Music, for Olive Grove Records’ Lloyd Meredith, is many things. It’s comfort, it’s joy and it’s the thing on which he has built one of Glasgow’s closest-knit musical communities. You can hear it in the word he chooses to describe the indie label he co-founded six years ago: family.
So it made sense that, during one of the toughest years of his life, it was that second family he would turn to for support.
Due for release on 25th November, but getting launched at a very special label showcase at the Glad Cafe in Glasgow tomorrow night, It is Something to Have Been began life as a vehicle for a very special song – but evolved into something very different following the unexpected death of Lloyd’s father, Peter, in November last year.
“My dad had always been a massive supporter of the label, I guess he knew how passionate I was about what I was doing, which meant a great deal to me,” he explains. “I guess the release is my way of saying thank you.”
The EP includes new tracks by four Olive Grove artists who between them represent the breadth of the label’s roster: Jo Mango, The State Broadcasters, The Son(s) and Call to Mind. Pressed on green vinyl, the collection is titled for the last line of the GK Chesterton poem that Jo Mango sent to Lloyd shortly after his father’s death (“I just thought it was very fitting for someone who had lived such a full life and had meant so much to so many people,” says Lloyd). The release date is no accident either, coming as it does on Peter’s birthday.
Lo, blessed are our ears for they have heard;
Yea, blessed are our eyes for they have seen:
Let the thunder break on man and beast and bird
And the lightning. It is something to have been. – The Great Minimum, GK Chesterton.
The original idea was to put together a split EP as a vehicle for a Jo Mango song that Lloyd was desperate to see get a formal release. The sweet, joyous “Wisps of Something” had been a feature of Jo’s live set for some time, but she had no plans to include it on her next album (“which I am assured is on its way,” says Lloyd). In response to significant “pestering” on Lloyd’s part, she promised that she would record it if he could “find a good home for it”.
“A few months later, it just so happened that Ho was playing at a mini festival that I help to curate, at which The Son(s) and Gillian from the State Broadcasters were playing at (Gill was playing with Martin from De Rosa, under their Henry & Fleetwood guise), plus Jamie from Call To Mind had also come along to show some support,” said Lloyd. “One thing kind of lead to another and I kind of came to the conclusion that it would be a fun idea to do a split release. I’ve always tried to encourage artists on the label to collaborate in some form or another, I’m all for trying to make Olive Grove feel like a big family (cheesy I know).”
“So the initial idea was kind of hatched from there.”
Had events not overtaken, Lloyd jokes that this could have been called “the Littlest Hobo EP”.
“The songs from Call To Mind and the State Broadcasters are both older songs that hadn’t found a home as they didn’t quite fit on any of their albums, but they were too good not to share with the world,” he says. “The Son(s) song, ‘Mississippi’, was one of the first tracks that they’d recorded as a full band. Again it was unlikely to feature on an album, so it needed a good home.”
Odds and ends they may be, but the ability of art to support and comfort – be it a borrowed line of poetry, or Jo Mango’s promise of “music in everything” – emerges as an accidental theme for the EP, albeit with the benefit of hindsight. “Definitely,” says Lloyd, when I ask if that chimes with his own experience.
“The past 12 months’ have pretty much been the toughest time of my whole life – I’ve almost had to use Olive Grove as crutch to get me through it all,” he said. “I needed the label as a distraction at times to keep my mind occupied, plus I’ve had the support of my Olive Grove family to help get me through.”
“I’ve also found that harder to listen to music, in the sense that I find myself welling up inside. Not that I am saying that it’s a bad thing, quite the opposite in fact. I almost need to have the music there to allow myself to have the time to step away from the day to day norms of life, to allow myself time to think about my dad and what he meant to me.”
Lloyd promises “four amazing bands playing amazing music” at tomorrow night’s show, at which each of the acts featured on the EP will be performing – although it remains to be seen whether he’ll get there on time to relax into the show, as he’ll be reppin’ Olive Grove at the Independent Record Label Market in Aberdeen during the day. The next few months, too, are already shaping up to be pretty busy for the label: a new single and debut album due from Campfires in Winter, appearances from labelmates Ette and Randolph’s Leap at TeenCanteen’s charity Christmas Effect show at Mono next month – and two farewell shows from Woodenbox, who we learned this week are calling it a day due to the impending move of lead singer Ali to Australia.
In the new year, The Moth & The Mirror, Ette and the State Broadcasters will be playing the label’s now-regular Celtic Connections show; and there should also be a single from the State Broadcasters ahead of their third album in March. In April, Randolph’s Leap are planning another edition of the band’s I Can’t Dance To This Music all-day festivals – and after that?
“After that, I am not sure what’s going to happen,” says Lloyd. “There are plenty irons in the fire, I am just waiting to see what comes my way.”
Asked to share a memory of Peter connected to the music, Lloyd says that the thing that makes him happiest is “the thought of him in his Olive Grove t-shirt”.
“He really seemed to love it – either that or he put it on whether he knew I was coming round!” he says.
“He did use to try and come along to shows when he could, I think he really enjoyed the showcase gig we did at Celtic Connections a few years, although god only knows what he thought of his drunken son dancing about on stage with Woodenbox.”
Regardless, it’s a space that will be felt in the crowd tomorrow night. Drunken dancing optional.
It is Something to Have Been EP launch takes place at the Glad Cafe, Glasgow, tomorrow night: tickets available on the door, or buy a ticket/EP bundle in advance. If you’re not in Glasgow, you can preorder the EP on Bandcamp.