It was French music source La Blogothèque that first inspired hobbyist photographer Taylor Hickman to begin utilizing the video capabilities of his camera, eventually establishing B-Side Sessions. For more than a decade now, La Blogothèque has produced videos of artists doing flash performances on the go often in picturesque surroundings in Paris. Calling them Take Away Shows, the site's YouTube channel features everyone from St. Paul & the Broken Bones at the Louvre to Beirut in a kitschy cafe in the Parisian neighborhood of Oberkampf. "I remember one of the earliest ones I saw was Justin Vernon playing 'Skinny Love' in front of like 20 people," Hickman says. "It was candlelit and really intimate. I think the Local Natives did one walking through the beautiful architecture of this crazy-old building in Europe, taking complete advantage of the acoustics — just stuff like that I thought was really cool."
The next piece that had to fall into place was finding artists Hickman could shoot, which was no problem once he moved to Charleston. Originally from the Upstate, Hickman served in the Air Force for eight years and was a Seattle resident prior to relocating to Charleston in 2015. Once here, the research for subjects promptly began.
"I saw an article — it may have been in the City Paper — about bands to look out for, and I sent them all messages on social media," Hickman recalls. By this point, he'd already recorded a friend, Kris Smith (Ellison Run), perform a couple of covers in the woods, which is when he realized he needed a better means of getting quality audio to match the video content. Luckily, he found SondorBlue during their early days. "They were just getting together and had some audio gear, like a condenser mic, so we set it up, and it was all of them playing guitar and doing harmonies in front of this one mic," he says. "The audio was great, so I saw the visual piece and the audio finally come together."
With some quality content on the go, more local musicians started responding to what had officially become Hickman's new baby, B-Side Sessions. Since then, he's continued recording SondorBlue at Kudu Coffee as well as in the middle of Marion Square and gotten scores more artists involved. "Justin from SUSTO was one of the early dudes I recorded — it was just him hanging out at Royal on the porch, and that's one of my favorite ones I've ever done.
B-Side Sessions stuck to a stripped-down format for a while, so as to take advantage of the city's aesthetics. Outdoor sessions have included local bands like Stop Light Observations harmonizing around a fire pit and Atlas Road Crew at the Swamp House (belonging to Awendaw Green's Eddie White) in addition to traveling acts like Atlanta's the Locksmyth performing at the Cistern and Columbia's Say Brother going acoustic at the pineapple fountain at Waterfront Park.
But then Hickman hooked up with Truphonic Studios in West Ashley in hopes of presenting a full, lush, plugged-in sound for the recordings. He simply wanted even better audio. "I went from stripped-down to full band, and I think that's equally as cool," he says. "And I'm no longer pigeonholed — I can do both."
Every Monday for a month, Hickman had two bands come in for filming, so he's busy getting some of those edited and released though some are on YouTube and ready to view now, like videos spotlighting the High Divers, Michael Flynn, and Grace Joyner. But Hickman still records on the go at spots like PURE Theatre, as is evident in videos recently published featuring Seattle act Valley Maker, the Hadleys, and She Returns From War.
So how much do bands have to pay to be a part of B-Side? Nada. For Hickman, it's purely a passion project. He gets to learn more about his admittedly expensive hobby while meeting more and more new, talented people every week. "And it's nice for the music community, because these bands can get content to show people," he says. "It's beneficial for everyone involved."
Stay tuned to B-Side Sessions' YouTube pages for upcoming releases featuring 2 Slices, Youngster, She Returns From War, and Brave Baby. You can support the project by buying a B-Side tee at storenvy.com/stores/1040954-b-side-sessions.