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In Conversation With WAHAM Records

Alex Thompson talks to the student led label about the importance of independent music in 2021

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Image Credit: WAHAM Records

For most of us, the pandemic has been a chance to take a break from the pressures of life - to chill out, put our feet up and spend our days binging Netflix and baking banana bread. For the team at WAHAM Records, this has not been the case. The York-based record label first kicked off in late 2020 and since then, they’ve been working hard, announcing a steady stream of acts joining their roster and promising bigger things for 2021.

This has been made all the more impressive for the fact that the team are all students here at York.

Formed by members of the York based alternative-rock group Everything After Midnight, WAHAM Records was founded to provide a platform for student acts, local bands and unsigned artists, giving them the advice and support they need to help navigate the minefield of the modern music industry. With a current lineup consisting of Sheffield indie rockers BrunchBox, infamous BandSoc act Where’s Slater?, Huddersfield alt-rock group The Simones and singer songwriter Mary Alice, the label promises to be ‘supporting and releasing music for the finest alternative artists in the North’. The label seems to be filling a gap in the market to support some of the many incredible acts we have at the Uni of York, as well as across Yorkshire and the North, and I was curious to find out more.

Earlier this week I caught up with Jacob Cooper and Aidan Robson from WAHAM via the omni-present video conferencing software Zoom, to discuss the importance of independent music, the impact of the pandemic on bands and how you can support fellow student musicians....

Alex: So, what prompted you guys to start WAHAM?
Jacob: I think we felt as a band that there were things we could have done with earlier, that would have been helpful speeding things up for us. We were asking around for a lot of advice and hearing different things from different people about things like social media and gigs and it would have been good to have someone to tell us all that from the start. We wanted to help artists get started and have that support straight away, giving them advice and a platform and then we thought it would be cool if we could tie that up with distributing their music as well.

Alex: Starting an independent record label right now is kind of a bold move with everything moving more and more towards commercial and away from independent, especially during the pandemic. Why do you think independent music is still important and relevant in 2021?
Aidan: From what I’ve seen people are starting to move back towards it, taking more interest in independent things and giving directly to artists. I think people are starting to think about buying vinyl more rather than just listening on Spotify because you still get the music but you know you’re giving back to the people and not just to some major label. I do agree that a lot of people still go for commercial things and they’ll stick to Spotify, I mean I still have a Spotify account and use Spotify, but buying vinyl is a sort of piece of mind thing for me and about giving back to those artists.

Alex: Moving onto your roster, you’ve announced a whole bunch of acts, what are you hoping to achieve with them and what support are you looking to give them as a label?
Jacob: I think it differs for each artist and we’re working with all of them in different ways. For some of them we’ve seen that their releases in the past have got quite a lot of streams without much of a social media presence so we wanted to help them better utilise that. Other artists, we are more involved with the production of their music.

Alex: You mentioned social media there, do you think that is something a lot of acts are under utilising?
Jacob: I think so, it’s changing so quickly you just need to know all the tricks when it comes to social media. If artists aren't using it, they are closing themselves off to a whole world they could be getting their music to. So that’s one of the things that’s important to some of the artists we’re working with.

Alex: So, back to the current roster. Tell us about some of the acts you’ve got and what you’re hoping to do with them in 2021.
Jacob: I’ve been working with The Simones on their current project (that I don’t think they want me to reveal just yet) and we’ve been working together for the past six months on putting that together. The Simones are an alternative indie band from Huddersfield, where I grew up, and with them we’re not just working on the production and the songs but we’re also doing the social media kind of stuff. Mary, who's on the label (Mary Alice) has been working with Andrew to help produce her music so that’s the role he’s got with her at the moment.

Aidan: I’ve been working with Where’s Slater? because I saw them at Battle Of The Bands and they were a pretty rocking act you know, pretty fucking cool, and I was talking about social media with them. They released their acoustic track ‘June’ which I thought was really good and they did a track for the compilation album Aggregate Mate, a normal version that was also really good. I think they’ve got the riffs and Saul (the frontman) has the voice, I just think they just need a bit of a push on social media to really get them going.

