Let’s Talk about Sex!… and how disgusting it is

Let’s Talk about Sex!… and how disgusting it is

You have to ask, after Salt & Pepper finished demanding that we “talk about sex, baby” which road did that conversation take? The sickening “when a man and woman wuv each other wevy, wevy much” shit-scared parent routine? The fear mongering “one kid did it for fifteen seconds and his scrotum fell off” Christian/PSE teacher fave? Or perhaps the honest warts-n-all (excuse the rank pun) direction about how, if you’re lucky enough to find someone who will ‘do you’, don’t expect it to be like it is in the movies, not even the messy blue ones.

For Andrew Auld and James Hines the birds and the bees chat must have come in the form of the latter. Last October they christened their DIY 7″ label Sex Is Disgusting (too right, boys) and promptly began releasing guitar bands to be enjoyed equally as much with your pants on as off.

Following January’s Human Hair limited single – a release of heavy, slow guitar churns and John Richmond barks – they’ve recently supported bluesy Manchester trio Mazes by putting out ‘Bowies Knives’, a song mixed through a Sony TV. “It’s not a business,” they say “just an expensive hobby”, and one that’s bankrolled by student loans and a passion for UK garage bands.

“What made it a reality was, I think, there being UK bands that we just thought ‘this has gotta happen, someone’s gotta put these out’,” explains James over lunch “and, you know, there’s more, there’s increasingly more bands in the UK that definitely need a break and have things to put out.

“I think there was also a knowing that no one else is gonna do it, knowing that no other label is going to put them out. There are some good UK labels but a lot of them concentrate on overseas bands, which is fine, but when there’s as many good bands at the moment as there are I think the gaze should maybe turn to the UK a bit more.”

PENS, Graffiti Island, La La Vasquez, The Sticks, Thee Fair Ohs, Cold Pumas; the list of DIY/lo-fi bands inspired by LA’s The Smell and US primitive punk is gladly growing, so much so that the States have started peering back our way, Sub Pop having recently signed Dalston dudes Male Bonding.
Today, James – who together with Andy also makes up two thirds of Teen Sheikhs and plays in sloppy quintet Pheromoans – is in London (away from his hometown of Brighton) record shopping. We find him in Notting Hill, halfway between the Music Exchange and Rough Trade where he’s heading to drop in copies of SID’s latest release, ‘Bowie Knives’. In a couple more months he’ll be back with another pressing by the band they were originally going to make their first ‘signing’, Graffiti Island. Self-distributed, funded and designed (James is already making use of his yet-completed degree in illustration), it’s an enterprise as DIY as Black Flag putting up shelving, but a common thread between the bands they release isn’t as completely obvious.

“Erm‚” what’s our label ethos?” ponders James. “We’re not, like, ticking boxes. There are lots of people we want to work with. I mean, we’re focusing on British bands but I don’t know – if we like it we like it. Y’know, Human Hair and Mazes are quite different and I’m looking forward to Graffiti Island and Thee Fair Ohs – they’re all totally unique. I don’t know what the common thread is though. It’s just all really cool dudes, you know, who we want to hang out with.”

And you’re cool dudes yourselves, right? I mean, people want to hang out with Sex Is Disgusting; you’ve got ‘Sex’ in your name.

“No. The only thing was, like, Andy said the other day, because we played with Crocodiles, and one of them picked up the record and was like, ‘Oh, who does this?’ to Andy and they had a chat and the guys were like [puts on slight American accent], ‘Yeah, you’re working with our friends The Breakers from like LA or San Francisco’ and Andy was like, ‘What?’ and they were like, ‘Yeah our friends the Breakers, you’re working with them’, and Andy was like, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about’, and they were like, ‘Yeah, Sex is Disgusting, you’re gonna like put them out and stuff’ and it’s a good ten minutes before Andy realised that they’d been talking and maybe mentioned doing something and he’d said, ‘Yeah, yeah cool maybe in the future, we’re a real small operation and we’ve got a bit of a backlog’.” James stops. “But‚” really, is that a thing to brag about?”

Well, yes, it seems to be. And the emails from wanting bands that James finds baffling (“I can’t even imagine being in a band and asking someone to put out a record, it’s bizarre,” he says) are further proof. Maybe it’s the uprising of the new slacker rock movement, but Sex Is Disgusting is a name that people know, whether via its Teen Sheikh’s affiliation, the DJ sets and gigs that Andy and James promote under the moniker or the fuzzy rule-free guitar music they release. And that’s the real test of any label, from hipper than thou bedroom imprints to sturdy giants like Beggars Banquet – it really is all about the music.
“Good music will always sell,” says James “and if you put something out and it doesn’t sell then maybe you’re not right to have a label and [laughs] you’ve got bad taste in music. It doesn’t matter about any economical climate or the record industry falling apart because good music will always sell and if you’ve got stuff that isn’t selling then either the artworks bad, or you’ve got crap taste.”
Sage advice. So, presumably, if you’re confident in your tastes, the Sex Is Disgusting campaign for a better musical world slogan is ‘definitely start a record label’?

“There’s not enough labels in the UK, that’s for sure.” James quickly rethinks. “Or not enough ones doing the right thing. There’s hardly any, you know, Paradise Vendors, which I don’t know what’s going to happen to that now that Male Bonding have signed to Sub Pop, whether they’ve got major commitments because it’s John and Kevin from Male Bonding. There’s them, Upset The Rhythm still put a lot of good stuff out but its mainly American – they’ve only released a handful of UK bands, but they’re doing a few more, Trashkit are coming up, they’ve got a new Sticks record. Dire are great, and Static Shock and Twin Grrl but I still don’t think there’s enough at all; more people should be out there doing it.”

Careful, you’ll sound like Salt & Pepper.


Originally published in issue 9 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. August 2009

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