Tuesday, 22 December 2009

I'd like to thank...

Old Age Hipster: Label of the year

Kanye said that although my record label is good, Beyonce's is better.

Well their single was called Bethlehem



A couple of nights ago Talons threw a triumphant free entry Christmas party gig in their native Hereford. From all accounts it was a glorious occasion, and not just for the stunning nativity costumes.

Sticking with the theme of Talons and free, we've put together a little new year tour for you. Nobody has any money after Christmas, so this one's on us. All of these gigs will cost you a grand total of £0.00 and feature Shoes And Socks Off along with some other incredible bands.

21.01 - Leeds, Nation of Shopkeeper's (w/ Shapes)
22.01 - Birmingham, The Flapper (w/ Greatest Hits)
25.01 - London, Old Blue Last (w/ Tall Ships)
26.01 - Brighton, The Hobgonlin (w/ Hold Your Horse Is)

Free free free. Your wallet gets the night off.

You're welcome.

Friday, 18 December 2009

2009

The fat lady is dragging her large behind up to the stage where the lonely mic stand is quivering in terror. We've heard her sing before and it's never pretty. Another year over, another year older, so long 2009, you've been my favourite so far.

Prologue

December 4th 2008 was a huge day. I finish The Wire, leaving a huge void in my life; I fall in love with a song called called 'Another Bag Of Bones' by some ginger singer-songwriter from New York; our Christmas tour begins and, perhaps most importantly of all, Pinnacle (partner to our distributor, Shellshock) go into administration, leaving everyone scared and confused. Like many others, the rest of December is spent questioning whether to continue and if so, how best to fight on. Somewhere in the midst of the chaos we release 'From The Muddy Banks Of Melitzer' by Shoes And Socks Off, the first BSM album to come out on CD-R. It's a bold move but surprisingly refreshing to forget about the stresses and strains of money, press, distribution and touring for a moment, and focus on the music for once. It is, after all, what we're here for. The festive break gives me a chance to sit back and think about things properly, resulting in a few big decisions: (1) I will cut down to 4 day working weeks to try and regain some form of normal life outside of work, (2) We'll release more music on CD-R, and (3) I'm absolutely sick to death of Myspace.





First quarter

I feel dirty reducing myself to the level of financial subtitles, but hey ho. January's off to a slow start as I find many different ways to ignore my workload, but all is forgiven as NME go BSM crazy in their 'tips for 2009' issue, including Blakfish, Pulled Apart By Horses and Tubelord in amongst lots of really, really bad stuff. We unveil the '09 Collection, a subscription service offering fans 4 compilation CDs over the course of the year. Meanwhile a former Grange Hill star gets in contact to follow up on a conversation we never had. And speaking of mad, Blakfish go to Seattle to record their debut album (a record which would begin life with the working title, 'Fuck You', but eventually be changed to 'Champions'), where they slowly lost their minds through the course of a short series of video updates, culminating in the creation of Jack Nickleface. I attempted to go to Barcelona but, much like the scenes outside this very minute, the snow had other ideas, leaving me grounded and angry. I'm invited to speak at Unconvention in Belfast, something which completely terrifies me but winds up being a wonderful couple of days, despite being a complete idiot who attempts to fly home from the wrong airport. We release a new single by Wintermute and confirm the signing of The Tupolev Ghost, Shapes and Native, with all three bands set to unveil EP's shortly after, as are Copy Haho, who begin what turns out to be a crazy busy year of touring and new releases. 'To Let', a compilation of 12 unsigned bands is also released, making this our busiest ever period for new music. And then there was SXSW... A week of being sunburnt in Texas whilst drinking free beer, almost exclusively eating Mexican food and watching some of my favourite bands on the planet. This is followed by a road trip with three friends in a pimped up car, taking in a rodeo, dancing on a bar in Houston to the first Hundred Reasons album, the casino's, oyster bars and storms of New Orleans, the bleakness of Alabama, the ticket touting bastards of Atlanta and the absolute madness of New York, shopping for Michael Jackson trading cards in Times Square with Andrew WK and eating the most expensive steak of my life at Michael Jordan's restaurant. It's a funny ol' world.




