Set Sail have garnered the sort of media attention that most indie bands would only dream of. Sure, some of it has been venous and negative, but any press is good press, they say. Starting out as a nomadic busking band on the streets of Sydney, attention first arrived via a bitter rant on a music site's message board with a writer (and eventually the site itself) spouting their hatred for the indie/folk band. An impromptu gig on a Virgin flight furthered their reputation as an organic band with a raucous charm but also (understandably) resulted in a fair amount of criticism. Set Sail also made national headlines earlier in the year when lead singer Brandon Hoogenboom was deported by Australian authorities for breaching his visa conditions. A Facebook petition that went viral attracting over 8,500 signatures of support within a day of its creation helped bring Brandon back to Australia and has allowed the band to continue creating music.
The message board venom has continued but those places can be a haven for haters at the best of times. For Set Sail, things have suddenly become ever-so-slightly more conventional with the official release of EP Hey! “We’ve had some funny things happen when people have said some horrible things that have kind of helped,” Hoogenboom says. “It’s kind of random; we don’t plan too far ahead. The busking is something that we’ve been able to do and that has helped. We want to take it to the next level and we want to stay independent but we are looking to sign to a label.”
After dropping out of university, the trio had an ambitious plan to fund a world-wide trip via their guerrilla-style gigging. In 2011, this came to fruition and Set Sail did just that, playing in over 40 cities across four continents around the world. They may have landed in a place that has resulted in them being the bullied kids on the musical playground of the indie scene, but they are doing what they want, how they want to, and there is a lot to be said for that.
A main source of criticism is their apparent ties to Hillsong Church. Although the band did many gigs for the establishment, they are quick to distance themselves as much as they can from the Hillsong brand. “I think it’s not relevant to what we’re doing anymore,” he says defensively. “I don’t go to church anymore. People got worked up about it but, yeah, whatever…Maybe it’s just because we’re kind of wild and people get frustrated with us, I dunno.”
Hoogenboom is, and probably rightly so, a little defensive when we chat. Although he punctuates each comment with a gentle giggle, it is obvious he is assuming that the discussion is going to enter a confrontational place. When chatting about the idea that perhaps any publicity is good publicity and that Set Sail have been afforded some unique opportunities as a result of media criticism, Hoogenboom is closed on the topic. “Like I said it’s just not relevant,” he says.
Eventually though he opens up, and despite the fact he is a man of few words, he admits that they find the situation humorous and plan on seizing anything they can as it comes to them. Despite recording mostly within their own studio, Set Sail took a little time to track the drums for Hey! professionally but, in the spirit of the band, have tackled the rest themselves. The plans for the future do involve another busking global tour but all in all, Set Sail are rather relaxed about exactly what they want to do. “We are creative with the way we market ourselves and that is bringing a few things to us.”
BY KRISSI WEISS
SET SAIL’s EP Hey! is available now and you can catch them at The Toff In Town, Thursday August 9 as well as The Sub on Saturday August 11 for an all-ages afternoon show.