‘It’s all about getting
the artists as much exposure as possible’

Dom Elton, far right, plays with the Mayfield house band, Dan Sawyers, Aaron Hartley and Gregg Powell.
 Picture Ian Hargreaves  (170490-1)
Dom Elton, far right, plays with the Mayfield house band, Dan Sawyers, Aaron Hartley and Gregg Powell. Picture Ian Hargreaves (170490-1)
Portchester Castle Picture: Ryan Atfield

Carcass of dog found dumped at Portchester Castle

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Record Store Day is now a well-established institution. Each April vinyl fans will queue up for hours, nay days, to get their hands on limited edition discs produced specially for the day.

Record Store Day is now a well-established institution. Each April vinyl fans will queue up for hours, nay days, to get their hands on limited edition discs produced specially for the day.

Aaron Middleton will be the next release on Mayfield Record Label.
Picture Ian Hargreaves  (170490-1)

Aaron Middleton will be the next release on Mayfield Record Label. Picture Ian Hargreaves (170490-1)

The day is marked today with a whole host of live bands and a street fair in Castle Road, Southsea, centred around Pie and Vinyl – the shop which also runs a record label.

But they are not the only local record label. Often putting out digital-only releases, or small runs of vinyl, CDs or even cassettes, these enterprises help give acts an outlet to the public that they might otherwise never get.

Mayfield Studios in Drayton has this month also started up a sister company, Mayfield Record Label (MRL), with the explicit purpose of highlighting talent from around Portsmouth.

Former science teacher and healthcare business owner Dom Elton founded the studio two years ago after selling up his business with ‘the idea of wanting to spend the rest of my time engaged in music.’

Australian band Violet Swells were released by Strong Island Recordings

Australian band Violet Swells were released by Strong Island Recordings

As a musician, he started the Mayfield band several years ago, and they now function as the studio’s house band. And fittingly, a three-track EP by them is the label’s first release.

‘We’ve had so many local outstanding singers and bands come and record at Mayfield Studios,’ explains Dom, ‘the majority of which then simply upload their music to a free social media site and that’s pretty much it – the greater public never get to hear these fantastic original songs, and that’s a massive shame.’

Dom is ambitious and plans to release something on the first Friday of every month through to 2020, with the rest of the releases for 2017 already in the can. Next up, in May, is Dreams of Old Guitars, an EP by singer-songwriter Aaron Middleton. His band Crown of Thorns are also slated for a future release on the label.

Releases will initially be download-only, as physical copies are more expensive to produce, but Dom plans to push that side later – he’s already had a request for a vinyl copy of the Northern-Soul flavoured Mayfield Band EP.

To help find his way, Dom has signed up to the Association of Independent Music (AIM).

He says: ‘They’ve been brilliant, really helpful. I’m getting to as many of their meetings as I can to absorb as much information as possible. I’m going to one about digital marketing just this week.

‘It’s all about getting local artists as much exposure as possible. It’s about showing consistency over time to slowly get the name and the brand into people’s minds – all underpinned by quality new music I would like to hear and play, and locally-sourced.

‘The equipment is state-of-the-art. I didn’t hold back when I put the studio together, I wanted to get the best possible. We can create, and we already have created, some quality productions.

‘For me though it’s definitely about the local scene, and we’ve invested in things like Victorious. We’ve run a stage there for the past two years and we’ll be back this year, and we support the Icebreaker Festival. We’ve run the stage at The Loft, then we offer all the artists who’ve performed on our stage a 25 per cent discount at the studio, and that’s worked.

‘What I’m hoping is that eventually it will be a label stage to showcase our signed artists.’

Pie and Vinyl Records get physical

Given their name and parent shop, Pie and Vinyl Records has been strong on physical releases for the local acts they’ve put out.

Starting in 2014 with the second album by B of The Bang, co-founder of the Castle Road, Southsea, shop Steve Courtnell says: ‘We timed it for release on Record Store Day – we try to hang on to the coat-tails of the other releases and hopefully we’re trusted enough for people to see it on the side of the counter and give it a go.’

Other releases have included noise duo Rickyfitts, electronic artist Sacha and, most recently, the ‘quite ambient’ Highlights of Our Modern World,

‘We try to tap into that talent and use some of the contacts we’ve made along the way to try and get them into the bigger worlds, touring, releasing records. We just want to give them a bigger platform that reflects on the wider scene in portsmouth and Southsea.’

And they’ve been experimenting with formats beyond vinyl, even download codes with T-shirts.

‘People expect us to do vinyl, but the last few releases have been on cassette tape. We’re finding when people go to gigs by local acts, people want to buy something to buy and take away with them – you can put download codes in tapes like you do with vinyl, and they’re quite cheap. We have lots of fun with the colours, that’s become popular.

‘It’s about a grand to press 300 vinyls, so it’s quite a lot and you’ve got to be sure to sell them out to get your money back, and that’s the aim really.’

‘Our ethos with the label is that it’s predominantly there to support local artists. We want to give them a bigger platform.’

A local label that looks beyond Portsmouth for its acts

Strong Island Recordings began in 2012 as an offshoot of the similarly-named hub for the local artistic community.

It was set up by Brad Sked, who says: ‘I was co-running another label that was more electronic stuff, but it wasn’t really the kind of music I listened to, so I wanted to start a new label with stuff that I really dig.’

There was an introduction to the Strong Island team through mutual friends, and a new label was born.

The first release was by Arrows of Love, and they’ve since put out 15 more releases, including singles, EPs, full albums and compilations. While some acts have been local – Melt Dunes, Curxes – others such as Australians Violet Swells couldn’t be from much farther away.

‘That’s the great thing about the internet, you’re not restricted by the location of the music and you can find all these amazing bands from anywhere in the world. For us it’s not necessarily about location – although it’s great to work with bands that we know. If I hear a great piece of music and I think that the band are up for putting out something, I’ll get in touch with them.’

And they try to put out a physical release, but finances play their part.

Brad says: ‘The label is sustainable, but it’s a case of us having to dip our hands into our pockets if we want to do something special, which I’m not too fussed about as it’s a hobby label. But there are a few of us involved, it’s our passion, it’s something we love doing. Some people spend their money on cars, or going on big holidays, for us it’s putting on bands that we love.

‘The day we’re not enjoying it is the day we pack up the label, but I can’t see that happening anytime soon.’