Sam Cooper & James Porter graduated from their Bass and Drum performance degrees at BIMM London in 2017. Since then, they’ve been living the touring lifestyle as the rhythm section with indie pop newcomer Ten Tonnes. Having already supported the likes of Rat Boy and Stereophonics on tour, the pair have been racking up some seriously impressive bucket list performances. We caught up with the pair to chat about what a wild ride it’s been so far.
Hi guys! How did the gig with Ten Tonnes first come about?
SC – “A friend of mine who plays for Declan Mckenna messaged me saying that their MD was looking for a band for a new project coming up and that I should apply for it. After sending it through I didn’t hear anything back for quite a while so thought the trail had gone cold. I had a call asking to come down for auditions maybe a month on.
I was very lucky really… there were three or four days of auditions and I could only make it to the final day. James and I bumped in to each other by chance in a rehearsal studio before hand, so had the opportunity to practice together. After people being sent home throughout the day there was only a handful of us left and we were told that we would have a phone call in the next few days if we had got the gig. The day after, I was at my office job back in Basingstoke and received the call that I had potentially got the gig and that Ethan (Ten Tonnes) would like to have a drink with us to see how we get on. After getting rather drunk together, me and James ended up stumbling home on the tube being super paranoid about whether or not we had said anything stupid or whether Ethan liked us or not but everything went ahead and we were in rehearsals a few weeks later!”
JP – “I got a phone call from Michelle Humphreys (BIMM London’s Events, Guests and Artist Development Manager) in the summer of 2016 asking if I would like to audition for a new artist that had recently bagged a management deal. Apparently, the MD for the project had seen me play at the end of year showcase that year. The audition was a big mix of all the players; basically just to find out who played and looked best together. After a decision was made, we were asked to go for a drink with Ethan to see if we all got on. Several pints and a bad head later, I got a call to say I had the gig.”
You’ve toured with Rat Boy, Stereophonics and most recently with Tom Grennan this year. Can you sum up what life on the road has been like?
SC – “The tours have been amazing… each of them completely different but amazing none the less. The Rat Boy tour was a very young crowd; kids just wanting to go crazy to anything (even songs in-between bands played over the PA). We made good friends with the main support band Bad Sounds and had some very funny nights out including one where we ended up in a drag bar in Newcastle all night. Ha!”
JP – “Rat Boy has some of the best fans I have ever seen. Being the first act on is always tricky, but regardless of whether they knew who Ethan was, they jumped, moshed and sang along like no other audience I had ever seen. I also got to play my dream venue Brixton Academy on that run. Looking out and seeing that particular room in front of you is something I can’t explain; it really moved me.
SC –“The Stereophonics gig was the most amazing thing to be a part of. The whole thing was like a military operation. I had no idea how much went in to doing a tour that size. So many trucks of gear and so many crew members! The venues also were absolutely HUGE! I never thought after spending so many years playing in pubs and small venues to 50 people tops that I’d be stood on stage in front of 15,000 people. It’s still hard to get my head around even now that I’ve done it.
Wembley was a particular highlight, something every English musician wants to do and something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid and first picked up a bass. It was definitely tough holding back the tears on stage for that one. Seeing my mother afterwards crying her eyes out was also very emotional! It was on her bucket list of things she wanted to see me do in her lifetime. The second night also finished very drunkenly shouting the words to Dakota as loud as I possibly could with my Dad and James (what a tune).
The catering company that was touring with us was also a particular highlight. It was some of the best food I’ve ever eaten and we basically had unlimited pudding, which me and James definitely capitalised on.”
JP –The arena shows with Stereophonics were pretty surreal. We were all nervous for the first show, but after Kelly came in to our dressing room and welcomed us on to the tour I think it settled us and the first show was a blast. We all fell in love with tour catering and were very emotional when we finished our last dessert. Being lucky enough to play Wembley Arena twice on that tour, the first absolutely bricking it and the second like it was natural. Me and Sam wore Acres t-shirts to honour our late buddy Will. Big up the Acres family.
SC –The Tom Grennan tour was really great as well. It was nice to have a bit of grounding after playing those ridiculous arena shows, but the shows were always super busy. We’d been away for just over two months at this point, so we were all absolutely exhausted. Conversation had gotten a bit silly (too many inside jokes). Tom’s live show and band were really great as well, which was a pleasure to watch every night! Getting to play Shepherds Bush Empire for the first time was a great opportunity as well, even though I broke my toe on the load in.”
