Living in Glasgow, we hear a lot about the unimpeachable musical legacy of the city. From the erratic, post-punk of Orange Juice and Josef K, to the fragile indie-pop of Belle and Sebastian, to the latter alt-rock of Mogwai and Biffy Clyro; Glasgow can count among its alumni some of the most varied, and important names in modern British music. The size of the city, the familiar venues, and the manifest musical identity of the town, make it an attractive place for musicians of all sorts and origins to ply their trade.
But inevitably, playing in a scene so saturated with talent and ambition can be hard, getting the right attention, and the right support, can be frustrating. Add into the competitive landfill; a generous dose of vacuous, sound-alike bands, and a small number of predatory capitalists, and reluctant record labels – and opportunities for new talent would appear elusive.
Despite the success stories and famous stages, ‘making it’ in Glasgow has never been more difficult. I chatted with Colin O’Hara, the recent co-founder of local DIY record label ‘Overlook Records’, about the obstacles talented, local bands face today, and about how playing in the city motivated him to start his own record label.
What inspired you to found Overlook Records, and how you describe the label?
Myself (Colin), Chris from Trapped in Kansas, and Liam from Darien Venture were discussing our own disaffection with regard to the local music scene, and decided it was about time we started something positive in order to get our own music out there. After our first few releases we decided there were so many great bands we could work with within the Glasgow music scene, and have really developed from there.
Why do think controlling your own record label is a good thing?
We believe artistic control is vital, not only for the bands we play in, but also for other bands on the label. It’s important to us that bands retain their sound and identity, and we try to ensure that a great band come before a ‘perfect product’. A slow dime is better than a quick buck in our eyes.
How easy is it for unsigned bands in Scotland, and more specifically, Glasgow- to achieve success?
I think success is what you make it. If you go out aiming to sell a million records and do huge sold out shows, you will ultimately end up disappointed. If you are willing to work extremely hard and enjoy what you do, then it will be more worthwhile. I have never made serious money from music, but I’m pleased with the success I have had, in the years I have been involved in the industry.
What effect do you think DIY labels have on the local scene?
DIY labels are willing to take risks on new bands and give them a platform to do well.
I also believe small labels, for local artists, add a positive sense of community for the local scene. The bands on the label all communicate with one another and help each other out, whether it be gear sharing, finding someone to drive a van, or locating someone to help do artwork, all the guys are really keen to help each other out.
You’re a musician yourself, how has founding Overlook records helped your own band?
Being the guitarist in Trapped in Kansas and also co-founder of Overlook definitely has its advantages. I know exactly what’s happening with our releases at any time and we can basically do what we want with our own music. However, managing the label, playing in the band and working full time (I work in a whisky distillery too) can be quite demanding. But I like keeping myself busy and the label certainly does that!
What’s in the name?
We went through a couple of names and weren’t really satisfied with what we came up with, then when we were toying with ideas, the three of us landed on the Stanley Kubrick classic “The Shining” and in it, there’s a hotel is called the ‘Overlook Hotel’…so we decided to steal it from that.
Trapped in Kansas, The Darien Venture, Salo, and Bellow Below are all on the Overlook roster.
Find out more about the label and associated artists at www.overlookrecords.com