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Soft Power Records: Smitten with Singapore music

Soft Power Records are a Scottish indie label that releases music in analogue-only formats. Having coordinated releases from acts such as September Girls, Dirty Beaches and Aggi Doom, Soft Power has turned its attention to Singapore, working with Happy Teardrop on Obedient Wives Club’s (OWC) new EP ‘Murder Kill Baby’ (MKB), due for release on 15 February next year.

We tracked down Bek Galloway, one half of Soft Power’s founding partners, to find out more about the label.

What was Soft Power’s first ever release?
Our first release was the vinyl version of Theoretical Girl’s LP ‘Divided’ in conjunction with (British independent record label) Memphis Industries. The simple reason we put out that record was that it was an album we both really enjoyed but that sadly never had a vinyl release. We wanted to try something we had never done before.

We had a lot of fun doing it and were really happy with the way it turned out. In the end, we added an extra track, made a cut-out-and-keep Theoretical Girl Dressing Doll, and Amy (Turnnidge, aka Theoretical Girl) cross stitched us some fabulous lyrics, which we put onto postcards.

Our first 7″ was a split with Dirty Beaches and one of his friends Conor Prendergast (who also runs Fixture Records), and our first tape release was an absolutely wonderful EP by the very brilliant but now defunct London band, Trogons. We didn’t know what we were doing when we started out, we don’t know what we’re doing now, but we’re enthusiastic and we love everything we put out.

What do you look for in acts that you sign?
This is pretty tricky, so we made a checklist for any band who might want to approach us:

1. Make us swoon and/or feel sick by being brilliant
2. Write great pop hooks
3. Lots of backing vocals (we really like those!)
4. Dress up nice on stage
5. Make us want to join their gang
6. Good sense of humour — you will need it

“We didn’t know what we were doing when we started out, we don’t know what we’re doing now, but we’re enthusiastic and we love everything we put out.”

Where does your love of music come from?
We both grew up in families that loved music. Legend has it that (partner) Graeme got his first record player when he was two and loved nothing more than spinning vinyl as a tiny kid.

In our house, music was always on somewhere. I wasted half my life listening to records – it was a way of both connecting with and disconnecting from the outside world. Eventually, it turned out not to be time wasted at all.

Tell us more about your recent signing of Singapore’s Obedient Wives Club for their upcoming EP ‘Murder Kill Baby’.
We’re really excited to be working with them and Happy Tear Drop Records. OWC first came to our attention when their first CD EP came out, ‘This Is It’. I was smitten with it, did a bit of research online and then contacted Georgiana (from Happy Tear Drop) about stocking the CD in our online shop.

We became friends on Facebook — with (OWC’s guitarist) Keith Tan in particular, who’s also friends with (Irish band) September Girls. Over the course of a few messages, we mentioned that we’d like to put something out with them and MKB is the end result.

You’ve said before that you don’t often work with Scottish local bands. Why is this?
It isn’t that we don’t want to work with Scottish bands — we love working with them! We put out one of Glasgow’s best new bands, Aggi Doom, and one of the finest indiepop bands to come out of Edinburgh in a long time, The Spook School.

It’s just the particular area that we live in — smack-bang between Edinburgh and Glasgow — is a bit of a cultural vacuum; there isn’t any kind of music scene where we are. As ever, Glasgow is absolutely bursting with stupendously talented new bands.

It’s an embarrassment of riches as far as independent music is concerned and I’m sure we’ll be putting out more Scottish bands in the future, just not any from our postcode. Nowadays it’s so easy to work with bands from all over the world, which would have been nigh on impossible 15 or 20 years ago. Thanks to the Internet, everyone is local.

Are there any other Singaporean or Southeast Asian acts that you’ve got your eye on?
We’re embarrassingly ignorant about the music scene in Singapore and South East Asia, but are aware that there are a lot of exciting things happening musically in that corner of the world. There are so many good new bands coming through, but we’re fans of Shh…Diam!, Rocketswan, Pastelpower (OWC guitarist Cherie’s side project) and, of course, Obedient Wives Club. We would love to hear more.

Now, down to the nitty-gritty. Do you see the popular re-emergence of vinyl as a lasting trend?
Yes! Of course vinyl is here to stay, and truth be told it never really went away. The sound itself is so much warmer and more beautiful, the artwork is large and clear, you can actually read the lyrics or sleeve notes, and the record itself is hugely satisfying not just to play, but to hold and own — a prized possession. The same cannot be said of a download.

“We’re embarrassingly ignorant about the music scene in Singapore and South East Asia, but are aware that there are a lot of exciting things happening musically in that corner of the world.”

On the flipside, digital music is incredibly convenient and there’s nothing better than getting a vinyl with a download so you can take your music with you wherever you like. However, you can’t give it as a gift — a digital playlist will never have as much emotional resonance as a carefully compiled mixtape, for example. Digital downloads are excellent tools for promotion and convenient in the extreme, but the experience of listening to a vinyl record can never be replicated virtually.

And now we want the low down on your personal faves!

First album you played to death… Hatful Of Hollow by The Smiths
Last album you paid for… Ladytron:  Live At London Astoria
Standout release of 2012….  Terror Bird: Secret Rituals LP
A release you’re really excited for…
Veronica Falls new LP; September Girls Debut LP; Marnie LP
Favourite artist of the moment… September Girls
Favourite Obedient Wives Club track… This Is It
Best thing about vinyl… You can put your arms around it.
Soft Power Records in five words… Not sleeping at the wheel.

By Eleanor Turnbull