Big Scary Monsters is an East London based independent record label specialising in no genre in particular. It was formed soon after the millennium and in the last decade has put out music by Tall Ships, Caspian, Matt Pryor, DZ Deathrays, Gnarwolves, Pulled Apart By Horses, Kevin Devine, Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly., Woahnows, This Town Needs Guns, Algernon Cadwaller, Axes, and La Dispute – to name a few. BSM also set up the Pink Mist collective with Holy Roar, and Blood and Biscuits Records, and later Tangled Talk; a collective that works together to help promote more good music through blogging, shows and recordings.
A hectic schedule maybe, but running a record label wasn’t always on the cards for owner, Kevin Douch, who said: “I was really into music for a number of years before starting the label, but had absolutely no desire to be in a band and had never even considered working in the industry. Then one day it popped into my head and I think it took all of a week to realise it was the only thing I wanted to do!” This may make it sound easy, but he admitted: “There are definitely moments when I can’t help but crave an easy 9-5 job where I can switch off when I walk out the door. I’m sure, given such a job, it’d take me more like 24 minutes to be wanting the label back though!” That’s not hard to believe, especially when your catalogue includes a square single by Andrew W.K..
With genres spanning, but by no means limited to, post-rock, math, emo, punk, indie, and the aforementioned Andrew W.K., it might seem like there’s no link between who they take on. Kevin explained: “The only thing which is true of them all is that I love their music. Diversity is something I always wanted in the roster and hope to continue increasing that for many years to come.” With young, relatively unheard of bands and seasoned musicians alike all under the BSM umbrella, it’s noticeable that they all have a record (pun intended) of memorable live shows and enjoying playing the music they make. On whether it’s a requirement or not, Kevin stated: “It’s a big part of what we do in that our bands tour a lot and that’s how may of them make their names, but I don’t think we’ve ever signed anyone just because their show was awesome. It’s definitely helped for us to “get” what they’re about though.”
Despite the incredible shows and records, being in the music industry isn’t all sugar. “I struggle to understand a lot of decisions some people make, and obviously get frustrated when talented bands get overlooked for certain opportunities or by people I know would love them if given a proper listen, but you have to try and take the positives from those situations and use it as motivation to keep plugging away,” Kevin said. He added: “The people are probably the thing which excites me most. I’ve met so many of my closest friends through music and there’s a lot of inspiration all around. The potential of it all is also very exciting and the buzz of picking up a new band and seeing them slowly but surely grow is incredible.”
Is there a commercial check list? Some sort of guidelines to go by when making decisions to promote a band? “No rules at all. First and foremost we judge the music, then we consider factors such as where the band are from, what they’ve done up until now, what they have planned, if they seem willing and able to work hard, what they seem like as people, and how we might be able to help them along.” It’s not just the bands who are able to work and play hard; As well as being integral to Pink Mist, BSM organises an annual 5-a-side football league which “normally comes together around April time. BSM are the current title holders so it’s gonna be a big year trying to retain that!”
Displaying a tongue in cheek humour and a passion for doing things for fun and away from the norm is a definite BSM trait, and being a label concerned with the interests of the artist and the listener together means there’s no shortage of output. So, rewrite your Christmas wish lists and keep your eyes and ears open because “next year there’s a whole bunch of things lined up including new releases, a few reissues and represses, loads of tours, and a whole host of bands who are busy writing. I think there could be some important album releases to come, not just from us but right across the board, and it should be a fun year.”