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Label Profile: Philophobia Music

Label Profile: Philophobia Music

by Tom Baker, 01 May 2013

Philophobia is the fear of emotional attachment; fear of being in, or falling in love. It's also the name of that one Arab Strap album. "I like the fact that it's a word made of the polar opposites," explains Rob Dee. "I decided I wanted to have 'Music' as the suffix rather than 'Records', mainly to be awkward."

So: Philophobia Music was born in Wakefield in 2008, after Dee – who'd helped set up the Merrie City's Louder Than Bombs Records a few years prior – decided to strike out on his own. "I was managing Lapels at the time and the label initially formed around them. By the time they split at the end of 2009 Philophobia had developed to have a fairly sizeable roster."

That's something of an understatement: after five years – they recently celebrated their half-decade anniversary - the label has a back catalogue of over forty release featuring a dozen-or-so local bands, from the critically-acclaimed controlled indie rock noise of The Spills to the dark, experimental alt-folk of St Gregory Orange. "I think the label has dealt pretty well with such a growth. The fact that it has happened naturally has helped," explains Dee, adding: "As has the fact some people are in more than one band makes it easier to schedule releases."

Pretty impressive, on two counts in particular (as far as I see it). The first is that all of those bands and their releases are actually worth listening to, as Vibrations magazine noted in their review of label comp Under The Bus Station Clock: "If most record labels are grateful just to have one or two hidden gems amongst dozens of would-bes, Philophobia Music can consider themselves very lucky indeed." The second is that, with a population of roughly 80,000, Wakefield isn't exactly a bustling metropolis. How can there possibly be so many bands, let alone good ones? And how do they all get on? "Yeah it's pretty close-knit. Wakefield is quite a small city so you wouldn't expect otherwise I guess," Dee concurs. "There's a really good feeling of friendly competition because of it, it's far too small to not at least try to get along. All the bands seem to without thinking use that to push themselves on. They are also happy to help out each others bands wherever they can."

It's that DIY spirit of collaboration that has lifted Wakefield up into a proper "scene": the alliance of Philophobia, Rhubarb Bomb (the smarter-than-the-average-local zine which Dee also had a hand in founding), and the ever-growing city-wide festival Long Division. "I think that's a lot of the beauty in it," says Dee. "It's full of people that do it because they feel passionate about, it's not some job to pay the mortgage (I've got a day job for that). It's weird though – you realise the people working in it aren't professional and they have jobs and maybe families, but you still expect a professional job. Maybe not professional but at least honesty and effort put in. The people who continually do that, whether it be band, blogger, label, promoter whatever, they're the ones that do the best and stick around longer."

Both that local scene and the music industry as a whole have changed a lot since the label started and, whilst Philophobia's founder mourns the economic changes that make printing up vinyl records prohibitively expensive, he does point out that it lets him be more creative with physical releases – "which I think undoubtedly should exist" – such a local heroes Runaround Kids' recent series of singles released via t-shirts and comic books (with accompanying download codes), "to make them more appealing than just having some files on your computer."

With all that in mind, what lies in the label's future? "I don't think we've achieved everything I'd hoped for," admits Dee. "I don't think we've made enough of the world aware of these great bands we work with. Hopefully we can help the bands reach their potential audiences more efficiently. If we can keep growing as we have I'm sure we can achieve that." It'd be foolish to argue with him.

Rob's five essential Philophobia releases

  1. The Spills – Ocam's Razor: One of the best début albums you'll hear by anyone.
  2. St Gregory George – Midnight At The Sycamore Lounge: So much ambition and scope is crammed into this, just lose yourself in it.
  3. imp – Sewerpop (How The Castle Was Formed): There's more ideas in these four songs than most bands manage in a lifetime.
  4. Runaround Kids – Teeth Blue, Lips Red: A leap on from their début, Linked Arms, and shows willingness to try out new packaging as it comes as a comic book.
  5. Various – We Phopped Something In The Water: A little pre-emptive as it's not out yet but it's a compilation with our full roster included. The perfect introduction to Philophobia, I'd say.

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