Perform at Clockenflap festival without a record contract: Phoebe Whalley and James’s Secret reveal how they did it

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The two homegrown talents explain how they did it, and why it was so worth the effort

Lauren James |
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Phoebe Whalley has dazzled Clockenflap crowds ... twice!

With Clockenflap now less than a week away, it’s time to get extra excited about this year’s diverse line-up of old, new, local and international musical acts.

Singer-songwriter Phoebe Whalley and indie rock group James’s Secret were both picked by the festival team to play in previous years. Phoebe and James’s Secret guitarist Michael Ju gave Young Post a snapshot of what it was like to play, as well as advice on how aspiring performers can get in.

How did you end up playing at Clockenflap?

Phoebe: In 2014, I applied through the Clockenflap website and was offered a slot. Last year, I was selected through the YRock POP Music Challenge.

Michael: We were sponsored by our school, Renaissance College, to join last year’s YRock Challenge. We were selected to perform an opening set on the YourMum Stage.

How did it feel when you walked out onto the stage for the first time?

Phoebe: It was very exciting! It wasn’t like any other event I’d played at before. The organisers and staff were really kind and helpful, and festivalgoers who had seen me play came up to me throughout the day to meet me. It was an incredible experience.

Michael: A sense of satisfaction and achievement that we were being recognised as musicians and as a band. We had artist wristbands, so after the sound check we roamed around eating the free food in the artist tent. After we came offstage, we returned to the green room to find water and fresh towels. That’s when we thought “we could wake up to this everyday!” It was the first time any of us felt like performing music could become a career.

Apart from performing, what was your highlight of the festival?

Phoebe: As a Jack Black fan, I really enjoyed watching Tenacious D in 2014! I also loved Clean Bandit and Damien Rice’s performances last year. Aside from music, the art and film exhibitions are always amazing.

Michael: Honestly, being treated like artists for a day is a dream come true for any student band. The highlights were definitely the free food, which we were not shy about exploiting, and the backstage access.

What advice would you give to other young musicians who want to play at Clockenflap?

Phoebe: Join the YRock Music Challenge, or apply through the Clockenflap website. It’s also helpful if you post your music on Soundcloud or YouTube, and have experience performing around Hong Kong.

Michael: Join the YRock Pop Awards – it’s free now! Hustle hard, get your act together and performance tight.

Who are you looking forward to seeing this year?

Michael: I’m excited for Korean indie band hyukoh and Japanese pop rock band Sekai No Owari. Asian bands don’t receive that much credit outside their domestic scenes, and as an Asian band ourselves, we have much love and respect to these artists.

Check out our guide on the biggest acts to perform at Clockenflap this year! Clockenflap runs from Nov 25-27. Discount tickets (HK$980 for the weekend) are available to under-18s and full-time students until the day before the festival, while general admission tickets will increase in price from Nov 10Here is everything you need to know about this year's Clockenflap!

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