Labelled with Love – The Popty-Ping Recording Company

Ever wondered how to set up a record label? When Andy Black had that thought he may not have taken the most conventional route but it’s working out well so far for DIY outfit The Popty-Ping Recording Company. Andy runs the label with two friends, Matt Jarrett and Dan Orton and together they release limited edition 7” singles, each as a one off project by a different artist. With flourishing music scenes developing around them in Wales and the North West, there’s a wealth of talent to choose from – artists featured so far are made up of the wonderfully eclectic mix of Shy and the Fight, Mowbird, Trecco Beis, Gintis, CHROMA and Red Telephone. We wanted to know how it all began, what’s driving the surge in great Welsh music and where it goes from here…

Tell us about Popty-Ping – how did it all start and who’s involved?

Andy: As with the best of such plans, it began as a drunken pub idea. A mutual friend had introduced me to Shy and the Fight (our first signings); after hearing a demo and seeing a gig I was amazed no-one had shown any interest in them so, after several beers, it seemed a brilliant idea to start a record label to put them out. We drunkenly wondered what the daftest name in Welsh could be, and the Popty-Ping Recording Company was born. Knowing nothing about records or graphic design, I persuaded Dan to design me a logo and sleeve. Radio 1 played the first record in the week it broke, so it seemed so much fun we’d do it all over again with a second band and they did a Marc Riley session for 6 Music. I couldn’t afford to pay Dan for graphics so persuaded him to join in with me and make it a partnership (his knowledge of Welsh music is pretty encyclopedic). Then I hit on an idea of setting a target of nine releases, and putting them all onto a compilation LP called Nine Modern Poets (my grandad released an successful poetry book of the same name – so a modern reflection on the same topic). By the time of the fifth record, we spoke to Matt so much about things it seemed wise to bring him in also. And so now there are three of us. The plan is to release nine of the current 7″ singles and then see what happens next I guess.

Have you got a wish list of artists you want to work with or does it just happen organically when it comes to looking at your next release?

Andy: Hmm kind of… there have been bands we’ve wanted for years and not got, some we’ve worked to develop a great release and others we literally heard a demo, reckoned it brilliant and begged them to let us release it.

Matt: I’ve usually got my eye on two or three but it’s usually down to timing I guess.

How did it feel back in 2012 when you put out your first single and what was the reaction like?

Andy: Both the scariest and proudest thing I’d ever done. I remember the records being delivered and just looking at boxes of orange vinyl and suddenly worrying, ‘What if I’m the only person who thinks this is any good?’… But then it got played on Radio 1 within a week, people all over the world we didn’t know bought it and Dan even heard it when he went to the Olympics that summer. The reaction to the Shy single was just lovely, I somehow thought it would take three releases to get it on Radio 1 and we did it in a week. I’m still really proud of it and think it’s a bloody great release, it’s probably my girlfriend’s favourite of our releases.

There seems to be loads of new talent coming out of Wales at the moment, what do you think is driving this and who should we look out for?

Matt: People. There’s amazing artists but also an outlet for them. I can only speak for South Wales but schemes like Forte Project and Horizons help highlight acts and are run by knowledgeable and passionate people. Liz and Sam at The Moon in Cardiff and Le Pub in Newport are willing to give new bands a stage and are hugely supportive in addition to the team behind Clwb Ifor Bach and Swn. There’s also a strong DIY ethic with bands and promoters that means that nobody sits around twiddling their thumbs. Things happen. You then have labels like Libertino and Bubblewrap consistently releasing amazing music. The common thread is wonderful human beings with a love of music, doing things for the right reasons.

Andy: Yeah, I think a really great developing network for artists and music seems to exist in Wales. From Horizons and Forte to Focus Wales, Adam Walton and Rhys Mwyn. And we’ve had a lot of help from our peers. People like Nicky Wire from the Manics buying our records has exposed us to a much larger audience. I don’t think my 19 year-old self would have ever imagined that could happen, it is amazing when we’re still so tiny and DIY. Finally every band we’ve put out have almost become family, which we’re also really very proud of. I don’t think I could have asked for nicer people in our bands which is a notable guide to anyone wanting us to release them.

Releasing on vinyl has had a big resurgence in popularity, is it getting easier to press and distribute?

Matt: Press, yes. Distribute? With 7″s, I’m not sure. The whole industry is changing and you just need to do anything you can to get people to notice you. Anyone want a tote bag?

Andy: Matt knows much more about vinyl popularity than me (he sells it every day, running Diverse Vinyl in Newport), the tote bags are bloody lovely too and highly recommended – and available on our Bandcamp. Thanks to the Welsh Assembly and Pyst, the process for 7″ distribution is much easier than ever before.

Your latest release introduced us to the wonderful Red Telephone – it must be satisfying to help promote artists you like?

