The music industry has taken a huge hit over the last year. With clubs closed and funding scarce, independent creative platforms have really had to carry the torch over the last few months, as the rest of us have been left to stare at walls on Friday nights.
Over at BabyStep, we have thoroughly enjoyed following the consistent quality content put out by platforms across the UK during this difficult time, and admire the hard work that goes into keep things running smoothly, especially during this year. One such platform that's been a pleasure to follow has been London-based platform-turned-label Earful Of Wax. Originally set up as an online blog with the function of spotlighting new music, Earful of Wax has undergone an impressive transformation over the past two years into a multi-facetted online platform that celebrates all things vinyl. Whilst the original blog element still remains to provide in depth coverage of new releases, EOW now also functions as a record store and, most recently, its own label. They also run a regular mix series, and run premieres which have introduced us to some great tunes recently.
Following the success of their 'For The Massive' charity VA, a collaboration between EOW, Dim Sum and Shuffle n Swing, EOW has taken things to the next level with EARWAX001, their debut release from production duo Heritage. This record consists of 5 tracks, all bristling with bassy breaks and fresh UKG flavours. With tracks from both Movement and Tribalist individually, and from their collaborative alias Heritage, this record has seen EOW's label aspect get off to a brilliant start. We wanted to have a chat with them to get a bit more of an insight into what it's been like running EOW during a pandemic, how the transformation into a label first took place, and what they have planned for the future.
How was Earful of Wax first created?
Earful of Wax launched as a blog in Feb 2019 as a creative outlet for sharing music related content that I was feeling at the time. Leading up to it, I had been getting more and more into vinyl and the processes behind record production. This, combined with the UK Garage sound that was beginning to creep back in at underground level and my love for the sound in my early years, I decided to announce the brand by writing about it.
Since then we’ve just shared anything we’ve been feeling at the time: releases, events, artwork, brands. No real model to it other than to make a conscious effort to share stuff that was either not noticed or being overlooked by other publications.
What led you to transition from being a platform that supports vinyl releases, to actually releasing records yourself?
To be honest, at the start of 2020, the label thing wasn’t really on our mind. I was more focussed on developing a more exciting career in the music industry whilst kick starting the premiere channel and mix series in my spare time. Obviously the pandemic happened and it changed things completely. The studio I was working in closed down, lockdown happened and the events industry stood still. I was fortunate enough to receive a small musician grant, some monthly government support and needed something to keep me busy and motivated throughout the weird months. Before making any decisions with EOW, I’ve always sought advice from others closely involved in the scene, the likes of Jordan of Equal People Records, Luke of Gather Records, Josh & Joe at Shuffle ’N’ Swing, Len of Dimsum Records, Tom Peaky, Dwarde/Highrise and many more. We also had a little taste of the label thing with the For The Massive charity compilation. These things combined, helped me to understand the processes required to start and run a label, as well as the confidence to just crack on with it. The shop thing was an idea that came to mind whilst waiting for EARWAX001 to be pressed, I put the idea out on the Shuffle N Swing facebook group on a whim and it got a decent enough reaction so I just went with it. Importantly it’s something else to focus on in challenging times. It’s early days but I’ve been surprised at how it’s done so far so let’s see what happens.
How have you found the reaction to the label’s first release, Reminiscence EP by Heritage?
On a personal level I’m chuffed to bits and very grateful, especially to Adam & Sam of Heritage. We started working on the project together back in May so it’s been a wicked learning experience. Believe it or not, they had been sitting on couple of the tracks for some months. Super talented guys, everything they send seems to be slightly ahead of its time and I was buzzing to be able to showcase the project as a full insight into their sound. The reaction from everyone has been proper humbling so big-ups to anyone who’s supported, especially those who’ve copped direct from the website, this plays a HUGE part in funding future releases, paying the artists up front and supporting the label as a whole. Hopefully it won’t be too long until they can be played out in the clubs.
What challenges has running a label in lockdown presented to you?
As a label created during lockdown it’s difficult to comment on specific challenges caused by the pandemic as there’s nothing to compare it against. The most obvious thing would have been plant delays but then ours were nothing compared to the majority of other labels have experienced - I don’t even think of them as delays. I decided to organise everything myself in order to learn about the processes inside and out so the biggest challenges would have been some of the decision making, from the very start to when things went wrong, but this taught me so much and I now feel better equipped for the next release.
Throughout 2020, you have continued to run premieres and guest mixes - do you think that the lack of club events has limited the scene’s creative output at all? Or would you say its’s been a time of just as much, if not more, productivity?
This is a tough one to call but based on the musical output over the past year I think it’s clear that productivity has been high. Not many could argue with the quality of it either. I can’t speculate as to why as I don’t produce but with the challenges that we as creatives have all come across over the past year, I know inspiration/motivation comes and goes.
Ultimately, clubs aren’t coming back anytime soon so when has there been a better opportunity to develop your skills, find your sound or start a new project? I’ve said throughout this period that everyone who’s been working their arse off will come out of the pandemic in a stronger position than they went in to it and will most likely be at the top of a lot of promoters’ list of bookings. Same applies for the party crews who put on socially distanced events, programmed right you could have a head start once things open up.
I guess a lot of us have been inspired by our peers, or the response to a creative project which when combined with the spare time and in some cases, spare cash to fund new equipment or the project itself, can make for a mean recipe for success. With this also comes the confidence to pass that insight onto friends who might otherwise be struggling to motivate themselves.
What’s one piece of advice that would you give to someone considering setting up a label?
If you can, do it yourself! You’ll need a bit of cash and a bit of spare time but it’s perfectly doable. If you can’t do it alone because you work long hours or finances, then group together with your crew and share the load. Seek guidance from similar labels who are perhaps 2 or 3 releases deep, the level of support available from the DIY labels is insane, it’s a proper tight-knit community and everyone is willing to help. Have confidence in the music you want to showcase, if the music is good, with a little graft, it will get into the right ears. Equally, don’t be put off by lack of brand following etc, if the music is good, you will grow organically.
Which track are you most looking forward to hearing in the club this year?
I can’t choose between the tracks as each one has its own place in a set. It would be f*cking cool to hear any of them played out. If they do make it post-lockdown, I’m eager to hear how the DJs play them as each one offers a different vibe.
What can we expect from you in 2021?
We’re currently working on 002 which is set to be a V/A so really looking forward to finishing that off and sharing it. As soon as we can, we’ll also no doubt continue putting on events of some sought. Besides this, just try keep pushing independent culture, support new people coming through as well as the less advantaged. This includes another potential charitable project with Shuffle ’N’ Swing & Dimsum Records as For The Massive - nothing is planned but put us on a zoom chat and things can change very quickly.