By paul

Hey Jack, how are things right now in the Alcopop camp?
Hello Paul, and all at Punktastic. Nice to speak to you! Right now, everything is rather delicious at Alcopop HQ thanks, and speaking personally I’m rather excited about a big ol’ Summer coming up. We’ve just this week released Wolf Am I’s debut single Glasgow 7 – and are currently building press up around the WAI album and new band The Candle Thieves EP which are out in the next few months… Plus we have one more signing all lined up just waiting to be announced, and are scouting a few more bands for the latter part of ‘09. On another upside I seem to be spending many nights at the moment drinking tiny bottles of beer and burning/tea-bagging treasure maps putting together units of our recent Alcopopular 3 compilation. I feel like a kid who’s allowed to booze. Happy days.

Firstly, it’s obvious where the name of the label comes from, but what events inspired you to actually call Alcopop, Alcopop?
Well the label Alcopop is actually named after the Midget mini-album of the same name – which was a decision taken by myself and Kev (he of BSM fame and co-owner of Alcopop), primarily due to the inspiration we took from our collective musical loves. The seed was sown for Alcopop one summer’s day when, moving in with mutual friends, we spent a sweaty afternoon in the glaring heat of the Oxford sun – breezing round terrible houses, and offsetting the disappointment of the dumps we were looking at by talking excitedly about Midget, The Llama Farmers and The Get Up Kids. One estate agent tried to suggest that if we signed a lease contract immediately, he’d get a shower installed in the house – we laughed in his face, wandered out humming invisible balloon and the name (although we didn’t know it then) was set!

How did the label start out? You obviously have a very close relationship with Kev at BSM, so how did the label come together?
My answer to this kinda’ morphs from the last question in truth although I should point out that although Kev BSM and I both run Alcopop (I have no hand in BSM other than the 1% stake Kev sold me for tuppence when he was drunk), BSM and Alcopop are both separate, if very loving, entities… There was no doubt that shared passions really kicked off Alcopop – but it was not until a few drunken nights out had spawned ideas, we’d decided on starting a club night, and received a really belting demo submission from Encyclopedia (see Alcopop001) – that we decided to go for it. From there we started the 3” singles club and have been learning from mistakes made ever since.

What do you look for in a potential new band?
Personally, there’s a wealth of factors that come into my mind when looking at a new band, but first and foremost it’s ‘do I like the music that they’re playing’. I just couldn’t work with a band I disliked, even if I knew they’d ship a load of CDs. Also it’s great to see that they’re hard-working (a full tour list always fills me full of confidence), and that they’re doing things to get themselves out there to the fans and the press. Active social media presences also are encouraging – but not a necessity. I’m just a bit of a geek that’s all

You must get so many demos, how do you listen to them all? Does production and sound quality make a difference in a demo?
Yeah we do indeed, and to be honest it’s one of the parts of doing the label that I really enjoy. It’s always a touch humbling to know that people dig us enough to send out a demo – even more so when you can tell they’ve really made an effort.I tend to drive around the country a fair bit day to day so I usually just pile the CDs into my car and listen to them as I go… As for production and sound quality, while it’s nice when something’s all polished and sounds like a charm – if something’s good enough to excite me through shoddy production and crappy sound – I’m gonna get really excited. I did grow up in the days when lo-fi indie was dead cool after all (See Urusei Yatsura’s mini album for details)

How important is touring for bands these days? Has the reliance on the MP3 and on the internet made it easier to make fans aware of your bands and purchase music or do you still rely on touring as the best word-of-mouth publicity?
I think that as far as new bands are concerned, touring is still as, if not more, important than it ever was – even more so with the increase in availability of music across the board. MP3s are a good way of introducing artists, but I’m a strong believer that for indie bands to really stand out ahead of all the other artists out there, it’s important to build a special connection between you and the fan – and while the spark is set by listening to a great tune, it’s only when that person sees you playing live, selling merch and proving yourself a pretty ace person – do they really care deeply about the artist. A good case in point for me here is My First Tooth ( who tour pretty much relentlessly, and have won loads of friends, fans and admirers through being bloody awesome when they play.

You still actively release CDs…Have you noticed CD sales dropping? Are you considering any other methods of release for the future?
While CD sales are undoubtedly falling across the board, I (like to) think that here at Alcopop we’re in the very privileged position of being able to sell awesome music to awesome music fans – people who genuinely love the music we release, and think little of spending a few quid if it means they have the physical copy of the vinyl or CD (especially when it looks really sexy). Therefore, we’ll no doubt keep releasing CDs, but at the same time we’re always looking for other formats. For example, we recently released the Alcopopular3 ‘message in a bottle’ compilation – complete with pirate treasure map and glass bottle – and we’ve worked with tape, 3” CD and vinyl. What we really aim to do is make sure that rather than just a standard CD, they’ll always be some kind of really cool limited element. Whether it be a hand-made bonus disc , sewn up tracksuit sleeve, badges or whatever – we’re trying to utilise a little creativity to make sure that every order is a little bit special.

