s a great idea, a lot of love for music and passion for breaking barriers. We are nowhere near our destination.
RMM: What has been your favourite live-streamed show so far?
Rylie Saunders (RS): They are all so special in their own way, it’s kind of like asking a parent who their favourite child is. From Dick Lizard and the Komodos being our first, to our favourite band Bright Righteous blowing everyone away (we think they will be the next big band in Canada). We had a singer-songwriter night where 7 artists performed a couple of songs acoustically, that was great! Also, Micah Erenberg is pretty much a cross between Bob Dylan, Jimmy Page and Beck… we really believe he is a talent that must be seen and his new album (Poor Mics Toe) grows on you fast.
Altogether, I believe our best show (all things considered) was the Honeysliders (Episode 7, I believe). Jamie Buckboro has such an amazing voice/presence and everything seemed to click that night. Another band to mention is Mise en Scene as they were true professionals and I really became a big fan after working with them. They have great vision/work ethic. Geez… I think I’ve gotta stop here cause I could actually name every show hahaha… They are all so special in their own way and we (and the bands) put so much into them.
RMM: What makes a good live-streamed show different from a good live gig?
Rylie Saunders (RS): Convenience first and foremost. You see/hear everything and its more intimate in a sense as the band is playing directly for you. Also, its super cool how you can comment and have your comments read out live as you watch; that adds another dynamic and has had big value for us. My preference is always a live gig, but we completely understand that life gets in the way and a lot of people don’t have the time or money to go to a bar and watch. Clicking play on Facebook is simple and free.
RMM: What advice can you give to bands that want to follow your lead and live stream a show?
Rylie Saunders (RS): Announce it in advance, advertise it and simply just do it!!! Also, make sure you sound/video check before going live, get all the kinks out by doing a Facebook Live for only you to see and watch/listen to the eventual product. This pre-show prep is essential and you don’t want it to sound like shit when it’s too late to fix it.
RMM: Technology today has really enabled indie bands to push the envelope and reach new audiences all over the world. What is the “next” advancement that you guys are excited for?
Rylie Saunders (RS): I think we are really at the infancy of this idea and it can expand to great lengths. A Virtual Reality rock show with a real band would be insane!!!
RMM: What’s next for The Village Idiots?
Rylie Saunders (RS): We will continue to do Live shows every Wednesday at 8pm on our Facebook page (@WeAreTheVillageIdiots) until the end of April when we will conclude our first season. We’ve been filming higher quality videos and multi-tracking the audio to create one “pro shot” video for each band on a YouTube page and we are filming/capturing the shows behind the scenes for a documentary/film we’d like to make about all of this (mainly the evolution of music into the digital age). Outside of this, we look to grow our brand and probably put on a few shows in Winnipeg featuring our favourite artists!
RMM: Any final thoughts?
Rylie Saunders (RS): Thank you so much to all the fans/musicians out there for all the support. We couldn’t do this without you. We are you, and we love you. Please keep liking/commenting/sharing/supporting music and spread the love to everyone you come in contact with.
Support your Village Idiots: like their Facebook page and – more importantly – tune in on Wednesdays at 8pm (CT).