There was a point, last year, when I started to wonder if Armellodie Records was done.
Founded in 2007 by Al Nero and Scott Maple of Le Reno Amps, the Glasgow-based label had, I thought, had a good run, with 50 releases by an eclectic collection of bands from Scotland and beyond (remember Appletop?) to its name. So I was pretty delighted when, at the start of the year, a compilation appeared in my inbox, kicking off the label’s 10th anniversary celebrations with a look to the past and promises of more to come.
Now, with an album on the way from new signing Ewan Cruickshanks – who’ll be performing with label-mates past and present at a special birthday bash at Glasgow’s Glad Cafe on Saturday night – the future looks bright for a label set up, as Al jokes, “to put us out when nobody else would do it”.
“Doing the Yip Man album last year, going back to actually making music, was a reminder that I really want to do this,” Al told me over chips at Stereo over the summer.
“That was the 50th release, and I was very tempted to make it 50 and out – but then Bruce [Wallace, of Armellodie alumni Super Adventure Club/Gastric Band fame] sent me a bunch of stuff from his band Bloke Music and I realised I would have to put it out. And now the compilation is ARM54 and I just can’t end it there – I have to go to 100 or nothing.”
While I get the sense that he is mostly joking, there’s something very Armellodie about the thought of the label’s resurrection being down to a single, well-timed email: they once signed up a band via eBay, after Scott got talking to the guy who’d just purchased some second-hand recording equipment from him. Bands were friends of friends, classmates on commercial music and sound engineering courses or just people whose music captured Scott’s and Al’s imaginations – a feeling that latter describes as a sense of “no-one’s heard this before and I think it’s the best record”.
“The reason we didn’t put out much last year was that none of the bands on the label came to me with an album,” Al explains. “So it was quite a natural thing. Things change, personal circumstances change, and a lot of the bands on the label just aren’t there any more because of that.”
“But now there are active bands on the label again. This year, there’s Bloke Music, and I’ve got another record from The Pure Conjecture. There’s a Hazey Janes live album coming out. We don’t need to do a release every three months anymore, which is just as well because I couldn’t physically have the time to follow them all up. It’s dead easy when it’s like that, and it’s quite fun, and all the bands are at that same sort of pace.”
While parenthood, careers and the rest of the trappings of adulthood have reduced the time available for music and label business, in many ways the Armellodie family is more closely knit than ever. “I think you sort of think you’re chasing something when you’re younger, but actually, we’re doing this right now and if anything’s going to happen – if any of these records or whatever are going to take off and be some sort of world-changing thing – it’s just going to happen, you know?” Al says.
“But the whole process of it – it’s why we still do it. I love being involved with the bands. Life is so busy now, you only get to pal about when you’re doing music: when you’ve got this gig, or you’re recording this weekend, or whatever you’ve managed to arrange. There’s a lot of industry things that I’m invited to and I never really go, because it’s a choice of going to that or jamming or recording or whatever. And I’d rather do that.”
Putting together the anniversary compilation and booking the Glad Cafe show, which features label stalwarts Galoshins and Cuddly Shark as well as Al’s own Yip Man project, gave the co-founder the opportunity to revisit some more hectic times in the label’s past. For Al, what impressed him most while putting the compilation together was how well most of the label’s output had stood the test of time.
“The Scottish Enlightenment’s St Thomas album could have come out now – it’s still fresh,” he says. “And I always loved Super Adventure Club and what they do, even if they’re really quite niche and quite an acquired taste. The first Pure Conjecture album, Cuddly Shark – everything is great as well. I’m probably the worst person to ask, I’m totally biased.”
“It was nice to come back to the compilation and listen to those old things. It’s more the recording of it: you can’t help thinking that, with the stuff we know now, we could have recorded it better. But there’s no point in going back, you know? Some of these things were recorded in a weekend, like live in the studio, and then mixed in two days – but when you’re at that grassroots, DIY level, you just accept that. I think the people that are checking out our label are probably looking beyond some sort of glossy recording thing – or, at least, it’s certainly not the first thing they hear. Unless it sounds like utter shit, of course.”
As Armellodie enters its second decade, Al remains genuinely delighted to see the bands he champions reach an audience.
“I suppose I’m so used to being in my own little house and thinking, ‘I’ve got a label, but are we actually reaching anyone?’, but then sometimes you’ll get an email, even from a random band, saying I love what you did with whoever, and it makes it all worth it,” he says. “Or when you see people lining up to get into your gig – that’s really humbling as well.”
“Every single radio play, Radio Scotland or BBC 6, when a band gets invited in for a session or gets a really cool show, all those little victories give you that sense that maybe, we’re doing alright. If I had loads of money and I didn’t care, I could buy the best plugger and the best PR in the UK and our bands would surely be in every magazine and radio station or whatever, and then that would do it, they’d be massive. But you just have to deal with the hand you’ve got, you know? And it’s a proper labour of love.”
Armellodie Records’ 10th anniversary show is at the Glad Cafe, Glasgow on Saturday, 30th September with tickets £6 in advance or £7 on the door. There will be a bar, there will be music and there will be cake. Ewan Cruickshanks’ debut single, “Dreams”, ft. Siobhan Wilson, is out on Friday and can be preordered from Bandcamp.