Introducing labels: Beanie Tapes

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 Beanie Tapes

3 Releases

Max Blansjaar – Spit It Out!

In 2018 Max was 15 years old and had a few demos recorded that had this amazing lo-fi energy. We had just started the label, we loved the demos and we immediately started working on a release. Everything really came together – Max finished up the recordings on the school music room computer during free periods, our designer Léa created some stunning artwork and we booked some launch shows. We released three editions of Spit It Out! – it’s our best-selling tape so far. It really captured a moment.

Six years on and now we’re releasing Max’s first full-length album. It’s cool to look back and see how there are some real through-lines from this first EP to the album (the lyrical dexterity, an ear for impossibly catchy melodies, an economy of arrangement), but also so many new influences and experiences that have soaked in along the way. The album is Max’s best work to date (of course) but it’s worth listening back to Spit It Out! (and the intervening EP) to hear the music develop in the fourth dimension (time).

Jack Goldstein – the 🌍 is ending and i ❤️ u

One day cultural historians will look back at the work of Jack Goldstein and wonder what the fuck was going on. They’ll try and fail to label and categorise his solo albums, which oscillate unpredictably between overblown Brian Wilson mega-pop and lo-fi high-concept narrative. They’ll chart the rise and fall of the Goldstein-fronted band Fixers. They’ll run out of Post-It notes trying to keep track of his side projects and collaborations. But despite the obstacles, they’ll keep digging. Because there’s something irresistible about Jack Goldstein’s music – it’s joyous, devastating, hilarious, confusing and unabashedly weird.

But the future historians won’t have the key piece of source material that would unlock the mystery, because it’s locked in the Beanie Tapes vault. We filmed and recorded the launch gig for the 🌍 is ending and i ❤️ u, and broadcast it as a one-time-only Bandcamp Live stream. It’s the live show that makes it all make sense. Anyone who’s ever seen Jack play live is forever changed. He is transmitting musical energy in the fifth dimension (love). But his live show (which he recreates from scratch every year or so) is a closely guarded secret, and only appears online in the tiniest snippets. You really have to see it in person.

Candy Says – You Are Beautiful; We Are All Beautiful

Candy Says was always a band in transition: a reaction against the major label rise and fall of Little Fish, the precursor to the solo emotional electronica of Julia-Sophie. Not Kings, the 2013 “lo-fi chic pop” début album was seeped in the Bandcamp scene of the time (Cloud, Chrome Sparks, Emily Reo, Lady Lamb), and the live band took it to a weird theatrical place. But as soon as things started to go well it all changed, the live band dispersed (Mike started touring with Willie J. Healey and St Etienne, Elisa moved back to Rome) and Candy Says became a #brexitwave two-piece, performing ambient pop explorations with a Fender strat, a vocal harmoniser and a one-man-band setup of synths, samples and drums.

Then another rebirth, this time with You Are Beautiful; We Are All Beautiful (YABWAAB for short). A new sense of hope, and a tight EP of indie synth-pop tunes. Silke Blansjaar joined on drums just as the EP recording was wrapping up, and added some drum overdubs that brought the recordings into the sixth dimension (groove). This was a joyous release for us, we went crazy with the tape design (individual lyric cards for each song!) and put on a big launch gig in Oxford.

But the EP wasn’t finished – nothing Candy Says ever is. In the months before release the band had written a track called Beautiful Feeling for the end credits of Close, a Netflix film starring Noomi Rapace. Suddenly that was the track that everyone knew and it wasn’t on the EP! So we quickly knocked up a v2 of the EP and released a 2nd edition tape with Beautiful Feeling on it.

True to form, Candy Says disbanded shortly after this release. Jules is releasing her first full-length Julia-Sophie album soon, I’m running Beanie Tapes, Silke is touring the world playing bass for Yungblud. One day Candy Says will return and play a show, but until then YABWAAB is the closest you’ll get.

3 Things I’ve Learned:

  1. It’s all about people

Being in a band is about the music, sure, but it’s also (more so?) about the people. Running an indie label is no different. There’s a lot of admin, and a vague sense of wanting to make enough money to keep it going, but for me at least the important thing is that you get to help and work with people you like. That goes for the choice of what to release too – of course you have to like the music, but before I decide to spend a whole bunch of time and attention working on a release I have to feel that I like the people behind the music. Sometimes that’s because I’ve got to know them already (we release mostly local music, so I’ve usually run into bands on the scene before they submit music to us), but often it’s just a sense I get from listening to the music: I’m going to like these people. Which is much the same feeling that gets me to fall in love with any music really – the feeling that these people are on the same wavelength, that we’d get on.

  1. It’s all about relationships

It’s such a cliché to say that the way to promote music is by establishing authentic relationships over time, but it’s totally true. Everything useful we’ve been able to do as a label has come from slowly building up relationships with people who turn out to be useful. I’ve never set out to NETWORK with useful people (and I’m terrible at it), but over the years Jules and I have got to know loads of music people – musicians, labels, record store staff, local promoters, photographers, designers, music fans, studio engineers, sound engineers… Just people who we genuinely liked and ended up chatting to. We’ve helped people when we can, and occasionally we’ve asked for help.

One point of clarification: I’m talking almost exclusively about IRL relationships here. We’ve certainly made some good music friends online and ended up working with them in some capacity (we used to chat to Filip on Twitter when he was running the Z Tapes account and now he’s featuring us on his blog [hi Filip!]; I spent 10 years fanboying over Audio Antihero releases and now Jamie is doing press for our latest release), but the vast majority of relationships that form the bedrock of Beanie Tapes came from being out there in the world, playing gigs, putting on gigs, going to gigs, going to the pub after gigs…

  1. It’s all about community

On one level running a label is just a way for me to be part of the music community (local and global) now that I’m too old to get away with spending all my time playing in bands. This sounds kind of sad, but I actually think it’s exactly what a label should be – music people with some experience and relationships who can help people with less experience and fewer relationships get a little further along the road. At this point in life, that’s how I can contribute. Music subcultures need a whole range of people with different skills and experience to keep them alive and thriving, and labels are just one spoke in the wheel. Everyone can be a spoke: the musician, the friend/manager, the gig-going fan, the avid-collector-fan, the blogger-fan, the playlister-fan, the gig photographer, the promoter, the record store, the student radio nerds, the sound engineers, the studio engineers, the producers, the zine-makers, the podcasters, the visual artists, everyone!

I guess that’s the seventh dimension: community.

Max Blansjaar’s début album False Comforts is out 21 June 2024.

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