As part of an occasional series on the essential talent behind the musicians – the labels and promoters – we are delighted to be able to fire a few questions to Mark Monnone, co-founder of Lost and Lonesome Recording Company based in Meanjin/Melbourne. In return, we get some very amusing responses.
Established in 1998 by Monnone and Jane McCracken, Lost and Lonesome Records has gone on to release over 130 titles and been home to some of Australia’s most impressive indie, folk and experimental artists, some of whom we have covered here at Backseat Mafia (see our reviews of Hot Coppers and Monnone Alone).
The label will be celebrating its 25th birthday this Sunday, 5 November with a day of performances by friends, and past and current roster members. The label has remained uncompromisingly independent and DiY over the years, sticking to the original plan to release great music by largely unheralded artists and, in the process, forged a community based on creative synergy and longstanding friendships, both amongst the artists and fans alike. Tickets are available here with detail below.
Happy twenty-fifth birthday Mark.
Thanks! But it’s not my birthday, mine’s on March 16.
25 years is a long time in the music industry for an independent label. What has been secret to your longevity?
An extremely well-honed inability to say no. (Unless the question concerns sleep.)
Tell us how you will celebrate your birthday?
We’re having a little knees-up at the Brunswick Ballroom. Seventeen artists playing between midday and 11pm. We’re basically planning to sacrifice a soundperson.
How did you get into the music business in the first place?
I began playing music with a couple of high school buddies and we eventually started a band called The Lucksmiths. In April of ’93 we played our first show – at the Evelyn Hotel in Fitzroy opening for The Sugargliders and The Daily Planets.
Is there a Lost and Lonesome sound – how much is it influenced by your own personal tastes – what do you look for in a band? How do you balance commercial interests with your own tastes?
I often think there is a defining sound which has a strong emphasis on chiming and jangly guitars, bubbling basslines and ‘60s inspired harmonies, and then I remember that’s about one quarter of the story. I definitely like to challenge my personal tastes when it comes to working with new artists – I’m just as likely to find my ears pricking up to some weird folk music or droning synthesisers or something with excessively obnoxious guitar playing. I discovered some time ago that I have a distinct aversion to commercial interests. It’s very possible I should not be running a record label!
What are your ambitions for the label and your bands? Will you expand representation outside Melbourne to Australia/the world?
I’ve investigated this kind of thing in the past and to be honest, it’s just too much work for one person to facilitate. Aside from the occasional co-release with an overseas label or two, I don’t really have the energy to chase up anything too serious like international distro or management. I struggle enough to find time for walking my dog or sleeping as it is.
Of course, you are in the band Monnone Alone which is on the label – was it hard to sign onto the label? Did you have to audition?
Haha, yeah! I wowed the label boss with a stunning rendition of Walk of Life played entirely on the jaw harp.
How important is commercial success – do you harbour ambitions for your bands to receive Aria nominations or do you accept this is a different world?
I’d like to say I’m entirely unphased by awards or commercial recognition but hell yeah, bring it on! Realistically though, I’d just be happy to receive a few spins on the community radio stations from time to time.
If you could emulate any record label in the world, which one would it be?
ABC for Kids
Do you think that musical talent exists uniformly around the world and just needs luck, circumstance and the right label and promoter to draw it out, or are there genuinely geographical hotbeds where artists seem to flourish?
I certainly subscribe to the notion that the most interesting and meaningful art is born of adversity, and that’s been proven time and again in the world of music. The exception to this was, of course, Jimmy Buffet.
Is there a Melbourne sound?
None really that I can think of… Not since the singer-with-an-extra-floor-tom craze died off ten years ago.
In retrospect, is there anything you would have done differently over your career?
I would have liked to become a tour promoter who was infamous for outlandish rider requests.
Do you have a favourite signing over the years?
I’ve honestly felt so privileged to work with so many fantastic artists on the label, I wouldn’t know where to start. I also can’t think of any right at the moment.
Is there a band that you wished you had signed or would like to sign now?
A split-7” EP with The Cat’s Miaow on one side and Rocketship on the other side, coming out this Friday, November 3. Featuring the first new recordings from The Cat’s Miaow since 1998!
Performers and set times for the Birthday Party are:
12:30 – Milk Teddy
1:10 – Hot Coppers
1:45 – Alluvial Nuggetts
2:20 – Cheeses
2:55 – Great Earthquake
3:30 – Cayn Borthwick
4:05 – Monnone Alone
4:40 – The Cat’s Miaow
~ Half-Hour Break ~
6:10 – Fred Astereo
6:45 – The Small Intestines
7:20 – Tim Richmond
7:55 – The Icypoles
8:30 – Last Leaves
9:05 – The Zebras
9:40 – The Smallgoods (Duo)
10:15 – Mid-State Orange