Record labels aren’t football teams…but sometimes it’s okay to love them
If you’re a music fan, it is likely that you’ll fall in love with things that go beyond the music. Ultimately it should be all about the music but it is easy to fall for bands because of their attitude, their energy or maybe even their clothes. Sometimes an act or performer taking a stance or even playing in a venue is enough to make you take a greater interest in them.
It’s the same for record labels. It should only come down to the acts and the music that they make but that’s not how we make emotional connections. Record labels aren’t a football team, you shouldn’t support them unconditionally, giving them your love regardless of how often they let you down or put you through the wringer before delivering something that makes all the rubbish and hurt worthwhile.
Record labels matter
But we do love record labels don’t we? Factory Records can live or die by its roster but the artwork, the attitude, the putting artists first, signing contracts in blood, chucking money into holes like a nightclub and generally being a shambles all add to its myth and majesty. Rough Trade, Trojan Records, Stax, Warp, Domino, Columbia, Wichita, Parlophone, Chemikal Underground, DFA, Heavenly, Atlantic, Island and so many more. Yes they all had fantastic albums and era or genre defining releases but even the names alone conjure up feelings, moments and memories.
While the style of music produced by the great labels varies considerably, there is usually a common theme. There is often someone, or a small band of people, who were there at the beginning and who had a passion and drive for facilitating great music. It’s the unseen toil, the long hours and picking up on great bands before the rest of us that makes great labels…and labels great.
It’s also not easy to run a record label (I believe), especially in this day and age when there is absolutely no money in the business. The ones that do get involved must be insanely passionate or just insane. Even the labels that are a one-man (or woman) band or a very small collective have to rely on support from family members and friends to push them through. When you’re toiling at all hours for no greater return that kudos and a pat on the back, the support of those around you can be the only thing that makes it all worthwhile.
Which brings us to the Olive Grove Records label, a great label based in Glasgow. They work hard on behalf of their artists and they provide a platform for good artists to make brilliant music. On the 25th of November, the label is releasing the It Is Something To Have Been EP, a tribute to label owner Lloyd’s father, who passed away unexpectedly in 2015. The release date would have been Peter’s 66th birthday, and while it would have been better if there was no reason for this EP to exist, it should be seen as a fitting tribute to the type of individual that ensures record labels exist and take-off without ever really being considered.
There is also going to be a launch gig for the EP on Saturday the 19th of November. The gig takes place at the Glad Café and features the four acts on the EP, Jo Mango, Call To Mind, The Son(s) and State Broadcasters.
Wisps of Something by Jo Mango
Opening song, Wisps of Something by Jo Mango, is the sombre more restrained cousin of Add Some Music To Your Day by The Beach Boys. A song regaling the majesty of song, a reminder that music is everywhere around us and that we sometimes need to take the time to let it in. Jo has explained it’s a song of admiration for the songwriters she came across in Greenock who would always find time to play, write and engage, regardless of what else they had going on in their life.
Through design or good fortune, it’s a paean to the unsung heroes of the music world, the people that just do when it would be easier to don’t. It’s the ideal opening track.
I Am This by State Broadcasters
We all know that 2016 has been a bit rough, not just for music lovers, for all of us, and if they had any sense of timing, State Broadcasters would have released their album this year to provide a bit more light and hope. Of course, the band doesn’t have any sense of timing at all, so this was never likely to happen but we at least have I Am This to tide us over.
It fits neatly with their catalogue, an instantly recognisable song with reaching motifs and a style that, depending on your mood, could be an ode of love or a passing of the buck for failings and blame! Maybe that’s just my take on a line of “because of you I am this” but the band has always had a way of blending melody and melancholy to leave you less than certain about what is going on. Which is the way it should be…who wants to know everything?
Mississippi by The Son(s)
The second half of the EP doesn’t race off into the distance or pick up the pace considerably but there is a noticeable change in spirit. With Mississippi, The Son(s) are channelling Low and the Neil Young era that the artist himself referred to as the ditch. The interesting years and on first listen, this song is likely to be the one that grabs your attention.
The sparseness at times makes the jabbing and stabbing guitar more profound, the vocals being the most driving and prominent on the release.
Hole In The Heart by Call To Mind
At over seven minutes, the last song on the EP is the longest track here, slowly building and working its way into life. It’s along the lines of Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun by Pink Floyd (and that’s 1968 Pink Floyd with Syd still involved so you know that’s the best Pink Floyd) and it will draw you in over the course of the track.
On early listens, this sounds like the song that will stay in your head the longest, the one that calls you back for repeated listens. The layers offering up new sounds and aspects on repeated listens and as I usually think with a song of this length, if you want to listen to it again as soon as it ends, it’s clearly got something good about it.
With the EP being released in Peter’s memory, the most fitting tribute comes with the fact that this is a release that Lloyd’s dad would have loved. This is because in creating a tribute to a lost loved one, the label has created a tribute to themselves, offering up the different shades and shards of light that the label is known for.
It’s not a raucous collection, these aren’t the acts that will pack out Bloc+ and leave youngsters roaring for more at 2am but they’re all solid acts who’ve created warm, welcoming, intelligent and most importantly, enjoyable music. If that’s your legacy or what is being offered up in honour of your name, you’ve clearly done something right in life.
As we’ve said a few times in this piece, ultimately it’s the songs that matter and you’ve got four lovely songs here, so check out the EP for that reason alone. Then again, the full story about the release and the way it pulls together some of the finest artists on the label makes it a necessary purchase for those of us that believe in narratives and the power of music being about more than just the tunes.
The EP can be bought here or if you fancy the gig, there’s a chance to buy a bundle which includes entry to the gig and the EP. There’s even a bigger discount if two of you go along. To me that’s preposterous, who actually knows someone that they speak to in real life and would go to a gig with but if you’re one of those weirdos who are tolerated by other people, you can reduce the cost of your Saturday night out by buying from here.
This review is part of a feature where we look at some of the various ways Glasgow bands and labels have been promoting themselves.