Interview with Olive Grove Records

Olive Grove Records is an independent label based in Glasgow, Scotland and is home to some of the finest music we’ve heard in a long time. It’s a rare and rather joyous feeling when all the artists on a label roster are musically outstanding and it would be callous of us not to share our new found sonic fascination. Cat On The Wall’s Jo Whitby caught up with co-founder Lloyd Meredith to find out more about the label and the artists they represent…

Cat On The Wall: Olive Grove Records is run by yourself and Halina Rifai. How did you both meet and what made you decide to launch a label together? Why ‘Olive Grove’?

Lloyd Meredith: I have known Halina for a while now as she runs the infamous Glasgow Podcart and I run a wee blog called Peenko, both of us focus predominantly on the Scottish music scene. We used to bump into each other gigs, we found that we were both pretty passionate about supporting our local scene and basically became friends from there.

So when Halina called me up last July to suggest that we start a label together I didn’t hesitate to say “fuck yes”.

The label is essentially an extenuation of what we both do, I guess we just got a to point where we realised what a wealth of talent there is out there and if other labels weren’t sharp enough to pick up on them we would.

As for Olive Grove, we always swore that we’d never tell anyone why, but I think that lasted all of 2 minutes. Basically it’s nicked from one of our favourite songs.

COTW: You’re currently representing 5 artists and it sounds like you’ll be adding to the roster quite soon. What do you look for in an artist when considering working with them? Do you focus primarily on Scottish music?

LM: You’re spot on there, we’re not ones for being complacent and we’ve already had provisional talks with a couple more artists, but nothing is set in stone there. We like to think of ourselves as being a potential stepping stone, so it’s almost a win/win situation for us as if they go we’ve done our bit and if they stay we get to hold onto one of our favourite artists.

As for what we look for, we both have to like the band/artist, which surprisingly doesn’t happen as often as you might expect. Aside from that we’re pretty open to any genre of music, if we’re both passionate about something then it really does give us that motivation to go out there and do all that we can to promote them to the best of our abilities.

For now we are going to be sticking to working with Scottish artists, purely because that’s we know!

COTW: Can you tell us about the artists you currently represent? Any release highlights so far?

LM: At the moment we have five artists on the label, Randolph’s Leap, Esperi, The Son(s), Pensioner and The Moth & The Mirror, I like to think that we’ve got quite a diverse range of genres going on. Randolph’s Leap were our ‘guinea pigs’ as they let us put out their EP, ‘Battleships & Kettle Chips’ in November of last year. The release far exceeded either of our expectations, or at least it exceeded mine! As we managed to get them some pretty awesome press, then again they did have the songs to justify it.

Basically they’re a 6-piece folk-pop band who hails from all over Scotland, I first saw them up in Inverness at the last goNorth Festival, which I approached to play a gig for me back in Glasgow. In short they have great pop tunes, clever lyrics, bad dance moves and they never fail to put a smile on my face… Oh, and their singer’s banter is fucking terrible…

Esperi, is a solo artist who hails from Dundee, his real name is Chris Lee-Marr in case you were wondering. His music has been compared to the likes of Jonsi and Bon Iver, he’s also has a really creative live show which involves a range of toy instruments and also sees Chris playing bells with his feet. It’s fucking nuts to watch!

As for The Son(s), they’re a mysterious bunch, neither of us have actually ever met any of the band, which seems to have more or less turned into a one project from a talented fucker called Karl who resides somewhere in deepest darkest Aberdeenshire. I first came across The Son(s) after they sent me some of their music for my blog, after several months of sweet talking and begging I managed to talk him into let us release their self titled debut album, and also the first album to be put out on Olive Grove. The album got an amazing reaction and still seems to be doing really well as word of mouth spreads. The band don’t currently play live, so we had to knock back offers from various festivals this summer and even a coveted slot at Fence Records, Home Game Festival. I must admit that the mystery of it all keeps me intrigued, we’re hoping to have some new material out from them before the end of the year, the demos that I have heard are sounding great, so I am particularly excited about that.

After that we released an album with another Dundee band called Pensioner, which was a bit of a curve ball to anything we’d done previously as they’re much heavier than anything we had done to date.

Lastly, we have The Moth & The Mirror, who’s album we will be releasing in October. The pair of us are bricking it about that one as it should be our biggest release to date. The band have already been touted as being a bit of a Scottish super group as they’re made of members of folk from bands like Admiral Fallow, Arab Strap, Frightened Rabbit and Arab Strap, to name just a few. I still have to pinch myself after reading that list! It’s a cracking wee album that I reckon will take a few folk by surprise as it’s quite different to a lot of things going on in Scotland at the moment.

My personal highlights since I started the label would include Pensioner recording a Radio One Session, the amazing press that The Son(s) received and Randolph’s Leap’s appearance at this year’s Wickerman Festival.

COTW: Olive Grove Records is still quite a young label. What has been your experience so far of the music industry? Do you think your approach is something that other labels should follow or is it too soon to say?

LM: Halina would probably answer this completely differently to me, but for me personally, it’s one massive learning curve. The main thing that I have learned is that it takes a shit load of work, more so than I had ever fathomed. You’re trying to compete against other labels/bands that have money behind them, plus we’re both doing this on top of full time jobs, as well as running our own sites, whilst also trying to have some kind of life outside of this.

I have found that there are a lot of good folks out there, it’s just that finding them and maintaining relationships with them is easier said than done. Through running the blog and being sent music, I now find myself on the flip side of sending folk music in the hope that they’ll write about/play it, so through that I came to realise that the impact of a personalised email over a massive spam list. The only problem with that is that it can be pretty time consuming emailing folk individually, but if you want folk to pay attention to you then it has to be done.

I haven’t mentioned this already, but we are an artist-focused label, in so much as any profit that we make goes directly to the artist. So in answer to your question about us being an example to follow, I would say ‘no’, not unless you are up for putting in a lot of work for no financial return. My wife thinks we’re nuts for doing it that way, actually most folk think we’re nuts when we tell them that.. So yeah, don’t copy us, we’re clearly idiots…

COTW: What are you listening to at the moment? Any artists we should be looking out for?

LM: As I get so much music sent to me for the blog this changes daily, today I have been mainly listening to a podcast called Cloud Sounds, which is a cracking wee show run by a nice fella called Ted from Manchester. He plays some great tunes, plus the banters top notch.

Band-wise, this year I have been really enjoying albums from Adam Stafford (his album comes out on the 15th of August and it’s fucking great) and the Monoganon album, which you can download for free from the Winning Sperm Party website.

As for stuff to look out for, I would suggest you check out PAWS, Pet, Endor, Kid Canaveral, Happy Particles and I think I will stop there as I could be here all day listing bands.

COTW: Finally, what does the future hold for Olive Grove Records?

LM: A lot of hard work, some great music and hopefully a bucket load of wine to get us through it all…!/OliveGroveRCRDS

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