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In Profile : Too Pure Singles Club


A slightly different aspect of the record industry gets the In Profile treatment this month. I've personally subscribed to the Too Pure Singles Club for the last four or five years so it seemed a good idea to put a few questions to Paul Riddlesworth there and find out how it continues to be excellent value for money and a leading champion of fledgling bands.

MG: The club has it’s 100th release coming out in April which, by my shoddy maths, means it’s been in existence for eight years now. Before we get down to talking about it’s current form though can you fill us in on the history behind it? I remember buying releases by Seefeel and others on Too Pure back in the Nineties – how then did the label become the Singles Club?

PR: Back in 2008 both the Beggars Banquet label and Too Pure were streamlined into 4AD at the time. We somehow wanted to keep the ethos of Too Pure alive without putting out long players so we decided to start up the TPSC. Most of our labels (under the Beggars umbrella) focus mainly on American artists so we wanted to be a label whose primary goal was to find mainly awesome UK bands. That said we have put out DZ Deathrays, Jeff The Brotherhood and Bear Hands. But hey, mainly UK, especially Leeds ... I've put out a LOT by Leeds bands. 

MG: Describe for us the selection process for the bands involved. For that matter who decides on the 7” artwork and indeed the colour of vinyl any particular release is going to be on?

PR: Its a lot of gig going, recommendations from other bands and keeping in touch with the indie shops up and down the country as no one knows better than them about good local artists. 

Every single release is down to the artists themselves. they have total creative control - from choosing which songs to release to artwork to vinyl colour. Its essentially their release and, to quote Annie Lennox, "Who am I to Disagree?"

MG: Other similar clubs pop up but never remain constant – Polyvinyl Records had one for the last couple of years but seem to not in 2016, Matador have periodically operated one, whilst Fortuna Pop! have one currently that’s rather more ad hoc in its release schedule than Too Pure etc. Do you put that down to deadlines being a chore to maintain – having to have one release per month without fail for possibly less return than on regular releases? Do you work up a slight backlog so that if one act can’t for whatever reason have a tune recorded in time there’s at least one in the can which can be pressed up?

PR: One of the main issues is trying to maintain the quality of the releases, which i think throughout the eight years I've managed to do. Some may disagree but no one's going to like everything we do, that would be spooky. I also like to have the releases sorted as up front as possible. This year we're up to November already which is going to be a bloody cracker even if i do say so myself ...

MG: Sticking with the cost of things you’ve consistently, over the five years or so that I’ve personally kept signing up, pegged the cost of membership at a very good price, averaging (I think) around only just over £3 for each disc including postage in the UK. If it’s not a trade secret how has that been possible, given the cost of the production of discs and in comparison to the £4 and upwards you’d expect to pay via bandcamp or at gigs or in stores?

PR: If i'm honest we probably should charge a bit more, as we just about break even but as a label we're not primarily about making money we're more bothered about supporting up and coming bands and hopefully giving them a starting chance. 

MG: Do you have a regular core of returnees year on year? And how many copies of each disc are ever made? Given the numbers on ones I’ve had over the years my guess has always been 500 per release. (As an aside to this – what eventually happens with any leftovers?).

PR: We do get a lot coming back for more, some years are better than others. We make up 500 of each release, 50 go to the band and we also send 100 to the indies. Even though we're primarily a subscription label its important to look after the indies, we have some fantastic shops up and down the country.

MG: The club had its first LP out for Record Store Day 2016, a ‘Greatest Hits’ to date if you like. How did you pick the tracks to include on it? Taking Record Store Day itself do you think it still serves the purpose it was intended for? I remember last year Steven from Bis being a bit of a dissenting voice and reckoning the major labels had now hijacked the whole affair with reissues of old rock albums.

PR: I'm so excited about this. Its called Pay No Attention and its on magenta coloured vinyl. It was an absolute ball ache choosing, however each year I do an end of year poll to subscribers to see who they liked and hated so that helped a little. There are definitely some I regret not putting on. Maybe there will be a follow up next year if this goes ok ...  

RSD is both a blessing and a curse. It's a curse as major labels clog up our pressing plants to reissue utter dross that you can find in any charity shop up and down the country for a fraction of the price and there are way too many releases for it. Some more dubious than others. Its a blessing though as it does still get people into record shops, it's been said many, many, many times before record shops are for life not just for RSD.

MG: Finally - what is the club’s 100th release set to be and what other acts can we look forward to discs by in the coming months?

PR: Our 100th release is going to be by ex-Mansun frontman Paul Draper, his first new material since Mansun 10 years ago. I was a massive fan so it's an absolute honour to have him on board. We've also got coming up Grim Brides for May, False Advertising for June and Seazoo for July. I'll keep the rest of the year as a surprise : )
Many thanks to Paul for taking the time to fill us in on the running of the TPSC. My future custom's assured and you can sign up here.
For your listening pleasure here's one side of this month's release:-

The Great Escape 2014 - Day One

  • Published in Live
Brighton is once again playing host to The Great Escape festival and this year, it’s bigger than ever.
It’s a mammoth operation with up to 15,000 visitors across over 35 venues to see 400 new bands
in just three days. Therefore one of the first things you realise is that there is no way you will see all
the acts that you want to and as the weekend continues, there are some very hard choices to make.
However our general train of thought was that the further away an act or band had travelled the
more we would try and see them. The idea being that UK acts would be more accessible.
The typical day is spilt into two main sections. An afternoon section runs from 12pm to 4pm. This
allowed you to visit any venue and access was no problem. The evening section runs from 6pm
to after midnight with access far more difficult. Therefore the pre-festival planning is as much an
essential part of the weekend as the festival itself. This can start months before, trawling various
music apps, listening to bands and deciding usually on the strength of one song whether they would
be worth a visit. This is a wonderful tool and exposes you to a host of new bands even if you do not
eventually manage to see them.
However our experience is that just because you have planned to see a band does not always mean
you will. This can usually be determined by the venue, with many of the more popular venues at full
capacity from the peak hours of 8pm to 11pm.
Regardless of this, we set off on Day 1 with enthusiasm high, despite being welcomed by torrential
rain, our first taste of the festival featuring great performances from the John Steel Singers and The
Animen and after battling the rain we're warmed by the bass and reggae stylings of Stylo G, Smoove
And Turrell and Pablo Nouvelle. PS I Love You ended the afternoon session, or so we thought.
Part of the appeal of The Great Escape is the secret gigs that pop up at random venues at various
times; the not-so-secret gig of Day 1 was the Kaiser Chiefs, and as this gig was advertised on Amazon,
a huge crowd has already gathered at The Concorde to see the boys strut their stuff. If anyone's
under the illusion that the Chiefs are a spent force, such thoughts are quickly dispelled thanks to
a jaw dropping show. The fact it's billed as a secret gig seems to infuse the crowd and afterwards
we're very aware that we were just part of something special.
The evening starts with a wonderful holy performance in a church from Gambles, their soft, acoustic
sound perfect for the location. Next we mix up genres with indie shouters Beautiful Boy, Max
Marshall providing laid back funk and soul followed by full on rock and free t-shirts via New York
rockers Bear Hands. The main acts of tonight are Little Dragon and Albert Hammond Jr. However
the queue makes us decide that looking at other venues is probably the way forward and we decide
to head down the secret gig route once more. Thankfully we're rewarded via an intimate show in a small
location by keyboard supremos the Klaxons, and our night finally draws to a close at around
1:30am via the digital jump up sounds of LE1F.
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