I deal with a lot of record labels these days and I can safely say that the fine people at FatCat/OLI, namely Shain Shapiro, run one of the finest around. Collectively the labels have put out the likes of Bjork, Sigur Ros, Animal Collective and Frightened Rabbit and continue to support new, fresh and exciting bands. They also share an office, which can be seen in more detail on our 'disposable' feature (which is now on the site). Rather than spouting off my love for the labels or some awful wiki nonsense, here's an interview with Shain Shapiro who runs the press for FatCat and OLI. Hello, How are you and who are you? Hello. My name is Shain and I do press for One Little Indian, FatCat and Tangled Up Records. I also do FatCat's sub-label, 130701 Records. Could you give us a brief biog of the label and why it was started? Well, One Little Indian was founded by Derek Birkett in 1985 as a response to the major labels at the time.  He was in a band called 'Flux of Pink Indians', an anarcho-punk band and the label was started to put out Flux's records. It was originally called Spider Leg Records, but was changed to OLI when Derek left the band, essentially making him one little indian. He hooked up with Bjork who was in a punk band called KUKL at the time, which led to OLI putting out The Sugarcubes. Since then we have done Bjork, Sneaker Pimps, Shaman, Rocket From The Crypt and newer bands Official Secrets Act and Kill It Kid. FatCat began as a record shop in Crawley in 1990, eventually moving to Covent Garden. Bjork and Derek were big customers, so when the store shut, Derek invited the owners to start a label using free office space from OLI.  When FatCat signed Sigur Ros and Animal Collective they moved to Brighton and went off on their own.  Only recently, as of June 08', FatCat was brought back in by One Little Indian in a joint venture deal. Right now FatCat handles Frightened Rabbit, Twilight Sad, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Brakes and others. Tangled Up and 130701 are sub-labels; pet projects of the company directors and A&R heads. How do you feel the label sits amongst other Independent Labels in the UK? How do you feel you're perceived? Well, we are truly, 100% independent, in every single way. We do almost everything in-house, including press, radio, marketing, digital, international and A&R, and have our own warehouse and digital aggregation service to stock and distribute our records. We feel we sit alongside the older indie's like cooking vinyl or the beggars group, and hope to be seen as such. In terms of being perceived, we operate on a 100% creative control mantra. Our artists can do whatever they want; they call the shots. Always have, always will. We hope our customers see that in every album we put out. I’ve worked at a couple of independent record labels and could see the problems that an indie label goes through, but what would you say are your biggest struggles? The music industry has been in a recession for five or six years now, and obviously the fact that people aren't buying physical CDs is hurting our bottom line. That is a struggle.  We have to be a lot pickier in our selection process and a lot more creative in how we spend our money and market our product, to maximize the chance of exposure. CDs are important, but syncs, vinyl, downloads, merch and concert tickets are as important. What tips would you give to someone wanting to start a label? Don't do it just for the sake of starting a label. Do it because you believe in the long term future of the artist or artists you're working with. A label is only as good as its catalogue, so be very, very selective about what music you present and how it is presented. Also, always realize how lucky you are to be doing what you love, even if it creates plenty of sleepless nights. What is your stance on illegal downloading? are you combatting it in any way? Do you feel the effects of it? We can't fight it, so we don't. Obviously we're not fans of our albums being leaked before the release date, as that is disrespectful to the artist, but you can't fight something you can't control. We want to encourage our customers to support us because of what we do, and going after them for wanting to hear our music isn't fair or just. We do feel the effects of it, but again, it just makes us act more creatively in finding other ways to make money, like landing a song on a commercial or increasing tour dates. What’s the main criteria you look for when signing new bands? That's a tough one. I'm not the A&R person so I may not be the best.  Usually we look for bands that take themselves seriously and act as such. That means presenting a product that has potential, and is presented in a way that shows it to us. There's lots of things bands can do for free that can make life easier for them in the future; proper online marketing, branding and imagery goes far; a band is a business as much as it is a way to do what you love for a living. Bands need to understand this. What Fat Cat/OLI release makes you smile the most? Of all the ones I've worked, probably Frightened Rabbit's The Midnight Organ Fight. It did really well on loads of year-end lists, and its popularity has increased as the week's go by. Scott Hutchison is one of the best songwriters in the UK and this is a gorgeous album. I adore it and I'm proud to have worked on it. Have you ever signed someone based purely upon a demo? Yes. Kill it Kid was signed on a demo; as was Frightened Rabbit, or so say the FatCat A&R guys. Demos are often more than enough. Have you signed any new bands recently that you think we should know about? Kill It Kid for One Little Indian and We Were Promised Jetpacks for FatCat. Both are young, exciting and original, and we have high hopes for both. Tell us a Fat Cat/OLI secret! The OLI office looks like a garden centre. Occasionally we have people coming in asking for seeds. Lastly, do you have any words of wisdom for our readers? If you love what you do for a living, you usually have to work twice as hard at it to survive. But never lose sight of how lucky you are to be doing that in the first place.

Links

www.indian.co.uk www.fat-cat.co.uk