This week on Best Fit we’ve got a full-on BRNLV Records attack. As the label trek across the UK in a large van full to bursting of label talent, we’ve got interviews with all the main artists, with a little twist… Look out for the Magic Numbers interviewing Stairs To Korea, Internet Forever speaking to Pagan Wanderer Lu, Lone Wolf chatting up Napoleon IIIrd and Mat Riviere talking to a poet… because he’s like that.
We kick off our BRNLV Tour Week with an interview with the labels main man John “Brainlove” Rogers.
Give us the where, why, what and when of Brainlove Records.
When: We started in 2003, in Wolverhampton. Why: because indie music was getting depressing. Who: I say ‘we’, but it’s really just me at the label right now, despite a rotating cast of brave and helpful souls who’ve pitched in along the way. Where: ‘we’ moved to London a few years ago and kind of kicked things into gear. The label is growing and getting better at… just being a label, all the time. What: Well, we release records. Amazing, techicolour records. We’re a double-rainbow kind of label.
What made you decide to throw all your acts in a bus and take them round the UK on a tour?
The four acts on the tour are all solo musicians who use comparable tools and instruments in entirely different ways. They have different approaches to songwriting, performance, artistic direction, aims… everything, whilst having a shared spark of imagination that makes what each of them does special. I think the four will compliment each other and show the similarities, but also illuminate the glorious differences.
What’s been your approach to signing artists? Is it purely down to something you like or are you working more broadly?
Each story is different. Pagan Wanderer Lu and I met on a certain message board and talked and it went from there. Napoleon IIIrd played on the same bill as my old band up in Leeds, and I was smitten with his awesome stuff. Mat I saw because he toured with a friend of mine – half the people in the room were coming over and whispering how “Brainlove” he was. Stairs To Korea was hanging about online, and his first demo was just mind-bogglingly good. I think there’s a thread that runs through every band on the label, for sure. It’s no coincidence that they are all amazing individuals.
Who would be the ultimate, dream signing to the label?
The two people who said no were Simon Bookish and Fuck Buttons, but they went on to sign with Tomlab and ATP respectively, so you know. Fair play to them. Those labels have a much bigger infrastructure around them that we do. Although we’re catching up, slowly…
What’s been the highlight and lowlight of Brainlove Records to date?
A lowlight might be when the first Napoleon IIIrd album leaked. We were very green and sinking a lot of borrowed cash into the release, and getting the strategy all wrong, in hindsight. But the leak was a killer. Literally thousands of people downloaded it, and it spread like wildfire, and I just sat watching, mouth agape, seeing the possibility of us recouping our costs evaporate before my eyes. A hard lesson.
Highlights are many. Our first tour. Getting bands onto festival bills, and hearing them on Radio 1. People saying very nice things about is in the press. PWL’s stage invasion at the Barfly, headlining above Jamie T and Macabees. Stairs To Korea talking to Lamacq on 6music. Napoleon IIIrd playing Koko – the curtain went up, and he was cool as a cucumber, but my heart was in my mouth. And our legendary trip to Iceland Airwaves last year for a label showcase in Reykjavik that festival is just the best city-wide party in the world. We’re doing it again in 2010.
What does the future hold for Brainlove Records?
A few record sales would be nice. We have the Bastardgeist and the lovely We Aeronauts coming in early 2011. Everyone’s writing and recording all the time. The future is bright.
What would it take for you to think “Yes! We’ve made it”?
I think the musical output “made it” a long time ago. I am completely happy with our output as a label. If people give the time and attention to any of our releases, they find something amazing inside. In other terms of success – when we can not have dayjobs and get an office and that kind of thing.
What do you think is the Internet’s affect on smaller labels?
Good and bad. Leaking and filesharing is an absolute killer for labels with small revenues, who just can’t take the financial hit. But obviously, it’s easier to get the word out than ever before. Digital sales are a pleasant trickle of income. But not from Spotify. 25k plays and a couple of quid. Their business model sucks.
Do you think you can make any money as a label going forward?
I don’t see why not. We work hard to promote the records, and we get better at it, and we do things like this UK & Ireland tour to get on the map with people. It’s easy to get stuck in a bubble and lose perspective on what you have to do to make it work better, but I work hard to learn and attain that kind of planned, considered development for the label and for all our bands. We’re working on some publishing ideas and releasing in other territories, getting the base blocks into place. That could really change things for us.