Noah and the Whale, Good Shoes, Johnny Flynn, Exlovers, Planet Earth - Love your Labels: Y&LC

Tiffany Daniels 21/09/2010

When the God in the television announced to his loyal staff that he wanted to start a regular record label column, the first company that sprang to my mind was the Young & Lost Club. That's not a hasty and untruthful jester towards this feature; the young, the lost and all that went with them were an essential part of the music scene I grew up with. I specifically remember an overriding amount of jealousy towards all those graced with an address in the capital, not because they could go to Camden market at the drop of a hat, but because they alone had the opportunity to attend a Young & Lost night. They got to go on a boat, one year. It really got my back up. In a decent attempt to counteract being underage and around fifty miles away, I joined the Singles Club before I owned, or could afford a record player. I used to sneak downstairs when I thought no one else was listening, to hijack my Dad's stereo system.

Five years have passed since then, and this summer the Young & Lost Club celebrated their fifth birthday. Apart from making me feel old, it's an episode that has gained the record label as much attention as any of their releases. Rightly so - it's no mean feet. Sara Jade and Nadia Dahlawi have consistently released high profile, professional and superb singles since their company's inception in 2005. Their ability to predict popularity and changes in trend is unnerving - their dedication and determination more so. From The Libertines to Noah and the Whale, Maximo Park to Johnny Flynn - they've worked with all of them in some capacity, and usually at the very beginning of the artist's career.

So, when I saw my chance to strike, I did just that. In the following interview I talk to Sara about starting a label from the ashes of a fanzine, the economic climate and digitalisation, and all that is and could have been:

You first contributed to the music industry by putting together a fanzine called Pyrrha. Will you ever re-launch the 'zine?

We loved doing the fanzine, but it took so long to make each issue, as they were all put together by hand. We only did it at school because we felt like we had nothing else to do, we would never have the time now! There are so many blogs and brilliant magazines that cover new music better than we ever could.

What motivated you to start the Young & Lost Singles Club?

There were bands we worked with through our club night and we really believed in them, but it felt like the next step for them was missing. We thought a cool singles release could be the exposure they needed.

If the economic climate in 2005 was the same as it is now, would you have been dissuaded from starting the label?

I doubt it. I think there will always be a desire for labels or companies that provide a very specific tangible product. Especially something as niche as limited editions 7" singles.

What's your advise for those who are considering doing something similar to Y&LC?

We would definitely say to people be aware it is a lot of work! For anyone starting their own company it is a huge responsibility and ultimately everything is dependent upon you. Specifically to the music industry though, Nadia and I did a lot of work experience, we learnt a great deal and it helped us to meet people. We also worked in as many different areas of music as possible, which gave us a better understanding of the industry.

You set the label up when you were teenagers - did you find it difficult because of your age?

To be honest if we'd been any older we might not have started the label. We didn't find it any more difficult because of our age, we were used to just deciding things and just trying to get on with it.

What are your experiences of sexism within the music industry? Do you think it's a myth or reality?

We've never experienced sexism, but we've always been conscious to act professionally. I think in all industries there can be an element of double standards between the sexes, but it shouldn't prevent women or girls getting on with what they want to do. Running club nights and DJ-ing can often feel like you're trying to break into a boys club, which is why Nadia runs her Girl DJs Only night.

You've discovered some of Britain's best-loved bands. How do you come across them?

Quite often they're friends, or bands we know recommend other bands they love. That's how we discovered Planet Earth for example - they're Charlie Noah and the Whale's favourite band. Other times it is someone whose taste we trust putting us in touch with a band.

Has the way you 'find' bands changed over time? Are you more reliant on press and contacts than you once were, or do you still make an effort to actively seek out new talent?

It hasn't changed at all actually, if we don't already know the band, then the other way we are most likely to discover a band are if they play our club night. We would never rely on anyone else to find our bands, it's great if people tell you about stuff they've seen but we always make an effort to see the band ourselves.

So far the only albums you've released have been by Noah and the Whale. Do you have any plans to release a full-length by anyone else?

We're releasing an album with Oh Minnows aka Chris Steel-Nicholson, who was originally in Semifinalists. He recorded all the parts and produced the album himself in the studio he built. Planet Earth are going to record their debut album with Charlie Fink this October, which we're also excited about.

What are your proudest achievements?

When Noah and the Whale played the main stage at Reading it was an important moment for us, as that is the festival we always went to when we were younger. We're really proud to have been involved with Noah and all their achievements.

Is there anyone you wish you had signed, but didn't?

I loved XX Teens, they played some of our earliest club nights, and they were always incredible live. I would definitely have loved to have worked with them.

What's the biggest pit fall of a Singles Club?

I wouldn't necessarily say it's a pit fall, but it can be frustrating when you want to do albums but you're not quite ready to do so yet. If you're happy doing singles though and you're conscious of making music available digitally then it can be very rewarding!

What are your thoughts on illegal downloads? Do you think they're solely damaging, or do they contribute something valuable in terms of promotion?

They can be damaging for huge artists when it is important to them to reach a high chart position. For bands starting out it means that there is genuine interest in them and someone who has gone to that effort to find them will hopefully buy some of their music down the line. It's reciprocal though, we believe bands should make an effort for people to want to buy their product, and reward their fans when possible in exchange. On the other hand people need to understand that this is how musicians earn their living, and it is not much different to stealing from them.

In five years Y&LC has gone from strength to strength - what do you foresee yourself doing in the next five years?

Thank you! We would like to release more albums and launch more clubs. We'd just like to continue to grow the label in a way that is natural.

What's the label's next planned release?

Our next release is the new Planet Earth single "Tomorrow", but we have our Digital Club too and we give away a free track every fortnight.

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To join the Young & Lost Digital Club and find out more about their physical releases, club nights, and Nadia's Girl DJ's Only night, go to: www.youngandlostclub.com