Veteran indie label Alcopop! Records have been releasing music by some of our favourite bands for more than 13 years now, and they’ve linked up with The Panini Cheapskates and United Glasgow FC to release a compilation album, The World According to Lomana Lua Lua, celebrating their unusual origin story. It’s available now on a ‘pay what you want’ basis along with a specially designed t-shirt from their Bandcamp page.
We caught up with Jack Clothier from the label to talk about what it’s like running a DIY muisc label in 2019.
How did the idea for Alcopop! first come about?
Wow – that was a long time ago now, but it was incepted in a haze of excitement, youth and vaguely acceptable vices – where Kev (he of Big Scary Monsters) and I wanted to take our shared love of mid 90s indie into something more tangible. Named (primarily) after the Midget mini-album of the same name, we had a fun, yet blurry, vision of something that could be fucking awesome. Being pretty much penniless, we borrowed a little bit of money from my dad, bet it on football and managed to afford our first release… And it all got exciting from there.
What was the very first release?
It was ‘Emily’ by Encyclopedia. A legitimate summer pop smash that should have been huge, but wasn’t. They were a Yeovil based two piece who wrote THE most wonderful electro driven pop tunes, and the very loveliest of chaps (who actually reformed for our 10th anniversary party ‘Alcopopacruiser’ where we sailed down the Thames in a big old boat). Kev made a terrible 15 second video that might still be on YouTube, and we put it out on 3” CD that somebody got stuck in their car stereo. We didn’t get sued, or sell many, but we loved it!
You’re now more than 180 releases in, what have been some of the highlights?
As you’ll no doubt appreciate dear Joyzine, I have no favourites. Every release is 100% equal in my eyes, and every one is a shimmering glitterball in a disco made of sticky floors and £2 Hooches. However, I occasionally spend a moment reminiscing on the fact that Alcopop100 was a reissue of Len’s ‘Steal My Sunshine’, with Marc from the band deeming it appropriate that Kev and I could be illustrated on the new look sleeve. That’s a nice one – especially when it comes to mates who don’t give a flying fuck about bands you can buy outside of Tesco. “Hey pals” I’ll say. “We’ve signed the best feminist punk band in the world [Dream Nails] and Tom Morello is on board, and the album is wall to wall hits” and it’s met with a shrug. Tell them about Len and they’re all ears. Life, eh.
We’ve seen plenty of labels come and go over the years, what’s kept Alcopop! going where others have fizzled out?
Grim determination and unbridled optimism I guess – and the fact we (Kev and I) genuinely love every moment of running this label. When I was 16 I was desperate to pass my driving test so that I could give people lifts everywhere and subject them to mixtapes and play them the likes of Silver Sun, The Llama Farmers and Symposium. Running a label is the next logical step. I met my partner doing this stuff, a lot of my best friends have come through the label, and I guess we’re not bad at doing what we do. If you cut me, I bleed Hooch lemon – and I really can’t see myself giving this up, until we’re moribund and no one gives a fuck.
You’ve released music in some rather unusual formats over the years, what have been some of your favourites?
We have had a lot of fun, and done some really stupid/ innovative (dependent on your outlook) stuff over the years. While I still look back fondly at the compilation on the bike and the johnny foreigner EP that came as a CD on a Frisbee, I think my very favourite was the Emperor Yes vinyl that we got pressed with fragments of fucking meteorite in a tri-splatter vinyl. God that album is good, and doing something so special with it filled my heart with joy. It regularly goes for £100+ on Discogs as well, so if you’ve got one, you should feel very special (or just sell it). We try and do this stuff all the time though you know. Just little innovations that try to get across what we’re trying to do. They’re not always as spectacular as that – but for us, the people who buy our records are the very best people in the world and I don’t want to sell them anything that I wouldn’t be proud to own. We recently did a limited version of the Hellogoodbye album on 10 x square 7”… That was fun 😀
Tell us about your new compilation and the link up with United Glasgow FC
I read about United Glasgow in Mundial Magazine and they’re a spectacularly awesome club. Genuinely good people helping vulnerable folk in the community, putting in their own money to create an inclusive space for refugees and vulnerable folk to come and play football. They also have a club rule that you can’t be a dick to people on the pitch. It’s all positivity and encouragement, and I LOVE that. So we asked our pals at Cheap Panini to draw Lomana Lua Lua for an ace PWYW shirt, with every single penny of profits going to help them out. Why Lua Lua? Well you can read about that here – and if you’d like a shirt, at the time of writing we still have some left. Minimum donation of a fiver, but if you can afford more – please do <3 It’s all going to a VERY good cause.
What have Alcopop! got in store for us in the near future?
Oh MAN! So much good stuff. We’ve got the False Advertising album out on Friday which will blow your face off, we’ve just signed Dream Nails and Ditz and there’s so much a-coming from them! Art Brut fans are going to be very excited at plans unfolding next year, and Nelson Can, Cheerbleederz and Best Ex have new EPs coming out very soon. Top of the Alcopops! 2 is in the planning stages, DZ Deathrays are touring Europe with The Darkness, we’re almost there with a couple of the biggest bands we’ll have ever signed, so… Well… To be honest! There’s no let up. I’ve also had this crazy idea for Alcopop200 and just trying to decide if it’s too ostentatious. If we do it, it will DEFINITELY be the weirdest release yet.
Finally, what advice would you give to someone thinking of starting up their own label?
If I was to give one piece of advice, it’s NOT TO THROW YOUR CASH IN ALL AT ONCE. PLEASE! PLEASE! Don’t do it. Take your time, build, don’t be bullied by managers and don’t let the industry grind you down. Working in music is a glittering, beautiful existence that can introduce you to the most wonderful people, and give you the honour of working with your favourite bands to bring great music to people – but it can be so SO hard. Sexism, nepotism and outrageous bullying is HUGELY rife in the industry, and we need to stand against it. My wonderful wife wrote an amazing article a while ago about what happened to her – it’s well worth a read. So I guess, distilled, it’s to be nice – and make people feel better rather than upsetting people to make yourself feel bigger.
Interview by Paul Maps