Spring

After a great start to the year I'm starting to feel like I'm falling in love with my job all over again. The worries of December seem a long time ago and this video for Shapes puts a smile back on my face. As does the Japanese The Get Up Kids tribute album. Yet another new signing is announced, this time in the shape of Luxembourg's finest, Mutiny On The Bounty, and despite a rejuvenated love for nu-metal, I manage to avoid signing any rap acts. Blakfish receive their first full page feature in Kerrang, where they look like the worst P.E. class you've ever seen. We host a showcase at The Great Escape festival down in Brighton, a regular drinking binge of a weekend which certainly doesn't disappoint this time around. Our show descends into absolute chaos and is rightly rewarded with a 5/5 review in Kerrang. Little did they know that Sam from Blakfish had drunk two bottles of vodka before getting on stage. I think the people at The Fly had a sneaky suspicion, however.




Sunny days

The summer arrives fuelled by swine flu panic and we re-release Adebisi Shank's brilliant album on vinyl. These two matters are completely unconnected, by the way. Or are they? Dun dun duuuuun. No, seriously, they are. Toby finishes up Shoes And Socks Off album number two, whilst I head to Download festival where I survive just one night of three, going home early, head in hands, hungover and all too aware that my body is no longer capable of sleeping in a tent whilst that drunk. My musical obsession from the past 6 months, Kevin Devine, joins the BSM 'family', our 7th new signing in 6 months, and proceeds to invade my summer, first appearing on our shores for a support tour with Brand New in June, then back again a month later with Manchester Orchestra, whilst I literally feel hairs turning grey as I stress about the delayed arrival of his album. Not content with 7 new signings, Talons join the party at number 8. Bands compulsively lying gets too much for me to handle, sending me spiralling into a world of procrastination and time machines. We release 'Holy Monsters', a split 10" record with our friends over at Holy Roar Records, and Alex find it hilarious to publicly clash in a couple of interviews with one another. The stupid grindcore-loving prick. Blakfish play Sonisphere festival where they fulfill a lifelong ambition and meet Fred Durst. I write arguably my favourite of 7 Drowned In Sound columns to date, and then it's our annual 5-a-side football tournament. A grand day out as usual, with some 150, mostly unfit, music industry types gathering at the Linford Christie Sports Centre in West London, all fancying their chances to lift the trophy because they "used to be good at 14." Fear And Records eventually went on to win the competition, beating 2006 winners Get Cape Wear Cape Fly in the final. Get Cape, however, did win the broken bone contest, with their captain Max coming away with 4 fractures in his left leg. Hey, it's a man's game. Beatcast made a video which probably sums the whole day up better than I ever could.




And the rest

Autumn and Winter really didn't stick around this year. One minute I was wondering where the summer had gone, the next I'm realising it's getting a bit late to start my Christmas shopping. Shapes spent a couple of weeks in Japan, playing to huge crowds and signing autographs like the rockstars they sound like, whilst closer to home This Town Needs Guns and Tubelord shared the stage for a few nights of reminding people why they're two of the UK's finest bands. One of our favourite bands from the past couple of years, Colour, unfortunately decide to break up, so to mark their short-lived career we release 'Anthology', a compilation CD of their recordings. Joining them in retirement, Wintermute also parted ways this Autumn, with The Tupolev Ghost sadly following sometime after. I DJ at Andrew WK's headline show in London and, along with MC Ben Patashnik, witness some incredible scenes, piss off bouncers, play some massive hits and win the praise of Andrew himself, in what turned out to be one of my favourite nights of the year. September 24th marks the 2nd anniversary of Meet Me In St Louis' album release, which we pay tribute to in the usual way, although I can tell you that isn't the easiest thing to do whilst at a wedding in Cyprus. On your girlfriend's birthday. In October I discovered a band called Men, someone I have as much amusement from expressing my love for as I had shame when telling people I thought Black Kids were over-rated some 12 months earlier. Remember them? They were big for 5 minutes. Beatcast crop up again and post a video of my interview from Rapturefest back in August. Having seen the finished edit I kinda wish they hadn't, although my Mum thought it was good, so that's something. The second half of October is dedicated to festival madness as we present showcases at In The City in Manchester, then less than a week later at Swn in Cardiff. Both were amazing, but before I have time to bask in their glory, I'm once again headed for the US, this time for The Get Up Kids and Kevin Devine shows in New York, Washington and Philadelphia, with a few days off for partying and a tiny little trip to Baltimore sandwiched in the middle. It turns out The Wire is pretty realistic after all. No sooner am I home and over the jetlag, but we're announcing the beginning stages of BSM USA. A long-term project which we hope to develop slowly over the coming years, which will hopefully give us the opportunity to send more bands over to the States and vice versa. November sees us team up with our friends at Smalltown America Records for two awesome releases: an EP from Calories, packaged in a denim sleeves no less, and a split 3" CD between Talons and And So I Watch You From Afar, the latter of which is so close to selling out you can count the remaining copies on one hand. Toby calls to say the third Shoes And Socks Off album is finished and the fourth is already half-written. We release the album in mid-December, straight after our annual Christmas tour which sees him joining Kevin Devine for the brilliant 10 day jaunt around the UK. Some photos and videos can be found here and here. During the tour we quickly sell out of all merch, including all 225 copies of Kevin's Christmas single, which I'd spent many a night giftwrapping. You're welcome.




