Welcome to another Label Profile from The 405. This edition is focused around the wonderful Wilkommen Records. I won't waffle on too much here, just check out all the info below, including videos and a Spotify Playlist. Label: Willkommen Records Website: www.willkommenrecords.co.uk Based: Brighton When founded: 2008 Founder: Tom Cowan UK Artists: Shoreline, The Leisure Society, The Climbers, Sons of Noel and Adrian and many other bands from the Willkommen Collective
What made you decide to start a record company? Tom started the label initially to release the debut album by his band Shoreline. Shoreline was the first band of the Willkommen Collective - Tom got a this huge band together to play his music and then almost all the players revealed themselves to be songwriters themselves and splintered off to form their own groups, taking a few players from the Shoreline pool with them. The Leisure Society, Sons of Noel and Adrian and The Miserable Rich all formed in this way. The label was always intended as a platform for all the Willkommen artists though, and at our very first meeting in a field in Alfriston we planned to release the debuts from The Leisure Society and The Climbers. Has it been a hard journey? In some ways yes, but in some ways it's been very easy. It's grown very organically but we've had to learn a lot. Being a big group of friends made it easy to work together, as the relationship between label and artist is more casual and honest. But this can be a bad thing too as having a business relationship can sometimes test friendships. Recently we signed a big distribution deal with PIAS, who distribute Warp, Rough Trade and lots of the biggest and best indies out there. So we had to get a lot more 'legit' very quickly - business banking account, VAT registration, and lots of other boring forms I glanced at very briefly before giving to Tom to fill out... Who was the first band you ever signed? What are they doing now? We don't really 'sign' bands in the traditional sense, we released the Shoreline debut and The Leisure Society debut with no contracts in place. Our third album release, The Good Ship by The Climbers, is the first release where we've needed to have contracts. Shoreline aren't really active as all the other bands are so busy, but we reunite every now and again and have a very good time. There are a couple of shows coming up, and there's also an incredible EP of unreleased, more psychedelic material that I hope will see the light of day soon.... Tom? Does the label have a particular style of music? We're open to anything but aren't really looking to release music outside of our circle of friends for a while. Because we all have similar tastes this gives the sound a certain consistency. The circle is ever expanding though... How do you decide which bands to take on? Not really a difficult decision since everyone plays in everyone else's bands. What advice can you give to bands considering sending you a submission? Probably don't bother! We do listen to them though. Who are you most proud of having signed? I'm exceptionally proud of all the bands we've worked with. The Leisure Society have moved on to Full Time Hobby who have the resources to take them further than we could, and I'm very proud of those guys doing so well, for flying the Willkommen flag around the world, and of Nick for his Ivor Novello nominations. Who would you most love to sign/have signed? As I said we generally just release from inside our group of friends, however I saw a breathtaking musician called Olof Arnalds play in a record shop in Reykjavik as part of Iceland Airwaves a few years ago and pestered her and her label in Iceland for quite a while to try and license it for the UK but never heard anything back. She's just signed with One Little Indian and has a second album coming out, including a Bjork duet which sounds great so it'd good to see she's finally getting some recognition over here. Also there was a Brighton band called A Scandal in Bohemia who could have been so great - their few live shows were legendary - but sadly they disbanded and nothing came of it. Also I wish we'd caught Captain Beefheart early in his career...
What makes you different to other labels? I guess the cheesy friendship thing I've been harping on about. Also our bands are quite a lot more attractive than most. What plans for the future? The debut album from Kristin McClement is very exciting - she's recording it as we speak with Christian Hardy, who plays in The Leisure Society and The Climbers and produced both of their debuts. She's a bit like a female Leonard Cohen with a voice that flows like red wine. She fronts a 'power trio' with cellist Becca Mears who also plays with The Mariner's Children, Tristram and Peggy Sue and has a very distinctive ear for melody and texture. Similarly drummer Tom Heather who also plays with Tristram is really textural and inventive behind the kit. We're also releasing the debut from Laish, which is the band fronted by Daniel Green who plays drums with Sons of Noel and Adrian. It's a feat of songwriting for such a young man, dashed with melancholy and humour and fleshed out by The Benjamin Diane Gregory and Michael Diane Miles of Curly Hair, as well as Mary Hampton collaborator Jo Burke's beautiful swooning violin and some vocals from Catherine Cardin of Sons and Redwood Red, among others. We have a lot of other plans including the second Sons album, hopefully January, the second label compilation, which is going to be very special, an EP from the exceptional Rowan Coupland, hopefully as early as September, and a series of split 7"s. We're also organising a festival at Stanmer House, a Grade I listed country mansion in a nature reserve on the edge of Brighton. We started the festival last year and it was perfect, this year we're doubling the capacity and we have some acts confirmed that I am VERY excited about but can't tell you about yet. It's on September 12th. We're also putting on Diane Cluck, Alessi's Ark and more in Brighton on the 11th so why not make a weekend of it? Playlist Want to get better acquainted with this awesome record label? Have a listen to our playlist then! Click here to listen to the playlist!