So, What’s Happening This Year at Song, by Toad Records
I am sorry to do this to you, because I am well aware that posts about the label have been completely overwhelming the posts which are just about new music recently but, well, it’s the New Year, and that’s what I find myself mulling over at this time of year, sorry.
So, what do we have to look forward to from Scotland’s most cantankerous label in 2014? Well, maybe I’ll start by contrasting it with last year instead, because I think there will be a slight shift in emphasis, but it probably won’t look all that different from the outside.
To a large extent this is down to the releases we have in the schedule for this year, which are pretty notably different to last. Last year we were facing up to substantial investment in the Sparrow and the Workshop album, as well as putting a lot of money in Beer vs. Records, and also doing our first release with Adam Stafford. None of this is exactly huge on a global scale, but we knew we were working with artists who were a lot more established than usual, had a few albums under their belt, and had a pre-existing audience, particularly here in Scotland.
This doesn’t mean we felt we had to aim for the stars particularly, but when a band comes to you having achieved a certain level already, then at the very least you have to live up to that, and then try your damnedest to exceed it. So we pushed quite hard for quite a few things last year, investing more and seeing if we could nudge perception of the label to a new level.
Generally that went really well, but this year our projects aren’t really suitable for that kind of approach, so I think we’ll end up working a little differently.
Firstly, we have a couple of debut albums, one (which isn’t strictly a debut album in fact, but is as far as a UK audience is concerned) by Virgin of the Birds, and then later in the year, one by Edinburgh’s Plastic Animals. Debut albums are very, very hard to predict, honestly. Sometimes we’ve had a great reception and sometimes we’ve faced blanket indifference, but the fact that people have generally not heard of the band in question means you’re often fighting a bit of a battle to get writers to take an interest, although once they do, the results can be brilliant.
You have to run a fairly measured campaign though, because it’s pretty impossible to tell what level of investment is commercially justified, simply because you can’t really tell what people’s reactions to the band are likely to be. That’s largely why people tend to release a couple of singles in advance – just to test the waters – but we don’t release a lot of bands who really suit singles, so I tend not to approach things that way.
As well as these two we have a bunch of weird projects, all of which are hugely exciting, but none of which scream ‘runaway commercial success’ at me.
We have the next Split 12″, for example, recorded up at the Insider Festival last June with David Thomas Broughton, Sparrow and the Workshop, Siobhan Wilson and Jonnie Common. The Split 12″s are great (see v1 and v2 here), and I am immensely proud of them, but they are never going to crack the Top 40, because they are basically just compilations. They are short runs of extremely beautiful vinyl, but they are made more for our own and our more devoted fans’ enjoyment as the opportunity to explore new things, rather than being aimed at shifting thousands of units.
We’ve also got a record which we made by deciding to have a go at reproducing the collaborative and experimental spirit of the Cold Seeds album. We invited Jill from Sparrow and the Workshop, Neil and Pete from Meursault, and Rory from Broken Records as well as Reuben Taylor and Rob St. John to come round to our house and record a mixture of one another’s songs, and the results are absolutely stunning. It has ended up being a long way from Cold Seeds, so we’re calling it Farewell, Bastard Mountain, but I am seriously excited to get it out there and see what people make of it.
Again, because of not having a specific band to hang the record from, I am not sure how much traction we’ll get, but fuck it. I don’t want to compromise too much with the PR for this one. I don’t really want to start hunting for catchy singles for radio play or worry about what reviewers will think of the first twenty seconds of what they hear. It’s brilliant as it is, and people can either embrace it or fuck off.
I can’t tell you too much about what’s actually on the record, because I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but there will be a version of this tune, and a rather gorgeous one at that:
Before any of that, we have our first release of 2014: the new single by NAKED, who played an absolute blinder at our New Year’s House Gig recently. It will be another wonderfully designed package, and another couple of wonderfully catchy tunes, and I am really looking forward to it.
And finally, a couple of more enigmatic things to mention. Firstly, we will be working with David Thomas Broughton later on in the year. I don’t want to say too much because we are still working on the actual release, so can’t really announce too much just yet, but both things we’re discussing are absolutely fantastic, and David is a musician I’ve hugely admired ever since seeing him for the first time at the End of the Road Festival back in ummm… 2008 I think it was.
So a lot of these projects are more suited, I think, to shorter runs of nice records and a marketing campaign which is more specific than it is broad. I think it will give us more of a feeling of being a niche label doing interesting things, rather than doing larger scale releases by established bands and ticking all the boxes that that kind of thing requires. This is a good thing, because I like that balance of populism and obscurity, and I think we have to get a bit better at telling which of our releases are which and approaching them accordingly.
Oh yes, and secondly, Meursault’s fourth album is now finished too. No idea what’s happening with it just yet, but it is finished.
And with that, GIN O’CLOCK!More: bastard mountain, david thomas broughton, jonnie common, naked, plastic animals, siobhan wilson, sparrow and the workshop, virgin of the birds