Five questions for Drawn Recordings

Bristol’s Drawn Recordings have carved a niche for themselves among a myriad of electronic music imprints. What sets them apart is their persistent sifting of high-quality & low-rumbling excursions that touch the extreme edges of experimentation without falling off into the abyss.

Igloo Magazine :: When did Drawn Recordings start up and what was your inspiration?

Gustave Savy (Drawn) :: Drawn Recordings officially opened doors with our first release in January 2011 (Mothboy, Yields EP), although Drawn started life a couple of years earlier as a music/art collective. Our initial aim as a group was simply to encourage artistic cooperation and productivity, and to provide a platform that would enable musicians, artists, writers, Video manipulators, computer programmers and anyone else with a creative bent to show their work to others who might be interested. We started off by putting on gigs in small venues around Bristol, usually incorporating a gallery of art work and live drawing. We started publishing a quarterly zine printed with actual ink on actual paper which contained stories, art, photography, rants, comic strips, illustrations and general non-sensical ramblings from anyone who cared to submit work which fitted in. We gave it away free at our gigs and around town, we still produce this zine, and it’s content is something which we are very proud of. We’ve worked in conjunction with the Bristol Drawing club to put on small scale bohemian style nights of experimental music and art, and we’ve worked in conjunction with the massive Bristol Festival putting on big sound systems and high profile DJ’s, and a lot of things in between these poles.

This is our background, and contrived as it may seem, we genuinely went into this with the attitude of just trying to enrich our local creative scene. Of course, we are all musicians or artists of one sort or another, and so benefitted from having gigs to play, albeit our own. But over time, we saw quite a few bands and artists pass through our doors, and our networks in Bristol grew a little. We don’t do any of what we do for financial gain, or at least we don’t see any. I’m sure if there was some monetary renumeration for our efforts at some point we’d all take it, but it’s not our motivation. Just as well really.

Igloo :: Who were some of your initial artist relations and did your location help or hinder progress?

Drawn :: Our first release, as already mentioned, was Mothboy’s Yields EP. Mothboy A.K.A. Simon had been a very long time friend of mine, we played together back where we came from in the mid 90s. He’s always been someone I respect and admire as a musician, and a good friend to boot. Since his move to London and eventual signing to the legendary Ad Noiseam label (three epic albums deep), his standing in the underground electronic music scene has grown steadily, and we are pleased and proud that the last thing he released under the moniker of Mothboy, bar a couple of remixes, was this EP. A great opener for us as a label.

We followed that with an EP from Kloudbreak, a duo from here in Bristol with more then a passing affiliation to the Drawn collective. Kloudbreak represent us pretty well I think; home grown talent with solid bass and slightly off kilter beauty thanks to Lou’s amazing voice. An outfit that embrace all that’s good about the current bass music scene, but mix it up with soulful songs that can give you goosebumps.

We are very selective about what we release. We only go with stuff we really think makes the grade from our own personal viewpoint; that is to say, music that moves, excites and inspires us. We want to build the name of Drawn to represent output that is credible, inventive, beautiful and just sounds good.

Being based in Bristol has certainly influenced us, this place has such a huge musical heritage (Massive Attack, Roni Size, Portishead etc.) that it has become a place where musicians tend to gravitate towards I think. It certainly has a really collaborative open feel as far as the music community is concerned. Producers and musicians from all sorts of spheres collide and collaborate quite frequently, which leads to a good melting pot of styles and possibilities.

Igloo :: What were some of the challenges (if any) starting up a label? …and how did you envision the label to stand apart?

Drawn :: There are definitely a lot of challenges in starting up a label. The first and most obvious hurdle is one of money. Even if like us, you don’t release anything in the physical domain, there is still a cost in getting tracks mastered. Then there is distribution to sort out, marketing, promotion etc. All this plus the fact that people seem to not view music as something worth spending money on these days. This is definitely not the game to be in if you think in terms of profit margins.

I guess the money is the least of your worries though. What you have to be prepared for is the sheer number of man hours that need to be spent on the day to day running of a label. Website development and maintenance, social network hyping, artist management, tracking payments and costs, live shows, keeping in touch with promoters, DJs, other labels etc. Also there is collating, editing, designing and printing the zines, sorting out our regular nights, looking for new live possibilities, designing and printing flyers and posters, looking for new artists to potentially release, sorting out artwork and above all trying to get our artists noticed in a flood of literally MILLIONS of releases from millions of labels every day.

That last point is something which could really get you down without serious commitment and belief in what you are doing. Luckily we have both.

Igloo :: What is your motivation in keeping the label moving forward?

Drawn :: Well, I touched on a few points previously. Drawn Recordings was not set up with making money as a main goal, which gives us a bit of a buffer in these financially testing times. We always had the ethos of supporting musicians and artists around us, and to promote interesting things. This hasn’t changed and is still our main motivation. Having said that, we are very selective about what we release. We only go with stuff we really think makes the grade from our own personal viewpoint; that is to say, music that moves, excites and inspires us. We want to build the name of Drawn to represent output that is credible, inventive, beautiful and just sounds good. All this is part of the reason we don’t release material every few weeks, more like every few months. We take our time and select what we feel is the most appropriate and resonates most with us. This is not through some misplaced sense of snobbery, but rather so that we can commit the necessary amount of effort to that which we do get behind. When you put your heart and soul into something, it has to be something that you really believe in. Our releases to date are a source of great pride to us, and we stand by each one completely. To carry on releasing material that we love in this way is a great source of motivation.

Igloo :: Tell us more about how you (and your staff?) take the label’s “sound” to the listeners and fans. Distribution, campaigns, live shows, word of mouth etc.

Drawn :: We have a residence at a venue called Mr Wolfs here in Bristol, which is a place where we put on many of our own acts along with live acts that we like from all over the place. It is also the place where our visual art fraternity get to go mental with video installations, mini film showings, VJ sets and live drawing. This has been the setting for some amazing nights over the last few years. We get involved with festivals and events that happen around us and have built something of a reputation as people who can pull together live music. We print a quarterly paper zine which has content submitted from a huge range of contributors: artists, writers, photographers, poets etc. We also manage to make appearances on radio stations from time to time.

As far as promoting our releases go, we try to get reviews in the good review sites and publications, and generally try to announce it as well as we can. We usually try to get artists to provide a mix to accompany their release too, which we give away as promotion. Sometimes we give away a track alongside a release too (Gyu for example). Trying to promote releases with very little overhead can be pretty hard going though in all honesty. I think it comes down to the quality of the material as much as anything – if it’s good, people will recognise that. We also put out free releases from time to time (Kloudbreak – The Remixes for example), just so that we hopefully stay on peoples horizons. In fact we have one coming up very soon. Also of course we have digital distribution in place that puts all our releases into the well known digital music outlets: iTunes, Amazon, Boomkat, Beatport, Spotify etc.

In the past we’ve had Tee Shirts printed, which actually sold very well. We keep meaning to do that again. All in all though, if we keep putting out material as good as the stuff we’ve released so far, we’ll all be very happy. Good music is good music, isn’t it? Regardless of how crowded the internet (which is the new home of recorded electronic music – maybe all music) is already, there’s always room for good music.

For more information about Drawn, visit their website at drawnrecordings.com.

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