If Brighton had a New Year Honours list for services to the local music scene, we’d be calling the guys behind Sea Monsters Sir One Inch Badge. Few cities are lucky enough to have anyone to document their sound in a way that offers the best music Brighton has to offer not just to its residents, but also to music fans around the world in the form of an annual double CD compilation. It’s such an achievement that the six-day festival – that will have wound up by the time you read this – seems like a bonus.
But with 23 of the best bands around packed into a week at the Prince Albert, it’s become a perfect opportunity to catch up with what’s going on the city’s stages and as such is packed out. With bands like Twin Brother, Sons Of Noel and Adrian and Tall Ships it’s easy to see why.
“We decided to do Sea Monsters because we didn’t really feel that any festivals that happen within the city were necessarily reflective of our pocket of Brighton,” explains Alex. “I think Brighton Live, the Great Escape and Brighton Festival are three incredible festivals, and Brighton is so much better off for having them, but I just didn’t really feel like it was reflective of the day-to-day scene.”
As if it wasn’t enough to get twenty-odd bands together each year, the OIB team have attempted to put a completely different line-up together each time. Only Pope Joan (who crept in on a name change technicality as Black Black Hills) and Us Baby Bare Bones have played on both bills.
“When we worked with Us Baby Bear Bones last year they were very new,” says Alex. “I think it was only their second or third gig, and in the 12 months between Sea Monsters 1 and 2 they’ve come on in leaps and bounds. They’d got quite a lot of national recognition through the year and we felt that they’d done something within that year that warranted them having a higher place in Sea Monsters 2.”
This year’s Us Baby Bare Bones could be Tyrannosaurus Dead, the only band OIB haven’t seen live, being a late addition to the bill when an artist dropped out. Their ‘1992’ has become Alex’s favourite of the 23 tracks on the CD, an American post-grunge indie pop song that has nods to another dinosaur, J. Mascis’ Dinosaur Jr. Other highlights include a shimmering new track from Fear Of Men, a preview of Restlesslist’s forthcoming psyche-prog storybook and an explosive Jumping Ships number. It could be the best fiver you spend all year. If you went to the festival then you probably bought it and are playing it to death. If not, it’s available at Rounder and Resident before a worldwide release in April.
“The reason we put it out worldwide,” says Todd, “is because I want kids in, say, Alaska to see it and think, ‘I’ve heard the Brighton scene’s pretty good, it’s only $5, I’ll pick it up.’ It’s a real snapshot of what’s going on in 2012. Our intention really was to try and do something nice for the Brighton scene but also be able to present that and package it to the rest of the world at a reasonable price, so that people will have a little window into what’s going on here.”
‘Seamonsters’ isn’t the only exciting release coming on OIB Records. The new Sons Of Noel & Adrian album is due at the end of April and Alex reckons it’s “one of the greatest folk albums I’ve heard in a long, long time.” Todd has also got a record coming with his band Nullifier (James is in Munich – they’re quite a musical bunch), which is less synth pop than his previous output.
“It’s kind of a bit more of a prog kind of route,” Todd says, “but mellow with no beards. Just pretty clean-shaven prog.”
Those releases follow a diverse back catalogue that includes Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, Robert Stillman and Lonely Ghosts. When you add those names to the people whose gigs they’ve promoted – from Outkast’s Big Boi to The Maccabees and The Kooks – it makes an impressive list. Coming up in February they’ve got Kurt Vile, Man Overboard, Grouplove and War On Drugs, but that selection only hints at the diversity. Last year they put on Japanese post-rock band Mono with a 24-piece orchestra, Apparat and Why? alongside 111 other international bands and 300 local bands.
But as much of a challenge orchestras must have been, it was nothing compared to a trip round the UK with the infamously impossible-to-tour-manage hip hop group the Wu Tang Clan, previous stars of a hefty FBI secret dossier.
“What can you say about the Wu-Tang Clan,” ponders James, “that won’t get you…”
“…in massive trouble?”
“I guess the short version is,” starts Alex with a sigh, “we had a sold-out tour in the UK and two days before the tour we realised that Wu-Tang Clan hadn’t really organised anything. So 24 hours before the show we had to fly to Germany, book ourselves into the same hotel they were in and at 5am persuade them that having just come offstage they should stay up and get on a plane to the UK in a couple of hours.”
Full credit to RZA: he organised the troops, made the flight and the tour went great. For everyone apart from OIB’s poor runner, that is – the Wu-Tang Clan requested a minimum of 174 condoms a night on their rider.
“In each city she had to go to every single Boots she could find and buy every single condom in the shop,” smiles Alex. “So she was that poor girl that had to go to the counter and be like ‘Have you got any more condoms?’ Cos, you know, this 300 isn’t enough.”
Arise Sir One Inch Badge indeed.
ALBUM: ‘Sea Monsters 2’ out now
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