Before he decided to take the plunge into business with Bone Soup, Alvarado was answering phones for a telecommunications company, while trying to escape the insidious embrace of the office extracurricular activities. “Everyone’s friendships were formed around the team leader,” Alvarado says. “It was a form of conditioning and brain washing. It was like they forged these bonds between people to force us to keep this awful job.”
After moving to Melbourne, Alvarado realised he still needed a steady income. After Mesa Cosa brought Japanese band The Zoobombs to Australia in 2012, Alvarado realised he had the kernel of a business idea. After completing a small business management course, Alvarado applied for a business loan. “The bank said my business plan was feasible, which I thought was ridiculous,” he says.
But Alvarado was happy to take the loan to start up Bone Soup. “The first year was about spending the money and bringing out bands that we loved,” Alvarado says. “We wanted to build up a vibe, and bring out bands that we wanted to be friends with.”
The next step came when Alvarado helped out with King Khan and BBQ’s tour in 2013, the garage duo’s first gig since its infamous Sydney Opera House show in 2009. It was a baptism of fire for Alvarado, who declines to say too much about the tour, other than he learnt a “lot of harsh lessons” about communication and the logistics of tour management. “I was way in above my head. It was like starting at difficult level high,” he says.
From there Bone Soup moved on to bring out such cult garage bands including Guantanamo Baywatch, Acid Baby Jesus, Screaming Females, The Courtneys, Personal and the Pizzas, The Mummies, The Garden and White Fang. While Alvarado says a lot of the tours have come about almost serendipitously, he does highlight some key criteria for any Bone Soup tour. “They’ve got to be authentic, and genuine, and long lasting and solid – we’re not interested in hype bands,” Alvarado says.
“There are a lot of bands that are solid and have been playing for a while but they don’t get toured because they’re not hyped. We find these bands and they’re easy to deal with, they’re fun, they’re cool, they don’t have big egos. And they’re more exciting to us because they’re a band that we’re introducing.”
Given how much personal effort Alvarado and his support crew have to put into a tour, it’s critical that a band be personable. “We look at videos of bands on YouTube and think ‘Would we like to be friends with these guys?’ Usually you can just tell.”
Alvarado’s judgement has been spot on. He describes Guantanamo Baywatch as “like our family” and says Screaming Females were “super chill” when Sydney accommodation for the band initially fell through (the problem of finding somewhere to sleep was solved when Steve Albini and garbage’s Shirley Manson re-tweeted the band’s request for any assistance of accommodation – within hours, ten separate offers had been made). Even Japan’s manic King Brothers, whose completely insane set comprises of an hour of injury-defying rock’n’roll lunacy, folded the sheets, made the bed and swept the floor in Alvarado’s house where they were staying.
King Brothers’ manic stage show leads Alvarado to highlight another attribute of Bone Soup bands: artistic confrontation. “There’s so many great bands in Melbourne, but there’s not that many bands freaking people out.” Alvarado says. “Where’s the weird bands? Where’s the freaky, wild, crazy awesome next level shit? We’re so much more conservative here than we realise. So to bring in a band like White Fang who just get naked and don’t give a fuck, or King Brothers who actually reward. That’s so rewarding. There’s no other agencies taking the risks that we are in bringing out those bands. It feels like we’re taking those risks and it comes across in the vibe of the performances.”
By Patrick Emery