Label Love: Olive Grove

Our love of independent labels takes us back up North to the glorious scope of Scotland for a look at Olive Grove Records. It's a journey worth taking.

Posted on Sep 23rd, 2011 in Features and Interviews, Olive Grove / By Peter Clark
Label Love: Olive Grove A new fresh label pushing to be innovative and remain independent is right up our street. Scottish label Olive Grove Records are promoting music for music's sake, and it's a project you should get behind. Almost a year old, Bearded caught up with one half of the creative force, Lloyd Meredith, to get the scope on just what's going on way up in the highlands.

Hello. Firstly, who are you and what do you do?
Hello to you too! My name is Lloyd and I co-run a wee Scottish DIY label called Olive Grove Records with the lovely Ms Halina Rifai.

Where does the name Olive Grove come from?
When the pair of us started the label we swore we wouldn’t tell anyone where the name came from, however that lasted all of five minutes as we’re both rubbish at keeping secrets!
It comes from the Snow Patrol song ‘An Olive Grove Facing The Sea’, which features on their second album When It’s All Over We Still Have To Clear Up. I felt it was pretty apt as we were both big fans of the early Snow Patrol albums (does that lose us indie cred points?), plus it kind of fits what we do in the sense of holding out an olive branch to stuff we love.

How did the label start out?
I run a music blog called Peenko which predominantly focuses on alternative Scottish bands, and Halina runs the behemoth that is the Glasgow Podcart (an online arts and music website) that does an array of amazing things in our local scene. We had known each other for a few years and we both have the same kind of outlook on our local scene. So when she phoned me out of the blue one day to suggest that we start a label together it was a bit of a no-brainer.

How does the average day/week pan out for you?
I was about to bore you with my daily routine, but as I was boring myself I thought I’d spare you all the ins and outs. Basically it’s pretty manic, starting first thing in the morning before I go to work. I try to keep on top of things while I’m still at work, which can be tricky – real life really does get in the way sometimes. After getting in from work, wolfing down my dinner and helping to bath my daughter, the rest of the evening is usually spent replying to emails, writing blog posts and most importantly scheming what we’re going to do next. Normally I crawl into my bed in the wee hours of the morning knackered with my head buzzing with ideas.


How has your job changed since you started?
It’s gotten a lot busier that’s for sure! The more that people find out about us, the more exciting projects we get asked to be involved with, for example in the past few weeks we’ve been asked to be in an array of projects, such as our artist featuring on a new HD sound system, and we’re also pretty excited about a new project which would see Scottish bands going out to play in Spain and vice versa. In short it’s never boring round these parts!

Being from, and based in Scotland, is the nation’s music scene something which you are solely focusing on, or are you open to acts from anywhere? How do you feel the Scottish music scene is at the moment?
At the moment we’re focusing solely on Scottish music, mainly because that’s what we both know. Through our sites we both have a pretty good knowledge of what’s going on in Scotland at the moment, which was one of the major motivators for us to get off our backsides and do something a wee bit different.
After the recent peaks in success of bands like Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad, it might appear to an outsider that there isn’t as much going on in Scotland at the moment - which quite frankly is a load of old bollocks.
The biggest problem that I have usually involves keeping up to date with everything that’s going on in our backyard. I guess we benefit a lot from the lack of attention from the London media, as bands are afforded a lot more time to develop before they’re thrust into the spotlight.

Having set up the Peenko blog, and Halina the founder of Glasgow PodcART, what have these taught you/prepared you for entering into the music business as record label bosses?
Without the blog I wouldn’t have a clue as to how to start a label, as it allowed me to make a number of contacts who became friends, who I could then go back and ask advice from. Also, with the number of good and bad press releases that I receive I started to get a better understanding of the dos and don’ts of what you need to include. Plus seeing as folk were already sending us their music, we had a really good knowledge of the bands that we thought deserved more attention.

At the moment you have Esperi, Randolph’s Leap, The Moth & the Mirror, The Son(s), and Pensioner on your roster. What is it about these bands that make them stand out from everyone else for you? What do you look for in artists to garner your time and effort?
When we first started up we both agreed that we both had to love the bands that we worked with, otherwise it wouldn’t work. They all their unique quirks that made them stand out from the crowd, for example I had been semi-grooming The Son(s) for several months before I asked if they would let us release their album. Quite simply we have to love your music, without that the motivation wouldn’t be there to put all of this effort in.

What drives you to keep going? How do you measure success?
Since I first got into music I have dreamed of starting a label, so I guess we’re living that dream. Having spent several years promoting our local scene, the label is an extension of what we already do.
In regards to measuring success, it varies with each band. I guess that the over-riding factor is that I want all of our bands to be happy. I guess it’s like having children there’s no set formula to it, every group is different. You don’t really get the chance to fall into any sort of comfort zone!

The Moth & The Mirror

You state that all profits will go straight back to the artist. By not being driven/dependent on money, do you think Olive Grove will succeed longer than many labels that have faulted in the past?
I really hope so! We’re in this for the long run, so provided that the motivation is still there in a few years time I reckon we’ll do alright.

You want to ‘network with other independent people to provide something a bit different for our artists’. Do you have grand schemes in plan? Are you hoping other independents can work together to garner greater success?
In Scotland there certainly seems to be a good collective of folk looking to support each other. Having folk like Matthew from Song By Toad and Al from Armellodie to go to for advice has been a massive help. We’re still finding our feet, but we’d love to be involved in a more focused approach from like minded folk.
Our friend Iona who runs a company called Wolf Bones has been a massive help to us. She’s crafted several handmade copies of the releases, which has added a different and unique dimension to both the artists and the label
There’s no grand scheme of plans, we’d like to be a stepping stone for bands to move onto bigger things. If they move on to a bigger label then we’ve done our job and if not then we get to hold on to bands that we love. Whichever way you look at it we win!

Can you see a resurgence in independent record stores, or have things changed so much that there’s no going back?
I would love to see indie stores making a bit of a comeback, I doubt it will happen though. There are so many folk out there that just aren’t willing to pay for music anymore, that’s one of the reason why we like to have something tangible that’s a little bit special.
Having said all of that stores like Avalanche Records in Edinburgh and LoveMusic in Glasgow have been massive supporters of the label. So it would be great if we could be there to support one another.

What have been some of the highlights and lowlights of your time at the label?
We’re not even a year old yet, so to have come so far in this space of time feels like a massive achievement. Every little success that our bands have are massive highlights to me, as of yet we’ve not had any major disappointments – fingers crossed it stays that way!

Lloyd and Halina

Where would you advise someone to begin when wanting to discover the music of Olive Grove?
There are links to all of our bands on our homepage, all of the bands have Bandcamp and SoundCloud pages, so there’s a wealth of music out there.

Any advice for someone wanting to set up their own label?
It’s one big learning curve, get advice from anyone that you can. Don’t expect to make any money. Do expect to lose all of your time. If nobody pays attention at the start, keep your chin up, longevity means a lot in this game.

Do you carry an ethos or mantra?
We aim to please!