In episode 14, I talk to Rob and Adam from the British pop-rock band ‘Chasing Deer’ about how they have incorporated BSL into their music and their passion around making their gigs deaf-friendly so that everyone can enjoy their music, regardless of whether you are hearing or deaf.
Listen to the podcast or read the transcripts below:
Announcer: This is the Hear Me Out! [CC] Podcast. A place to hear stories from the deaf and hard of hearing people, and from your host, Ahmed Khalifa.
Ahmed: Welcome to episode 14 of the Hear Me Out! [CC] Podcast, where I talk to Rob and Adam from Chasing Deer.
And they have done an interesting thing with their music where they’re incorporating BSL quite heavily into their music and also their live performances, and that way everyone can enjoy it and that includes the hearing audience as well.
So they have shared a really interesting story, why they do it, how they do it. A very, very interesting interview, and I am sure a lot of musicians can also just take some advice from them as well on how they can also make their music, and their gig more deaf accessible as well.
So stick around as I talk to Rob and Adam from Chasing Deer.
Ahmed: Alright, Rob and Adam from Chasing Deer, welcome!
Rob: Hello, thanks for having us.
Ahmed: Thanks for joining in and I believe you’re in Italy right now recording some new tracks.
Rob: We are. We’re over in the sunshine in Tuscany for two weeks recording some new music.
Ahmed: Nice okay. Well I mean since we’re going to be talking about the music side first I would love to know your background.
Tell me a story about your band and how you got together and also your influences and what kind of style would you call yourself as well?
Rob: Yeah, so we’re called Chasing Deer. We’re a three piece band, and we’ve been playing for just over four years. We do pop rock music and anything with a good catchy melody, ideally.
So our influences are quite varied and they’re anything from the Beatles through [crosstalk 00:01:56]
Adam: Dire Straits, Pink Floyd [crosstalk 00:01:57]
Rob: Yeah, a bit of everything, some modern stuff as well, anything that kind of catches us out with a nice tune and good vocals as well.
Ahmed: Sounds good. I like to do my research, so I like to try to, you know, go through the album, where I can and I’ve been listening to it and just because I play the guitar as well, and I think its kind of easy to be into that kind of music as well.
Literally I’ve got that song ‘Placebo’ in my head on loop, you know (singing) “don’t tell me what I want to hear…”
It’s just constantly in my head right now, which is pretty cool.
But I’m really curious to know because the reason I contacted you, because you do have that link to deafness and BSL and stuff.
So before we talk about the music in detail, what is your link to that topic of deafness in the first place?
Adam: My Mum was learning sign language when I was growing up. So she went through the courses and got her different grades and it so was kind of around when I was growing up.
She had deaf friends that she met through networking events and it was an interesting thing I was always interested in, you know, why was she kind of learning this new language, and then she went on work in schools, one on one with deaf children in public schools, helping them through the public school system.
So it was kind of always around when I was growing up and now we’ve taken it into our music!
Ahmed: Clearly, because the album cover itself has the fingers crossed, which I’m assuming is a symbol of hope and luck?
Rob: That’s it yeah, hope and luck, and we kind of thought that it was a quite a universal sign that people would understand all over the world, hopefully, whether they were deaf or not.
And the sign language, the BSL, we’ll use on each one of our singles is all very simple, very basic BSL, which we hope that people could understand, or at least have a guess at even if they didn’t know BSL.
Ahmed: I’ve seen that when you go on Spotify or whatever it is and you look at the cover for each single that you have and each have a variety of BSL signs. So, it’s quite interesting.
How did you even think about incorporating BSL into your album in the first place?
I mean I understand you grew up with it, but what is it that made you think, “you know what, what makes sense, lets connect our music with BSL.” How did that happen in the first place and why did you want to do it as well?
Adam: We wanted to create some beautiful art work for our single, our albums, first and foremost and we kind of realised that the hands doing different signs was just such a striking image and we got all different types of hands.
We’ve got young people, we’ve got old people, we’ve got different people of different race, with different jewellery or tattoos that mean certain things to them, and we just wanted to create some great art work and make people think about what we were doing without it necessarily telling them straight away.
We thought what a great way to incorporate BSL and kind of spread the word and make them more aware of people suffering with hearing loss.