Alex: So a lot of what you guys seem to be doing is focusing on the local artists, the student music, the smaller acts, the independent stuff. How can students support and help out their fellow student acts?
Jacob: When they’re back on, go to gigs. Before that, buy merch and share around what artists are doing and support them, doing as much to recognise the work they are doing. I know we’ve done loads of things as a band (Everything After Midnight) that might get a like on social media but they’ve taken us a long time to do so it’s always great to hear that people are enjoying it. So yeah definitely recognise the work that is being done and do as much as you can to share their music, buy merch and go to gigs when they’re back on.

Aidan: Sometimes even dropping a message helps. We’ve even had certain things like we had that guy who did that did this random bit of artwork for us, just for fun, and he sent it to us and that was amazing. Doing little things, even sending a message saying something like ‘I really love your track’, is great. When people send appreciation to you it’s a really wholesome and nice thing.

Jacob: That’s a really good point yeah, show artists how much you’ve enjoyed what they’ve done. It really does mean a lot.

Alex: So going forward, what is the plan for WAHAM Records? Looking forward, post-pandemic or throughout the rest of the year what are you hoping to achieve in 2021?
Jacob: I think we said when we started that we wanted an event to launch the label which would be introducing some of our artists. We did want to do that around now but obviously the pandemic has meant that that can’t happen. We thought we might as well release all the music and get hype around all the bands that we’re working with for now but long term we’d definitely like to be putting on events and when we’ve got a bit further with these artists, releasing merch with them and having a nice community where we can get people to come to the things we put on.

Alex: While we’re here, Covid - how has that affected you guys as a band and as a label? How have you had to adapt to the changing circumstances?
Jacob: I think it started the label, so that’s been a positive. We’d talked about how cool it would be to have an independent record label way before Covid but when the pandemic hit and we saw that YUSU were giving away grants for student projects, that’s when we thought it would be something nice to do. We put together the plan we had, got the grant and that’s meant we’ve been able to do all this. In that sense it’s been really positive but obviously over the longer term it has hindered our plans for the label, particularly at the moment because we want to be working with artists to record, and we can’t do anything like that. So that’s how it’s worked as a label. I think as a band it has been incredibly hard as well, because we’re mostly split up due to lockdown. You can do things like when we did our acoustic session in my room that was really cool, but you just don’t get the same kind of reception. We had plans to record some new stuff as well but we can’t record our own stuff at the moment either.

Aidan: With the band, I would say there are more negatives overall but there are a few good things that have come from it. We’ve done things that I don’t think we would have probably ever considered doing before the pandemic and it’s been kind of nice to have a bit of a breather because from our first gig to the last one in March. There was a lot going on and there were a lot of times where we all had to put the band first and it was quite tiring. From that mental health perspective, although it is great to play live and do all those things, it is really tiring and you don’t realise how tiring it is until you get a breather. When you get a breather you realise ‘wow, I was really quite stressed then about a really small thing’ whereas now you have more time to think about it all.

Jacob: I’d say as well with that, we had loads planned between April and June that would have taken up all our time as a band and because of what’s going on we’ve been able to take things slower and write more songs. I’d say the three that we’ve done recently are some of the best we’ve done so in that respect it has been a positive.

Alex: Last little bit, have you guys got anything to plug or anything people should check out? The usual end of interview bits.
Jacob: I’d encourage people to get on our social media, our Facebook (WAHAM Records) and Instagram (@wahamrecords) and look at what the artists are doing, look into their stuff and read about them, show artists how much you appreciate their work.

The Simones have got something coming up very soon, I think Mary has got something coming up very soon as well so watch out for that.

Find the full roster of acts at @wahamrecords on Instagram and keep an eye out for new releases and announcements from the label...

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