Anyone in the know will tell you that Leeds’ music scene is one of the best in the country. From aspiring musicians sat practicing in their bedrooms, to upcoming bands on the stages of the city’s most iconic venues, Leeds is home to a plethora of bands and artists who have limitless potential. With independence and a hard work ethic at the city’s core, Leeds is the place where people with a vision achieve wonderful things. One of those people is Scott Lewis, the co-founder of independent record label Clue Records.
Home to Yorkshire bands Avalanche Party, Trash, Forever Cult, Narcs, Sunface and Allusondrugs, Clue Records is a label that stops at nothing to support the bands they love. From putting their bands on festival stages, to releasing compilations with other bands and labels they admire, Clue Records is a friend that any aspiring musician would want on their side.
The prospect of a record label came into Scott’s head in the Summer of 2012 while he was working with bands at Oxjam Music Festival; “These bands I was working with were amazing but weren’t getting picked up, and I was like ‘why is nobody taking a punt on them?’ I’ve always loved the idea of record labels and the families and cultures they create. That was dead exciting to me so I just thought, ‘I’ll try it. I’ll find out what it is when I get half way through it.’”
The ethos of Clue Records very much seems to be about friends just helping out friends. It’s clear that the bands Scott works with are not only people who he has limitless faith in, but a close-knit group who just want to see each other succeed. “We had a couple of bands starting at the same time, and everyone was quite close. Everyone wanted to support and encourage each other, and it just had that proper nice family feel. We’ve always tried to be that way and be positive,” expresses Scott. “There’s a lot of good stuff out there and we just want to push it. If nobody knows what Clue Records is but they’re aware of the bands, that’s fine by me.”
Podcasts were initially how Clue Records first started. “We did that until we started building up a bit of a growing,” Scott explains. “Then we released our first single in early 2013, which was 19 by Narcs.” It’s this DIY initiative and genuine love for upcoming bands that fuels Clue Records, and Leeds is certainly a place where the soil is rich for DIY projects to blossom; “There’s a really nice and positive DIY scene in Leeds. Everyone’s got their fingers in different pies, and the majority of people want everyone else around them to do well as well. Whether it be Tony from Come Play With Me, or Dan from Hide and Seek, or Rob from Philophobia, we always try and look out for each other. I want Clue to do well and succeed, but I also want other labels in Leeds to succeed.”
Sitting with Scott on the wobbly picnic benches of Brudenell Social Club, there was no better place to be sat while gushing about Leeds. The iconic venue is at the heart of the city’s independent music scene, inviting anyone to forget about the bad days and toast to the good days with a cheap pint. “It’s what kept me in Leeds at the start, and it’s become the centre of my time here,” reflects Scott. “You’ll come here on a night and there’s all sorts of different characters and different people; there’s no boundaries to it. Putting on a gig at Brudenell was a big goal for me, and now bands we look after play here regularly, and that’s mint because this is the place in the country that I’d want any of our bands playing.”
The daydream of having a record label seems eternally glamourous; you imagine yourself going to gigs every night and eating your breakfast off platinum records while your band plays on the radio. Yet, the reality of it is a lot of hard-work, graft and persistence. Scott tells me about what makes it all worth it: “It’s a big thing for us to have our bands being able to play live. At Y Not Festival, Trash were playing to this massive crowd and they were absolutely amazing. The crowd were all really going for it and I was just giddy. I love watching people lose it, or seeing their jaw hit the floor when they see the bands. All the hard work you put in, and all the hours of just sending emails over and over and getting no replies, pays off and it just means so much. There’s been a few times where I don’t know if I can keep on going, but it’s those successes that make all the graft worth it.”
Finally, what advice would Scott give to anyone who wanted to start a record label? “Be sure that you want to do it,” he advises first and foremost. “Think about why you want to do it, and what you can do for bands. Ideally, it’s about loving the artist that you’re working with and just pushing them as much as you can to be successful. Just remember it’s about graft.”
Images and Words by Meg Firth