A key concern for anyone making music is getting as many people to hear it as possible. Artists who attempt to convince people that the creative process is in itself enough to sate their appetite for free expression and use ‘Art for art’s sake’ as justification probably don’t have a record deal. The advent of the internet age has allowed anyone to upload their tracks to a seemingly endless variety of digital platforms, but other advances in financially accessible production tools means that a saturated market, where the wheat is hard to separate from the chaff, has been created.
Musicians now need a way to distinguish themselves from their contemporaries, a platform where their work can be accessed and a definitive identity that goes further than a generic bio and Instagrammed photographs can be formed. Enter the independent record label. With the major labels devouring each other and struggling to balance their books as they acclimatise to new market forces, releasing music via indie’s is not only a necessity but seemingly also in vogue. Bands that play gigs with each other regularly and end up hanging around at the same after parties can often be found in fevered 3am discussions about launching labels, taking control of their own creative output, having the freedom to do as they see fit; this is how Marshall Teller Records was formed two years ago.
“We did a four way split about 2 years ago with Dignan Porch, Cheatahs, Not Cool and Colours. We just wanted to put out a record; you always talk about it with mates, 'What should we call it? What should we put out?', but I just saved a bit of cash and it bloomed from there” says Leon Diaper, head honcho of Marshall Teller and, at the time of its inception, lead singer of the aforementioned Colours. “I didn’t have a clue how to release a record, I was just in a band and we thought it would be nice to do a record, and then you learn on the job.”
This approach to turning a pipe dream into a reality is often described as encapsulating the ‘DIY ethos’ that has historically played a part in the popularisation of a multitude of musical genres, from punk to dubstep, acid house to hip hop, but it rarely is truly do-it-yourself, it often requires a little help from your friends. “Sleep All Day records, that’s run by Craig who’s in Weird Dreams, he helped me out and emailed shops and stuff, set up some sale or return deals. Then we got into Rough Trade through a friend who worked there” says Leon. “The first one was just bands we were playing with a lot of the time, who we’d made friends with when we moved to London because we’re not from here. We did a compilation recently which was a similar type vibe – it’s nice to do stuff with bands you know.”
Having followed up their debut release with another split, this time featuring their first international act Total Slacker alongside Weird Dreams, Marshall Teller rose to a position of heightened prominence not often experienced by its independent peers when an old friend of Leon’s, the artist formerly known as Jay Jay Pistolet, asked if he fancied putting out the debut 7” single from his new band, The Vaccines. “I used to go to school with Justin Young, at the time he contacted me about this he was living with Mumford and Sons and Laura Marling, all the superstars of today basically, and he’d started the band that is The Vaccines” remembers Leon. “They needed a single on an indie before they got massive so he just asked if I wanted to do it. When it happened they were basically already on Sony so it sold out within a week. We didn’t press too many because that’s not what we do; it really just came about because he asked us. It’s pretty cool because most of the stuff we’ve done so far it’s because we’ve been asked to do it, and if we’re in the position to help out we always try to.”
The Vaccines single provided Marshall Teller with a blueprint they could use for future releases, putting out records from bands they wanted to champion and giving them the platform to earn themselves the elusive megabucks record deal. “It’s nice to get in at the start” says Leon. “Friends of ours Cheatahs have just been signed to Wichita and we just did their EP a few months ago. It’s kind of the point for the size of the label that we are; an association that bands can release on us then jump up to the next level. We’re essentially a promotional tool for bands, it’s nice to release music you like and then be a promotional tool to help bands achieve what they want. It’s great that bands are getting signed that we’ve put out because then it looks like we might know what we’re doing!”
Although realistic about their position in the music industry food chain Marshall Teller can’t be faulted for a lack of ambition, their next release is their biggest to date with The History Of Apple Pie opting to put their debut album out on a label which has already helped them release two singles. “Smaller labels are quite potent at the moment. Bigger labels aren’t really giving out huge deals like they used to” says Leon. “We’re doing THOAP at the moment, these days you need to be able to handle distribution for bands; you need to be able to get the music out to everyone. This is going to be the biggest release we’ve ever done, we’ve got bigger distribution sorted and a team of people working on it. For me it’s good because it’s another learning curve of how to get things done properly. Before now I’ve been using all my own resources but this one there’s more parties involved so it’s quite cool.”
With The History Of Apple Pie album requiring more parties to be involved on the distribution side of the business, the album will still be a recognisably Marshall Teller release; including the record being available, like everything else the label has done, on vinyl. “It’s natural for smaller labels to release on vinyl because it’s kind of a boutique-y vibe” explains Leon. “It’s nice to work with because you can screen print the artwork and it’s like a promotional tool; it’s an attractive way of providing the record. We do everything digitally as well but it’s good to have in that format and in shops it looks better. I let the bands do everything music wise and they also do design for artwork and I agree to most of it to be honest. It’s nice for the band to take full control and we’ll act as the middle man organisation wise and helping out in any way we can.”
With its biggest release to date on the horizon what else will 2013 have in store for Marshall Teller? “We’re going to learn from this and see what the outcome is. Before we’ve taken on a few bits and bobs at a time, but we’ve maybe done that too many times and it’s nice to take it slow and work on one big release” says Leon. “It’s like fun projects, I like to give myself projects to do so from start to finish it’s good. You’re constantly in contact with people that are helping out and it’s rewarding that there’s a load of people in the same boat trying to help one thing. When one’s released I’m like 'Great it’s done' but I’m always straight onto looking at what to do next. It’s just fun to build something and work on something that hopefully people will give a shit about, which I guess is the point. It’s quite fun to be involved with something that we started out of nothing.”
Words by Paddy Hughes
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