Our Battle of the Bands contest has always been a crowd favourite in the nonclassical calendar. The event – which is open to groups of any size, instrumentation and aesthetic – sees finalists perform an eclectic mix of electronics, improv, performance art, spoken word and acoustic works on the nonclassical stage in front of judging panel Eleanor Ward (Executive Director, nonclassical), Nick Luscombe (BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction) and Dominic Murcott (Head of Composition, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance).

Ahead of Battle of the Bands on 23 Jan, we talked to previous winners Héloïse Werner (The Hermes Experiment) and Heidi Heidelberg about their experience and what they’ve gone on to do since.

“We only just formed and it seemed like an ideal platform for us, so we went for it,” says Héloïse, singer of The Hermes Experiment and our 2014 Battle of the Bands winners. At that time, The Hermes Experiment – which has since gone on to become one of the most in-demand groups in the new music scene – had only performed a couple of times previously. “We didn’t really know if we were the right sort of vibe for nonclassical but we just went for it and offered what we could at the time. We performed a new commission by our friend William Cole and a piazzolla arrangement.”

Similarly, singer Heidi Heidelberg – known for her anarchic improvisations and compositions – applied for Battle of the Bands to give her a nudge into learning new repertoire. “I needed a kick up the arse to develop a version of John Cage’s Aria that I had cooking on a very low heat for about a year. Having attended the Battle of the Bands the year before, I was on the nonclassical mailing list, saw the call out, and decided it was the cosmos giving me a firm nudge from behind. One woman and a loop station qualifies as a band right?” Heidi went on to win Battle of the Bands in 2017.

Since winning Battle of the Bands, both The Hermes Experiment and Heidi have gone to become staple artists on the alternative classical scene. “I don’t usually perform in classical music contexts anymore as most of the music I make is original stuff that squats on the fringe of jazz and art rock,” says Heidi, “So [when I did Battle of the Bands], performing for an audience of chilled out new music boffins in the back of a pub was fun. My main focus [now] has been the creation of a new album with my duo project ‘Bitch ‘n’ Monk’, and a pretty mental new ensemble of music commissioned by North Sea Jazz Festival.” Héloïse adds, “We’ve produced our own events, commissioned over 50 composers, performed in Russia, Estonia and France, as well as London venues including Union Chapel, King’s Place and the Southbank Centre. nonclassical is definitely an important part in our artistic development. It’s been great to work with nonclassical over the past 5 years.”

Want to perform in Battle of the Bands 2019? Applications are now open until Wednesday 9 January 2019. For more information – and to apply –  visit our news page.