Welcome to another installment of Feature Friday, with today's guest Submarine Broadcasting Company.
How did the Submarine Broadcasting Company start?
The Submarine Broadcasting Company was effectively created by accident. Or at least, we never intended to be a netlabel. Inspired by the (currently defunct) netlabel Digital Dizzy, founder and submariner-in-chief Rob thought he'd release a charity benefit album, but with a twist; all tracks would need to feature a home-made instrument or household object. The aim was that this might draw the artists out of their comfort zones a little. The album was released as One String Inspiration and sold surprisingly well. Alongside this, Rob had been trying to find a netlabel to peddle his musical project, Beltism, and had experienced a series of rejections. The solution was obvious: leverage the momentum of One String Inspiration to create a netlabel to promote his own music. Thus the Submarine Broadcasting Company was born.
A lot has changed in the two years that followed (not least that Rob doesn't get the time to make his own music anymore!) but the music is still generally left-field and there's a very strong emphasis on charitable releases.
What sort of music do you specialise in?
For the most part, it tends to be experimental, various flavours of ambient, art-house, progressive and krautrock; possibly reflecting Rob's musical preferences. But it's not like we have gone out of our way to champion the most un-commercial music we can find; rather it's that we don't really have the bandwidth or tools to promote ambitious chart-oriented bands seeking huge audiences, so we concentrate on working with more niche artists with small but loyal followings. That said, acts like Crayon Angels or Sibilla produce very conventionally crafted and perfectly radio-friendly music, so it's certainly not all harsh noise and drones.
How do you find your artists? What's the process of working with the Submarine Broadcasting Company?
The majority of our roster have come through social media, specifically Facebook and Twitter. Some we have courted, others have approached us. We work closely with other netlabels - most notably Digital Dizzy, Studio 4632 and Bearsuit Records, plus a few others - and you'll see a healthy cross-pollination between their artists and ours. We often find we are able to offer a release to an artist to meet timescales or some other criteria that perhaps doesn't suit their regular label at that time. One of our key tenets is that the pie is big enough for all the independent netlabels, but we have to work together. This is reflected in other parts of our operations too - we work without contracts; the artists are free to walk away at any time and they maintain complete ownership of their music. We think this is just being fair.
The majority of our releases are presented to us in a finished or near-finished state. We do sometimes master the releases, and maybe perform a few other mix or production tweaks, but we don't tend to get involved with the artistic decisions around the content. Essentially we like to work cooperatively and offer as much or as little as the artist needs; sometimes it's just distribution, other times it might be mix, master and full CD cover art.
The cooperative ethos extends into other aspects of A&R too. We have never said "that material is not good enough for us" to any of our artists - our ethos is that if the artist believes in it - if they are happy to put their name to it - that's good enough for us. This might be different if profit was our ultimate aim, but we are far more motivated by publishing something interesting. We want to provide an outlet, a shop window, for the unusual and the interesting, and we feel the artists are the best judges of their own work.
Who should we listen to get a flavour of the Submarine Broadcasting Company?
If you're feeling adventurous, try t.r. hand 'Folke Meditations'which shows a healthy disrespect for any recognised conventions or genres, fusing experimental music, found-sound collage, ambient, dub and other styles into a unique piece of conceptual art.
If experimental is your thing, check out experimental supergroup GOATS. This challenging and complex album proved to be our surprise hit of 2018. One reviewer said "GOATS shows you a disturbing path in which you constantly turn to see if you are not followed." The band were pretty happy with that.
Beltism's work tends to be on the ambient/experimental spectrum, but Rob used his influence to get Beltism's neo-krautrock EPs released on Submarine Broadcasting.
Crayon Angels are a completely different proposition. Semi-acoustic singer-songwriters with soulful female vocals and music touching on pop, jazz and folk, Crayon Angels are fiercely melodic with incisive witty lyrics.
One of the stalwarts of the UK ambient scene, Cousin Silas needs no introduction here. But we were delighted when he offered us his brilliant long-form ambient/drone album 'Radio Galaxies'. This is music to float in and submerge into.
What's next for the Submarine Broadcasting Company?
A rest! After the 'Exhibition' compilation (a benefit for the Shaw Mind Foundation mental health charity), which weighed in at seven CD volumes, or eight hours of music, we'd like a break please. Realistically we've got releases committed until August, but then maybe we'll all concentrate on our own projects for a couple of months. After that, who knows? We haven't done any cassette releases, so that would be fun, and our 'Klang' neo-krautrock extravaganza never made it to vinyl, so that's another itch we'd like to scratch. We'd really like to do something a bit more interactive, like a web-radio show or maybe a Mixlr broadcast, but it would need to be something different from the other shows out there, so it will take us a while to work on our secret sauce. And hey, if we've learnt anything from the last three years, it's that the things you don't plan can be as every bit as fulfilling as the things you do!