In spite of the amount of DJs in Leeds, and its wealth of new record shops, there is a distinct lack of production here, and even fewer record labels. One group aiming to change that, and with a dollop of panache at that, is Valby Rotary. Now on their third release, premiered by Mixmag, they are starting to pick up the pace, and are about to host their first event at Wire. It will feature Lobster Theremin head Asquith – a man whose success the Valby lads can hope to emulate. We spoke to them ahead of the event next week.
The most striking thing about the label is probably the artwork. Could you talk us through it?It’s interesting because it is not an aesthetic that you would normally associate with the music, unless you think otherwise?
Tom: We actually came up with the artwork first after finding a surplus of these ‘characters’ in books. Me and Lou were sending the pictures back and forth saying “this could make cool label art” etc. We’d been looking to start releasing our own stuff for a while so I guess the art kinda put the wind in our sails so to speak. Maybe the artwork could be considered kinda leftfield in relation to the music itself, but I think we’ve been using it for so long now that it just works naturally with our tunes, in my opinion anyway.
Do you feel quite lonely as label owners in Leeds? Despite its huge record buying culture, there is not a massive movement of people putting out music of their own. Why do you think this is?
Louis: The scene in Leeds is great. Full of DJs and promoters but not many people seem to be releasing music that I can see. Also I haven’t networked very much at all during my time here so I bet there are a few up and coming labels that I’m not aware of!
Tom: I wouldn’t say we feel lonely, although I think we do have a tendency to do our own thing and not particularly engage with other labels in the surrounding area as much as we should haha. Saying that though, we do so much of our communication etc online so maybe we don’t feel it as much (You’re never alone with a phone). There isn’t a massive movement no, however the people who are putting stuff out seem to care a lot about their work! Shouts to Viers.
What brings you to Leeds? And how did the Valby Rotary crew come together?
Louis: Me and Tom both came to leeds to study at Leeds Beckett three years ago. By coincidence we were placed in the same flat in first year, and have collaborated ever since.
Tom: …and Benito is a friend of mine from home who runs ‘the mango club’. He’s been crucial for my development as an artist over the years and I’ve probably ran every decision by him since the age of 17! So it made sense for him to join in on the project.
I spoke to Tom Blip recently who said that his approach to running a label is to not think too much about the meaning of the releases, but to be led by instinct. Does your approach differ? Do you have a clear plan of what you want to do with it artistically?
Tom: I think our mentality is probably slightly different. I’d agree about not worrying about the ‘meaning’ of a release too much, but personally I’m a little too pedantic to be led fully by instinct when it comes to choosing stuff to release. As a trio we have quite a specific vibe that we look for when sharing tracks with each other.
Louis: We’ve created a particular sound from carefully selecting which of our tracks we want to release. We may throw some instinct led curveballs down the line but right now each release is curated to maintain that sound. We don’t have a clear artistic plan, but I think it works well for us. As a team we all have a similar vague view of where we see the label going and how it may subtly develop over time, but not having a concrete plan means we aren’t holding ourselves back from any potential creative avenues.
Your first release is nearly a year old now. How do you reflect on it? How have things been going?
Louis: VALBY001 was a big milestone for us and I’m really proud of the release. We really didn’t know what we were doing and had to learn a lot of things pretty fast.
Tom: Looking back to the beginning of this year, I’m so glad that we went with that for 001 because I think it was a solid foundation for the vibe of the record label in general. I predict that however far we morph or vary our sound it will definitely have elements of that first release in terms of the feelings we are trying to evoke. Since January we have all learned a lot about the ins and outs of the industry and we’ve opened a lot of musical doors for ourselves.
Can we expect a similar music policy to the label at the party? Why did you choose to book Asquith for your first party?
Louis: Our releases are quite emotional and melancholic, so we won’t be sticking to this as a game plan for the whole night. When DJing we like to explore various sides of house music without straying too far from our sound. Also we’ve always made a point of playing a lot of unreleased material from ourselves so this can be expected too.
Tom: I’ve always respected Jimmy Asquith’s versatility as a label owner. I’ve followed the Lobster Theremin releases for years and also I’m a huge fan of the sub-labels and his decisions to branch out in unique ways (Lobster Sleep Sequence). We decided on the booking after reminiscing about watching him in Sheffield last year. He’s got a raw energetic vibe that should lend itself well to wire!
What labels have been influential for you in your time as music fans? And what do you think the role of a label is?
Louis: I think the role of a label can vary hugely. There are so many labels out there, and if they all took the same approach to releasing tunes there would be no diversity. I think Valby Rotary is quite a personal journey for the time being, hence why we have only released our own music so far.
Tom: I defo agree! I don’t think you can define it in general. I guess I kinda see our role as striving to maintain a particular feeling with our music, and stay true to this for the sake of our listeners and supporters so far. I’m sure we will switch up the vibe at some point down the line, but we definitely see an importance in providing consistency for our fans. In terms of influential labels…Temporary State, Yumé, Smallville, Workshop, Hessle. The list really does go on.
Someone billed Valby as ‘the next Giegling’ on your discogs page – how do you respond to that?
Tom: I’d be lying if I said that the music from giegling hasn’t inspired us all over the years, especially the stuff from Leafar Legov & Traumprinz (Metatron/POD). So in that sense it is flattering. In light of the Konstantin remarks earlier in the year, its important for me to add that we don’t desire to follow in the footsteps of a misogynist. Hypothetically, if the day ever came where people saw us in the same way we used to look up to giegling, I’m sure we’d make a point of promoting an attitude that embraces all!
What’s next for Valby Rotary?
Louis: We have my second EP (VALBY003) coming out on the 3rd of November, and Tom is currently gathering tunes for 004. We have some friends who make great tracks, and its a shame to see them sit on a hard drive, so we are keen to expand to releasing other artists when the time is right.