Brew Records, the experimental Leeds label with a reputation for promoting gloriously disgusting noise, celebrates their Third Birthday this weekend (10th December). Chatting to Simon Glacken and Tom Bellhouse who run the label, it’s obvious they have a real passion for what they do.
Their first release in 2007 – a compilation of 16 bands from Leeds – was inspired by a belief in those bands and a desire to make sure as many people as possible heard their music. Three years on and they have signed five bands, all of whom have had albums released this year or due early next, and who’ve had significant coverage in the NME, Kerrang, and on Radio 1 to name a few, not to mention European tours for two of them, and – Simon assures me – even bigger things to come. Brew itself has been tipped as one of the NME’s top 10 DIY labels.
“Never overlook anything – everything’s connected like a giant spider’s web, and if anyone rocks the boat everyone knows about it.”
But their proudest achievement so far Tom tells me, is having been able to help their bands realise their ambitions. “It’s more about being happy for the bands” he says. “A lot of them will want to record at Maida Vale, do sessions and so on. Sending bands to Europe was a big one too – Chickenhawk, These Monsters and Kong have all been out there this year, and we’ve just been able to confirm Kong to play Japan early next year supporting 65daysofStatic which is something we’d never have thought possible when we started out”.
Brew’s ethos has always been to promote music they believe in, so it makes sense that Simon and Tom are fans of the bands as well as their bosses, even if so far their bands are pretty disgusting (as Simon puts it). This describes their biggest band Kong well – they play in grotesque masks and sweaty underwear, making a noise that’s headchurningly consuming. But the disgustingness comes in different forms, Simon explains. “Humanfly’s the big solid riff band, These Monsters are the proggy band, Castrovalva are the noisy band. We just need a nice polite clever mathy band next, someone like Three Trapped Tigers for instance – the music’s not disgusting, it’s loud and it’s heavy, and we admire them and their style of musicianship”.
Brew’s reputation certainly seems to precede them and they’re the first to admit that the success of their more established bands helps give their newer signings like Castrovalva a leg up. They naturally do a lot of press for their own bands, but are also involved in the wider Leeds music scene network, operating the press agency iLiKEPRESS with I LIKE TRAINS’ Simon Fogal, collaborating with events like the hugely acclaimed Constellations festival held at Leeds University last month, Live at Leeds, and the Drowned in Sound Leeds Day feature, not to mention great relationships at the various venues where they put on gigs. As part of a natural progression of this, Brew are booking more and bigger bands to play Brew shows. It’s about collaboration and helping each other out, not just about promoting their own bands.
Tom’s advice for success is not to overlook any outlet, from photographers to fellow promoters and venue managers. “There are a lot of people who do things for us. [Artists] Deathcola did this really amazing poster when we put Torche on.
We got some really nice screen prints done, sold them at the gig and they did really well. And meeting Danny North, who’s one of the best photographers in the world, has opened up loads of doors for us we’d never have imagined, especially with Chickenhawk, because of the video”. (Danny directed the zombie-laden promo for single I Hate This, Do You Like It?) “Never overlook anything – everything’s connected like a giant spider’s web, and if anyone rocks the boat everyone knows about it”.
Brew you can be sure, know how to throw a party, and their third birthday promises to be no exception. Damo Suzuki, ex of Can and now roving improvisational collaborative musician, is booked. “I really like him as a person” Tom explains. “He’s one of those people you admire, he just wants to clear his mind and whatever comes out is fine. I wish I could live my life like that! He’s playing with Humanfly, That Fucking Tank and one of Kong in a big, on-the-spot, improvisational collaboration at the end”. Simon adds, “I’ve seen Damo Suzuki with Shield Your Eyes & That Fucking Tank and it was amazing. This’ll be a one off performance. We’re thinking of recording it for release – it’ll be part of history, you can say you were there and buy it on vinyl”.
It’s clear things won’t stop there for Brew. Next year they have more collaborations up their sleeve, including a split planned with Kong, Castrovalva, That Fucking Tank, and Shield Your Eyes. “It’s not about bringing those bands to our label, it’s more that the bands want to work together – it just makes sense. The song that Tank have contributed is the best song they’ve done in years! Valva’s is showing off their new direction – more poppy, synthy, but with less swearing. It’s still noisy rock though. We’ve got another split in the pipeline, and definitely one new band, maybe two. And we’re releasing Castrovalva’s album – we hope that’ll let them step up to where Chickenhawk are now, and the Hawk will maybe reach further”.
This only takes us a month or two into 2011. Simon also promises more gigs, with bigger bands, more press, more releases, more tours, more poster art, and more vinyl – even picture discs. Even though they want their bands to do well, and send them to far flung reaches of the globe, Brew know it’s about the music and about the fans, and they’re not going to lose sight of that anytime soon.