A little over twenty years ago Jamie and I figured out the mechanics of putting out our own records. While we were in his studio making our first album we needed a name for the tape boxes, 'Smalltown America' was born. Twenty years and 150 records later I feel confident in saying that we did what we came to do, so I'm closing Smalltown America with pride and a smile.
Where do I start thanking people? It's almost impossible... 'Good Music Needs To Be Heard' galvanized hundreds of us to believe that music at the periphery deserved the same marketing, distribution and standard of production as the big guys. A cast of many curated hundreds of beautiful records and you should all feel enormous pride in your work.
Right at the beginning the Burchells gave us a place to call home. Kelly made the Jetplane site, sleeve art and curated the message boards like a ninja. Raife built our network and those early videos, Jamie booked all the tours and art-directed the ship unswervingly. Kathy made the phonecalls to XFM - we laughed and cried. Cahir joined our ranks early - bursting with creativity, the riffmaster.
Nathan thank you for believing in JPL so early on. Paddy you breathed life into our band with those early reviews and features - launching a thousand dreams. Steve booked our record breaking tours and never flinched at the challenge. Vital funded thousands of road miles and Gary front-loaded those boxes of t-shirts which we duly converted into thousands more. Penny helped me through those early contracts, and of course thank you to Tony for instilling rigor in me right back in the Cuckoo days.
Ash brought his golden ears, a lexicon of indie and an insatiable passion for new music - you built the rigging of this thing my man. I'm sorry I didn't believe you about Arctic Monkeys. Daniel saved the day as our first label manager and made us think outside the post-HC box. I'm sorry I didn't believe you that Fuckbuttons was a real band name. Ben brought the whole gig to life online well before it was a viable pathway to do so - those thousands of hours, I'll always be grateful. Matt brought the backlash, his big brush and unstoppable creativity. The Monkey Evolution had begun - I'm still looking at your work on my wall.
Then to Derry when shit got real. Ross and Sandra for those inspiring coffees and chats, the great trips to SXSW. Martin at Invest for helping to grow the company and sticking up for record labels at Stormont. ACNI and DCC for funding our development - allowing us to release artists that wouldn't otherwise have had a voice. Pearse, Marty and everyone at the Nerve Centre for providing our first office and guiding me through the landscape. Stuart and Charlotte at Oh Yeah for helping set up our second office in Belfast - so much dedication to the scene.
Chris our soldier - you put up posters, you wound XLRs, you built a studio with a laptop and a second hand pair of speakers; you're still here - I can hear you moving heavy boxes as I type. So many late nights. You ushered in the age of Charlene - the master tactician (bed of nails sleeper) - beautiful person - you'll always be my dreamboat. Jeff joined the team and brought radio onboard - we've just spoken, you're still smiling and you're still optimistic - legend.
Sarah brought grace to record operations - the master logistician, I still have palpitations about that trip to Spitalfields :) To our last people standing: Caolan, Niamh, Lisa you're all amazing - you know how much you mean to me. Last but never least, our Kerona - mamma bear - I am mad about you and literally could not have done anything without your help for the last ten years.
To all our interns over the last decade a huge thank you: Thomas, Barry, Oisin, Brian, Amy, Sarah K., Hilary, Conor, Jamie T., Mairead, Shauneen, Donna-Marie, Jennifer, Our Paul... I apologize to anyone I've missed!
To all the micro businesses that gave me the time of day - Tim for his Design Direction and leading work on our best sleeves, Carrie for shooting those early awesome photos, Magic John for all your work on IMv2 (those pre-order date-stamps... man!), Ciaran for fixing the unfixable amps and wiring the studio four times, Andrej for building this site and of course Shane for introducing me to the beautiful labor of rubber stamping. Our creative economy is fueled by brilliant minds like yours - never stop. To all the agencies that worked with our bands (literally 100s) I am humbled by your taking our records in to all those meetings, we loved hearing a 'no' especially from the big boys. As Jamie would say it made us 'strong on the inside kid'.
And yes, those bands (not exhaustive):
4 or 5 Magicians, Alan MX, American Clay, An Emergency, ASIWYFA, Axis Of, Before Machine, Blacklisters, Broker, Burning Alms, Calories, Carnivores, Clanns, Ciaran Lavery, Rosseau, Ryan Vail, Clone Quartet, Crooked Mountains, Crooked Sea, Die! Die! Die!, Droids, Feldberg, Fickle Public, Fighting With Wire, Freak', Gascan Ruckus, General Fiasco, Hooray For Humans, Hot Cops, Illness, LaFaro, Leo Drezden, Let Our Enemies Beware, Little Bear, Lost Avenue, Mnemotechnic, More Than Conquerors, Murder Balladeers, Negative Pegasus, Our Krypton Son, Pigs as People, Robocobra Quartet,Skibunny, Small Hawk Orchestral, Soak, Sullivan & Gold, The Bonnevilles, The Light Sleepers, The Moi Non Plus, The Young Playthings, Tropic of Tantra, USA Nails, Versechorusverse
So many artists, great nights, all-dayers, songs and records: dreams and disappointments, glory and failure. Music happens once like a spark - when it is captured with passion and curated with love I have learned that it is cherished by many.
Thank you to everyone that bought a ticket, a tshirt or a record, booked one of our bands, played our record or wrote something nice about the music. To those that posted letters and emails of encouragement, told someone about one of our bands, or came up to chat after a show - I genuinely appreciate it and you.
Keep rockin'. Andrew x