Ahmed: It’s pretty cool because at the time of recording in the UK anyway, its Deaf Awareness Week, so its kind of, you know, very kind of appropriate for that to happen.
So I’m curious, how knowledgeable with your BSL are you anyway in terms of, whatever level you want to call it at. What’s your current level at in BSL?
Rob: It’s very, very basic.
We actually as part of the project which has been ongoing and improving as we go through, we’ve been adding extra accessible elements to our live shows and everything as we go through.
But one of the things that we insist on is having a BSL accessible show as part of every tour we do.
So we actually have a signer called Sarah Hydes who’s fantastic and she knows all our music, likes our music as well which helps, and she signs all the songs along with us.
So having an interpreter on stage, it really makes a big difference. She also kind of dances along with the music so its feels like she’s part of the band on stage.
Rob: But doing that, adding little elements in helps and what we’re also trying to do is incorporate a little bit of BSL ourselves as we are performing and singing the songs.
The song we’ve started with is ‘Another World’ because we found that fairly simple to do. So we just sign ‘Another World, Another Place’ and kind of do that, and tell the audience about it as well and why we’re doing it, and hopefully in time we’ll be able to say a little bit more.
Ahmed: That’s pretty cool though. I mean, I’ve seen the way the interpreter, especially those who are performing and interpreting on stage. It’s incredible, you know, I mean especially those who are very fast at interpreting rap songs or someone who goes really high speed. I can’t imagine how they do that.
Adam: It’s very highly skilled and in fact when we’ve been on stage with big shows, we notice the audience pretty much watch the interpreter rather than the band.
Adam: Which is fine because I’m watching the interpreter too, because I’ve forgotten my words.
Ahmed: (Laughing) That’s pretty cool.
So then you’ve mentioned you want to make your performance as accessible as possible and as deaf friendly as possible and you’ve mentioned interpreters. But I hear that you have other ways that you incorporate your music directly to make it more accessible for everyone as well.
Can you explain in terms of how your music itself is accessible as well?
Rob: What we do for our live shows, we make sure the music is base frequency heavy so people can feel the vibrations in their body and their chest.
And the thing we recently started doing is providing balloons to the audience as well, so they can feel the vibrations through the balloons, which is something that we actually picked up from a radio presenter. We were talking to those whose Mum was deaf and she used to communicate solely to her Mum through a balloon.
We thought, “well, if we can help people feel the music as well, then its something a little bit extra.”
Ahmed: That’s pretty cool, a balloon, I’ve never really thought about that.
It makes sense having base, because I hear that there is an event called ‘Deaf Rave’ and the DeafRave itself, they just pump up the base and if you’re standing close to the speaker then you can feel it, you can dance to it.
So I imagine its kind of similar.
Rob: Yeah, exactly.
Ahmed: So then what about the reaction of everyone else, I mean, especially the deaf attendees. How are they reacting to it?
What are their reactions in terms of seeing the fact that there’s interpreter’s there, you know, a balloon for everyone else and they can also dance to the music, you know you must get some amazing reactions from them.
Adam: The main thing for us is we want everyone to feel equal and comfortable, that we have a mix of deaf people and hearing people and we want people to just kind of be there and enjoy the show without any problems so we always make sure that there’s deaf people interpreters dotted around the venue.
On the merchandise, on the bar and on the entrance to welcome people in, you know just as hearing people get in, so they can navigate around the venue and do anything that anyone else can do.
So that’s kind of the starting point for us, we want people just to come through a gate as anyone else would and be able to enjoy the experience.
We’ve had amazing reactions, we’ve had a number of people bring their kids to shows and its kind of a first show that they’ve been able to go and see, the first time seeing live music and it’s great that we can supply that platform somewhat.
Rob: It’s also nice for us to have people coming up to us, maybe parents or family or friends and saying “do you know what, I’ve been inspired to learn a little bit of sign language” so at least someone can greet people, say hi, have a little bit of a chat with people.
And I think its great because its something that people maybe never, ever thought about before and to educate people on the wider world is always a good thing to do.
Ahmed: Yeah, pretty cool, I mean you wouldn’t think that music will inspire to learn sign language.
Ahmed: It’s the first I’ve heard anyway so.
Adam: There you go.
