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Come Play With Me: The Independent Record Label for under-the-radar Artists

Come Play With Me is the independent record label in Leeds signing some of the best rising acts. Andrea Loftus catches up with founder Tony Ereira to find out how his label is switching up the music scene in Leeds.

Illustration: Rosie Collins

With the Summer coming to an end, it is likely that every bored youth with a guitar has had ample time to form the next Nirvana. However, with a saturated market and an increasingly competitive music scene, what’s the next step for all of these budding musicians?

Tony Ereira, the mastermind behind ‘Come Play With Me’, an independent record label and social enterprise creating opportunities and safe spaces within the music industry is here to recognise those in Leeds. Basing the project in the city was partly circumstantial, with Tony already living here; when the place you live is “Awash with so much amazing talent”, it’s really a no brainer. Basing the label in Yorkshire’s crowning glory paid off, and continues to do so as Tony admits, “We’ve never felt constrained by the quality of new music being made” here, and the creative chaos that cascades through a student-based city promises that there is only more to come.

Set up as a Community Interest Company, CPWM is a non-profit that reinvests everything “To identify ever more exciting talent”. Bodacious beats and big personalities are aplenty when it comes to the artists that have worked with the label, including the likes of Marsicans, Uncle Buzzard, Faux Pas and Talkboy to name a few. Who knows, maybe your band will be on one of CPWM’s fresh 7” split vinyls sooner rather than later.

The music industry is not always a safe space, but Tony believes that progress is being made in Leeds venues and “Hopefully we’ve helped a part of it”. Leeds is a treasure trove of quirky cafes, basement clubs and homely bars all hosting an eclectic mix of artists. However, more recently these venues have made a conscious effort to focus on representation, as Tony notes that even though “There’s always been a rich vein of diverse activity coming out of [places like] Wharf Chambers”, it seems to have trickled through the city’s side streets to reach “all the great folks who are running open, inclusive events”. Along with staff at Brudenell Social Club, CPWM has also organised training events with Music:Leeds and The Good Night Out campaign to “Arm local promoters, including ourselves, with what to do in the event of inappropriate activity at our gigs”.

Nevertheless, the label still recognises the need for a “Truly level playing field” for women and minorities in music, and how “This is an issue that we all need to keep plugging away at”. Tony is quick to add that CPWM works to “Push progression routes and opportunities for all under-represented groups”. For the third successive year, the label is hosting ‘Women in Music’ and ‘LGBTQ The Music’ events to “Create discussion, networking opportunities, signposting and role models for those demographics” in music. Tony was especially proud of the presence of an LGBTQ BAME panel, as “These events can sometimes have a habit of being all a bit too white”. Tony proudly throws in that over the weekend of the 19th and 20th of October, alongside ‘HerFest’ (a full female line-up headlined by The Orielles), CPWM will be hosting ‘Colour Me In’, an all-dayer of queer artists in Leeds.

Tony’s creative cascades go further than his vinyl club. As a previous trustee for the charity CALM, he found that in music “It was pretty clear that so many of the people we work with were juggling mental health challenges of their own and, refreshingly, often talking about them”. After trying to start a collaborative blog, he instead reigned in photographer Andrew Benge, editor of Counterfeit magazine, and crafted a CPWM publication to “Get under the skin of all things music”.

Keen to ensure the magazine wasn’t just another preview / review clog in the machine, Tony wanted to create something that “Looked and felt great” as aesthetics is always “Integral to everything”. Featuring Ad space for the likes of Girl Gang Leeds, Both Sides Now and Her Music PR, the magazine is not only an aesthetic dream with refined shots and content from the likes of Queen Zee, White Lies and Slowthai, it’s an example of how inclusive and innovative print can be in the right hands.

“Be the positive role models for the change you want to see”

So, if you’re in a musical rut and not sure how to go up an octave on the music career scale, this might just be the helping hand you never knew you needed. It’s evident from his hectic schedule that CPWM keeps Tony & Co very busy, so he advises that trying to “Grab us at a gig or one of our events” will save you sitting by your laptop waiting for a reply that might take “A while”. Another option to ping onto their radar is to let your tunes do the talking and “Submit a track to one of our submission rounds” that you can find out about by keeping an eye on their socials [listed below].

Music is a chaotic clash of press, print, previews and performance, leaving you not knowing if you’re coming or going. CPWM piloted a mentoring initiative offering support and guidance to musicians, and despite loss of funding, Tony still believes that “We all benefit from talking through our plans to someone that’s ‘Been there, done that’”. Even for Tony, running the label involves challenging decisions that he hopes will pay off. For instance, streamlining “The Singles Club model to work more closely over a longer-term”. This worked between the label and Talkboy, a six-piece indie-rock band from Leeds, and was ultimately a decision Tony doesn’t regret “One bit”.

As long as “Brexit doesn’t leave the singles pressed and stranded on the wrong side of the Channel tunnel”, the next Singles Club release should land at the end of this year. In terms of what’s next for CPWM, Tony hopes to collaborate even more than he has done this year, which saw the label craft two split releases with under-the-radar Japanese labels. Yet, it’s the community ambience of Leeds, where “Everyone is always so keen and willing to collaborate”, that makes Tony more keen to see where it goes “With the artists we’re currently working with”.

A final note that emulates Come Play With Me’s organic and refreshing position in the music business is their belief that inspiring change can only come about if, as an audience and consumer, we all “Engage and initiate more conscious decisions with what we buy and who we see”. As a musician, in order to raise the industry’s representation bar and help everyone up to reach it, it’s essential to “Be the positive role models for the change you want to see”.

Andrea Loftus









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