These are busy times for Last Night from Glasgow, the four-year-old record label whose unique subscription based model has all but broken the mould for DIY endeavours. In the last month, the label led by Ian Smith, Stephen Kelly and 400 subscribers have put out the first album by C-86 legends Close Lobsters for thirty years. There have also been singles by Mt. Doubt and Lemon Drink, the latter of whom launched their new four-song EP, Better Run at a sold out show in Glasgow last weekend.
Releases are pending too from ‘existential nerd rock’ band, Slime City, and a debut from Life Model, while in May, Medicine Men will release their second album, A Different Port. Then there is the long-awaited release of Earthbound, the second album by Starless, aka Friends Again and Love and Money keyboardist Paul McGeechan.
This spate of activity follows on from acclaimed releases from Cloth, L-space and a new album by 1990s indie darlings, Bis. The last year too has seen LNFG expand operations with two new sub-labels. While Komponist focuses on instrumental composition, Hive is an initiative that enables unsigned artists to put out their work beneath the LNFG umbrella while retaining control of everything they do.
To top things off, a new LNFG offshoot, Past Night From Glasgow, has been set up to reclaim neglected recordings. First out the traps will be Sisters, the debut album by The Bluebells first released in 1984, and which spawned hit singles, Cath and Young at Heart. Under normal circumstances, this run of activity would mean various launches. Given the lockdown caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, however, Lemon Drink’s Better Run shindig might well be the last LNFG live event for some time.
“It’s a fairly volatile time,” is how Smith sees it. “We’re about to cancel three shows, and will probably have to cancel another eight. We’ve got four records coming out, and it’s a big mess. No-one knows what’s going to happen, but people are always going to want to listen to new music, and radio stations are always going to want to play it.”
Last Night From Glasgow was forged in the aftermath of the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, with a spirit of optimism about the level of musical activity in the country co-existing with a desire to fill the void left following the result. With a quarter of a century’s worth of business experience running his own company, Smith had seen a crowd-funding model work in other spheres, and wondered what might happen if you applied it to a record label.
Along with Kelly and four other partners, Smith invited sixty people to sign up for a year’s subscription of £50. For this they received copies of records they’d backed along with access to launch gigs. Seizing the means of production in such an egalitarian way was a political act as much as a musical one.
“One thing we’re very vocal about at Last Night From Glasgow is the failed morality of the Scottish music industry,” says Smith. “Young bands are force fed this idea that you have to work with promoters who’ll pay you twenty-five quid for a support slot, work with expensive PRs, and that you have to go on these seminars that charge you eighty quid. What we want to do is try and get young bands on the right path, to get them out of the Glasgow bubble, and to show them that none of this stuff matters.”
In its first year of existence, Last Night From Glasgow, named after a line from Abba’s song, Super Trouper, released seven records. This included the debut album by Teen Canteen. The following year the label doubled its output, with new work by the likes of singer-songwriter Annie Booth, Emme Woods and Teen Canteen, and a digital-only single by Bis. In 2018, LNFG released more than twenty records, including debuts from Cloth, Domiciles and L-space, as well as the Bis album, Slight Disconnects. Last year saw an album by Broken Chanter, as well as releases by the likes of Fenella and Sister John.
“What’s exciting for us is picking up on bands quite early on, and getting them in a studio and watching them develop,” says Smith.
As an illustration of this, LNFG signed Cloth twenty-four hours after Smith heard their demo on the phone. The band’s eponymous debut album, released four months ago, sold out, and is about to be repressed. LNFG remains, however, a cross-generational enterprise. Future plans include releasing former Superstar driving force Joe McAlinden’s soundtrack to EDIT, the short film written by Martin McCardie and directed by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard.
With LNFG’s subscriber base having grown to 400 from its initial sixty, the label looks set to expand even more. Smith also has grander ambitions to transform the country’s musical landscape in a way that puts even more power into grassroots cottage industry labels.
“We have sensible ambitions, and we have ludicrous ambitions,” he admits. “One of the more ludicrous ambitions is to buy a lathe, so we can cut our own records and open Scotland’s first pressing plant. That would save all that extra cost of having to get records pressed abroad. But whatever happens, the ultimate thing is to keep on putting out music we believe in.”
Better Run EP by Lemon Drink, Headless by Mt Doubt, and Post Neo Anti by Close Lobsters are available now. For details of all other releases on Last Night From Glasgow, Komponist and Hive, contact www.lastnightfromglasgow.com
The Herald, March 21st 2020