The music industry is smothered by a scandalous amount of preconceptions. This is mainly because of the media’s emphasis and portrayal of just the Big Three (Sony, Universal and Warner). Yeah, the wee girl who uses her comb as a microphone in the bedroom has a dream of being the next razzle-dazzle on Fifth Avenue, but that kind of success for musicians usually comes at a treacherous cost; major labels sucking the life out of you. This is not to account for all mainstream musicians, but for independent record labels, such as Erased Tapes Records, it is quite the opposite. The British Expeditionary Force solidly affirms this, as members, Aid Burrows and Justin Jockey, jovially discuss their personal views on everything around them in the music scene and within their workplace.

Unlike Allmusic, it is far too much of a knotty task to identify the tones of their album, Chapter Two: Konstellation Neu, in a long list. The new record ranges from jumpy pianos to laissez-faire alternative rock and a Boards of Canada ambient-IDM. And unlike cruel critics in hot-headed, pretentious publications, there is not much scope for these guys to be ridiculed, as the standard of their unique ingenuity is almost unanimous in the 39-minute, 10-track LP.

The Erased Tapes’ catalogue this year would generally shed light to a neo-classical typecast, but that ignorance should be tossed aside, as they are far from a single identity. Lead by Robert Raths, the label is a musically objective one in its fifth year. Burrows contently expressed his creative license within the label, saying “I think it was all a bit subconscious, really, like freeform association. It's just been one big therapy session. Justin throws some beats my way, which makes me shout something back, which makes him twist a chord progression, which makes me react with a harmony, and round and round - feedback style.”

“It usually comes from being half way through something else,” Jockey added, “getting bored and then making a BEF track as an opportunistic distraction. Do that 10 times then voila. You have a BEF record. It's that simple.” The contemporary nature of the mainstream business is driven by an image-strong culture, which discards any notion of meritocracy. The words of BEF, in this sense, drive the independent scene into a speedy dimension that is prosperously dominated by a comfortable environment. That is what musicians want: a home that will supply the creative needs for artistic mindsets.


Berry Gordy used to meet with his Motown minions in his house for drinks and advisory sessions; how to present themselves well on Soul Train, Saturday Night Live and the likes. In fact, if they did not accept his advice, they were cast into a burning sulphuric lake of musical inexistence. Raths was not like this with his ETR musicians. It is debatable that the BEF gave Robert “Robot” Raths the key advice that would put the label on the independent industry map. Jockey explained that, during a Jay-Z concert in Paris, Robert had ambition for “pure love for the street” as the label was first “purely on hip hop.” Justin did something that would not be dared done to the likes of Motown Chief, Berry Gordy, as he told Robert: “Bobby, I really think you should find some dudes who can hit the fuck out of pianos and chimey things really good, and then do it really quiet too.” Raths would soon apply this to the label, mastering the idea with Ólafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm, A Winged Victory For The Sullen, Peter Broderick and many more.

It is also debatable that we could be living in a musical era where the onus is on the individual label to diffuse the artist into critical acclaim. As well, we could argue that musicians have been plunged into a completely newer dimension where institutionalised respect, from genre fans, cult-followings, critics, etc, is the core of their objectives. The indie scene is no dictator, like the entertainment business, “who tells [the audience] what [they] want to hear,” as Aid puts it. Even Justin can agree that labels like Erased Tapes and others dominate the scene “with an iron fist when it comes to actual music,” due to the increased scope in creativity.

The label’s boss, Raths, compared the Erased Tapes’ collective to a helpful family, saying: “We inspire one another; support each other – not just on record or on tours – but also as friends. Sometimes you get stuck and all you need is a friend to help you see the forest for the trees again. In other times all you need is someone to help you say ‘no’ to things in order for you to stay sane - like you do in real families, really. That's what it's all about. Recently Ólafur, Nils and Anne even recorded a whole record without my knowing, only to surprise me with a print-ready 'Stare' EP for our fifth anniversary.” So, from all the aforementioned ideas on the greatness of the independent system, the benefits are truly enormous for the musician’s morale.

There is a trend in this musical culture, as well, that generates values when it comes to finances. Mainstream musicians, who are denied complete access to self-creative progress and independence when releasing records, tend to be compensated with bulging pockets of fortune and fame - provided that they are trend-worthy enough. On the other hand, because independent label musicians are offered nearly full scope for going about their own mannerisms and styles, finance seems to fluctuate between okay to zilch. There are exceptions, nonetheless.

One of the underlying factors for this is record and digital sales. Because of P2P sites and illegal downloading, it is an industry reality that sales will drop, but that does not seem to frustrate the BEF boys, as they reflect on the proposed anti-piracy legislations, stating: “[It] would be a bad thing. It's like that scene in Ghostbusters where the environmental chap wants to shut down all of their nuclear containment facilities. Bad things would happen.”

Is the independent sphere a utopian world? Not exactly, but it does provide a contextual platform for the creative, if we are to make an example of The British Expeditionary Force in this case. For Erased Tapes Records, five-years-old is musically young, which makes them vulnerable to creating mistakes. However, it seems they have formed, so far, skilled personnel of intellectually-minded artists who desire for serenely perfected sounds.