Tuesday 4 February 2014

Olive Grove Records interview

I got a nice little feeling inside when Lloyd from Olive Grove Records posted online about his label's showcase show at Oran Mor as part of Celtic Connections selling out. Sadly I couldn't make it along, however I know how much work Lloyd and his co-owner Halina have put into the label and the support, passion and encouragement that they offer to the artists on it. So I was mightily chuffed for them.

I hope the exposure and success from the showcase gig helps to establish the label a little more and that they continue to pour energy and enthusiasm into the Scottish music scene.

I thought it might be a good time to catch up with them to hear about the trials, tribulations, successes and joy that come from running a D.I.Y record label,

So read on to find out about sticking out an album by someone wishing to remain anonymous, label highlights, future plans, the one that got away, dodgy dad dancing, juggling life with dreams and lots more.

If you are new to the label why not check out these beauties for starters;

1. Closing Doors by The Moth and the Mirror

2. There Is No-one To Thank by The Son(s)

3. Counting Sheep by Randolph's Leap 


So how did Olive Grove come about?

Lloyd - Back in the summer of 2010, Halina called me one evening of out of the blue asking me if I wanted to start a label together. I thought about it for about a nanosecond, before blurting out “YES” in quite an over excited voice. We met up shortly after to come up with a plan, an ethos and talk about who we’d like to approach to work with us. About a month or so after we met up with Randolph’s Leap to see if they’d be interested in letting us release their debut EP, ‘Battleships and Kettle Chips’. Thankfully they said yes and we’ve pretty much been winging it from their ever since.

How did you arrive at the name? Can you tell us any of the rejects?

Halina – Lloyd and I used to have a big love of the band Snow Patrol (many will be surprised to find out) and one of the better songs of theirs, An Olive Grove Facing The Sea was a favourite for both of us. Lloyd suggested the name and it was a perfect fit as it was different, but captures the organic ethos behind the label. 

What's your basic philosophy?

Lloyd - That’s an easy one, release good music and don’t lose too much money! When we first agreed to start the label we both agreed that we weren’t doing this for the money and that any profits made would go back to the bands. When I tell most folk that they tend to look at me like I am insane, but that was the plan and to date we’ve pretty much stuck to that ideology.

What labels do you look to for inspiration?

Halina – I think there are loads. Johnny Pictish Trail has always been a source of constant inspiration as has Matthew Young and his label Song, By Toad Records. Others for me include FatCat Records and Smalltown America, both have produced some incredible bands. 

One of your first releases was by a mysterious outfit/artist going by the name of The Son(s). The music is incredible and it was a brave move to put something out by an act who remains anonymous and doesn't play live. Very frustrating for people who like his music - how frustrating for you as a label?!

Lloyd – The Son(s) was the very first album that we put out, so at that time I wasn’t too concerned about the whole live thing. I was just super excited that someone was willing to trust us with their hard work. Obviously we liked the music, but the air of mystery surrounding the band also sucked me in. I finally met Karl, aka The Son(s) about a year and a bit after we put their album out, which I thought would be really weird and awkward, but it was quite the opposite. We got on really well and he’s now someone I would consider to be a good friend.

As per usual I have waffled on and not actually answered the question. There have been times that I have found it slightly frustrating, but then I appreciate why it hasn’t happened yet. There have been plans afoot for a while now for them to play live, if it happens then great, if not, then such is life. There’s a new record on the way, which is enough to keep me happy.

One of my fave books is 'Rip It Up And Start Again' and I marvel at stories of bedroom labels (like Mute) suddenly selling hundreds of thousands of records. Things have changed dramatically but what are your ambitions for the label? Could you have a break through artist? Is that an aim? 

Halina – We have ambition don’t get me wrong, but for us it is more of a focus on the artists than anything else. It is always nice to think you would be able to quite your day job for the love of music, but I think people are more realistic these days. I am the romantic in the partnership in that I always think that something unworldly will happen one day and Lloyd is the grounded one. I suppose you have to have 2 opposites. The truth is that all the artists have the potential to be breakthroughs, the question is, how does one measure a breakthrough? 

What are your top 3 highlights of the label so far?

Lloyd - The Celtic Connections show on Sunday is up there as one the greatest things I’ve done in my life, never mind just the label. It’s something we’ve been working on since July last year and it took a lot of hard work and planning to pull it all together. Getting The Moth & The Mirror back playing live again was really exciting, then to sell Oran Mor out was pretty special for me –for those that had to witness my dodgy dancing on stage with Woodenbox, could probably tell by my cheesy grin just how happy I was.

Aside from Celtic Connections, there have been too many highs that I’d find it hard to single two more out. Highlights for me include our showcase at the Insider Festival, The Moth & The Mirror getting a five star review in the Skinny, seeing Randolph’s Leap headline the Queen’s Hall, the State Broadcasters album launch in the Wellington Church Hall, plus I am sure there’s loads more that I have forgotten!

What are your label plans for 2014 (that you can share)?

We are in talks with Woodenbox and Jo Mango again. The aim is to release a second album by one of our artists which we have yet to do. We have to nurture and develop what we have already.

Jo Mango

What are your top 3 favourite things about running a label?

Lloyd – 1) I have wanted to do this since I was 16, so I am kind of living the dream, 2) releasing records by some of my favourite bands, 3) introducing new music that I love to people

What are your 3 most challenging things about running a label?

 Halina – 1) Time – obviously Lloyd and I have full-time jobs and we also run our blogs so trying to fit things in is sometimes brutal. Lloyd also has a child which floors me sometimes.

2) Foresight – this a particularly honest response, but I think that because everyone is different and opinions are different then things will not always run smooth. It would be bullshit for me to sit here and say that things are always smooth. For the most part they are, but there is sometimes those moments whereby you will disagree, it is human nature. 

3) Money – if won the lottery I would put a massive investment and take on more artists. We had to turn down a band this week that broke my heart as I love them and it would have shown a completely different side to our roster and taste, but because we need to work that means no time.

Do you both need to agree on an artist for release?

Lloyd – that we do, as we’re doing this for the love of it, we both have to like the artist enough to want to invest our time in them. Recently we’ve had to pass on a few bands that we both really like, purely because we just don’t have the time and we wouldn’t want to do a half arsed job for them.

If you could release an album by anyone, who would it be and why?

 Halina – Well one that we really wished we had released was Song Of Return’s first album. I really believe that could have knocked a lot of things out of the park. The writing, production, performance and overall product was incredible. I still listen to  it.

Any advice for artists interested in approaching you?

Lloyd - Before approaching any label I would argue that you need to have built up some kind of a profile for yourself. If we haven’t already heard of you, then we’re unlikely to want to work with you. We get a lot of emails from generic lad rock bands, who you get the impression are just out there spamming any label they can find. Have a look at the bands that we’ve worked with before, that should give you a good indication as to the kind of music we like. 

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