Ahmed: No, it’s pretty cool. So then it kind of made me think back of when I was in university I used to be a steward. One of these big, yellow jacket, security stewards, and I don’t know how, I’m tiny, but you know it’s work.
So I used to be a steward in a football stadium and music concerts and I remembered being a steward at a venue like Wembley Arena, which is pretty big, it’s about, I think maybe ten, fifteen thousand maybe can attend there, I’m not sure.
So it’s pretty huge. And I’m sure like yourself I have also attended huge venues, like for example I went to see ‘Foo Fighters’ at Murrayfield in Edinburgh. That’s also I don’t know, tens of thousands of people, so it made me think about how can they be accessible to deaf people.
Ahmed: Do you think it’s possible for those big, big venues, do you think it’s possible for them to be more accessible as well for deaf people?
Rob: Yeah totally. We went to British Summertime in Hyde Park and on the screen, obviously a single interpreter on the stage might be quite hard to see from the back.
But on the screen, the big screen in the bottom corner they actually had a live interpreter going on with the music, which was fantastic.
And really it’s not a problem, especially for the artists with a lot of money, with the big, huge artists with their twelve piece band, I don’t think it’s a massive problem for them to have a few options to make things more accessible.
It’s quite easy to do these days with technology. It should be something that people do anyway, really now.
Ahmed: I know it can be for any music, it doesn’t matter what music you’re playing.
Rob: Yeah, I mean we’ve seen it with comedy, we’ve seen it for big music events, folk events, rap, etc so, we are seeing it more and more, but its not necessarily all the concerts you’d expect to be at.
Ahmed: So your message is to get to it!
Rob: Get it to it. Yeah!
Adam: I think some of the bigger shows are kind of catching up but we want to kind of inspire more local shows to maybe look into having the option and so deaf people can go and support local music as well as kind of the big names.
Ahmed: So then do you think in terms of the smaller gigs and venues and stuff like that where maybe their budget is a little bit tighter, is it more difficult for them do you think, than the bigger artist for example?
Adam: It is more difficult, but I think it’s something that in the long term is worth doing.
It benefits the band to open up our audience to more people in any way possible, because then we have more potential people to come and enjoy the music.
Obviously it benefits the fans who can get out the house, do something a bit social, have a nice night out and feel that, you know, anythings possible and they can enjoy the night as well.
Rob: And also you mentioned budget. If a venue is to kind of start putting on signers all the time, that I’m sure very quickly it will become aware to the Deaf community that a small local music venue was having interpreters at every show.
And that’s going to bring in the revenue to pay for the signer and then some, so I think people just need to take the initiative, and maybe the problem is that they’re not aware, so that’s what we’re trying to fix.
Ahmed: That’s the whole point really isn’t it, there isn’t the awareness, kind of thing, it’s just, yeah, get people to be aware that door exists. You can have an interpreter also performing music.
Adam: Yeah, I think in the same way that sometimes people say that they want to have a photo shoot or make a music video and it’s a little bit out of their budget.
There’s always different levels of an interpreter, or someone whose starting out, maybe you could find someone as a student whose doing it for a little bit less money.
Or someone might want to do it just to add to their CV and I’m sure there are options around for people who really want to get involved on both sides.
Rob: Or even a pre-recording, and then paying someone to pre-record it and then taking a screen with you at all of your shows. Now there are ways around it, if you want.
Ahmed: Yeah, technology it can [crosstalk 00:15:11]…
Rob: …or learn it yourself.
Ahmed: Or learn it yourself! A challenge! (Laughter)
It’s interesting because you know I am hoping to get an interpreter who specialises in interpreting performances to discuss from her perspective the benefit and why its just important and how to make it more accessible for deaf people, stuff like that.
So what about from an artist, from musicians, from a performer, from their point of view, what do you think makes a good interpreter, and how do you think that they should be able to connect with essentially your audience?
Rob: I think someone who really enjoys your music is a massive benefit that we’ve found and it’s great having an interpreter anyway.
But when they tell you that they also have the songs stuck in their head, or they love their music, I think they actually enjoy being there then as well and the audience can see that enjoyment on their face.
Adam: And also when you work with someone regularly you can build up a relationship with them just as you would with any band member on stage.
If they can start to understand how you perform the music and the different things you’re going to do throughout the show and then two or three shows, they can really become part of the band, as we said we have with Sarah.
