It goes without saying that the last few years have seen a huge resurgence in the vinyl industry, the sales of physical records and emergence of DIY physical record labels and stores hitting sky high levels. Last year, 4.3 million LPs were sold in the UK alone, seeing a 4.1% increase on 2018 sales, marking the UK’s 12th consecutive year of growth in the physical records sub-market of the music industry. Labels like Transgressive, Domino and Island Records have certainly contributed to this, as have stores like Banquet Records and Rough Trade. However, it’s not just marketing and promotional campaigns which have seen a spike in vinyl sales; it’s the scene as a whole falling back in love with the DIY physical elements of the industry, with brand new subculture-inspired companies popping up time and tine again, running DIY events, writing about music, and essentially releasing it on their platforms
Flying Vinyl are nothing short of innovation, their unique approach to the music industry really is quite special. On a monthly basis, Flying Vinyl deliver five 7″ records to your door, always a random mix of the best new upcoming artists, whose singles have been exclusively pressed onto vinyl for Flying Vinyl. Flying Vinyl has been one of the biggest game changers in the industry, as not only do they provide new artists with a way of putting their music out to the public on vinyl, but they have also helped build their own scene, and create a community for the alternative circuit. Genres transcend indie rock, post punk, psych rock, grunge, indie pop, and just straight up synth pop. We spoke to Flying Vinyl founder Craig Evans, about his visions for Flying Vinyl, how his work is operating under the current turbulence of Covid-19, and the importance of grassroots venues
Flying Vinyl is such a unique and interesting company; how did you come about with its concept, and how long have you been running for? How has the company changed since it was initially created?
I was running a digital marketing company in music, ironically, and just felt like it was all becoming a bit meaningless. Clicks and likes were replacing proper fans. I was listening to Fleetwood Mac on vinyl and just thought it was the ultimate way to consume music and be introduced to bands. So the idea sort of grew from there. We’re about to turn 5 in June and will have put out 300 exclusive records, more than pretty much any label. I think as a company we’ve grown and adapted what we’re doing to serve people all over the world now. That was probably the biggest transition because there’s a lot of logistics that have to happen behind the scenes to make that happen and we started selling records in the most random places – like military bases in Basra and places like Israel, Mexico and the Middle East
When the turbulence of isolation is over, what plans do you have for Flying Vinyl going forwards, and are there any projects you’re currently working on?
I think it’s fair to say that the disruption of coronavirus will extend to well after lockdown. We’re fortunate in that we have a good view on the future by way of the Far East and rest of Europe which are already plotting a route out of lockdown. I personally think that until a vaccine or significant treatment that lowers or eradicates the mortality rate is in place we’re likely to see the virus bounce back a few times. I think there’s increasing consensus that lockdown will ease but large gatherings like music festivals and sporting events will be the last thing to return. I’m keen to work out when this is going to be and put on a third instalment of our one-day music festival in London. We’ve put on bands like The Amazons, Black Honey, The Magic Gang, Dream Wife, Yonaka and more at the first two and I think it would be the perfect way to just celebrate being alive. Maybe we’ll all feel a little more connected with what we’ve all collectively been through in 2020 and we should celebrate that. But I think it’ll be a while and there’ll probably be a period of anxiety where people don’t want to be in big groups.
In terms of other things, we launched Blood Records last year and that’s been a really positive way of working with artists, cutting out a lot of middle-men, and in turn making some good money for them and getting really exclusive records into production. Through this crisis it’s also become a way that we can partner with artists that probably have a gap in their incomes due to loss of touring revenues and we can try and pull some of that back.
We just reissued Fat White Family’s 2013 debut album Champagne Holocaust on a zoetrope picture disc. That was fun to work on and I’ve loved that album for many years
Overall there are other predictions that I’d make that do effect us. We’re going to see a shift in the way that people engage with companies and I’d imagine this will mean more emphasis on localisation of products. We may be seeing the collapse of globalisation as we know it. In vinyl we have a problem in this regard here in the UK. We’re just not doing a good enough job of manufacturing records in this country. I’d like to see some government investment in that regard (as happened in Germany) so that more UK bands and labels are manufacturing in the UK
We really have to look at that. Globalisation has left a lot of people behind in this country and we should proudly return to manufacturing.
DIY record companies and independent venues seem to go hand in hand. Can you explain the importance to companies such as yourself of DIY venues like Werkhaus?
The bottom line is that there is a basic need for these venues to exist. You don’t go straight to playing the O2, you play independent venues across the country, like Werkhaus, and build your music from there. It’s a shame that we were losing so many venues to property development and planning regulations prior to Coronavirus and I do wonder how many we’ll lose to this period of lockdown, I certainly hope not many. I think it’s sad that our government is doing so little to support those venues and they’re having to crowdfund to stay afloat. We should all stand by them and all be angry about this. Venues like Werkhaus are also making an investment in art and going and having a few beers and watching some bands is a great way to support the creative community
Who are the standout artists you’ve worked with, and what would the dream project for Flying Vinyl be?
There’s so many. I frame a lot of the records we make and put them on the wall but it’s just got too out of control…. I’ve run out of wall…. The ones that stand out to me I think are the first Amazons release, Junk Food Forever. It was weird that a couple of years later I’d get in the car and it’d be playing on the radio and I was chatting to the band and they were getting mobbed by people in Japan and stuff, their music has travelled really far. Our various collaborations with Black Honey will always be pretty special. When we started working with them back in 2015 they embodied what we were trying to achieve and again seeing them grow artistically has been great. The Viola Beach and Her’s records I’m so privileged to have put out. On both parts it was tragic to lose those guys and to have been able to immortalise their art is something that I don’t take lightly. I look at those records most mornings when I get up as a reminder of things. Dream Wife are about to put out their second record, they’re breaking boundaries in terms of gender in the music industry, The Magic Gang record will always remind me of their set at our first festival in which the crowd collapsed the front barrier and I nearly had a heart attack, The Blinders record that led to a live album with them we put out on Blood Records, the FUR record that ended up being this whole massive thing, the two Yonaka records, the Mysterines EP that’s going great guns. Have a new one coming from Spacey Jane next month that’s sort of been the soundtrack to my isolation, I think that record will always remind me of this period, it’ll always mean a lot.
So, to try and answer your question because I could go on and on, I think the dream for me on Flying Vinyl is not necessarily to say ‘I want to work with Arctic Monkeys’ rather, to be able to say that bands we worked with on day one of their journey have now taken off. The genre generally has been a bit overshadowed by a few other genres in the last few years but some of the artists above are on a fantastic trajectory. My dream project is one where we work with artists at an early stage in their career and they completely outgrow us. I want us to be a footnote in their career, everyone benefits when that happens
Craig has curated a playlist for our Isolation Tapes series on Spotify, his selection of tracks a true testimony to his eclectic taste and the range of artists he has worked with. Have a listen:
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