I was recently introduced to a cool new record label out of London called Mostar Records. Despite being formed only a few months ago, they are off to a fast start and have released an eclectic batch of music. I also have had a chance to talk with label co-founder Luke Manning. Read on for my interview and to sample some tunes!
The first band on the Mostar roster I heard was LickSpittle. This is a duo (members are Kid Kudos and Jimmy Sudsa) who have a totally locked in sound. It immediately reminded me a lot of Spoon for the spare arrangements that have tight syncopation and an undeniable groove. Also for the understated cool. Hey, if you are going to name a song after Steve McQueen, you need to have a little swagger. It's clear that LickSpittle does. There's some punch to it but it also makes you want to sing along. I dig the handclaps, as well as the lower main voice being offset by falsetto harmonies. This is one you'll be spinning many times over. Check out the sample below and go here for buy links.
From the tight, catchy rock of LickSpittle, it's almost a complete 180 hearing Smoke Room. They make expansive atmospheric music, more of an electronic or post rock persuasion than straight ahead rock. The track I heard, "Sadly It's Forever," is more than twice as long as "Steve McQueen," and features no vocals – though it does seem to have a dialogue sample in the middle – but I find it just as enjoyable. It has very strong cinematic vibe. The sleekness of the piano and drums plus the jazziness of the bass makes me think of a spy movie. Or a film noir could be appropriate. Either way, it's an engrossing listen. Buy links are here.
The third band I heard was the Riot Tapes who have a sound unique from the other two of their label brethren. Forged out of the union between American ex-pat Chris O'Brien and Dubliner Elaine Doyle, the Riot Tapes have already brought the taste of chart success to Mostar with the song "Photograph." Whereas LickSpittle is a little more contained, the Riot Tapes let their big rock sound soar. The band creates a driving soundscape that complements Elaine's strong voice well. It is hardly a stretch to imagine hearing this on the radio, nor to understand why Mostar believes the band has a great future. Buy links are here.
Besides the music, I'm happy to share that Mostar cofounder Luke Manning was kind enough to answer some questions about the label (in addition to giving me some background information on LickSpittle and the Riot Tapes used in the paragraphs above). Here they are.
TWD: How, why, and when did Mostar Records begin? Where are you based out of? What made you decide to start a label?
Luke: Mostar Records was founded by myself, Matt Hayes, and James Mottram in February 2011, in one of those beautifully spontaneous moments when you just "know" that the time, place, and opportunity is right to run with a project.
We've all known each other for years now from our university days and have always wanted to do something together; Matt owns a renowned guitar studio and school in Surrey, James brings a load of commercial "rigor" and experience to the table, and I'm a former journalist with a background in the media.
It just seemed the perfect time. We've got a strong core of very talented musicians around us who need to be taken to the "next step," and between us we've got a broad range of skills to try and make it happen.
TWD: Your website conveys that you aren't committed to any specific genre, but rather whatever sounds interesting to you. Can you talk more about what grabs your attention? How do you find the music you are going to release?
Luke: When we first came up with the idea of Mostar, there was a strong belief that we could tap into the talent that is attracted to Matt's guitar school, Idol Hands. There are some fabulous guitarists teaching there (guitarists who are in bands on the front cover of Kerrang! magazine and have international reputations) and the "best of the best" want to be taught by them.
But since we launched Mostar at the beginning of the year we have been inundated with bands approaching us (both live and through social media) wanting to sign to the label. We love this and encourage this and look for three main things:
- Do we like the music? We've got to like it to have the energy and the inclination to really push it, promote it, talk about it, and "live" it. We don't stipulate a band's sound, look, style, or presence – we just go for the overall package.
- Does it fit with our "ethos"? We have a simple proposition – we don't care what the genre is, we just want to release music that the diehard fans of that genre would like. We don't want to sit in the middle ground.
- Do we like the people? This is a massive one for us. We're a small label in one of the toughest industries out there. We can't, and don't, promise "the world" when we sign artists – it's all down to hard work. We need the bands to be in this as much as us and to build a relationship that can grow if or when these bands "make it."
TWD: It seems your focus right now is on releasing singles and eventually a compilation. Do you see yourself as a singles-based label or do you have plans to branch out in the future? What are your general longer range plans? In concrete terms (upcoming releases, for instance) what can we expect from Mostar in the coming months?
Luke: No, we're certainly not just a single-based label and have plans to also release EPs and albums by the end of the year. Our next release is the single "Lush Hound" by LickSpittle in mid-May, then a single and EP from the Future Shape of Sound (whose sound is a unique cocktail of Northern Soul, scratchy blues, 1960s soundtracks, and vintage erotica) in June, and 5 or 6 more singles from different artists over the summer. We then plan to release a Mostar compilation album in digital and hard copy format at the end of the summer, to showcase our multi-genre sound, and release the full-length LickSpittle LP in time for Christmas.
They're our plans as we speak, but we've already found out things can change pretty quickly and suddenly there are new opportunities that need to be turned around quickly.
TWD: What are some labels you admire?
Luke: Unsurprisingly, we like the vibe of the smaller independent labels (such as the likes of Ninja Tune and Tru Thoughts); labels that stand for something, capture some of the most astonishingly gifted artists that few have heard of, and cater to people that want "real music" and refuse to be spoon-fed the latest superficial and commercial tracks that play on every major radio station.
There you have it. Mostar Records is a label with a strong vision and has already released some exciting music. I think there's a lot more in store!