Say Psych: Interview: Meet the Label – Strong Island Recordings



Neo-Psychedelia has become the fastest growing musical trend, and the genre that everyone who wants to be associated with. With that in mind, it’s easy to forget that it is people who make all of this possible and get the music out into the public domain in the first place.

Say Psych plans to address this issue by speaking to some of the labels most keenly associated with the best new psychedelia emerging and finding more about the men and women who are taking the time and energy to makes this great music accessible.

Next up we had a chat with Brad from Strong Island Recordings.

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Hi Brad, thanks for taking the time to speak with me! Let’s start things off by you telling us what your motivation to start a record label?

I studied music tech at college and then music promo at uni and I was preferring the management side of things overall and during then I was fully immersing myself in the stories of record labels. Being from Portsmouth, a place not even a blip on the radar of the music industry, at least then, it seemed like magical, exciting land that I wanted to get in on and be a part of.

Basically I did a couple of internships during university then literally the day after handed my final project in at uni, I began running a bass, house and UK Funky label for somebody as I was eager to learn about the ins and outs. Whilst I was proud of what we did in that time with it, that really musically wasn’t me at all – so I decided to start something that was more me and more in line with what I dig and what would eventually become Strong Island Recordings.

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Amazing, so a real desire to make something new for your area that wasn’t there before, we love to hear stuff like that, really DIY. Can you tell us a bit about the genres you’ve been working with?

I guess since day dot back, we’ve kind of been on the leftfield spectrum. Our output though has always been more in the vein of psychedelia, surf-rock, garage-rock, dreampop, shoegaze and all that good stuff. Sometimes we might release doom-y psych like Melt Dunes, then more sun-soaked fuzzed out stuff like BADGERS, super fun psychedelic-cumbia such as Los Bitchos, ethereal dreamy folk such as the immense Rosie Alena to garage-rock such as the Sleep Eaters chaps. So, it’s varied but it’s not like anything is a million miles apart from each other.

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Variety is the spice of life, or so they say! Next we’ve gotta ask, just because it’s so powerful sounding, where did the name come from?

Ha thanks but I actually can’t take credit. The name derives from Strong Island Co ran by Paul and Tristan. We’re under a collective of theirs who have been championing the independent arts sector in Hampshire for sometime. As I was starting a label, we met with Strong Island about the label that I had in mind maybe coming in under their umbrella. They were keen to get involved with music so it was the perfect time and the perfect match really – until they realised what working with me was like! Aha

I like what the name represents though. An ‘Island mentality’ can sometimes have negative connotations but I like to think with us at the label, it means there’s no borders, all are welcome and that we treat everybody who joins our little island roster as one big family and when they do sail off to bigger and better things, no matter what, we’ll always champion them whenever we can.

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So, who have you worked with in the past? What releases have you put out that we should know about?

We’ve been fortunate enough to work with so many incredibly talented and just wonderful folk in general. Our first release was with Arrows of Love and since then we’ve released some great acts from our hometown such as Is Bliss and also Melt Dunes, who while they’re no more, I stand by that they’re one of the best live bands the country has produced in years. We’ve also got to release some mind-blowing acts from Australia such as recently with BADGERS as well as Violet Swells and The Good Sports.

Again closer to home, we put out a couple of records with psych-cumbia outfit Los Bitchos who are just the most fun band in the world, and also a band we need in these dark times right now. There’s the real great garage-rock outfit, Sleep Eaters and also indie-surf crooners Ugly that we co-released with Sports Team’s Holm Front. Recently though we put out psych-jazz outfit Baby Vanga who remind me a lot of Babe Rainbow who are one of my favourite bands in the world plus the likes of Rosie Alena who has some of the most powerfully emotive vocals I have ever heard. They really cut right to the bone. They’re so raw that I’m not ashamed to say it’s hard to fight back tears live. It’s really hard to explain unless you experience Rosie and her band live, but yeah, Rosie is one of those talents that come around so rarely and I’m super excited for her future. 

We’ve got to work with so many more other talented people as well, not just via putting their material out, but also working with them on live shows. It’s been a humbling pleasure working with so many immensely talented people and it’s what keeps me so excited about the whole thing.

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And can you tell us a bit about what releases you have lined up and about the bands that they will be from?

I can’t really go into specifics at the moment. We’re tying things up and also sorting the release plans and I don’t really like to jump the gun really when it comes to stuff we’re putting out. I am super excited about the acts we’re putting out early 2021. I’m always really excited for all of our releases though of course! We do have some other fun bits too for the new year outside of releases as well so 2021 should fingers crossed be a good one. 

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Do you have a vision for where you want the label to go?

As long as the label is afloat and we can help artists, that’s enough for me. There isn’t really any long-term mission statement even if that does annoy the accountant and bank manager! I would like to start getting more global sounding stuff out though, but the vision really is just keep putting out stuff that we love and helping acts along the way and sometimes putting on fun shows in between then.

Anything else on top is an added bonus. Ultimately though the label is basically at the helm of somebody who’s basically driving blindfolded down the motorway. It’s no doubt going to crash at some point but the journey before that point is a total thrill ride…

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