In my late-mid-teens, I was a big Young & Lost fan. I got into stuff like Noah and the Whale, Larrikin Love and Fear of Flying at a time where I felt I was beyond my years. These bands made the kind of music that made me feel young again! I recently gave them a good listening to and didn’t quite feel the same until I popped on the Larrikin Love record and something just sparked within me. I felt like I was living life again for a brief moment.
Don’t Panic spoke to Sara and Nadia about where they began, the coming retro-mini-disc revival and watching their hatching bands mature...
Would you like to tell us what your roles are?
Sara Jade: I guess I handle the more A&R side of things, like booking the band, organising them and then Nadia does the more publishing and club night side of things.
How long have you two known each other?
Nadia Dahlawi: We’ve known each other for about 13 years.
What’s it like running your own independent label? Especially for a long time?
ND: It’s hard work! It’s very rewarding too.
You must be really proud of Noah and the Whale?
SJ: We’re very proud of them because we were involved from the very beginning.
From when Emmy the Great was singing with them?
SJ: Yeah, we’re featuring that version of Blue Skies on the compilation.
Who else is featured on it?
SJ: Othello Woolf, Gypsy and the Cat, Planet Earth – who are going to record their debut album with Charlie Fink from Noah and the Whale.
ND: He produced Laura Marling’s first album and co-produced the Noah and the Whale albums too.
So where is the base of your operations?
ND: On Baker Street in my flat, we’ve never had an office. We send out all the records from there and all the stock’s there.
You two met in boarding school, I’m presuming you lived with each other, do you feel that helped you two get along as people and business partners?
ND: We were made to swap around with whom we shared dorms with, but we did share a dormitory.
Is that when it began?
ND: We had our own fanzine too.
What was it called?
ND: Pyrrha fanzine, we gave it out at gigs and Rough Trade gave it out as well.
SJ: I think they were like 8x16 or something?
ND: It was very D.I.Y!
Well put! So has the recession been hammering you down?
SJ: I think we’re too much of a niche label to be affected by it. I think what we’re more affected by is the fact that everyone releases on vinyl now.
ND: We’re doing a lot more free entry events too because it’s easy to get money from bars for putting on an event now.
What’s your favourite venue to work with?
SJ: We love the Astoria 2; we used to do Push every Saturday there.
ND: It was my favourite, even though it was all grotty and stuff.
SJ: Yeah, we had a big space to work with.
You must be excited for your anniversary show in September (on the 1st)? Who have you got playing?
SJ: Yeah, we’ve got Noah and the Whale...
ND: Exlovers, Planet Earth...
SJ: ...and Alan Pownall. And then everyone’s DJing. It’s at the Village Underground.
What would you say was your favourite release?
SJ: That’s a tough one, we love all our releases.
But what if you had to choose? Like in that episode of the Simpsons when the Earth’s about to explode and Marge has to choose one member of the family!
Both: The Noah and the Whale album.
I remember buying a few singles off that album on vinyl. I remember when people were raging on about vinyl becoming a novelty; would you say that’s still happening today?
SJ: Kind of. Downloading MP3s are so convenient but I think that vinyl will always have that novelty feel about it, like a collector’s album.
I feel it’s like having ‘actual’ music.
Tapes are making a comeback to, it’s like we’re happily reverting back to the 90s and it’s crazy. Could you ever see yourselves releasing stuff on tape?
SJ: We did think about it, but someone told us that it would be expensive to make and then other people beat us to it.
How about floppy disks?
ND: Maybe we could try mini-discs!
Yes! So what other promoters would you say have done a good job at what they do?
SJ: I’d say Matty Hall who does White Heat and White Light is like the go-to guy for bands and stuff. We really enjoyed doing White Heat takeovers and stuff...
Oh yes, the Young & Lost Takeovers, I was gonna go, but I think I wasn’t old enough.
SJ: The Real Gold events are really cool too and now they’ve got their own venue, The Alibi.
What’s the craziest night that you put on?
SJ: Andrew W.K. played at the Wichita birthday party and the last night of the Astoria 2 which consisted of complete chaos, you couldn’t get in, you couldn’t get out and the bar were trying to finish all their stock.
I suppose they didn’t need much help with that.
ND: We also did a boat party about three years ago where Jamie T played.
How involved were you with the All Age Concerts people? I remember you put out singles by Larrikin Love, Fear of Flying and, of course, Noah and the Whale.
SJ: Not much, I think we DJ’d a night and that was about it.
It’s pretty weird seeing how bands like Fear of Flying and Bono Must Die have matured into White Lies and O. Children respectively.
SJ: Yeah! I think it’s because Fear of Flying were so young, that they just suddenly matured, it was the right thing.
So what have you ladies got planned after the compilation?
SJ: A few more singles. Chris from Semifinalists has recorded a solo album and we’re gonna release that and keep doing nights. Also, the next Noah and the Whale album is coming out.
Any wise words for the youth of today?
ND: Be polite.
SJ: Be prepared to work hard for not much money. And stick at what you're doing especially if you love it.