Matt: Absolutely, it’s why we do it. We don’t make money from this. Anything in the bank goes straight into the next release. For me, watching five bands we’ve worked or are working with at our Christmas party makes it worthwhile. Five, fairly different sounding, brilliant acts and fantastic people that we’ve done our bit to push forward and to introduce to a wider audience.

Andy: Ah man, the Red Telephone record is probably the first release we all agreed from the instant we heard it. That Christmas party was so much fun, seeing a room of people you don’t know who’ve paid to come and watch a night of your record label was a really special thing. That’s why we do it I guess. Watching CHROMA continue to develop and grow after our release is also pretty amazing, the only thing I can compare it to must be your old school teacher seeing you’ve done good.

And what’s next for Popty-Ping?

Matt: The next big thing…

Andy: We’ve got three more singles in the Nine Modern Poets plan to release. There’s some more T-shirts coming (we’ve some collaborations in the pipeline on that front), and if Gintis ever finish their LP (they’re recording it with Bill Ryder-Jones) we’d be keen to try and get it a bigger audience.

You can check out all the singles and merch so far on Popty-Ping’s Bandcamp (those tote bags really are good) and give them a follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to catch the latest news and releases as they land.

Interview by Siobhan

26th February 2020

Made in Greece – Inner Ear Records

Discovering an independent label with an impressive roster of artists is always going to make you sit up and pay attention. Not that Inner Ear Records are new – they’ve been around since 2007 and have spent that time building the label’s reputation by working with a plethora of new and innovative artists in their native Greece. Based in the carnival city of Patras, Inner Ear have a pool full of talent with some really exciting releases on their books.

From psych to dance and experimental pop, there are so many artists worth checking out so do take a look through their portfolio at your leisure. In the meantime, it’s been a huge pleasure to speak to four of their acts – Bazooka, Daphne and The Fuzz, Goodbye Bedouin and Vagina Lips, all highly recommended listening. Get to know them here and find yourselves some great new music in the process…

Bazooka

Give us a quick band intro – who are Bazooka?

Bazooka is a 4 piece band, at sometimes 5 in the past. We are originally from Volos, a small coastal town in the centre of the Greek peninsula. We formed in 2008 and relocated to Athens in 2009. Since then we are playing around Europe and Greece and we have also toured the US. We are playing a mix of punk and post punk with a lot of 60s’ influences. We have two albums on the US label Slovenly Recordings. The first one is a self titled LP released in 2013 and the second one is the Useless Generation LP released in 2016 that marked our transition from singing in English to singing in Greek.

Your new album Zero Hits was released in January – how long did it take to put together and how did it feel hearing the end result?

In November 2017 we worked for the first time with Inner Ear Records releasing the Zougla EP. After that release our manager and dear friend, Penny Liaromati, said that it was the time for a new LP. The plan was from January till May 2018 to write new songs and then go into the studio in June to record the new album. We did the recording sessions  in Electric Highway Studio in the north suburbs of Athens, with the sound engineer being our drummer John Vulgaris and the second engineer being John Damianos. We did all the live takes in almost 2 weeks. We recorded one or two songs every day. When we were done with the live recordings we started overdubbing where it was needed and then we added synths, percussion, some wind instruments here and there and of course the vocals. The whole recording process took us 3 weeks. It was the first time that we used such a long time. Usually we do everything in 1 week. This time the whole process  of recording and being in the studio felt really good and creative!

You’ve toured Europe many times already – any plans for dates outside Greece in the near future?

We are booking a European tour for April 2019. Countries included are Italy, Switzerland, Germany, France and The Balkans. We are going to post the schedule on our Facebook and Instagram pages soon.

Best or worst experiences playing live?

One of the best shows was playing at The Shacklewell Arms in London in 2016. We were touring England as part of our European tour and it was the second show in London in a week. We saw all the people that came a few days ago to our first show coming again and it was really moving and the crowd was amazing. Many good shows in France also. French people know how to throw a party. Worst experience was playing in a squat in Leiden, Netherlands in 2011 on our first tour ever. The people were great but we played in a really tiny rehearsal space where it smelled of rat shit because the guys next door were keeping some rats for pets and all the smell from the ventilation system was coming inside this tiny room. It was a nightmare to say the least.

And what’s in the pipeline for the rest of 2019?

For now we are going to promote our new album Zero Hits by playing a lot in Greece and touring Europe. It’s really exciting playing all these new songs live!

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Listen to/buy music from Bazooka

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Daphne and The Fuzz

Introduce us to Daphne and The Fuzz – who’s involved?

Daphne and the Fuzz is the dream pop project of Daphne Lz, a singer, songwriter and videographer from Athens, Greece. We released our debut self-titled album in 2016 and 2AM in 2018, both with Inner Ear Records. The band consists of Orestes Benekas (keys, synths), Giannis Rallis (guitars), Vasilis Nissopoulos (bass and also the producer of 2AM) and Dimitris Doumouliakas (drums).

