Andrew Ferris & Daniel Fawcett on STA and This Ain't No Picnic

"I suspect it involved buckets of both red wine and boundless optimism" - Daniel

Over the days of September 27th and 28th, in-it-for-the-music label Smalltown America have organised a two day festival called This Ain’t No Picnic, with a fantastic line up of bands, films and other such wondrous things. This lovely event is to be held at Kings College’s delightful Student Union venue. For more tickets visit and for more information visit Now, for the fun part... I caught up with Andrew Ferris and Daniel Fawcett, the guys that run Smalltown America. Read on for the results...

Firstly, tell us a little bit about Smalltown America. How and why did it get started and what do you stand for?

Daniel: I think the former is really more of a question for Andrew, as I wasn’t around at that point. I suspect it involved buckets of both red wine and boundless optimism. The latter? I like to think that the one thing we stand for is to put out some great music.

Andrew: Red wine indeed, I think the tipple of the day was actually Hoffmeister or Laser I suspect, we certainly weren’t as erudite then as we are now.
WHY - because we wanted to make records that ‘didn’t touch the sides’ direct from us to you.
HOW - spending all our savings, long hours and relying on the kindness of many, many friends. In fact, that’s still the case to this day.

For those people out there looking to start their own DIY label, can you give us a bit of insight in to what it entails?
Daniel: A lot of hard work, a lot of money, a lot of sleepless nights and the ability to live surrounded by boxes of stock and jiffy bags. It’s a real rollercoaster of ups and downs. You know hard it can be to get people to do things to a deadline in The Real World? Well, it’s even harder when you have a full time job getting in the way and they have a full time job getting in the way!

So things are going quite well recently with the label two of your bands, Fighting with Wire and Alan MX, getting a lot of attention. How did that come about and what does it mean for the future?

Daniel: Fighting With Wire’s current humping of the alterna-rock world’s stereos seems to be entirely down to Zane Lowe. Have you seen the kinda stuff that man comes out with? He likes his hyperbole more than I do, and I proclaim about six things a day to be the best thing EVER. The attention Alan MX is getting is… unusual. It’s entirely down to his music. Obviously, most bands get noticed because of their music, in a roundabout way, but through shows or videos or whatever. But with Alan, he currently exists as just a myspace page with a few songs on it, and everyone who hears them seems to fall in love. It happened to us! He’s just utterly beguiling, equal parts Thom Yorke, Björk and Justin Timberlake or something.

What does this mean for us? Hopefully it means that the other releases we’ve put out - past, present and future - will get a bit more notice than they would’ve done otherwise! Also, that there’ll be enough money so I can go to SxSW next year as well…

How rewarding is running STA? How much have you achieved as a label and how far do you think/hope you can go?

Daniel: I bitch and moan a lot (ask my friends) but really it’s a lot of fun. I have this wonderful memory of finding a copy of ‘Public Service Broadcast 9’ (which I put together) in a shop just after it came out and spending the rest of the day grinning. How far can we go? Well, that’s the question I guess - music industry state of flux shifting paradigms reduced revenues blah blah. I like to think that there’ll always be a place for labels that care about what they’re releasing, but maybe that’s just the eternal optimist in me.

Andrew: I think we can become an international label, we’re now on solid ground financially and that counts for a lot in this game, the people that buy our records, generally buy them all - which is what sustains us; we’re very thankful to our loyal customers, and I think with Daniel now at the helm, we’re in for some really great releases over the next two years.

Tell us about This Ain't No Picnic. What's it all about and what can we expect from it?

This Ain’t No Picnic is our new event. I pitched it as an “Urban Festival” to the nice people at King’s College and they were quite happy with this, so I guess that sticks. We used to run all-dayers and they were fun - what’s not to love about a day where you can watch and meet loads of bands you like whilst drinking your own booze inside a venue? EVERYTHING, THAT’S WHAT.

It’s really just about being able to see loads of great bands in one place, but this year we’re trying to do something a bit beyond the music this year as well, to make the whole thing a bit more ambitious and interactive. So we’re going to try and coax down some of the people who run amazing indie labels here in the UK and get them to run stalls and hopefully meet people who are interested in “The Business” from whatever side.

