Spacebomb Records represent a curious, innovative, and really quite uplifting formation of a music label; and while you might not have heard of them by name, you’ve definitely heard their music. A cross between a conventional music production company and an instrumentation consultancy, where artists can approach the house band (Matthew E. White, Trey Pollard, Cameron Ralston, Pinson Chanselle) – who have full ownership of the label, and complete decision-making autonomy – and ask for help in transforming their demo tapes into vast orchestral affairs, or even just enquiring about the faintest of brush-ups. In the past few years since their conception they house band – who, I reiterate, are ostensibly the label – have collaborated with, and played for, Matthew E. White (now band member), Slowclub, Foxygen, Natalie Prass and The Waterboys. On October 6th they play Barbican Hall as a Spacebomb Revue, a “marker,” as they describe it in my interview with them, of celebrating what they’ve achieved so far and offering a glimpse into where they’re going next. I caught up with them, Matthew White besides, during this year’s End Of The Road while they were touring as Foxygen’s live band.

Firstly, what distinguishes Spacebomb from other record labels?

Cameron: Well it’s run by musicians, for musicians. Ben [Baldwin, Managing Directo at Spacebomb] who brought us over here and a couple of other guys run the operational aspect of the business, but it’s mostly a house band of musicians and arrangers; Trey, who does all of the string arrangements and most of the horn arrangements; Pinson, drums and percussion and creative ideas; I play the bass, and other instruments as well, but predominantly bass, and everything is built around us as a team, which is very different from other labels today. It reflects Motown, Stax, The Wrecking Crew, these labels that were built around a core group of people.

Hopefully it’ll be less exploitative than Motown was.

Trey: Yeh, that’s the motive.

Cameron: We’ve read all the horror stories.

Pinson: That’s what killed Stax. It comes up a lot and we’ve been very vocal about this idea; we can do this, and not have it be exploitative like it was back then, and equally not die as a company or idea. The Wrecking Crew actually didn’t own anything but they did very well for themselves, they were paid a lot because they were just in the studio every day for years, for ten, twelve hours a day. They made a lot of money but that’s obviously not the purpose here, the purpose is to be symbiotic with each other, not take advantage of each other.

With the collaborations you’ve done so far, have there been any highlights that you’ve felt most pride in?

Trey: They’re all so different though, a different product and different mix. So some things require a rock band mix, something heavy and complex; like our work with Slowclub, it was a real “band in the room” kind of record, when there’s lots of arrangements and I get to do a shit ton, any time there’s something big or orchestral that’s super fun. The Waterboys too, there were huge arrangements on that.

I didn’t know he [Mike Scott, Waterboys’ frontman] was even back!

Trey: He never went away, he’s just been quietly making records you know, and this one was really huge.

Cameron: And that one was just Trey, so it’s a valuable process. There might be a situation where Pinson and I are hired as the rhythm section, and there might not be any string arrangements. Or they might just want Trey to do strings; or, it’s an artist who wants the whole package. I think those situations are the most fulfilling for me, where we feel everything coming together as a unit and are reflexive with one another. It’s really cool seeing it start from artist demos, with Natalie’s record, and Matt’s first record which was our breakthrough. At that time we didn’t really know what we were doing, we were just making music in an attic basically.

With the new Foxygen, there’s obviously a lot of arrangements on that record, how much input did the three of you have playing on that one?

Cameron: Zero.

Trey: Pinson played a little.

Pinson: Yeh I played some percussion, but other than that, that’s it.

Trey: Basically me and Matt worked a little on the arrangements, but it was all recorded in Richmond.

Well, now’s your chance!

Trey: Yeh we can do the live band now. Everybody will be involved, the dynamic of our group is so malleable about these things, that Sam came to me asking to put that live band together because that record was so massive. I thought “let’s hire all my friends” and it became the Spacebomb band basically.

I’ve not really heard about this sort of dynamic around music labels before, do you think this sort of prioritised autonomy for artists ideal will catch on?

Cameron: I hope so. I think they’ll try.

Trey: I hope so too.

Cameron: It works for us because we’ve known each other so long and feel so strongly about the musical community in Richmond, we feel so lucky to have grown up and matured in a place that has so many great musicians and friends. The pieces were there, it was a matter of coming up with the concept and thinking; “let’s do it like this”.

Trey: I think it’s a model for other people that it can work. This environment is cool, and it doesn’t happen often, but it can work; but you just need the right community for it to happen.

Are there any artists you’re really keen to collaborate with, or help produce?

Pinson: We all have names. Leave it at that I guess haha. Actually there’s one for sure; Helado Negro, he’s a friend of ours, Trey’s done some stuff with him. Amazing artist. His process is so different from ours that it’d be such a unique collaboration. When there’s traditional singer-songwriter fare, it’s fun to build a record around that, but I also really like the avant-garde approach.

Because you collaborate with so many people who each have their own individual songwriting processes, how do you engage with those differences? If someone was very protective of their demos for instance, but stubbornly still wanted your help?

Trey: Well, that is sort of the gig in a lot of the ways. Figuring out what a person wants, what they’re seeking, what they’re comfortable and uncomfortable with, getting them to cross those lines. For me, these guys might be different, but it’s about getting inside their heads.

Pinson: There are some unique situations where collaborating with us as arrangers and as a band, it just doesn’t work with us having much influence; and that’s cool.

Trey: Yeh you have to be aware of that, you just have to accept it and let it be.

Alongside the Revue,another thing you’re doing is an event on October 3rd in Rough Trade East, where you’re breaking down song arrangements and production, how academic will this be?

Cameron: I think we’re going to make it as un-academic as possible, it’s hard obviously when you’re talking about music and what you do in layman’s terms – we’re all musically trained and had time in music school and have degrees – but we’re conscious of this.

Pinson: It’ll be a relaxed time to share how we do what we do. We’ll be using terminology but we won’t be doing detailed breakdowns about harmonic concepts and rhythmic notation on chalkboards. Although I could do that, we can go there... maybe. It’s about how we reach our own ideas, chatting about music we love, with our instruments, so it’ll be kind of fun and informal.

For the big Revue on October 6th, what does it mean for you to have this celebration of your work captured in one night?

Pinson: I think it’s incredibly exciting. When I think about it, we’re finishing this Foxygen tour on the bus, and Cameron and I look at the lineup and the tracklist, and it’s just really meaningful to have this. It’s nice to have a second to take in what we’ve done. It also sets the bar for take two in what we do next.

Trey: Yeh it’s a marker, a chapter, in a very good way, not a final way. I’m going through the arrangements now and it’s nice reflecting on this music; it’s a lot. It’s a lot of stuff we’ve done.

Cameron: There’s been a lot of activity in the past 2/3 years. It’s the end of a season like in TV, and things are ramping up, and this is a good moment in time to slow down to appreciate, even though tt’s a mad rush to get it all together, and we have all these really cool artists and sweet people we’ve worked with and become friends with, whose careers are also growing at the same time as ours, it’s really neat, a source of pride.

Pinson: I know it’s going to be a touching experience; to have everyone in one place, it’s going to be heartwarming.

Trey: Even on top of all that, I just think it’s going to be really good musically, and massive. We have so many great artists and so much great music. Some of these songs, especially the Natalie stuff, we’ve never even played live.

Cameron: We’ve got our own horn sections, we’ve got performers from the London Symphony Orchestra, it’s going to be a huge concert.

The Spacebomb Revue takes place October 6th at Barbican Hall, and tickets can be found here.