I’m asking all label owners this question at the minute as I think it’s an interesting one. With the internet now such a huge tool for bands and labels, has the gap between indies and majors narrowed? Would you agree that indies and majors both exist to make money out of bands by selling their music to the public and that, as Trent Reznor recently said, there’s now very little reason why any band would want to work with any label in the future?
That is an interesting one Paul – and while I think that there’s very little reason bands the size of NiN would want to work with a major label looking to take a massive wedge of what are, essentially, guaranteed sales – I think and hope that there will always be a place for the indie labels who are doing it for the right reasons. Alcopop is not a money grabbing organisation, I’ve made far less from this than if I’d been stuffing envelopes with Homebase flyers for the last couple of years – but I hope the bands we’ve worked with would agree that we’ve really worked hard for all of them, and been instrumental in launching some bands/released some cracking records that may not otherwise have been heard. Also – as to your other point – I think the gap between indies and majors has narrowed, and the tides are ebbing and flowing to the benefit of the little guy. I’ve spoken to a number of major A&R folk who have been bemoaning the fact that they’re not able to take risks anymore; leaving SUCH a wealth of talent amongst the unsigned UK scene it’s quite unbelievable. While I think majors will sort themselves out, move on and continue to be dominant in the market (once they’ve learnt to slash their harrowing costs), there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s a pretty good time to be running an indie right now – so long as your heart is properly in it.

I interviewed Matt from Howards Alias in the summer and he raised some interesting points about British bands and the homegrown scene. I wanted to get your thoughts on some of the issues he raised. He said: “Indie labels and major labels are more or less the same in my eyes. They both exist to make money out of bands by selling their music to the public, one has less money but usually cares more about the music, the other has tons of money but probably couldn’t care less. Either way, if you’re the band, you’re more than likely going to get screwed.” Do you agree?
Interesting points and it sounds like HA have had a rough ride of it. No doubt there are a number of labels out there who do exist to try to make money out of people in one way or another, but from the majority of people I’ve met who run indies, and put their heart and souls into putting stuff they love out there – I really don’t think they’re screwing the bands. What about the labels who invest time and effort into bands who don’t really give a fuck, waste a load of studio time and split up before the record is ever released – are they screwing the label?
OK – so it’s an extreme example, and luckily never happened to us – but there are several releases we’ve lost money on – and still put in hours/ days/ weeks of work… We’ll never see that money again but I in no way feel we’ve been screwed by the bands. We’re all about close, personal relationships with the bands we work with and total openness on both sides – it feels far more (to use a Kev analogy) ‘family’ than business – which is definitely the way I think we all want it to be. So no, I don’t feel like bands on labels are ‘more than likely to get screwed’… Major labels, well, that’s another point of discussion entirely.

Would you recommend running a label and what three tips would you give potential label owners?
Oh hell yes! You get to put out music you love, chat to awesome people all the time and get interviewed by punktastic How can you lose! Tips-wise I would say…
• Make sure you’re getting into it for the right reasons – Love the music you release first and foremost, as there are a lot of shitty jobs involved with running a DIY label – and sitting in for 24 hours burning 400 promos of a band you dislike would definitely not be cool!
• Know your budget – If you’re starting from scratch be careful that you start small, and within your means. It’s all too easy to get carried away with an over-zealous manager claiming that his act will easy sell X,000 units so you need to make massive press and video contributions, as well as pressing off a living-room filling number of units. He won’t offer any sympathy if the band split up a week later having sold 20 copies and you’re having to re-mortgage your house.
• Loving the music isn’t everything – OK, so this looks like a politician-esque backtrack, but think about the potential of the band you’re working with once you’ve fallen in love with the songs. One band, who I absolutely adored personally and musically last year, were everything I wanted in an Alcopop release, but the fact that they were spread across the country, had little/no fanbase and played approx 1 show every 6 months meant that we just couldn’t take a punt. It was the right, though a sad, decision. Oh and make friends with people with expenses accounts. They buy lots of drinks, which sadly is something that the smaller indies just can’t run too… In all seriousness though, if anyone does have any things they want to talk about starting a label, I’ll be happy to chat to you about it. Just drop me a line

Are there any labels that you admire and look for inspiration from, be it ethically or the way they do their business?
They may not be quite what they were a few years ago, but I will ever be in love with Fierce Panda who for me epitomized everything that was personal and brilliant about an indie. As a wide eyed fresher with a radio station I remember emailing them to tell them I was featuring them on my show, and within a week they’d sent me stickers, information and a white label test pressing (1 of 10) of one of their compilations which I still treasure to this day. They released cheap music, awesome formats/ merch (I still have Ning 154 – the Fierce Panda jacket) – and had so many awesome bands, one scarcely knows where to start!

If you could work with any band, who would it be and why?
Oh man- I don’t know… That’s the hardest question so far… Maybe The Get Up Kids so I could get some lush re-release of Something to Write Home About going, Andrew WK would be about the best solo artist to work with ever (I’d be there every tour date)… I think Fight Like Apes would be pretty exciting to be involved with right now, oh – or Rolo Tomassi. They pipped Alcopop to the post in last year’s BSM 5 a side tournament, and it’d be good to get a couple of them on our team this year. See you there yeah Punktastic 😉

Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]