Interview: Scott Lewis (Clue Records) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Imagine two lads from Stockton heading to Leeds to set up a successful independent music empire and then defying the odds during a global pandemic to grow their business via a merger as the world around them crumbled into the sea. Unbelievable ey? Like some kind of far fetched Channel 5 drama that you feasted upon every weekday afternoon during lockdown or one of LADbible’s click bait taglines on Facebook… Well in actual fact this is an actual thing that has happened to loveable rogues Scott Lewis and Ste Langton, whose label Clue Records (YOWL, Crushed Beaks, Team Picture, Avalanche Party) have merged with Hatch Records (The Wedding Present, Nine Black Alps, Then Thickens, Napoleon IIIrd) to create a force of nature that’s probably more unstoppable that Covid-19 itself. 

We have a chat with Scott to find out more about Clue, the merger and the current sitch…

Can you give us a brief synopsis of the genesis of Clue Records?
As brief as poss (I’ve even knocked the ‘ible’ off possible there to keep it nice & brief, good eh? However this bit explaining that time saving has probably not helped with the intended shortening. Swings and roundabouts innit. Where were we…), we started in 2012. Me & Ste are from Stockton, went to school together & I ended up moving into his spare room in Leeds in 2007 (this isn’t brief at all…). We’d been in bands, done bits, packed it in, I did a thing volunteering in the core team for Oxjam Music Festival in the summer of 2012 which lit a fire back in me to work with artists & help them grow, found a band I loved & sat in the pub with Ste to say “I don’t know what a label does completely, but we’re gonna be one” and that was that (still going here, sorry). First band we had were NARCS, then took on others like Allusondrugs > Forever Cult > TRASH & had a lovely period before they broke up & we had to re-up with acts like Avalanche Party, PLAZA, Crushed Beaks, YOWL, Van Houten & Team Picture as well as others (nearly there). We’ve released mint stuff (check out our playlist) & we only ever release music by artists we love. We also do a monthly radio show on Amazing Radio, playing 2 hours of ace tunes & doing links as trim as this ‘short’ backstory (I’ve managed to translate ‘brief synopsis’ into a full on ‘This Is Your Life’, sorry).

How has COVID-19 been for business and have Bandcamp Fridays help with music sales?
Bandcamp Fridays have been incredible, people taking a punt on releases or just wanting to show support for indie labels. The way they’ve expanded from 1 day, to a couple more, to every first Friday of the month for the rest of the year means labels & artists can get that extra 10% & people buying know exactly where the money is going. Some acts & labels have done their bit for things they believe in, sending that 10% fee Bandcamp waived on to good causes (we’ve donated proceeds to the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust and Black Curriculum). Bandcamp has been great & deserves the plaudits they’re getting. Other than that, it’s generally been pretty odd. Just a lot of planning & trying to support artists through a strange time, working out what support they need to come out of this.

What do you think the labels strengths are? What would you like to develop in the future?
I think the fact that we genuinely care about the artists we work with & love the music we release is a strength, and that we won’t bullshit you. Me & Ste have been friends for 20 odd years, we can’t & don’t need to fake anything. We also encourage a family feel to the label & hope the acts on it will check out & support each other. That then expands out to the community we’re part of, we want to support other like minded people to do positive things, someone else’s success doesn’t mean we can’t succeed so working together & supporting is key. That goes for Yorkshire & Teesside, I’m proud to be connected to the Teesside scene & want the North to have its own say in the music industry.

In terms of development, a way to reward people that support us is something I’m working on, a chance to work with other like minded labels or people in different countries is also something I’d like to work towards as I want our acts to reach as far as possible. I want to be a steady, trusted label of the size & influence of Heavenly, Sonic Cathedral, Domino etc. On the whole though, to just continue steadily growing, supporting artists well and being part of our community will keep us going.

What do you look for in a potential Clue Records artist? If money was no object who would be your dream signing?
In the first instance, it’s about loving the music they’re making. If I am a fanboy of theirs & would buy their record if someone else released it, that’ll do it. Other factors come into it, personality being a huge one. I need to be able to get on with them to work together, it’s such a close relationship that you have to be able to communicate & get on. Other bits come into play like live performance, their ambition, their morals and ethics etc. There’s no real interview or vetting process, we just chat through & see how we go from there! A dream signing is a tricky one, not something I’ve really thought about & ridiculously hard to whittle down. Kendrick Lamar or FKA Twigs would be up there. Kendrick’s storytelling, intricacies in the music he makes & his work for the community (without fanfare) are unparalleled for me. FKA Twigs is just an incredible artist, visionary & innovator. Others on the list would be Sleaford Mods, Mannequin Pussy, Uniform, Run The Jewels, LA Priest, Angel Olsen, Young Fathers, Khruangbin, Zach De La Rocha.

Tell us more about your takeover How did it come about? What role did Leeds based artist development organisation Come Play With Me have in all this and what does this mean for you going forward?
I’ve been working for Come Play With Me for a little while, Tony (Ereira) is CPWM’s director & also runs Hatch so between us we were up to our eyeballs in labels. I had been offered a role at another label but with some pretty ridiculous caveats including potentially packing in 7 years of work with Clue as well as other musical projects. It got Tony to thinking about what he was doing with Hatch. They had a release due from The Wedding Present but other than that, no real plans as Tony’s focus was on CPWM. We’d worked each other out enough from working together on CPWM to know it could work pushing Clue & Hatch together. It all fell into place quite easily in the end. Going forward, we’ve got more people in the team (there are 4 instead of 2) and we’ve got more skills to share around, a bigger back catalogue & more relationships so it’s exciting, just to have people to bounce daft ideas off or validate stuff is great.

Are there any other exciting revelations on the horizon? Can you tell us about some of your upcoming releases?
We’re just working on announcing a new signing soon which I’m really excited about but we’re not the only ones involved so I have to be one of them horrible teasing swines who gives you a crumb then leaves you hungry. Once it happens I’ll let you know. We turn 8 in November & I’m looking at a new phase of what we’re doing, a slightly different approach which could revisit our 2017 singles club Clue Club in a different style & format. In terms of releases, we’ve got an ace new EP from Van Houten coming soon & we’ve just put out a piece of mind-bending video wizardry from Team Picture in the form of a 360º interactive explorable video for their track Handsome Machine, which when there’s still a lot of being stuck at home going on at the minute, it’s nice to explore a mad sci-fi space place without having to move much.

Are you hopeful for the future of the grassroots music industry?
I’m always hopeful as I’ve seen people come up & find their own way in grassroots scenes, then go on to not only create their own space but also create space for others. Aaron who runs Sad For Life is a great advert for that but in Teesside I think there’s a host of people who are in it for more than just themselves, from Jimmy and Simon at Ku, The Kids Are Solid Gold team, Danni from GGAllanPartridge, the TMA team & you lot at NARC (including a very large shout out for yourself here Mr Saunders). Things are not easy at the minute but people with ideas will always find a way. When they do, it’s important to celebrate them and appreciate the effort that goes into it.

Clue Records · Clue Records Releases

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