Label Love: Brainlove

Our love of independent labels has taken us into the world of Brainlove.

Posted on Jun 17th, 2011 in Features and Interviews, Brainlove / By Peter Clark
Label Love: Brainlove The Brainlove website says: 'Brainlove Records is an independent organisation working to unearth and present exciting new music. The philosophy of the label is to support musicians exhibiting creativity, spirit, intelligence and imagination, regardless of genre, commercial potential, or technical ability. As such, Brainlove is a record label with artistic values at it's core.' As this almost mirrors Bearded's philosophy to life, we felt it necessary to have a chin wag with the big boss man, John Rogers.

Hello. Firstly, who are you and what do you do?
I’m John Rogers aka John Brainlove. I started the Brainlove Records label back in 2003. I work at Freeman PR making bands famous on the internet. I edit the music section of a free newspaper called Snipe, and I manage bands as part of a new company called Projekta.

Where does the name Brainlove come from?
It was an idea I either read or had about music – about the point of origin of an idea, deep in the brain, the way it is played out physically - fingers on strings, voice, mouse clicks… then sounds happens and travels through the air, into someone’s ears and is turned back into thoughts. The point of action and reception is kind of the same. Brain love. Brainlove.

How did the label start out?
It started out of frustration. I was living in Wolverhampton, and was part of a little scene of bands, some of whom were brilliantly creative. But we were in Wolverhampton, there was no industry and no media, and these bands were going unheard. So I took it upon myself to try and remedy the situation – to take the kind of creative bands that didn’t seem to have a platform and to try and give them one. We burned off CD-Rs and sent them to people like Steve Lamacq and John Peel, Everett True, Miss AMP – and lo and behold, we were played on Radio 1 and written about in magazines. I decided if we could manage that, we could do anything.

How does the average day/week pan out for you?
I open my laptop pretty much as soon as I wake up and close it pretty much when I go to sleep. Inbetween there’ll be a lot press work, talking to distributors, talking to managers, labels, producers, remixers, manufacturers, doing design work, filling in forms, organising shows, moving stock around. It’s immersive and the job is kind of infinite.

How has your job changed since you started?
It has expanded exponentially. The current task is taking on Europe – seeking out the right distribution plan, promotion and touring to launch Napoleon IIIrd in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Scandinavia. We haven’t even started on America and the rest of the world yet. The job gets bigger and bigger. The more things you make happen, the more you have to do next.

David Thomas Broughton

Brainlove is a label with ‘artistic values at its core’. Is it a case of doing everything for a love of the music rather than as a business plan? Is it possible to have longevity in the cut throat music business with these ideals? How do you measure success?
I think despite being out of the leftfield, bands like Flaming Lips, Björk, Aphex Twin, Sufjan Stevens – they prove that there’s a place for artistic approaches in the mainstream. We started kind of wide-eyed, but the label has learned and developed – we play our cards right most of the time. We have successes big and small – overseas touring, national media exposure, ever widening distribution, growing appreciation and awareness. And we generally sell more with each release. We’re not aiming for gold discs. We’re just trying to do a good job with what we have.

In an ever changing world of music formats and distribution, how do/are you evolving and keeping current with the current scene, and where do you see the future of Brainlove heading?
We generally sell more both physically and digitally with each release. I’m not sure the trends that affect the monolithic majors hit us in quite the same way. Creating and distributing physical stock is an expensive and time consuming process, but it’s still something that we have to do. Maybe at some point purely digital with be the norm. But people love objects, and always will… that need to feel ownership in a tangible way is still there – object fetishism. We’ll have to wait and see, huh.

You’re clearly not motivated by becoming a millionaire at running the label, so what do you look for in bands to garner your time and effort?
Inspiration, intelligence, dedication, good-heartedness, artistic endeavour, creative ambition, a firm handshake and a strong drinking liver.

Can you see a resurgence in independent record stores, or have things changed so much that there’s no going back?
Well, the digital music revolution has changed everything. I can’t remember the last time I bought a CD, and I used to spend hundreds of pounds on CDs and vinyl. I imagine I’m not the only one. Record stores need to be creative like everyone else – diversify. Like Rough Trade, having a café and putting on shows, selling loads of different merch and doing good things with the album club and mail order. I guess indie stores have always been little hubs for music culture, and they have to work that angle harder than ever to survive.

You are so much more than just a record label, you also help with events, act as a collective place where creators and fans on music can meet. Is expansion the key to your survival or is it all involved in a DIY ethic?
It’s very important to me that Brainlove isn’t kind of jealously guarding our little bit of indiedom, but that we’re kind of open to people. Accessible, helpful, cooperative. It’s so important to build bridges with like-minded people and for good dudes to work together to make good things happen. That’s the DIY part – people involved in music for the right reasons, learning from each other. To that end, we’ve started a venture called Label Love (Good name - Pete)that we hope to expand – a network of indie labels in different countries working together and opening their contacts books and local knowledge to help other labels make it work overseas.

Napoleon IIIrd

What have been some of the highlights and lowlights of your time at the label?
Highlights have been having a Brainlove stage at Iceland Airwaves for a couple of years – an amazing experience; touring Spain; having our bands played and talked about on national radio. When Lamacq played a song I’d made on my iMac three or four days before. Seeing Napoleon IIIrd get a two-page feature in Word magazine or a **** review in the Sunday Times was pretty special, a bit of a milestone. Signing David Thomas Broughton was huge for us, I am a long-standing fan. Having Bastardgeist, our first US signing, over for a tour, and taking him out to Iceland. Hearing PWL’s European Monsoon for the first time, and realising he’d made the record of his life. Taking Mat Riviere out to Denmark and playing to a capacity crowd theatre at SPOT Festival. Seeing We Aeronauts play the show of their life in front of 300 dancing, singing along people at Shunt Lounge under London Bridge – they were like the Arcade Fire that night. Having N3rd play Club NME at Koko was immense, and the Brainlove Festival is always one of the best days of the year. Lowlights? A couple of band relationships that went sour for various reasons. It’s never nice when it goes wrong and you have to part ways. We’re quite a tight-knit group of friends as much as anything else, there’s a lot of trust and mutual respect between the label and the bands.

What can you tell us about Brainlove Festival?
It’s our annual showcase and get-together. As many of the bands on the label as are available come and play – show off new material, check each other out – try to do something special. We also pick up bands we think are interesting or bands on the extended Brainlove family tree. It’s a wonderful day of music – 20 bands in one day – a really inspiring, exciting event every year.
mr brainlove

Mr Brainlove

Where would you advise someone to begin when wanting to discover the music of Brainlove?
The website has a playlist with songs by all our bands. Our Vimeo channel is packed with awesome stuff. The web shop has on sale everything we still have copies of.

Any advice for someone wanting to set up their own label?
Start small, be realistic about what you can sell, work hard, be nice, make friends, work with people you believe in and trust, only sign things you are 100% blown away by, and don’t give up if you get a knock or two.

Do you carry an ethos or mantra?
“Do something magical or disappear!”