Record labels take committment, hard work and an insanely silly love and passion for music that trumps everything else. Basically like running a blog. So here at Too Many Blogs, we thought we’d pay homage to our favourite record labels in this new interview feature. Our first label of the month is Leeds based Clue Records who look after NARCS, Forever Cult, Allusondrugs, TRASH and Sunface. Not bad, ey!
Let’s start with some history, where and how did Clue come about? And what made you want to start a record label?
Clue started in 2012. I’d been in bands for years & had enough of that (mainly due to drummers) & helped run a festival for Oxjam (in aid of Oxfam). Once that finished I sat in the pub down with my friend Ste & said, “I’m gonna start a label, we’ve talked about it for ages, you in?” From there it was born. I’m not quite sure why we started it other than we’d considered doing something like it for years & I was a massive fan of labels like Creation, Domino, Philophobia, Brew, Dead Young & Hide & Seek so thought it was something I could get my teeth into.
Who was the first band you signed and when?
The first band were NARCS shortly after we started up. I’d worked with them on the music festival I was part of for Oxjam & they were going through a bit of a change so decided we’d work together through it. We released their first single ‘19’ in 2013, I think in July.
What has your journey so far been like with them?
It’s been a full on roller coaster ride with loads of ups, downs, long queues, vomit, whiplash & souvenir pictures. I’m ridiculously close to the 4 of them now which is half through genuine love for each other & also partly Stockholm syndrome. We’ve just released their second album on vinyl (our best release so far & our first on vinyl) & it’s strange looking back knowing how far they’ve come & we have as a label.
You’re very selective about who you work with, what do you look for in an act?
I look for a band that if I came across I’d be a super fan of. I’ve been through phases with loads of bands who have influenced my attitude, dress sense, outlook & everything else so I look for ones that would do the same now. I genuinely think that the ones we look after are some of the most exciting & best in the country. There are others out there I’d love to get together with but I try to get as involved as possible with whoever we work with which is mega time consuming, making it harder to work with loads of different acts. At least half of what I do is management so I don’t want to spread myself too thin & do a bad or half job with anyone.
Any horror stories about bands you wanted to sign or have worked with in the past?
No real horror stories I don’t think. We’ve spoken to bands about working together but for one reason or another it never came to anything. The main horror stories come from the bands we have signed. Here’s a taster from a couple…
NARCS: Following the launch party for their debut album we went back to John & Stanley’s (the rhythm section) house for a celebration. It ended with dancing on the sofas, tables, mantlepieces & anything else high & precarious (including some attendees). On the Sunday morning we’d head to the pub to bring ourselves round with Guinness & whiskey until we started standing on stuff again. This was fine but every weekend for the following month saw the same thing happen. It was like a self-destructive Groundhog Day. Fun but hard.
Forever Cult: I’d jumped in the van with them on tour. First day of a week long tour, an hour away from the venue & we pull up in a slip road to use the surrounding natural environment as a toilet. It would seem an animal had the same idea but took a full go at toilet duties & Greaves (bass) had managed to step right in it, bringing it into the van & getting it up & down almost every inch of his jeans. These were the only jeans he brought on tour. He had 1 pair of shorts for the rest of tour. In winter. The smell never quite left the van.
If you had to pick, what’s your favourite record you’ve released so far?
It’s got to be NARCS’ second album ‘A Thinking Animal’. It’s one of the most accomplished, & intense records I’ve ever heard, the lyrics are a different class, it has intent, it’s a call to arms of sorts & sums up 2016’s fucked up politics while not settling for it, calling to account things that need to be challenged. We also released it on a beautiful blue vinyl & everything about it is just stunning.
More and more bands release their music DIY, and many people question the need for record labels, what do you think about that?
Bands don’t need labels. I find there’s a split between bands who are desperate for a label & think getting one will set them on a path to ultimate glory and bands who are willing to do it themselves, set out a plan & work towards it. I’m not saying labels are dead, but they need to offer a lot to be worthwhile for a lot of bands. Always question what someone wanting to be part of your band/project wants from it & how they can help you achieve what you want. Be flattered but don’t be naïve. There are labels that appear to be scheisters, who are not doing the right things by bands, tying them into ridiculous deals. Don’t fall into something without properly considering all options first.
You’re starting up a Clue Singles Club in 2017, why have you just chosen to do this now?
There’s loads of ace bands out we want to work with so this felt like the best way to do it. I love things like Too Pure Singles Club, Come Play With Me & Flying Vinyl so we didn’t want to go down the vinyl route as these lot do it so well. With zines, we can let the bands have an artistic outlet in a different way to their music & also keep it affordable for people. Plus, I was part of the Dennis The Menace fan club as a kid where I got an official badge with Dennis on & a fluffy one with Gnasher (his dog) on & it was properly cool as so I’ve always loved the idea of being part of a club.
