Signing up its first subscribers in 2015, mail-order singles club Flying Vinyl has already released a hundred 7”s, its catalogue a who’s who of new music, on a rainbow of coloured vinyl. Each month, subscribers receive a box of five exclusive 7” singles, usually mixing unsigned artists with one or two more established names, crossing genres from heavy rock and garage noise to psychedelic indie and bedroom electropop.
While based in London and working with artists from around the world, Brighton bands have been represented in Flying Vinyl’s boxes since the very beginning, accounting for a notable 1 in 10 of its releases so far. We speak to founder Craig Evans and profile the many local bands he’s slapped on wax.
How do you pick artists for Flying Vinyl?
We really do things in quite a traditional way, by going to gigs, by listening to an endless stream of music that makes its way to us, by keeping in close contact with artists, promoters and labels and stuff. We get a lot of music managers who approach us by email talking about the fantastic radio plugger they’ve got on board for the single and the extensive press campaign they’re doing and honestly we couldn’t care less, all we want is the best music that’s out there. We want to be that one A&R resource that doesn’t just listen to the hype but puts stuff out because we know it will grab the attention of our community.
We’re proper music geeks and spend a lot of our time debating bands and stuff, so a lot comes to us through word-of-mouth and we go to a lot of shows. That’s the best way to discover new music and we’ve come across far too many of our alumni that way to name. It’s that whole thing about seeing a band we work with and then checking out the support, being blown away by them and then doing a record with them too. The whole A&R thing is a lot simpler when you look at it like that.
Have you discovered many bands from unsolicited demos?
There’s been a few artists that have come in on email submission. It’s rare to be honest. You get a sense of just how much noise there is out there for bands to compete with by the amount of artists that get in touch. That’s not to say that all are bad or whatever but we want to hear something really special.
With Sugarthief (from Birmingham, Flying Vinyl’s first band signed from a demo alone), they hadn’t even properly mixed and mastered the tracks they sent us but we could hear something in them that we knew would go down well. We told them to go and get them finished and we’d put them out. They’re a really nice bunch of lads and as they’ve released more stuff I think it’s fair to say that was a good investment from our point of view, they’re a great young talent people that should keep an eye on.
How many singles do you press each month?
This is a tough one for me. We tend not to give out our membership figures simply because we don’t want people to know how limited or unlimited our records are. We’re already seeing some of our earlier records from bands like Black Honey, Inheaven, The Amazons and Viola Beach retailing at massive values on the second-hand market but we really want the whole thing with Flying Vinyl to be about the music and not a means of madly collecting something in the hope it’ll be worth more next year. I can say that we’ve seen a huge rise in growth of our community since we started which continues on a month-by-month basis. It’s now happening in a lot of different regions worldwide and for that we’re truly grateful.
What proportion of copies is passed on to the artists to sell directly?
It was really important that we compensated the artists well – that was goal number one at the concept stage. We give the artists 100 copies of their record completely free-of-charge to sell however they choose for however much money they choose, we also pay them a royalty on top of this and of course promote other products that they have available as well. From an artist point of view when you stack our deal up against pretty much any other deal in the industry it’s like chalk and cheese. When you get all that from being involved with a small company like ours, it frustrates me that artists get so little from streaming services and tech companies. If they had the level of focus on artists that we had I think generally the cultural landscape would be a very different place globally right now.
You’ve had a good proportion of Brighton bands on Flying Vinyl so far.
I love Brighton, it’s one of those places that’s really exciting culturally. Before Flying Vinyl it was a town I ended up in a lot because it’s always had a good, if not a bit insular, music scene. In the last few years it’s felt more like a hub that’s leading a lot of bands from the town into national and international success. Also having BIMM there has helped, so a lot of bands have connections to Brighton even if they weren’t born there.
What are your favourite venues and shops here?
I go to Resident quite a bit and love the amount of in-stores they do with artists there, I think that’s probably one of the best record stores on the South Coast. There’s Cult Hero as well, which stocks loads of cult records and DVDs and stuff. It’s really well curated, especially with films, you can just kind of take a punt on stuff and it’ll be good most of the time. Whenever I’m in Brighton I tend to go and raid their shelves. Also Art Republic’s cool. A friend of mine put me onto it a few years back and again the art in there’s really well curated.
Would you consider hosting a stage or showcase at The Great Escape?
The Great Escape’s probably our favourite festival of the season, to be honest. We went last year and were involved in some of the panel discussion stuff and it’s always great for us because of the focus on new music and how many of our artists are invited to play each year. We want to do more stage curation and if it’s something The Great Escape want to do collaboratively with us, we’re game.
What are your proudest achievements so far?
I’m really proud that we’ve created something truly independent of the music establishment that has a voice and that people trust. I’m proud that we put on a sellout festival (in Hackney) less than a year after we launched the company. I think my fondest and at the same time most scary memory was watching the absolute chaos that we caused there. It was the physical embodiment of what our company’s about – going against the grain, being disruptive and doing things that are raw and exciting.
But more than anything, we’ve managed to put out over 100 exclusive vinyl releases that otherwise probably never would have made it to the format. We’ve ploughed huge amounts of money back into artists’ pockets and every day are responsible for introducing thousands of people to new music they otherwise may never have heard. When you go to gigs and meet people who say they’re only there because they heard a record in their Flying Vinyl box it makes you realise the responsibility we have to continue making this a success.
Finally, what does the future hold for Flying Vinyl?
