Introducing labels: Audio Antihero

We have started a series where we introduce indie labels. They will recommend 3 releases from their catalog and share 3 things they have learned by running the label.

The next one is with Audio Antihero written by Jamie Halliday.

3 Releases:

Nosferatu D2 – We’re Gonna Walk Around This City With Our Headphones On To Block Out The Noise”

Nosferatu D2 was the first release from the label. Like Frog are today, they were a band of two brothers (Ben and Adam Parker) that I fell in love with when I was at university. They recorded one album but broke up before they could properly release it. When I began to seriously consider starting my own label, I got it into my head that if I could release only one album I’d want it to be this.

As a label, I did everything wrong, but the album did really really well. We got reviews in Drowned in Sound, The Skinny, The Line of Best Fit and DIY Mag; we did interviews for the BBC and Public Radio International; Gareth of Los Campesinos! talked about how much he liked the album on Pitchfork. This is all stuff I couldn’t buy now. 

In good ways and bad, I don’t even recognise myself as the person who started Audio Antihero with Nosferatu D2 in 2009. But what I do still have is the feeling that this was a very special band. Their audience didn’t really transfer from CDs to streaming, which can happen when the band is years dissolved but what we did counted when it counted…and that’s when it counts! Part of me still hopes and believes another generation will discover Nosferatu D2 and get what I did from them…but young people don’t necessarily need the past to be happy and happiness is all I wish for them. 

I remember when my last band broke up, I couldn’t see any point in joining another, because all the music I wanted to make just sounded like Nosferatu D2, and I wasn’t anywhere near as clever as Ben Parker.

The buzz around Nosferatu D2 in 2009-2010 introduced Audio Antihero to a lot of people and created opportunities for the other artists we worked with. I had the honour of working with the Parker brothers a few more times via other groups of theirs like Tempertwig and The Superman Revenge Squad Band.

Cloud – Comfort Songs

There was an energy in the response for Cloud’s “Comfort Songs” that felt special. It was an album that I seemed to know how to get to people, certainly not as many as it deserved, but it was met with enthusiasm, and a lot of those who heard it were able to connect with it. That’s all you can ever really ask for.

Cloud aka Tyler Taormina was the first international artist I’d worked with and we pretty quickly became long distance besties. For my part, Tyler is incredibly easy to love, and to my benefit, he finds it very easy to love others. 

People really liked this record, we got a whole bunch of great press and radio. I think what it captures is the idea of having fun with your music, not like ska or or the bullshit I tell people is “fun” when I’m trying to be polite, but fun as in an immersion within sound. Maybe the line that summarises it best is: “it’s funny how I’m happy now, singing about my sadness.” 

Listening to Cloud’s music feels like making music in its purest form. Sharing ideas with your friends, performing inside your community, and writing for yourself. Unique and honest, there might be songs you love and songs you don’t like at all, but to me that speaks to its integrity and individuality. Take comfort.

Frog – Kind of Blah

It didn’t happen overnight and we kinda had to go door-to-door promoting it, but this is surely the most recognisable Audio Antihero album today. Frog pretty much always did well, people just like their music, and little by little an audience finds them. Since Gold Flake Paint first began writing about them all those years ago, giving a then UK-based label like myself an opportunity to hear them, each new Frog release has left a long enough trail of breadcrumbs for its fans to find it.

Audio Antihero wasn’t meant to still exist when “Kind of Blah” came out but when you get sent an album like that, how do you close your label down? 

I’m now working on my fifth album from Frog, and they’re all totally different and so very special. There’s a magic to “Kind of Blah,” it’s so frantic and creative. There’s more ideas than it can contain, it’s an album that passes in moments. 

It’s a hard quality to explain but a lot of my favourite music forces me to ask the question: “how do you write this?” I can ask this question of Relationship of Command, Nick Cave’s “Tupelo,” Nosferatu D2, “Comfort Songs,” and within “Kind of Blah,” this quality is present in songs like “Catchayalater,” “All Dogs Go to Heaven,” “Judy Garland,” and “Photograph.”

Before there were nearly ten million Spotify streams, there was this little record from a two-person band called Frog and I’m so grateful I got to be a part of that. I have this album cover tattooed on my forearm. Frog are very important to me and I hope they can be to you too.

3 Things I’ve Learned:

  1. Try to keep it social.

I threw myself so deep into running a label for about a decade that I spent most of my twenties emailing strangers for press and trying to sell people dead media. I didn’t do nearly enough of the fun stuff, I only promoted a few shows, I didn’t meet a lot of fans, bands or other labels. The airplay ends in minutes, the Spotify playlists refresh and the sites you spent years emailing eventually go dark, and you’re still there emailing strangers and not always having a lot of fun. I met my wife through the label though, so fair enough.

  1. Be mindful about the work you’re doing.

Doing music as a hobby is a great thing and anyone who wants to do it should do it. If you’re going to commit yourself to it though, maybe you have ambitions of entering the industry professionally? Or perhaps you feel that your skills in music are transferable to another career of some kind?

Try to be mindful and methodical. Keep records of the things you’ve done, try to develop a resume that showcases all the responsibilities you’ve taken on and the skills you’ve developed in the process. Put together that list of contacts, and if you can help it, don’t burn bridges.

I’ve done more with this label than I can even remember and at times we’ve arguably overachieved but I have a hard time articulating what I’ve spent all this time doing, or the skills that these things required. But if you step back and think about it, every press release and bio you write is part of your body of work, every guest feature you write is something for your portfolio, every social media page you manage is something for your resume. If you can get your head above water long enough to look around, it’s remarkable just how much work you’re doing. 

There’s kind of an old joke in the music industry that if the record does well it’s because the music is so great that it’s undeniable but if a record does poorly, it’s because the label/distributor messed it up. So, keep note of your successes and give yourself credit. 

  1. Hard work does pay off.

Independent music can be a kind of thankless task, and often it feels like the effort it takes isn’t matched by the response. That’s a real thing and you should always be conscious of if what you are getting back is enough for you personally to justify what you’re putting in.

But it’s still true that hard work pays off. Working hard on a press release, EPK, hitting up a mountain of bloggers and trying to do a fun job on social media will always yield better results than if you don’t do these things.

If it’s your passion to do this and you’re proud to represent the artistic ambitions of some of your favourite musicians, it’s worth investing the time and effort to try and give your releases the best shot at achieving whatever success means to you. 

For what it’s worth, I’m well-over 1,200+ pitches deep into this Frog campaign. It has been day-and-night. In terms of persistence through silence, I’d been emailing Stereogum for fourteen years before I got a reply – and when Stereogum finally wrote back, we got on Pitchfork that same day. Good things can happen sometimes! This month we got a beautiful Pitchfork review for “GROG,” which cited our DIY pals like Firebird Magazine, Motel Void and Townsends. It was the first time an Audio Antihero release was ever reviewed by Pitchfork. It feels great to do your best.

Frog’sGROG album is out now. It’s nothing like “Kind of Blah” and yet it’s everything that is Frog. START-TRACK did so much to help us promote the album, including joining our premiere party and a wonderful review/interview combo feature. I hope you like it too.

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