Sad Club Records: An interview with a rock ‘n’ roll mastermind.

 

Hey Tallulah what sort of rock ‘n’ roll did you get up to last night?

Last night we had the Rough Trade Staff party. We went for a meal and then partied the night away in the shop singing fantastic Christmas songs like Ariana Grande’s cover of ‘Santa Baby’ until respectable hours of this morning. I think I had too much fun, and I’m definitely feeling it now – so please forgive me.

I would consider you to be a pretty badass woman in the music industry. For someone that’s yet to be enlightened, tell me about Sad Club and what you do on the side.

 Thank you very much I’ve always dreamed of that title. I have a small cassette label called ‘Sad Club Records’. Funnily enough, one of the reasons that I started this label was to do with being a woman within the music industry. The year before I started uni, there was an unbelievable amount of sexism at the record shop I was working in at the time, and it made me feel completely stumped creatively. I was also working two internship roles with promoters and labels who just gave me mostly administrative jobs which really sent me whirling into an uncreative hellhole of madness. So, I started the label. It was pretty rocky starting up a label and having NO idea how to do it. Being young and a woman didn’t help.

 

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How many of you are there behind the scenes? Is it an actual club?

 It’s just me! I do all the main parts myself such as administration, PR, and distribution however there are a lot of people there to help me. We have a great artist working with us called Jay Daniel Wright who has designed a cassette and a t-shirt so far and is working on another one. When I was at uni my friends would help me with press photographs and some of the manual work, like putting together the zines.

 

What’s the deal with the elephants?

 Ah, that’s the amazing man Jay Daniel Wright’s idea. In all honesty, I think he just really liked drawing elephants at that time. For the t-shirt design, he wanted to toy with the idea of ‘trust’ but decided to do it with elephants instead of humans because he liked drawing them. Obviously, I loved it.

 

Tai Chi Tommy is the only album on your website (big up Tom). When starting up your label you obviously put a lot of consideration into distribution so what was it that made you favour cassettes over a wider variety of formats that would perhaps be more mainstream and accessible?

 Working in a record shop I realised that a lot of younger people coming in couldn’t afford vinyl but didn’t want CD. Vinyl is bulky and sensitive to your environment – it can’t be in a too hot room and if you’re dancing that just WONT work! I realised that for the DIY market you don’t want to leave a gig, spend £20 on an LP and hold it with you the rest of the night, probably ending up dropping it on the floor and smashing it. It’s way easier, and just as nice, to buy a cassette for £5 and slip it in your pocket.

 

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How the heck do you find people to distribute and how long usually is the initial build up to artist collaboration?

 It really depends on the release. A lot of the bands are based in London and I get an interest in them from seeing them live. Others are friends of friends and people who contact me sending in demos. The initial build up can really vary. The compilations are the hardest work. I generally do them within a month and a half because of distractions (summer and the ‘Cassette Store Day’ deadline). An ideal build up period is roughly 4 months, to sort out distribution, manufacture and PR.

 

Clearly as a brand you have a distinctive aesthetic but is there a preferred genre or are you open to everything as long as it’s not shit?

This is a fantastic question because it’s what I say in response to the ‘what is your preferred genre’ question at work EVERY DAY. Literally, I will put out anything so long as it’s good.

 

Are you allowed to have favourites or must you be affectionately neutral towards everything you release (for business purposes…)?

 I think I am the last person to be neutral. I am openly opinionated about EVERYTHING even if it’s not justified. Give me a few minutes and I will create a solid argument / have a strong opinion about whatever you present – whether it’s dogs in shoes or that Vice article about how ‘Love Actually’ is problematic. Eugh. So, no, I definitely have my favourites. I do love every artist I put out but there are some I love more than others. Even with the compilations, there were some bands I worked with a lot more than others and some songs I made a greater connection with. If you asked anyone about 16 different things, it would be a solid lie if they said they were affectionally neutral towards each of them. Except maybe 16 children, that would morally be the case.

 

I know some of your stuff has been distributed at Rough Trade Shops. Are your cassettes being distributed in other record stores and do you aspire to start your own store (like Rough Trade) to have in conjunction with the label?

 Ah yes! A few of my cassettes are distributed in other stores across the UK but also internationally; we’ve got some latest releases stocked in Hong-Kong!!!! Starting my own shop is a massive dream of mine and it would be incredible but it’s gotta be said that it’s a massive step from here. I can imagine my retirement, sitting in a tiny room surrounded by cassettes with old ladies like myself coming in and sipping coffee. Perhaps I’ll be earning £20 a day but I would love it.

 

Are you going to make tote bags?

About two years ago when I screen printed the t-shirts I did a small line of tote bags. It was awfully time consuming and very difficult but I might bring them back soon. You can never have enough, right?

 

What are we gonna see (or rather hear) from you next?

Oooh gosh, that’s a real good question. There’s actually quite a lot coming up in the new year. None of it has been announced yet, but you can be the first to know I’m putting out an EP from an artist called ‘Volunteer Department’ late January. He’s amazing but sadly from Southern America so there will be no touring as of yet. I’m also doing a new long-sleeve with Jay Daniel Wright which should be selling around February.

Al Mills

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