Harry Bainbridge is a little nervous. Over email, he told me this was his first interview ever and apologized for his uncertain “waffling.” I don’t think he’s got anything to worry about, though. Things are looking pretty good for Bainbridge. As the brains behind the very green U.K. blog-turned-label Beech Coma, he’s responsible for the compilation below, a recent collection of tunes that straddles the coastline between strutting surf swag and teary-eyed bedroom fantasy.
The already sold-out Vol. 1 is the label’s first release, and it’s a good jumping off point into the Beech Coma aesthetic, which is pretty much whatever Bainbridge wants it to be. Beech Coma is currently less a structured business thing than an amalgamation of Bainbridge’s musical interests. But his musical tastes are worth many listens—and he’s made it easy for you to do just that. We chatted about the value of cassettes, perfect party tunes and going to shows where the ceiling literally falls in.
So Beech Coma started as a blog, right? Why’d you decide to start a label?
Yeah! It wasn’t a blog for very long, only six months or so, before the label appeared. I think the two grew quite organically together. The blog focused on new bands that I was really into, but not many people were really taking notice of them and I wanted to help change that, and that’s when I decided to turn it into a label. My other motivation was that I was really bored at university, it was exam season and I obviously thought that that was the perfect moment to start a record label (Sorry, Mum). To be honest though, I think having the blog as a background really helped me understand what I wanted Beech Coma to be, and I also think it helped in the sense that some of the bands I initially approached to work with knew I had already written about them.
Who’s currently running Beech Coma?
I guess technically it’s just me. I do almost everything, but there are loads of people involved in some capacity that make my life a million times easier. I work with my old flatmate Mark who is this ace graphic designer who has done all of the branding and artwork so far, and I think it looks so killer. And people like Emmy who runs the Don’t Need No Melody blog and my friend Sam who used to run the Ones To Watch section in The Fly over here always send over new bands for me to check out. I really appreciate all the help people put in. It’s so nice that people want to get involved and it’s been really fun so far, I’m learning so much about it all.
I hear you just moved to London. How’s it going? Do you like your neighbors?
Yeah I just got this new job and moved down from Leeds. I only moved three weeks ago so I’m still settling in, but there are some amazing shows on all the time which I’m really excited to start going to. The day after I moved down, I went to see my pals who are in a band called The Magic Gang play at The KPH and the ceiling fell in—that was a pretty interesting beginning to my time down here. I’m actually staying with some family friends at the moment until I find a flat, and it’s quite a posh area. The neighbours have CCTV [security cameras] and electric gates so I’m guessing they’re not the friendliest.
How do you find artists to sign/feature?
I mostly use SoundCloud and Bandcamp and just trawl through tags, and I read a lot of blogs too. But recently I’ve found that word of mouth is one of the best ways. I have come across some real gems just by someone sending me a message on Facebook saying something like, “Hey, my friend has just started this new band…” That’s how I came across bands like Sulky Boy and Sun Girls on the first compilation, and those bands pretty much took that release to another place and made it feel like a community of bands rather than just a tape with 13 bands with no relation to each other.
Do you know a lot of the artists personally, or do most of your interactions take place over the internet?
I know a few of the bands I’ve released, but I’ve only really met them since working with them. It would be cool to meet every band, but with this new tape the label announced this week [Vol. 2] we’ve got acts from Australia, L.A., New York and Canada, so I guess I’ll stick to the internet for now. I would definitely like the opportunity to meet all those guys though. Everyone seems so down to earth and super interesting, which is great.
Are you planning on releasing everything digitally and on cassette? Any particular reason you chose cassettes to work with?
Cassettes are so great! Obviously they’re perfect for that lo-fi sound, but aside from that, they’re also a really cheap medium for bands and labels to connect with their audience, and I think everyone is starting to realise that tape isn’t so niche after all. You can buy a good tape deck online for £20 and then buying cassettes doesn’t cost much at all, plus I think they have such a wonderful aesthetic. People snatch them up really quickly too. I guess the end goal is vinyl though, putting out a 7-inch would be pretty special.
What are some other labels that you admire?
There are so many amazing labels, I definitely couldn’t list every label I admire, but there are one or two labels that have influenced me so so much. Like Beech Coma absolutely wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Art Is Hard Records. I don’t even remember how I came across them, but they release a lot of rough, surfy bands and are so prolific. They’re definitely the label that introduced me to the concept of buying physical music and DIY mentality and so on, plus they released bands like Joanna Gruesome and Playlounge years and years ago, so they’re pretty amazing.
On the Beech Coma blog you said that Bayy’s “My Best Friend” was your favorite song on the compilation. Still feeling that?
Ha ha I remember writing that and wondering if that was a terrible thing to say! I think for that first compilation it is. It’s hard because every song is a hit on that compilation, but I guess that one just really sticks to me for some reason or other. Bayy is one of my favorite bands, they have a great vibe and Gus writes the best songs, so it’s sad that they don’t play much anymore.
Is there anything you think you did wrong when you were starting out that made you decide to do things differently?
Definitely. With the first compilation, the cassettes arrived and my tape deck was broken so I didn’t listen to it before sending it out to people who had bought it and the record stores stocking it—and it had three tracks missing! I was so mortified and had to then pay quite a lot to get it all sorted. I think I was just so excited by it all that I didn’t think it through, so I definitely learned a lesson there.
A lot of the bands on Vol. 1 have surfy, sunny vibes. Do you think if you put out a compilation in the winter it would sound different?
I always find this kind of thing weird with music because the bands are always writing/recording in advance, but the music seems to fit the season it is released in. Vol. 2 definitely has more of a darker, autumnal tone to it and I like the idea of these compilations being seasonal.
I saw on your Twitter that you put together a party bangerz playlist in June. What are your favorite party bangerz?
Ahhh, I think this was for the seven-hour drive to Glastonbury with my girlfriend Millie and my friend Joe. Millie came up with this idea that we each put together a one-hour playlist and then vote on the best, the winner supposedly controlling the music for the rest of the journey. Mine was filled with dad rock classics like She Sells Sanctuary by The Cult and Runnin’ Down A Dream by Tom Petty. I think for actual parties, a good mix of Taylor Swift and Weezer hits the spot.
Any top secret plans for the future you can tell me about?
I’ve been so focused on Vol. 2 that I really don’t know what comes next. I know that I want to take a break from compilations for a bit. I really enjoy putting them together, but juggling 13 bands on one release is quite stressful. There are a couple of things in the works at the moment, like a couple of EPs I’ve vaguely discussed with bands, but nothing definite. Because since Beech Coma is loosely named after a Real Estate song, I wanted to try and get hold of them and see if they’d do a secret release under a different name or something fun like that, but I reckon they’re probably too busy to be messing around with a daydreaming kid like me. Maybe I’ll just try and sign Belle and Sebastian instead.
Keep an eye out at the end of August for Beech Coma Vol. 2.