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, we cross over to Belgium, to speak with Greg Noel who owns EXAG Records, based out of Brussels.
Hey Greg, it’s great to speak with you, thanks for taking the time! So, start us off by telling who’s involved with the label?
I’m on my own but plenty of friends are helping me. They are a part of the “EXAG’s universe”, which makes it easier for me to get an overview of all the work to do. Some of them are really close and trustworthy friends, so I can rely on them.
What was your motivation to start a record label?
First of all, passion! Moreover, I was drummer in a band which was touring in Europe and we faced lots of frustrations, for example the difficulty to export our music and be seen overseas. So when I left the band, I decided to create a “shelter” for the non E.U bands, in order to promote them here. I do not want to be labelled only as a vinyl seller because in my opinion, this job means being there for the band, guiding them and promoting them, kind of like a parental figure.
So, why the psych rock genre?
Good question! It came naturally to me because it’s my musical crush. The best part in psych’ music is that it is a wide style, for me it’s not even a proper style of music but more a way to approach music and songwriting. A touch that you can find and feel everywhere.
Where did the name come from?
The name itself is a contraction of “exagéré” which literally means exaggerated. In French, it is a slang expression used for emphasis or agreement. We use it to punctuate our sentences (positive or negative ones).
– “That concert was amazing!“
Now the important bit, the bands – tell us about them
Like I said, my goal is to provide the bands with some kind of “home away from home”, in Europe. That’s why the first bands I signed all came from the US or the UK, like Helicon (Glasgow), Velvet Morning (London), Driftwood Pyre (Minneapolis) and Wooden Indian Burial Ground (Portland). But there are exceptions: Celestial Bums are from Barcelona and Moaning Cities is a Belgian band. Celestial Bums sent me their demo and as soon as I heard them, I knew I had to sign them! Their music talked to me. As for Moaning cities, it is the band in which I used to play, we have always kept in touch and when they asked me if I wanted to sign them to keep the project in the family, I couldn’t refuse, obviously. The last one to join the family is Okey Dokey, from Nashville.
Since the connections were made between Europe and overseas, I thought I could use them and make this a two-way street, so I started promoting European bands abroad. Phoenician Drive joined the EXAG team and they were also signed by a well know English label, Stolen Body Records.
All the bands do psych’ music. They all have something psych’ in their songwriting. But this style does not limit them, it can be rough garage, shoegaze, or lo-fi …
Did you have a vision for where you wanted the label to go?
I wanted to establish a human scale structure, something informal and friendly where I could stay close to the bands without the too “business-like” aspect of the relationship. I think I succeeded and I have no intention of changing that. I love it when Wooden Indian Burial Ground and Moaning Cities met in Belgium and shared so much on and off stage. The last time they performed in Brussels, WIBG even slept in my living room like old friends or family.
Has there been a high point so far?
Simply the fact that the bands want to keep working with me. They are so talented and there are so many labels out there, I must be doing something right 😉
On the flip side, have there been any downsides to being a label boss?
Of course! It wouldn’t be life without it. There is so much things to do and supervise. There are some downsides to every job, so whenever something bad happens, I tend to focus on the positive and not let the bad bring me down or jeopardize the work we do. Like they say, you have to make the most out of every situation.
What can we expect in 2017
It’s already April, time flies! In 2017, we have the debut album of OKEY DOKEY, 2 EP coming for Phoenician Drive and Driftwood Pyre, as well as 2 LP expected for Autumn 2017. Furthermore, the very first EXAG’ Label Night will take place in Brussels, on 18th May. I hope that we will be able to do it every year. 2017 also means the « BLACK’EX Split Series », it illustrates the spirit of the label by uniting 2 different artists or bands, one for each side of the 10″.
Busy year ahead then! Has there been time to plan for the future?
There is a lot of very good artists on the Belgian stage which is booming right now. People are getting more and more interested in this music style and discovering new bands on stage. Therefore, I think there are many challenges to take up, in order to attract even more people. Belgium is a complicated country, the musical scene is very territorial and we have to face and change that. The Stellar Swamp Festival (Brussels Psych Fest), for example, organized by Valérian Meunier, is currently working on this aspect by inviting Belgian bands from all over the country, and the rest of the world as well. Helicon and Wooden Indian Burial Ground, from the label, played there, for instance.
In addition, I might try to explore the Japanese scene because they are doing some very interesting things, so why not consider a Japanese band joining the label? Overall, it is the artists that will write the future of the label.
Anything else you want us to know, that we might not already?
I would like to talk about Phoenician Drive. They are from Brussels like me. Their ep « Two Coins » will be release on the 28th of April. They make extremely intense oriental kraut rock, they mix traditional music with kraut rock. This EP’ll be a 10” with 2 songs, each one about 10 minutes. There is something captivating about their music, kind of like witchcraft. I dare you to stay impassive at their show! It is a co-prod with Stolen Body records and Rockerill Records. As for their tour in the UK, Phoenician Drive will play at the Bristol Psych Fest (8th July) and Celestial Bums will be in Liverpool for their Psych Fest and they’ll be touring as well in UK and Europe, during September.