We’ve also going to be screening some of our favourite punk rock and DIY music movies in King’s College’s separate bar area, which should be fun!

Who can we expect to see playing? I know you have some excellent acts announced already; can you give us any hints at who else might make an appearance?

Well, Future of the Left are headlining Saturday night, which is very exciting indeed - their ‘Curses!’ LP was one of my favourites of last year, and amply picked up the baton left by McLusky. Plus, this way I get to meet Falco! We’ve also got Chris T-T and his band, which is very cool. He put out an LP earlier this year called ‘Capitol’ and it’s wonderful, he uses his gift for storytelling to portray this nightmareish world of terror attacks and tanks on the streets of London. It’s like ‘Children of Men set to music. We’re speaking to an agent about someone very cool for the Sunday night headliner, but I can’t say who just yet.

Lower down the bill we’ve got a band called Panther playing, who have the distinction of being the first American act to play one of our events. They’re currently signed to Kill Rock Stars, who are one of the best indie labels in North America. I’d kill for a back catalogue as quality as theirs.

Lots of great British talent as well - Oxford’s toe-and-guitar-tapping This Town Needs Guns; Popular Workshop, who just recorded an album with Steve Albini over in Chicago; Tropics, who are a post-punk supergroup of sorts comprising members of An Emergency and Bullet Union and more... I could go on but I won’t as I’m not sure even I’d read this far. To summarise, there’ll be about thirty live sets across the weekend and, of course, there’ll be members of the STA extended family there as well.

In previous years Smalltown America put on an all day festival. What was the thinking behind it spreading over two days and giving it all a new name?

The 2007 all-dayer didn’t happen for various reasons, not least because we pretty much hit a brick wall in terms of what we could achieve with one day and at the old venue (93 Feet East). Of course, the logical thing would’ve been to go either up to a bigger venue or to two days, but we’re throwing ourselves into the deep end and doing both. It’s going to be interesting. I’m learning a lot! We’re doing it mostly because I look at other cities in the UK and they all seem to support these kids of events, things that are DIY and exciting and equal parts brilliant bands you know and brilliant bands you don’t, and yet there’s nothing like that here in London. There’s Brainwash and Chinchilla Fest in Leeds, Swn in Cardiff, Abandon Ship in Bristol, A Day At The Races in Manchester - they’re everywhere! And what do we get? The Camden Crawl. Yeah, great one London.

Plus, I’m really just an arrogant sod and I want to be able to say I’ve run a festival before I turn 26.

What's the best way to go about getting tickets for TANP and what does a ticket entitle us to? (plug plug plug!)

Day and weekend tickets are available now over at We Got Tickets. Saturday is going to kick off around 1pm and bands will run until about 10:30pm, and then there’s a clubnight afterwards until 4am. Sunday is going to also be a 1pm kick off but with a more civilised close time of 11pm, I guess because some people have to be at work on the Monday. Not me, I have the day off!

Polysics are to headline the Sunday night of This Ain't No Picnic, our forthcoming live music bash! Polysics hail from Tokyo, Japan, and have released six full length albums of what they dub "technicolour pogo punk" (think: blasting guitars, high energy beats, computer noise, a love of Devo, etc etc..) in the last ten years, whilst taking their wild and critically acclaimed live show all over the world. This is going to be a special one, that's for sure.

As well as this, joining Saturday night headliners Future of the Left and all the great bands previously announced are a whole bunch of new names. Guilty parties as follows:

Bearsuit (UK, Fantastic Plastic >>> myspace)
Calories (UK, ex-Distophia! >>>
Gossamer Albatross (UK >>>
Hooray For Humans (IRE, Smalltown America >>>
Ice, Sea, Dead People (UK >>>
Let Our Enemies Beware (UK, Smalltown America >>>
The Light Sleepers (UK, Faux Discx >>>
Panther (USA, Kill Rock Stars >>>
Popular Workshop (UK, This Is Fake DIY >>>
This Town Needs Guns (UK, Big Scary Monsters >>>

Full details of the lineup can be found over on the official website.

This Ain't No Picnic 2008 takes place at King's College London on September 27th and 28th. Tickets are available now for both the weekend and individual days are available now from We Got Tickets.

Already going? Why not add it your calendars at Facebook and Last FM?

- Sara Curtis, Subba Cultcha