JP –It was funny going back to playing normal sized rooms when we started the Grennan tour. By this point nobody was thinking about what they were playing, we were smashing through soundchecks in 15 minutes and nerves just didn’t exist anymore. I think I would rather have nerves though in all honesty – it’s healthy. We watched all the Harry Potter films on this run, 8 shows 8 films and I think its safe to say we all went a bit mental by the end of it.”
You recently played at The Great Escape Festival in Brighton. How was it for you?
SC – “Great Escape was really good actually, it was a hell of a long day but really good. Our first show was in Coalition, which was at capacity even though we were opening the stage, so that was nice. And the second at the Paganini ballroom for BBC Introducing was one of my favourite gigs to date. We were all pretty exhausted, so just seemed to go for it on stage which was great fun. A live recording of Ethan’s new single was aired on BBC 6 Music from that gig, which we listened to in the van after a few cans and I think we were all quite shocked at how good it sounded! There was even a round of applause in the van, haha!”
JP – “So much fun. I managed to get a beach session, Fish & Chips, a 99 Flake and a Nando’s all in one day. I think they call that 10/10?”
How are you feeling about playing the festival circuit this summer?
SC – “Festivals are always exciting! I enjoy receiving the emails as different ones get confirmed and building a list of festivals to tick off the list. I remember being at festivals like Reading & Leeds with my friends and talking about how one day we’d love to be up there playing and now I’m doing it for a third year in a row. It really blows my mind!
They can be quite stressful, especially city festivals where timings are tight and space is tight etc. So, I think sometimes you don’t get as much time to enjoy and appreciate them as normal gigs but they are still super exciting! There’s such a huge buzz, especially at a field festival, as everyone is there for the same reasons and wanting to have a good time!”
JP – “This festival season is set to be a really good one. We made friends with the guys in Bad Sounds when we were on the Rat Boy tour and we are on loads of the same festivals with them, so I can’t wait to hang with them again. It’s just nice to be back out on the road really. Sam and I share a room on tour and we are inseparable, so I actually hate the quiet of a room to myself when I go home, haha!”
Ten Tonne’s debut album comes out later this year. Were you involved in the recording process?
SC – “I have had the pleasure of recording on a couple of tracks for Ethan on the album which has been a great experience and an honour to work with some really top notch engineers and producers. Working with Hugo White from the Maccabees in his studio was also really cool.”
JP – “As far as I know, the album will be out by the end of the year (big up my man Ethan) but there is no date for it yet. Me and Sam are set to record a track next week with Dan Grech (The Vaccines, Liam Gallagher). I will definitely be getting that album on vinyl.”
How did your course help prepare you for your current role as session musicians?
SC – “I feel like the main thing it helped with was my ability to get things done and knowing the importance of knowing your s*#t, so to speak! It makes such a huge difference knowing what you have to do and getting your job done smoothly and professionally for everyone around you. Leaving a good impression seems to go a long way in this business. Also, after four years of playing basically every week. It’s a lot easier to stay calm when doing these gigs, small or large. Uni may not be gigging experience but it’s experience none the less.”
JP – “Right now, I’m realising the importance of warming up before a show, as we have a few tracks towards the end of the set that require a lot of energy. I’m using stuff I did in techniques lessons to get me ready for stage. Erik Stams always got us to warm up by playing along to songs rather than a metronome, which I’m definitely into. I think the main thing I took from the course was how to play for the song. Watching people overplay on a simple indie rock song makes me wince now and I reckon that’s a good thing; like a strong reminder to never do that!”
What tips would you offer musicians looking to follow in your footsteps as session performers?
SC – “In all honesty the main piece of advice I would give to people so far is just about being a decent, easy going, consistent person. As long as you’re easy to get on with, turn up on time and are prepared for whatever you’re doing, people are going to want to work with you. Being open minded also is a big thing. Enjoy it! It’s an amazing thing to do but also understanding that this IS your job, if that makes sense? Being very self aware and professional at all times is important and even though these people are your friends, they are also your work colleagues.”
JP – “It’s all about not overplaying and just being a nice guy to be on tour with. People want to work with calm and collected people that know their stuff inside out. If you’re that person then there’s no reason why you can’t do it. Just play as many shows as possible and definitely try and do the showcases as thats where you’re likely to get spotted.”
Photo c/o Phoebe Fox