INTERVIEW

From micro label to major-backed prophets.

Photography by Tom Cockram

Photography by Tom Cockram

As Sara Jade and Nadia Dahlawi celebrate 5 years of Young And Lost Club Records with a bumper compilation, you have to wonder how they’ve gone from micro label to major-backed prophets. No one else has.

Something was clearly going on in 2005. Boredom, perhaps. It was the year that Loud And Quiet first went to print. And Stool Pigeon. It was when garage-lovers Tough Love Records came into existence; when Latitude Festival began; when DIY seemed to be an epidemic rather than an ethic. Of all those that have weathered the last half decade though, none have made more headway than Young And Lost Club.

Whilst hosting parties until they couldn’t get any bigger (parties like weekly club night PUSH), they’ve chalked up 52 releases from 37 different artists, been welcomed into the Universal family and managed to hold on to their independence from within the biggest record corporation in the world. Theirs is a rise that all other ‘bedroom labels’ seek to emulate. 

Can you remember 2005 and what it was like to start the label?
Sara: “We were really disorganised. We thought we knew what we were doing and that everything was ready and then there’d be something that we had no idea we were meant to do.”
Nadia: “Like barcodes. We soon gave up on that and have never put a barcode on anything. We still distribute ourselves so we can keep track of that.”

How has releasing records changed over the past five years?
Sara: “It’s quite a lot different because not as many people did 7-inches back then so you were guaranteed more press and more interest, and you could press more and they’d definitely sell. It was more of a collector’s thing back then. It is tougher now.”

These days you’re involved with Universal. How did that happen and just how involved with them are you?
Sara: “We’d been doing singles for two years and there were so many bands that we really liked enough to do albums with but so many of our bands would go and sign big deals for that, which seemed like a bit of a shame. We’d known [Vertigo A+R man] Richard O’Donovan since we were sixteen so we went and spoke to him about a label deal and he was really supportive. He gave us a budget for our singles and let us go away and do our singles how we always have and then if we want to sign an album deal they help us with that. The only one we’ve done so far is ‘Noah & The Whale’, which went really well.

Yes it did. ‘5 Years Time’ went top ten.
Nadia: “It went top 5!”
Sara: “…and stayed top 10 for ten weeks, I think. It felt really surreal. That’s one of our favourite releases. That one and Vincent Vincent And The Villains.”

That [‘Blue Boy/The Boy who Killed Time’] was your first release. How do you feel about it now?
Sara: “Vincent really got us to start the label. They were the ones that said if we set it up they’d put out a single with us, and it really helped us because other bands loved them so much. Like, Larrikin Love and Good Shoes straight away wanted to do singles with us because they loved Vincent, and it snowballed. We were really lucky that they were our first single. It would have been harder if it had been, ‘let’s try this with the only band we can get to test the water.’”

Do you have a most memorable moment of the last 5 years?
Sara: “When we went to DJ in Japan, that would have only happened because we’d started the label. It was really funny.”
Nadia: “Yeah, it was in a record store that was like Rough Trade. I think it’s gone bankrupt now but they stocked all of our records so they wanted us to go out and DJ. They did a night where it was vinyl only, where you could only DJ records. We’d only released about five singles, otherwise we would have only taken our own releases.”

You’ve got a free digital download club now as well. Tell us about that.
Sara: “I’m glad we got that up and running when we did, because that now looks after itself. We love iTunes and digital music but we’ll definitely always be into vinyl. You learn a lot more about a band when they’ve done the artwork of a physical release.”

Have any of your artists ever submitted artwork that you’ve hated?
Sara: “Yes, a lot!”
Nadia: “In the end we compromise and someone else does the artwork.”
Sara: “The whole point of the label is that we let the bands do whatever they want, but sometimes we have to say, ‘are you sure this is what you want to do?’, and then they say, ‘yeeaaah, okay, you’re right.’”

Tell us about the 34-track compilation you’re releasing?
Nadia: “It’s all our favourite songs we’ve released so far. We know that not all of the bands are going now, or went on to do well, but the songs are all our favourites. And we’ve been waiting to do it after five years. Now just seems like a good time to do it.”

The YALC dos and don’ts to starting a record label

Do learn your trade
Nadia: “Our first tip is to do as much work experience around music as you can before you start. We did loads and it really helped.”
Sara: “We’d both done PR, we’d promoted, we’d worked in record shops, we’d been radio pluggers. It really helps to understand what everyone’s doing and how everyone’s jobs work, because how do you know if someone is working as hard as they should be or doing the right thing if you don’t know what they do?”

Do be as fearless as possible
Sara: “Don’t be afraid to fail because you are going to make mistakes when you start.”
Nadia: “The Vincent single sold really well but it was three months late, and we used the cheapest place we could find in Czechoslovakia, and they didn’t speak any English or know about artwork. The Good Shoes single came back as a white label.”

Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’
Sara: “Sometimes saying ‘no’ is the hardest thing to do but you can’t not say no for an easy life.”
Nadia: “And you can get swept along with what everyone wants you to do. You need to be stubborn.”

Don’t be rude, dear!
Nadia: “Always be polite. You never know when it’ll come back around.”

By Stuart Stubbs

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Originally published in issue 19 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. July 2010.

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