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The Resonant label is pushing a venerable six years old these days, and seeing as both gentle sirs that run are not only both called Andy but also gentlemen of the highest order, we figured it was definitely time for a diskant Talentspotter article to celebrate.

What do you mean you haven’t heard of Resonant? They’re the finest record label to be based in both Birmingham and London, and have released special and wondrous records by the likes of Constellation stalwarts Do Make Say Think, Kranky Records regular Jessica Bayliff, awesome slowcore songsmiths Kepler (whose wonderful debut LP which was unearthed by Resonant justifies everything Andy and Andy have done to date), and crazy prog-electronic madman Szam Findlay. In recent years they’ve showcased the homegrown talents of young electronica whiz Dialect whilst acting as a launching pad for all sorts of Icelandic musical joy since they unleashed Stafraenn Hakon on an unsuspecting public not too long ago.

Resonant have had a couple of exciting new releases by the likes of Library Tapes and Port Royal out this summer, so we sat the Birmingham-based Andy, Mr Smith, down for a chat.

Why the hell did you call your label that?

To be honest I’ve absolutely no idea, but I still like it so that must be a good sign! I have no recollection of where we got the name from though.

How did you get the whole thing started? How long have you been running now?

Well, it started back in December 1999 when me and the other Andy decided to give it a go. He works for SRD distribution and I used to talk with him to order records for my mailorder store
Chunky. We discovered we had similar tastes in music and even though he lives in London and me in the Midlands we thought we’d give the label thing a go. Thankfully, we’ve had NO fallings-out yet and that’s pretty good going for six years working together. When we started up all my label-owning friends said ‘there’s no way a two-man label can work’. But remarkably it has… so far.

The first release was a 12″ called ‘Besides’ by Canadians Do Make Say Think. I think I’d been e-mailing them via my then mailorder store (Chunky) as I had a little ‘zine thing going called cafeBLISS and wanted to interview ’em. And somehow we ended up doing the record. The guys from Constellation (DMST’s label) were also very helpful in getting it off the ground too, for which we’ve always been very grateful. That 12″ was a great way for us to ‘launch’ the label as they had a bit of a name already and so it sold out really quickly which then gave us a bit of cash to get the next few releases pressed.

Have you been inspired by any labels in terms of style/ambition/enthusiasm?

Back then, I guess labels like Kranky, Constellation and Fat Cat were all inspiring to us. The latter two still inspire me to this day.

What kind of a role has the internet played regarding your label? Some people these days operate exclusively via the ‘net, whilst others are still very much mail order based. What’s your stance?

Well, we’re slow at catching onto new technology. The website is as basic as it gets and there are no digital sales for us as yet either. The ‘net is good for getting the word out I suppose, and it makes it a lot easier for folks from abroad to order stuff via the site with Paypal rather than via the mail with cash or whatever. I’d hate to see records disappear and be replaced by shitty downloads though. There’s nothing better than holding something like a great record in your hand, is there?

Is downloading killing music? Do you harbour any strong feelings sympathetic to or against the RIAA?

Not in my mind. I download stuff myself all the time on Soulseek, and if I like it I’ll go out and buy it. It’ll never stop me buying actual records though. It’s like a try-before-you-buy deal with me. However you should see how vexed I get when I find our albums on there ;o) …a bit of double standards there I reckon!

Do you feel an affiliation with other labels out there? Is there any kind of community or so-called scene, be it local or not, that you feel linked to?

Personally, I’m not really aware of any scene or community. If there is and they get together for secret meetings, we don’t get invited, that’s for sure. We prefer to do our own thing. But of course there are lots of friends/people we know with other great labels, but we don’t exchange notes. I’d never want to be part of a ‘scene’ or label ‘collective’ personally. I’m happy working from the edges and admiring the cool folks from afar ;o)

Has there ever been a time when you felt like calling it a day, that the label was too much trouble?

Oh, quite often. But it doesn’t last long. Everyone who does this knows what a massive pain in the arse it can be at times, but it can also be equally great. If you genuinely love it that’s enough reason to carry on and wade through the shitpiles. I might change my mind again next week though.

Where have you found bands you’ve released stuff by so far? Do you get demos etc sent to you? Do you ask the bands or do they ask you?

We’re mostly finding new artists/bands by demos sent in lately. Early on it was more via various contacts we had. These days we get a lot of demos, and mainly all from the country of the previous band we’ve released. For example, since we did the Stafraenn Hakon releases we’ve had shedloads of Icelandic bands/artists sending us demos. As you can see we’ve actually worked with quite a few more of ’em already but we’ve also turned down even more! The same thing is happening now with bands from Italy, since we did the port-royal album. It’s still a sore point however that we don’t get more UK bands sending us stuff. We’ve only got Dialect from the UK still and it’s a pretty bad situation. But we’d never do a record with a band just because of where they’re from, obviously. Whether it’s Reykjavik or Rotherham doesn’t matter. Sadly, we haven’t had much sent in from the latter ;o)

Speaking of which, do you have any hot musical tips for us at the moment?

