Label Profile: Jeepster
Wednesday 23 January 2008
"You could describe us as a patron of the arts rather than a label," says Stef D'Andrea, the co-founder and MD of Jeepster. "We're in this for the experience."
They signed Belle & Sebastien and Snow Patrol, but lost both to bigger labels on the cusp of their achieving major success.
Does D'Andrea think they could have done anything differently? "No," he says. "Belle & Sebastian might not even have been a band without Jeepster."
A scout spotted the Scottish indie band at Stow College in Glasgow almost as soon as D'Andrea , Jo, his wife, and Mark Jones, set up the label in 1995.
"Their first two albums were already written and Stuart Murdoch had a plan which included recording them at college using money he'd borrowed from his dad" recalls D'Andrea.
Murdoch couldnt' be persuaded to record in a more professional studio, but did agree to sign to Jeepster. However, the band had a very definite idea of what they wanted to do, and that didn't include single releases, gigs, interviews or photographs.
D'Andrea turned down Radiohead's request that Belle & Sebastian support them on their 1997 tour. And rejected Krispy Kreme's $350,000 (£175,000) syncing deal. "I almost staretd to enjoy saying 'no'," he says.
Enjoyable it might have been, but the money would have come in handy. In 1997, Jeepster signed a new band called Snow Patrol.
"We took the tried and tested route of album production with them, but it cost a lot of money," says D'Andrea. "They sold 10,000 of each of the two albums we produced, but they were capable of more. So we spent more, but the sales didn't rise to match."
It wasn't all doom and gloom. In the late Nineties, Jeepster expanded to take on Salako and Looper. In 1999 Belle & Sebastian won the Brit Award for Best Newcomer for The Boy With The Arab Strap. It put Jeepster firmly on the map.
But by 2002, the label ran out of money. "That coincided with the time when Belle & Sebastian and Snow Patrol were ready to embrace the mainstream," says D'Andrea. "We were honest about the fact we were broke",
Snow Patrol went off to Polydor and Belle & Sebastian to Rough Trade. D'Andrea returned to his job as a metals trader in the City, while his wife continued to keep things ticking over.
As Snow Patrol found success with a top 10 hit "Run" and Belle & Sebastian continued to gather pace, Jeepster put out a DVD and compilation album for Belle & Sebastian, followed in 2006 by releases of th to Snow Patrol albums.
"By 2006 we felt ready to sign again," says D'Andrea. "And through our connections with Worst Case Scenario records we found SixNationState."
Two singles releases have had low-key success and an album, SixNationState, is due out in September. Although D'Andrea was keen to focus on just one band, later last year he spied Parka, again picked up by Worst Case Scenario.
"I had to sign them" says D'Andrea. "They have the punky energy of the Buzzcocks, with a dance feel."
So does the new Jeepster feel like it knows what it's doing this time around?
"Does anyone?" asks D'Andrea. "No one really knows how to do the job anymore. People are willing to spend money on going to concerts, merchandise, food, but not music itself."
So, while D'Andrea is sticking with his day job in the City, leaving his wife to run Jeepster, he is positive about the future.
"The musicality is amazing," he says. "These kids are the MP3 generation; they're mixing up genres and not following any one particular style. When you get someone who does it well, it's incredibly exciting."
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