Your album 2am came out in October – tell us a a bit about it and what the reaction to it has been like…

There was a concept before the recordings that we were going to make an uptempo album. We were inspired by the French electronic scene as well as psychedelic pop/rock bands that turned to dance beats such as Tame Impala, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and MGMT. We have received a mixed reaction to 2AM so far. There are those who liked our debut album a lot – which had a more vintage pop aesthetic – and don’t think that the new genre we tried to approach fits us that well. And there are those who really seem to like the straight-forwardness and extroversion of our new album. I believe that what truly builds a band’s character is above all the songwriting and, as I really enjoy experimenting with new things all the time, I can promise that what’s coming next for Daphne and the Fuzz will sound a bit different as well.

What’s your local music scene like?

Athens’ indie music scene has been rising in the past years. There are so many new talented musicians in such a relatively small city. Even though each project sounds unique there is a continuous interaction between them, and we can’t talk yet about the scene having a ‘settled’ sound because it is still evolving. From dream pop to psychedelic rock, to stoner and electro, it’s definitely indie and self-made, subconsciously inspired by the economical crisis, the political changes and the explosion of technological advances of the past years that formed us and made us take life in our own hands without stopping dreaming. I’m really proud being part of it, but at the same time, the audience, even though supportive, doesn’t seem big enough to bring the local scene outside our country’s borders.

What’s been on your favourite albums list over the last year or so?

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II & Multi-Love, St. Vincent – Masseduction, MGMT – Little Dark Age, Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, Gorillaz – The Now Now, Justice – Woman

I also made a Spotify list with our influences and the songs we were listening during the recordings of 2AM – you can listen to it here.

And what are your hopes and plans for the next year?

I am currently working on a new live set – you could call it a one woman show. I think it contributes to our latest album’s sound and it will be more versatile for touring. So my plans for now are to organise my first European tour while I also want to start working on my new ideas.

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Listen to/buy music from Daphne and The Fuzz

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Goodbye Bedouin

Can you introduce the band and describe your music in a sentence?

The name of our band is Goodbye Bedouin and, although we will always have doubts about it, we like to say that we play psych garage music.

Tell us about your debut single Submarine/ Youth

Submarine/Youth is the product of our early rehearsals in the studio. In a sense, these two songs embody the drive and the lust that brought us together in the first place. We had a very good experience working with Manolis Aggelakis (producer), Sakis Bastas (sound engineer), and everyone from Inner Ear Records for its production, and we are really happy that the single is out.

What brought you together as a band – did you already know each other before you formed?

Most of us we were friends before forming the band, so that was in itself a very good reason to get together and see how it would go. Composing and playing music with friends can be interestingly (or exhaustingly) tricky at times, yet it almost always delivers a sense of genuineness and, I guess, substance to the process of making and performing songs. Also, we all shared a very similar desire to adopt a music style that would sound direct and rough, oscillating between garage, rock’n’roll and psych pop.

If you could tour with any 2 other bands/artists what would be your ideal line up?

I think we would all agree on The Velvet Underground and The Jesus and Mary Chain. But at the same time, I guess an ideal line up could likewise consist of two bands/artists that are not famous. You always have more fun with non-famous people I think.

And what’s next for GoodbyeBedouin?

Working on an album or an EP and performing live at interesting places!

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Vagina Lips

Tell us about the person behind Vagina Lips…

I’m Jimmy Polioudis and I live in Thessaloniki, Greece. I’m 37 years old and I like 80s’ teen movies, vegetarian food, smoking and buying records. The project Vagina Lips was created almost 4 summers away and for the last 3 years I’ve been creating music and playing live shows all by myself. I have released five full albums and four mini albums.

Your album Generation Y dropped in December – who else worked on it who deserves a mention and how did it feel seeing and hearing the end product?

The other person who worked with me not only on Generation Y but on every release I’ve done so far is Konstantinos Iosifidis (leader of the band Psychedelic Trips To Death). When I first heard the end product I didn’t know how to feel. This is something characteristic about me. Most of the time I don’t know how to feel.

Which other artists have you been listening to or seen live lately?

IDLES, Heavy Lungs, Shame, Fontaines DC, Choir Boy, These New Puritans, Young Fathers

Message to the world?

Respect what you don’t understand.

And what are your aspirations for the coming year?

Many live shows out of Greece if that’s possible, to get big, be happy and to get a cat.

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Independent record labels are vital in supporting and encouraging new artists; if you like what you’ve seen and heard here you can listen to more of Inner Ear Records’ acts by visiting their website and checking out their Bandcamp, Soundcloud and YouTube pages. 

Promo photos via Inner Ear Records
(Bazooka © Sarah, Daphne and The Fuzz © Mariza Kapsabeli, Vagina Lips © Leah Miza)
19th February 2019