So I guess that's that. 2009 broken down into a bunch of words and links. Just like that. It's vague, but you get the gist.

I think it's fair to say that this has been our best year to date. Like your favourite heartwarming film which begins in turmoil and ends with blossoming love and joy to all mankind, it's been a wonderful 12 months. I wouldn't say it's a rags to riches story, but maybe a rags to slightly nicer rags one, and it's set the scene nicely for the sequel. I think now is probably the best time to offer my huge, and I mean HUGE (that's bold and italics right there) thanks to everyone who has offered us any kind of support throughout. Whether it was by coming to a gig, buying one of our releases, emailing with friendly wishes, writing a nice review or sending free stamps, I literally couldn't have done it with you. You're bloody great, you are.

Epilogue

Next years release schedule looks bigger and meaner than ever. We'll be kicking proceedings off with the '10 Collection which will boast a WEEKLY new release (oh God, what was I thinking?!) and have two of the most exciting releases to ever hit the BSM catalogue coming up in February. One's a 7", one's a full album, both are American and that's all I'm saying for the moment! What I will tell you, however, is you can expect full lengths from Talons, Shapes, Grown Ups, Mimas, Castevet and more, as well as at least one new Kevin Devine release, no doubt a whole host of Shoes And Socks Off ones (hopefully including something very special) and a few new signings. The 5-a-side tournament will be back in the summer and just before that we'll be hitting the landmark of 100 releases, so you may as well put a big line through June in your diary now, because it's going to be party central and you won't want to miss a thing. We're also discussing a few interesting ideas with some friends, which may or may not turn out to be big highlights when I come to write next years round-up.

I don't know if I'll have time to write another 'proper' blog post before the 25th so will take this opportunity to wish everyone a very happy Christmas and I look forward to writing to you again in 2010!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

I used to be such a blogger

I really feel as though I've neglected you, dear blog, during the latter stages of this year. We started off so well but as time became scarce and my days spread across numerous countries and way too many cities, something had to give. I miss our long chats.

I awoke this morning, later than hoped, with that post-bad dream sense of negativity dragging me down. I decided the best medication was to lay in bed and read emails on my phone, something which generally fires me up/scares me into life/all of the above. Two messages jumped out above the others. The first was from Kevin Devine's manager with the title "Kevin!", which alarmed me with it's sterness (stupid name sharing confusion), the second was from my namesake himself with the title "Robbed." Less room for confusion here, yet all the more disheartening, it must be said. It turns out that after three weeks in Europe, some (excuse my french) German found their way into the locked backstage area of the VERY FINAL SHOW ON THE TOUR and helped themselves to Kevin's money. The tiny hint of a silver lining is that nothing else was taken, but with a full 24 hours of travelling back to New York on his hands today - via two German cities, London and Montreal - it's safe to assume it wasn't quite the way we'd hoped this trip would end. Still, such is Kevin's way, he dealt with it and remained as upbeat as one may allow under such difficult and annoying circumstances. As for me, well I hauled my arse out of bed and put things into perspective. A boring day of packing mailorders, collecting CD sleeves from printers and attacking the inbox it might be, but it could be worse.

Tomorrow is the final day for pre-Christmas 2nd class post in the UK. The last date for deliveries to Spain was 6 days ago, I found out the hard way this afternoon. If you're running low on gift ideas for your loved ones this year you have but a few more hours to come to your senses and realise that a Big Scary Monsters CD is definitely the right choice. I'll still be sending things out after tomorrow, switching to the relative luxury of 1st class and their extra couple of days grace with her majesty's service, but for the sake of my badly bruised sanity and aching hands, I urge you to order sooner rather than later. The metaphorical 'back in 5 minutes' sign will be turned over come Monday as I - fingers crossed - begin some sort of festive break. At least that's the hope.

Recently I've started to think back over the year we've just enjoyed ready for my summing up blog post, which I hope to drop in the next few days. It's certainly been a rollercoaster, thinking back to just 12 months ago with the collapse of Pinnacle and the uncertainly that laid ahead, right through to now and the excitement of 2010 which is finally within touching distance. I'm chomping at the bit to get started and have so many amazing things to tell you all. We have releases you DEFINITELY won't see coming, we have others which you will. We have a '10 Collection subscription series which I think you'll enjoy, despite being very different to the current '09 version, and we have a couple of free gifts for you too. It's easily the most positive I've ever felt about this little label going into a new year, which is either a sign of long-overdue confidence, or a precursor to a crushing demise. Only time will tell, I guess.