Can you reveal any of the bands you’ll be releasing music for yet? Come on, give us a CLUE.
I wasn’t going to but that pun has meant I have no choice. We’ve signed up 6 bands so far with the first 2 coming from Fighting Caravans & Colour Of Spring. Bands involved have had airplay on Radio 1, been in NME, Line Of Best Fit, Clash, played Leeds & Reading, toured Europe & a load of them have been on TMB too so I can give you an X Factor approved 110% guarantee that they’ll all be ace. Otherwise we wouldn’t work with them!
You’re also having a Clue Christmas Party to celebrate the Club’s launch – why did you decide to host it at the Brudenell?
It’s the best venue in Leeds/the North/the land/Europe/the world. And I live 20 minutes walk away so I can get drunk & get a class pizza on the way home. Tickets here.
I’m very excited to FINALLY see Forever Cult after missing them countless times.
Ace! They’re actually very good live. Kieran’s asked me to sing a song too so you might even get Forever Cluelt if you’re really unlucky…
Do you prefer streaming or vinyl?
I love vinyl so that’s my preference. It sounds great, shows of artwork properly & it makes you listen to a release in the order the act intended it to be which is something we’re losing with shuffle & playlists. I think getting something on vinyl also draws you to invest more time in it & not be so throwaway or judgemental from a first listen. I do think streaming is ace though. I’ve discovered so much stuff I’d never have if not for streaming. I know there’s a bit of an attack on digital in music but for me it’s about artists getting paid fairly by the streaming sites. The ability to go & check something new out easily is brilliant. Just gotta have tastemakers you trust or you’ll be clicking round forever finding nowt (that’s where you lot come in…)
What death of 2016 hit you hardest?
It’s been a pretty horrendous year all round for musicians dying. Bowie was a hard one & put me in a weird state for a while. Prince was quite a shock, especially as friends had been through to Leeds to watch him at the Arena in recent years & we had a great night where the whole city turned purple & played his songs wherever we went. Leonard Cohen was also a strange one for me as I’d just started discovering new things from his back catalogue I wasn’t familiar with before. But with both, I don’t like to dwell on how ‘tragic’ or ‘unfair’ it may be, I prefer to look at it in terms of them being an unbelievable talent who soundtracked parts of my life & left a huge impact with millions of people. One of the hardest deaths to comprehend was of Labour MP Jo Cox. The fact someone decided to take their own twisted beliefs & try to make a stand in such a way is horrendous.
What’s the best piece of merch you’ve ever sold?
One of my favourites was a tape we made for Cassette Store Day in 2015. I hand made 38 cassette tapes, taped them all myself, individual artwork for each tape and stuck in a numbered insert sheet with little stories & stuff on it. They sold out pretty quick & I got a great message on Christmas day from someone saying they loved the tape, had a Walkman bought for them for Christmas & loved listening to the tape & reading the insert. We try to make all our merch personalised or limited edition in some way to keep them special, that one was especially great.
What’s the stupidest thing one of your acts has done that you’ve had to sort out, it’s got to be TRASH surely…
TRASH are the most generally ridiculous of all the bands I think but nothing specific comes to mind on something I’ve had to sort out. Apart from nerves before they played Y Not the first time but to sort that we just sang acapella George Michael hits. And then the second time they played Y Not & were on the main stage, one of them who shall not be named poured a plastic cup full of rose wine at 10am, played, then got lost & we had to scour everywhere to find him.
One of the daftest things was a Halloween party NARCS played in Middlesbrough, dressed up as characters from The Simpsons (Jimbo, Disco Stu, Moe & Snake). They fully committed, painting themselves yellow from top to bottom. The following morning I woke to a phonecall from 2 members of the band, still drunk, getting kicked out of ASDA because they were riding round the aisles in a trolley. They didn’t know how to get a train home so I had to walk them through where to go (I’m from Teesside so had some experience of drunken train station finding…). Then, I found out that Stanley (drums) had returned home to Leeds that evening to find his house burgled, so had to call the police & explain what had been taken as a bright yellow character from an American cartoon. I left him to sort that one out…
And what are you most excited about for 2017, except the singles club?
The new TRASH EP is ridiculous so can’t wait to get that out. Festivals, bands, gigs, booze & our 5th birthday (I want to plan something daft for that). And I’m best man for Ste who helps me with part of the label so it’ll be fun to cause him lots of problems & stress throughout the year. I’ll let you all know when the venue & date are confirmed so halfway through the ceremony, anyone who fancies it can burst in & claim they’ve had a baby with him.