We’re launching our first label partnership and allowing Transgressive to do a take-over of our April box. They’re going to be packing it full of incredible exclusive material from some of their roster – the first of which will be Let’s Eat Grandma, who we’ve had our eye on for a while.
We’ve got our second festival coming up in April and want to support other festivals that are pumping money back into art. We’re going to be announcing some partnerships soon, the first of which is When In Manchester that we’ll be sponsoring and curating one of the stages for shortly.
Also, we’re making strides internationally now as well. I want us to get to a point where some great undiscovered talent can be featured by Flying Vinyl and then have a big enough fanbase in Europe and North America to go and play shows there. That may seem like a really big goal, but honestly many people thought this entire company was too big of a goal and I think we can keep achieving great things because of our supporters getting behind what we’re doing.
We want to keep pushing the boundaries of how people think about music, about the format and what’s out there. Everything’s become far too watered-down in the mainstream and as we grow we’re never going to lose the ethos of what we’re about – it’s our community against the world.
TEN BRIGHTON RELATED RELEASES FROM FLYING VINYL’S FIRST 100:
The DuBarrys – ‘Undress Your Soul’/’Winter Grade’
First out the blocks in the very first Flying Vinyl box of June 2015 was dreamy Brighton band The DuBarrys, lifting two songs from their self-titled EP for their debut vinyl release. The band split at the end of 2016 and singer Alex Lucas, now living back in Belgium, released his first solo track ‘Fade Away’ in January.
Jouis – ‘Misty Maker Stomp’/’New Moon’
Joining The DuBarrys in the label’s first singles batch were our own cult prog-psych quintet Jouis, with a pair of lengthy tracks lifted from their 2014 album ‘Dojo’. Jouis also threw in the first of Flying Vinyl’s occasional bonus items, a cosmic art print by local illustrator Martin Ross Butler.
Theo Verney – ‘Brain Disease’/’The Dunes’
August’s box brought in overdriven bluesman Theo Verney with the title track from his raucous ‘Brain Disease’ 12” EP, backed with exclusive track ‘The Dunes’. Verney has since lent his production skills to a handful of subsequent Flying Vinyl artists, including Fake Laugh and Traams, more on which below.
The Magic Gang – ‘She Won’t Ghost’/’Shallow’
Opening September’s box was ‘She Won’t Ghost’, the second single by hugely favoured slackers The Magic Gang, on ghostly white vinyl. Following numerous tours and a brace of releases on their own Telharmonium label, The Magic Gang signed to Warner Bros. last September, and head out on the road again this spring with Circa Waves and Inheaven.
Black Honey – ‘Corrine’/’Mothership’
Another of Brighton’s most hotly tipped groups, Black Honey began their association with Flying Vinyl in November, gifting their second single ‘Corrine’ on luscious pink vinyl. Thrown in with the package was a Black Honey art print on which frontwoman Izzy B Phillips explained the song’s background in the mother of all drunken fights (“Before I could make it up, she quit her job, sold her phone and moved 10,000 miles away”).
Yonaka – ‘Ignorance’/’Run’
In March 2016, Flying Vinyl introduced Brighton’s Yonaka and their killer single ‘Ignorance’. The group got a further leg up when they joined the bill at the first Flying Vinyl Festival at Hackney Shapes the following month, next to fellow singles club alumni Swim Deep, Kagoule, The Jar Family, The Amazons, The Orielles, Asylums and Juice, as well as Black Honey and The Magic Gang. The band announced a major deal with Asylum Records in January so we expect to hear a lot more from them soon.
Black Honey – ‘All My Pride’/’On Your Time’
Black Honey made their second Flying Vinyl appearance in April, one of just a handful of bands to chalk up a second singles club visit (alongside Meadowlark, Beach Baby, Island and Inheaven). Pressed on baby blue vinyl, both ‘All My Pride’ and ‘On Your Time’ subsequently appeared on Black Honey’s ‘Headspin’ EP, while subscribers also received a glossy Polaroid of Phillips’ rocking out on stage at the Flying Vinyl Festival.
Dream Wife – ‘Hey Heartbreaker’/’Lolita’
Brighton acts made it into the box three times in as many months when the joyful Dream Wife scored their debut vinyl release in May’s box. The double-punch of ‘Hey Heartbreaker’ and ‘Lolita’ had already appeared on their cassette-only EP for Cannibal Hymns but got another boost on 12” later that summer. Now London-based, Dream Wife’s profile continues to rise, beginning the year by appearing on the NME 100 new music list while criss-crossing the country on DIY magazine’s Hello 2017 tour.
The Wytches – ‘C-Side’/’Hannover Square’
Now firmly established, Flying Vinyl is regularly tempting bigger bands into their community for one-off releases. September allowed The Wytches to preview second album ‘All Your Happy Life’ with the confusingly titled ‘C-Side’, backed on orange vinyl by the otherwise unavailable ‘Hannover Square’.
Traams – ‘Slipping’/’Penguin’
Tenth on our list are Chichester’s Traams, previewing two hypnotic new tracks ‘Slipping’ and ‘Penguin’ in last November’s box. Honorary Brightonians, not least thanks to their links with FatCat Records, Traams’ Theo Verney-produced single serves as a stopgap until their third album comes along, and is one of Flying Vinyl’s finest releases to date.
Photos by Flying Vinyl:
Deap Vally outside Resident with their Flying Vinyl single.
Dream Wife throw shapes.