I'm off to get the washing out of the machine and put the leftover lasagne in the fridge. God gave me rock n roll and I threw it back in his face. "I'll just take domestic chores for tonight, thanks very much" I scoffed. Ah well, here's a very flattering blog post from my favourite Australian record label. Cheers, Sport.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

More tour bits

The phrase "it'll get worse before it gets better" was probably written about this week. I'm in spitting distance of a Christmas break yet the backlog of work is still haunting me. It took two of us right up until 10pm last night to clear just half of the mailorders, such is the volume that they've been piling in lately. I'm certainly not complaining (keep em coming!), I just wish my flat was slightly better equipped for stock management! The long working day then lead me to dream of Toby Shoes And Socks Off and Thom Yorke playing live duets in a Houston, Texas highschool assembly, before we all made our way to the city centre to watch a volcano errupt. Perfectly normal throughout, I'd say.

Before the end of the week I'll be posting news about our next exciting tour (what, already?!), but before then I want to put a few more gems from the recent Christmas tour out there. There'll be another update or two to come on this before we're completely finished. You're welcome.

Kevin Devine - All Of Everything Erased (live in Soho)



More photos (featuring cameo's from Sam Get Cape, Secondsmile and more)...






Friday, 11 December 2009

So that's that then

I'm home, tired, confused and a little bit lonely. Having spent the past 10 days in the company of two strapping young men wielding guitars, a driver named Snoop (who's a strapping young man in his own right, albeit one with a foul mouth and a complete inability to handle service station car parks), reality feels like a cruel bitch this morning. I'm sitting here staring at the inhumane volume of emails flooding in, daydreaming of a Christmas holiday and an elf army to tackle the jobs I frankly don't have the energy for right now.

So, the tour. I don't really know where to start with it all. Once Kevin gets home from his German tour he'll send over the videos from his Flipcam, which will probably give a much better insight into the festive weirdness of the past couple of weeks than a few half-baked words from me could ever muster. In-jokes are only funny when they remain as such, kids. On a serious note, however, I would like to offer a huge Thanklin Franklin to EVERYONE who came out and celebrated the holiday season with us. It was an incredible experience with every show being amazing and memorable for a different reason. From the perfect start and the merch selling out antics of day one in Manchester, to the entirely seated audience and aftershow motown in Cardiff, to the best house show I've ever been to in Kingston, the ridiculously busy London gig (not to mention the post-gig Cuban bar outing and popping in to see John Kennedy and Jedward at Xfm!) through to the rowdy, singing Scots up in Glasgow and everyone inbetween. I think that it's fair to say this tour far exeeded all of our expectations and it simply wouldn't have been the same without you all.

Apologies if you came out hoping to pick up merch. 8/9 of the limited edition 'Splitting Up Christmas' singles are now sold out - the majority of which went in less than 20 minutes each night - and I'll be posting the final 5 or 6 copies online next week. T-shirts, despite being re-stocked twice along the way, disappeared almost immediately, we're down to about 10 posters and the new Shoes And Socks Off album completely ran out. Everything that is left has Kevin's scribble (and some interesting sketches, in some cases) on it and will be available to buy shortly. If there's anything specific you're after still, get in touch and I'll see if I can sort it out. I also have 4 cases of leftover Vitamin Water, if you'd like to make an offer...

The lovely Sophia has posted a whole host of videos from 4 of the shows here and I'm sure more can be found it you rummage around Youtube. I'll post more when I get them, but for the time being, here are a couple of my favourites, along with a handful of photos. Happy Christmas!

Kevin Devine - Say It Ain't So (Weezer cover in Norwich)




Kevin Devine - Brother's Blood (live in Kingston)




Kevin and Shoes And Socks Off - Stan (Eminem "cover" in Little Chef, Bradford)



Some photos, mostly of Shoes And Socks Off...






Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Drowned In Scary Monsters #6

The Christmas Tour is going just swimmingly. Manchester and Oxford were lovely to us and we'll soon be setting off for Cardiff. I'll write more about it when it's all over. For now, here's a video of Shoes And Socks Off from last night, where he opted to sit on a box and play unplugged in the middle of the room rather than taking to the stage.

Oh and here's my latest column for Drowned In Sound. Enjoy.