Turbonegro! Seriously, I love ’em. One of my best mates (Stu) was riled so much by them at ATP that he wanted to throw things at them. I find that kind of reaction wonderful and hilarious at the same time. I can’t see what’s not to like about them. They are entertainers!

Apart from the stuff we do as a label, me and the other Andy have massively different loves of music. I think like most people who have labels, ‘zines, bands, shops etc we have open minds and our listening tastes stretch far and wide. Whereas he was brought up on what I’d call pop and indie (such as Pet Shop Boys, Gene, The Smiths etc) I was raised on rock – in the Midlands that’s the only way to be. For me it was AC/DC, The Stones, Ramones etc as well as some heavier thrash/punk/hardcore stuff. If I’d have liked the Smiths (and believe me I DON’T!) I’d have been chased out of town with burning studded wristbands! I remember when I ran my mailorder store, some folks found it odd if they called to order, say, a Labradford album and heard Sabbath blaring out in the background. Dunno why though, I can quite happily listen to ’em back to back. But you’ll never catch me listening to Belle & Sebastian – I promise.

On a more ‘Resonant’ type of vibe, someone’s just turned me onto an Aussie band called This Is Your Captain Speaking. They sound pretty good from what I’ve heard so far. I think we’ll be trying to get them to do a Resonant release at some stage. FS Blumm’s band Kinn are pretty good too. But I’m crap at recommending bands to other people so I’ll stop there.

Who decides the artwork for your releases? Do you have a major say in the matter, or do you let the bands decide?

We usually give the bands a free reign in that area, although we do chip in and tell ’em if we think something is too shit.

Who do you use to make and print your records? Would you recommend them to others?

Mainly GZ in Czech Republic, like 95% of small labels I guess. But from time to time we also
use Impress and Sound Performance in London. All have been fine so far, although we have had some moments with the Czechs that I won’t go into ;o)

What’s your opinion on the importance of press and media coverage? Do you have any particular policies on how to get it?

It’s very important if you want to get past the 1-2k pressing level. Getting press without having to sell an organ to finance it is a different matter, however. Lovely Kim at Monotreme has been very helpful in sending me names/contacts over the years though for which I thank her kindly.

We’ve just finally taken the plunge and employed a press company to work on the upcoming Whip album. It’s a first for us so we’ll see how it goes. Usually we just sit down with a pile of CDs/one sheets and jiffy bags and send ’em out ourselves. Success rate for reviews in this country is fucking woeful, mind. A real shocker!

I shan’t name names, but a certain mag in particular has been a bit of a pain lately. Even though we send ’em everything we release and advertise with ’em regularly, we haven’t had a review in there for ages now. They’d rather spend their time writing a page long review of a record you can only get if you live in a small Bermudan village, that’s limited to four copies, each hand packaged in a banana leaf and only playable on a 1950’s tape-to-tape machine at half speed. That’s art you see!

Do you have any Grand World Domination plans for the label, or is it a case of natural evolvement?

In an ideal world, i hope to be retired and living in Italy by 2010. In reality, I think you just have to keep doing your own thing, to be honest. This year has been VERY busy release-wise for us, but next year could be really slow. It all depends on what we get demo-wise and how much of it we love. We don’t have a set plan for amount of releases, etc. If we like it, we’ll work with it, if we don’t we wont. And it’ll always stay that way. Even if one of us loves a demo, we’d only do it if the other agreed.

Got any advice for the prospective new label mogul?

Before you start, have a bit of money set aside that you can afford to lose. It’s like a comfort blanket for when something goes tits up. Which always happens at some stage. And do your own thing – even when it’s unfashionable!

Finally, what would be your dream release – which band, which format, and how would it be packaged?

Tough question Dave. I can only speak for myself here. I’ve always wanted someone to release Godspeed’s Peel session. I still think of it as one of the best things they’ve ever done. And the reworked version that ended up on an album didn’t quite do it for me. I drunkenly told ’em I was going to press it up as a bootleg once as it should be heard by more people. I might still… but don’t tell ’em ;o)

A record with Low would be an absolute dream to do. Maybe a 20-minute one-sided 12″ in a wooden box of Low and Neil Young jamming Down By The River together would do the job. Mmm. Tasty!

I’ve gone right off the fancy packaging lark to be honest. I think sometimes it detracts from the important thing which is obviously the music itself. However, some releases we’ve done like Szam Findlay and Esmerine have been quite lavish, but that was purely the artists’ choice.

Resonant website