Adam: I guess it’s the same with anything, being friendly, being approachable, showing interest and doing your research, learning the songs and then putting in a good show.
Rob: I think the style of music depends on the performance a bit as well. But I think if they can portray the emotion or the energy or the fun of the song, that’s always good, and I think exactly the same as with singing, if you know the words off by heart, if you have learnt them, then it means that you can perform them a lot better.
Ahmed: Okay, that makes sense (background noise).
What does it mean then for you guys then in the long term about your music and you know BSL and deaf and that topic…What other plans do you have if any, what other kind of ambitions do you have, can you share them, I mean, I’m kind of curious to know what else you’ve got planned?
Rob: Yeah actually, we’re recording new music at the moment. We’re going to keep releasing regularly, hopefully for a long time.
And we’re making sure that on every tour we do we have a specific BSL accessible show, that we’re going to be doing. So we can actually tell you about an exclusive date that we have coming up.
Rob: So we’re working with Sofar Sounds, who you may have heard of and they specialise all over the world in hundreds of gigs actually every day in intimate places.
Sofar stands for ‘songs from a room’ and they make people, or they allow people to come and see a variety of artists, there’s usually three artists, and enjoy them and enjoy them in an atmosphere where the people can talk to each other and really appreciate the music.
So we’re actually doing the first Sofar accessible show in the UK. We’re doing that in London and the dates for that is…
Adam: 18th of June
Ahmed: 18th of June 2019.
Rob: So we have on our social media, we’re going to be announcing the show and it’s an interesting one where you can’t buy tickets directly but you can enter into a competition that we’re going to put out.
So we’re hoping to circulate that rather round the Deaf community and it is going to be fully accessible with three separate artists, including ourselves. All interpreted as well.
Ahmed: Intriguing, exciting, I’m in Scotland but even I’m tempted by that as well.
You know, it’s just something that came into my head right now, it’s good that, you know, you are making it accessible to everyone.
But do you find it a challenge if you want to perform internationally where obviously it’s not going be BSL anymore, do you think that’s going to be a problem for you, do you think you’re going to have a local sign language interpreter, or are you currently focused on maybe the British deaf community first before going too far ahead?
Rob: Yeah I think as an initial idea that we have, we’re kind of learning as we go along because we’re not from the Deaf community in the first place, so we’re kind of learning and meeting new people.
We’re actually SignHealth charity ambassadors now, which has been fun to learn from them, and we’re kind of working with them as well, and we’ve had some help from the BDA in our project just to make sure that everything is done correctly.
But we haven’t really kind of discussed international shows with what we do with sign language. We would have to do a little bit of research into that. But I think, we’ll obviously focus on our home at the moment, to start with and then branch out.
Ahmed: Ah, you’ll be fine. I’m sure an international performance is in the cards, it’s not a problem, I can see it happening.
Lets just kind of wrap it up then. What advice do you have for fellow musicians in making sure that the performance is definitely accessible.
Adam: I think probably, do some research and open yourselves up to the community, because they’re a great bunch of people. So make your shows accessible however you can and get involved!
Ahmed: Simple as that isn’t it. That’s what I thought.
So I guess we would love to know, where is the best place to connect with you guys online?
Adam: Anywhere. We’ve got everything.
And we hope to be very approachable so feel free to send us a message, ask any questions you have.
We also will be putting, as we mentioned our information about our Sofar Sounds accessible show, which is on June 18th.
We will put our details mainly on our Facebook and Instagram for that one, but just have a look round.
Ahmed: That’s great and I think I should also point out if anyone wants the lyrics of the music as well, it’s in YouTube in the description, is where you can read the lyrics.
Rob: Yeah, we put all the lyrics in the description. Everything we have is subtitled as well. Just for that little added extra if anyone needs it.
Ahmed: Awesome. That’s good to know.
Well guys, thank you for your time. Thank you very much.
Rob: Thank you for talking to us.
Ahmed Well, that’s it. Thank you Chasing Deer for being on the podcast, I really, really appreciate it. And make sure you check out their music and also try to attend their gigs as well.
So keep an eye out on their social media account and while you’re at it I’d really appreciate it if you could also leave a review on iTunes and make sure you subscribe to this podcast as well, so you don’t miss any future episodes as well.
In the meantime I will speak to you soon. Take care.
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