We chatted to Banoffee Pies’ Elliot Weston about running a diverse record label, the importance of unsigned producers, how Bristol help shape their sounds, and lots more.
Banoffee Pies has been releasing a range of genres since their first release hit stores in 2014. The “Cosmic Feelings” compilation features tracks from Ruf Dug, Mr Mendel, Philou Louzolu & Martin Hayes, and includes a range of sounds from afro/disco influenced cuts, to more up-tempo swung house rhythms. This diversity of sound has come to define the label.
To find out more I chatted with Elliot Weston, founder and label head, about their origins, as well as discussing some of the gems on Banoffee Pies :-)
HOW DU – Testing
This is the last LP we put out, it’s pretty dark with lots of textures – you could call it a deep garage album. Quite understated but is a really interesting release. I like the albums we put out as we only release one a year, they’re more concept based, and a lot of the time they take a lot longer to put together, so by the time they come out I feel quite attached to them.
Thanks for agreeing to interview, i guess first off i’d like to ask about how the Banoffee Pies project started?
It started about 4 years ago. When I moved to Bristol, I’d been working in music for quite a few years, doing bits-n-bobs, doing all the different unpaid music jobs you could possibly do when you’re younger to get as much experience as possible. I really wanted to start my own project which worked conveniently when Sandy and I met and had the same idea, on top of that there were just so many people in Bristol who were making interesting sounds.
I had a bit of a thing with a lot of records, and how they’re not really about the music in its entirety, and more about a few tracks from a collection and the artist who produced them – rather than more focus on the entire piece while allowing bedroom producers to shine, or underground stuff with less profile attached to the release.
From there we started expanding it further, working with lots of people all over the world. Not necessarily your most established, more about putting them together, and making a piece of music, a compilation. It started out as a project while at university, and its been going since then.
Slim. ft. Ella Mae – Stop Rewind
This one from our beats series marked the start of our hip hop ventures and work with THE beats master slim. and of course a very talented vocalist Ella Mae who we have gone on to release a full length album with just recently. Check it out here.
Was Bristol important to you in terms of musical development?
Yes Bristol has such a nice vibe, it’s a really small city, and everyone who works in music knows each other. There’s no real competition, and everyone helps out, so the city definitely made me feel welcome. This sets you in good stead for the future because you get a lot of younger people coming and speaking to you who might have started something and it becomes a bit of a cycle almost, with everyone helping one another, which is nice. Obviously there’s also so much musical heritage in the city, it’s quite easy to find lots of different pockets of music and different niches to explore. Pleased to call it home.
How did you begin promoting parties in Bristol?
We did a few parties before creating the label. We met Ruf Dug at a houseparty in Leeds in a basement, and it was super rogue. I remember watching him play and he was so so good (originally thought he was some mad Italian DJ until we found out he’s from Manchester – of course. Shouts to Si forever) and from then we thought we’d love to do some tiny 100-150 cap parties in Bristol. So for the first year we did a couple of really small events with random crew we knew and had met along the way. Then after a year or so we met quite a few people that all make music, and thought we could just start making records with people we new or friends.
Liem & Eddie Ness – Formula Rosa
Here’s a record we put out on our original series that i found particularly interesting. The whole release is packed with lifting pads and goodness. This track in particular was themed around “formula rosa” – the words’s fastest rollercoaster. Video is jokes. Ps still available via bandcamp.
Your artwork is really striking – can you tell us about how the label’s designs come about?
The artwork is all supposed to be a bit fun, nothing too serious, and all the artwork is quite minimalist. Our main designer for quite a lot of the artwork is Ellen Pearson, who is a wonderuflly talented artist, illustrator and short film maker from a fine art background. So generally it’s all stripped back and simple colours. This also gives room for some of our online content to be a bit more tongue in cheek.
Hansel! – 2-16
This is a choice pick from early releases on the black label – wiggy minimal from the man hansel! (who’s productions are flawless and probably one of my favourites for this sound).
Your describe your label as “for the dj. for the listener”. Aside from that, how would you describe the sounds you put out, is there themes within the diversity, or is the lack of limits the defining feature?
The idea was to put out what we like. I’ve never been super into one genre or anything and have always listened to lots of different stuff all the time, so I didn’t want to have a platform that pigeonholed us into one thing, or prevented us from working with particular artists just because we were only releasing, say, minimal synthcore christian rock.
It was meant to be about all of our musical influences and interests coming out quite randomly and sporadically, which is obviously a bit of a risk to some extent because not everyone does listen to everything and it’s easy to upset listeners… But I guess the label is trying to target groups of people who maybe listen to different styles of music and might be open to variation. Or people who don’t think they are, but then end up on the soundcloud, listening to one release, and then the next track comes on, and they find similarities between the two.
Mr. Mendel – Freakin’
This is the first track we ever signed to the label. Start as you meant to go on and that, sultry. Guaranteed sweaty dance floor included. Shouts to Mr. Mendel on this for a cracking edit of the Motown classic “Freakins Fine” by Mandre.
The label has featured a number of big artists in addition to up-and-coming talents. How do you go about striking a balance?
The idea was to be a platform for someone who isn’t necessarily an “established artist”, and give them the space to represent their sound in a collection of tracks compiled from others from all over the place. Sometimes without the name the quality isn’t recognised, so we wanted to remove this. There’s so many really talented producers and not everyone gets a look-in, or has the platform to do it, so it’s nice to be able to work together – It shows that there’s a range of music with different qualities.
So has this led you towards the various sub-labels then, in the search for more platforms for music and artists you want to release?
As much as I wanted to do various styles of music on one series , it’s hard to keep them consistency or flow without it becoming too confusing. Obviously it’s even more confusing with the sub-labels now, but it would have been harder for people to follow the sounds they are into if it was totally random. The label kind of operates as a music platform as opposed to just a label. Everything else we put out has its own target audience.
We’ve got our original series; a minimal, micro-house black label series; our limited series; our record store day release + dub plates and concept albums, which comes out annually; we’ve got OTAKU for trip-hop and percussion based sounds; Misc 10” series for more live stuff and bands, Beats series for hip hop and that boom bap, and Sonder Series for ambient bits. I also run my own project called Tracy Island and Sandy runs Dr. Banana on the side too. So quite a lot going on really.
We’ve kind of slowed down a lot now as the whole industry is constantly changing, particularly in the last year, with changes in the way people consume music, and the amount of labels has increased a lot. So we’ve slowed down quite a lot on the speed we release records. Nowadays there’s so many labels and a lot of the stores can’t cope with that volume of music anymore, so we’ve taken our foot off the gas a little bit. But I can’t complain too much because it was probably quite a lot to digest before.
Slow Slow Testing – Repeat Machine
The first release on our sonder series. Ambient / drone / noise – music for contemplation from one of my oldest friends. Best enjoyed with a busy mind or a Sunday morning.
So has this allowed you to focus more on DJing?
To be honest, it filled up my weeks putting out the records. I wouldn’t say it allowed me to focus more on DJing as a whole but certainly has given space for creativity to go elsewhere. But we’ve stopped doing regular events (because they make us anxious) for the most part bar some hosted shows, EU showcases, and of course the festival stages that we run, which are still great. So it worked quite well that we started getting more bookings as it’s certainly, it’s given us more headroom to think about how we perform. Obviously I would be really keen to carry on at the rate we were going, but financially it’s such a risk these days. Danger danger.
Banoffee Pies play at Corsica Studios on Saturday 18 August alongside San Soda.