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Dreamy Records

Dreamy is a London-based label in the ‘independent thinks big’ mould, putting out high quality pop product from the likes of arco, Kirk Lake, Tuesday Weld and Graham. Dreamy has an eye for class and meticulous production values. Big label boss Tracy tells us more.

Could you provide a short history of the label – when/how/why it started, what you were doing before, etc…
Dreamy Records was started in April 1998. I had been managing arco since November of 1997 and still hadn’t been able to get them a record deal to release ‘longsighted’. I hated kissing A&R ass, so I decided to put out the record myself. I asked the band if they minded and they were cool with it – so we put the record out in July. It was an experience. It was hell. The manufacturing troubles that I had… but it was so worth it when John Peel called me to say how much he liked the record! The excitement I got from all the great feedback (real people – not corporate music/money makers) meant that carrying on was a natural thing to do.

Is it hard work running the label? Do you do it full time?
It’s incredibly hard work. I work 30 hours a week (my day job) to support myself and spend the other 22 hours a day devoted to the label and artists in some form or another.

Do you have a ‘grand plan’ for Dreamy? Has it grown or moved in directions you weren’t expecting?
My ‘grand plan’ is really quite simple. I want it to become a business that supports itself and the people contained within. I’m not looking to get rich – just to keep on inspiring and being inspired. Dreamy has grown, but fairly steadily. I’d like to grow a bit more and even a bit faster out of necessity – but I know that it is not really the best way to go for what I want it to be when it grows up – if you see what I mean. Turning into a ‘mindie’ label just wouldn’t suit what we do. It would be wrong. And other than winning the lottery, that seems like the best way to get enough cash to make a difference. I hate money. It sucks.

Any advice for the prospective new label mogul?
Advice? Hmm. I don’t know. Sometimes I think it’s better not to have any input at all. It’s like if you have your own idea – you’ll find your own way. Sometimes it’s pretty cool not to know the rules. When you don’t know the rules you are not bound by them.

Where do you find bands for your releases?
I found arco in a batch of demos that my (then) boyfriend brought home from Rykodisc. We were both anxious to take it to our respective bosses (I was at Blue Rose then) but both bosses weren’t interested. I got in touch anyway. I was sacked from Blue Rose and arco still wanted me to help them. So I did. Graham was a friend of Nick (drummer in arco) and Santa Sprees were friends of Graham’s. It was pretty amazing that there was this common link between them, because although they all sit comfortably together on a compilation record, the styles are completely unique to one another. It amazes me so much because I happen to genuinely love each of these bands independently of each other.
(The Real) Tuesday Weld came to me after Time Out did a story on Dreamy. He just liked the sound of the stuff I was doing and I think he was impressed that I sold my car to pay for a record. When he sent me his CD, he hadn’t even been looking for labels. I loved it instantly. Jamie Owen and Kirk Lake I’ve known for years. I’ve always been a fan of what they were doing and finally I can do something to help them. Ninian Hawick and The Autumn Leaves come from the wonderful Grimsey Records out of Minneapolis. I helped get them out in the UK. I think they are fantastic and I just wanted the records available over here. Oh, and then there’s Izumi Misawa – whom I adore. She is a Japanese percussionist who sings like an angel… we found her demo amongst the same batch we nicked from Rykodisc.

Do you have any dream bands who you’d like to put stuff out by?
Well, some of the above don’t have records out yet – but they will! Other dream bands – I don’t know – new, small or unsigned bands that I really love include: Ursula, Kingsbury Manx, Kyoko, Rivulets, James Hindle, Mazarin. I guess my hero is still Elliott Smith.

Dreamy bands seem to avoid the egotistical/arrogant/obviously career-driven traits of a lot of ‘indie’ bands around. Is this true?
I guess so. I don’t know. Maybe we are all just of that age when being a pop star isn’t really the goal. I t would be funny if it happened – I’ve certainly dreamed about it… but it’s way more altruistic. It’s all about emotion for me. The bands aren’t egotistical really – but I don’t think they avoid it – they just aren’t.

How do you work with bands – is it release by release or do you have longer, more complex contracts?
No contracts – yet! It’s probably not such a bad idea to get a clear understanding on paper with an artist – for both your sakes, but we’re not really at that level yet. My lawyer will tell me otherwise though! Everything is release-by-release – but they all know me and know that I have chosen them and I’m committed to them should they want to do something else with me. If they get offered something else in the meantime – and it’s better – I will respect that, because the bottom line is I want as many people as possible to hear their music. If someone else can make that happen faster or better – then that’s what I want.

The packaging and presentation of your releases is obviously a big deal for you.
Yeah, the packaging is SO important to me. I love records, the way they look almost as much as the way they sound. It’s like the lyrics vs. music thing… are you a lyric person or a music person. I am both. And when they both work together – the quality of the experience is that much better!

What is your personal list of favourite bands?
Don’t get me started. It’s hard to be that narrow. Aside from Dreamy bands… Elliott Smith, Lisa Germano, Galaxie 500, Throwing Muses, David Bowie (circa Hunky Dory), The Magnetic Fields, Neutral Milk Hotel, Robert Wyatt, Liz Phair, Bright Eyes, Le Mans… and many many more. (I know I’ve missed some real favourites out!)

If there was no Dreamy, how would you spend your time?
Well, I have been asking myself this question a lot lately. Just in case, you know? I’ve been thinking about a Plan B – because I’ve never had one. I had a fleeting idea of becoming a yoga instructor – but the truth is that I can probably never go back now. I think Dreamy will always remain, somehow. I don’t know how – but somehow. Life always has a way of working itself out.