Label Profile: Fortuna POP!

Independent reaches 15
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“I feel like I’ve out lived everybody, really – I feel like the last man on Earth after a nuclear holocaust or something like that.”

Fortuna POP! head honcho Sean Price may be joking, but the off the cuff remark contains a kernel of truth. Looking back on more than a decade of British independent music finds a slew of labels falling by the wayside, unable to match the march of time and trend – or simply finding something more financially rewarding to do with their time. “I think the longevity comes from being a very stubborn person, perhaps I’ve achieved all this just through sticking around and not giving up. Over 15 years a lot has changed as well. I’ve been doing the label in a more professional manner – not that I didn’t try to do it in a more professional manner when I began but it’s been a learning process. Everything I know about running a record label I’ve learned over the years, just through trying to do it”.

Begun on a whim, Fortuna POP! ss now an indie institution. The label’s instantly recognisable logo is snapped up by music fans across the country and beyond, with the roster extending from classic indie pop to those at the noisier, Sonic Youth derived end of the spectrum. “I don’t know why I decided to run a label, really. It seemed like an interesting thing to do. I’d been to university and I’d just started working in IT thinking ‘God, this is going to be boring’. I was trying to think of something more sensible to do. I suppose the sensible thing to do would be to get a job in music, but somehow my thinking didn’t run along those lines. The flaw in my plan was thinking ‘oh I’ll just start a record label’. That’ll be successful! 15 years later I’m still doing the day job.”

Initially focusing on close friends, Fortuna POP! was endearingly amateurish to begin with, as Price recalls. “I had no idea really about distribution or marketing. I thought we would send one copy to John Peel who would play it and we would instantly get the band on Top Of The Pops and we’d take off and sell thousands of records” he laughs. “It didn’t quite happen like that!”

Yet somehow, Fortuna POP! forged their own identity. Pushing forward, the label established a roster which – despite being eclectic – seemed to have a familiar feel to it. Looking back, Sean Price points to one pivotal release as the moment the imprint came of age. “The Butterflies Of Love, very early on. I did about four, five, six singles I think and they were all mates or mates of mates. A band that somebody at work knew, who would recommend them to. Butterflies Of Love were an American band and I heard them after John Peel put out their single” he remembers.

“I sribbled down the name and sent them a letter saying I’d just heard their song on Peel, could I get a song for a compilation? It happened like that. They wrote back and I ended up putting out their album. It went from being a label involved with friends’ bands to being a label with a record from America which I thought was absolutely amazing. It got a lot of really great reviews, in the music press and broadsheets. FPOP 10 was ‘Single Of The Week’ in the NME – after those first six singles, that was really quite extraordinary.”

One of the last great bedroom projects from the 90s still bearing fruit, Fortuna POP! have witnessed an incredible change in the manner in which music is consumed. Adjusting to the impact of the internet, Sean Price feels that a schism has erupted between independent music – carefully nurtured by music fans – and the business led world of major labels. “I feel that there’s been some kind of divergence in the way music works. The industry thing where everyone is battling to get space in the NME and it’s all about business and then because of the internet there’s a whole thing where people are really into music but don’t necessarily need those kind of big publications to sustain that. There are different ways of getting music to people, I suppose.”

Currently focussing on its fifteenth anniversary, Fortuna POP! is enjoying a definite apex in its public profile. Releases such as The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart have afforded the label a burgeoning reputation, whilst also carefully nurturing a roster which contains both new groups – Allo Darlin’ take a bow – and outright legends – step forward Darren Hayman. Pressing forwards, Sean Price is desperate to keep the momentum going. “I’ve got three albums lined up for the start of next year which I am really excited about. I’m not going to have a rest just yet! The three records are the debut album from Evans The Death, which has already been recorded and just sounds fantastic. It’s always great to work with bands when they’re just starting out – it’s new and exciting and they’re not jaded yet. I’ve got a new Allo Darlin’ album and if there’s one band on the label who are really capturing people’s attention, capturing their imagination then it’s Allo Darlin’. I’ll be really excited to see what happens with that second record which they’re just finishing off the final mixes off now. I’ll be releasing the SHRAG album with my friend John who runs Where It’s At Is Where You Are records. He’s done the first two SHRAG albums and I’m co-operating with him on a joint release of the new album. I’ve got three big releases for the first half of next year and they’re all things that I really believe in and want to do really well. I’m not going to have a rest just yet – unfortunately!”

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Fortuna POP! 15th anniversary shows take place at the Scala between November 1st - 3rd.

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