North Of The Border: Struggletown Records

By Samarth Kanal

Struggletown Records is a label from Glasgow and it’s been around since March 2011. They’ve featured on the North of The Border series of columns before, and not too much more blurb is really necessary as Steven Hill had loads of stuff to talk about surrounding upcoming releases and upcoming gigs. So, please have a read, and if you’re just skimming over it please stream the excellent tracks that show just how diverse the line-up of bands that Struggletown Records have on their roster really is.


“Struggletown Records has been a ‘real thing’ since March 2011 when we put out our first release, the Wolves At Heart EP ‘Write It Down’. Prior to that it was a concept in my head that I had made a logo for and superimposed it over photos of burgers”, Steven explains. “The origin of the name is an Australian slang term for a hangover which was passed on to a colleague at work and I was taken with the concept of a particular location for people who are struggling – it tends to refer to similar situations as ‘First World Problems’ or sometimes reasonably difficult situations.”

These articles on Scottish DIY punk really do emphasise how difficult it is to put out music and I tend to sound quite negative, but Steven views it differently: “Putting out music is dead easy, all you need is money, time and a little experience (after a few releases it gets even easier) but the challenge nowadays is getting people to: 1) hear it and 2) care about it.” Clearly, he agrees that getting people to listen to the music itself is one of the hardest parts.

His reasoning for what seems to be a creeping apathy is that “People used to actively seek out and pay for new music by emerging artists to a far greater extent than they do now. In this wonderful age of social media everything is only one click away and there are a thousand bands, labels, funny videos and memes vying for your attention.” Perhaps social media is getting saturated nowadays. We should know – Punktastic stopped posting news articles on Facebook after they gradually stopped reaching people. It’s partly websites set up to selectively show certain content above others which are to blame.

Still, Steven has a pragmatic approach to showing what his label has to offer: “Cutting your way through all that noise and showing people that you have releases worth caring about can be tough, but it’s worthwhile. You have to be flexible in your approach and try out different things for each different record. The next few months will be a real test of the impact we’ve had as a label when we release a bunch of new records one after the other.”

In terms of recent releases, Struggletown are pushing themselves. “We’re currently eagerly awaiting vinyl pressings for three releases and we’ve received another in the last few weeks. The Bright Side 7″ [which is streaming above!] is shipping now, with two tracks of excellent melodic hardcore tinged with elements of emo and post-rock – at their most intense it reminds me a little of Go It Alone and it could definitely be compared to similar Scottish artists such as Departures. Next up we’ve got The Sinking Feeling double EP 12″ which features their brand new EP, ‘Ugly’, on the A-Side with 4 new songs and their last EP, ‘Old Friends’, on the B-Side which has some of their most well known songs, such as ‘Snakeblood’. Those records are due to arrive in mid-September and pre-orders are live now. Not long after that we’re releasing a 10″ EP from Wolverhampton based pop-punks Maycomb in conjunction with the excellent WOLF TOWN DIY.”

“Last but not least we’re excited to be releasing the debut album from Bear Arms, who are a Scottish four-piece who play post-hardcore/indie rock in the vein of Thrice, Biffy Clyro and Brand New. This record has been in the works for over a year and the guys have worked super hard to get it sounding huge. We also released a couple of great LPs earlier in the year from Thin Privilege (noisy dance rock á la Blood Brothers/The Jesus Lizard) and Algernon Doll (spaced out rock with hints of Nirvana/Elliot Smith).”

For those of you who aren’t near Glasgow, the gigs that Struggletown put on may not be that significant but the bands playing are always quality, so have a listen and catch them when they’re playing near you. The gigs run at Bar Bloc every month (usually on the first Thursday) and Steven describes Bar Bloc as “an incredible venue with a DIY ethos that’s helped us out more than any other venue or organisation since we started.”

Local bands play consistently, and Struggletown put on a number of acts from further afield including Into It. Over It, Koji, Delay, Hop Along, The Sidekicks, Drug Church and loads more.

“A lot of the ‘bigger’ bands we put on are in conjunction with the excellent promoter Punk Rock Rammy. He’s single-handedly keeping punk rock bands coming to Glasgow and representing us very well as a valid city to book a show in, plus he’s the DIY-est guy I know.” We can all vouch for this in Scotland, and there’s just a stream of touring bands that come up who are nothing short of excellent, thanks to him.

All day fests are great fun as well, and guess which DIY label is putting one on very soon: “The culmination of the last three years of shows is happening in October when we attempt to put on our very first ‘Fest’ at Stereo, Glasgow. STRUGGLEFEST 2014 features ten bands who have all released music with us in the past three years. We’ve got Wolves At Heart, Prevenge (CAN), Wank For Peace (FR), The Sinking Feeling, Bonehouse, Algernon Doll, The Great Albatross, Bad Luck, Bright Side & Great Cop all sharing the stage from 3pm onwards on Saturday 11th October – it’s a 14+ show and it’s £10 for an advance ticket. I hope it’s gonna be nice and busy for the touring bands and everyone enjoys the show!”

“I don’t know if the punk scene as a whole is any different now to when we started Struggletown. I think we’ve maybe had a small positive impact on the local scene in terms of bringing people and bands together who might otherwise have been much more separated by their sound. I think mixed bills are fun, giving the audience a bunch of different styles of music to listen to can be challenging but overall I think it can broaden the mind.” There really are a lot of people making music in Scotland, and in terms of punk itself, we’re lucky enough to have so many hard working labels, bands and promoters up here. As Steven says , they’re all making a “positive impact” – there are no maybes about it.

Lastly, I threw a pseudo-intellectual question into the interview, but one that definitely has an answer: Is all punk DIY? Steven answered this one as well as anybody could.

“Not all punk is DIY, but not all DIY is punk either. I think a band/label/promoter from any genre can work within a DIY ethos. Punk’s pretty mainstream now, which doesn’t exclude it from being DIY, but it does open doors which are more appealing than having to work excessively hard to get your music out there. Take all the help you can get, but don’t step on anyone, be good to people who help you and do as much as you can yourself, just as a general rule. All the bands – punk or otherwise – I’ve met through DIY shows and releases have been great people, so maybe there’s a good attitude that goes along with that kind of ethos.”