After seven years of working and performing at festivals every summer, Cardinal Sound experienced some major turbulence this sunny season. Like all of us.
Like the best of us, however, he eventually found a way to channel his frustration, pent-up energy and creativity and has spent the summer putting things into place to launch it this November: Archway Records, a new label focused on the (hopefully brighter) future of drum & bass.
“I’m keen to be actively looking for music that fits the criteria, energy and quality that drum & bass fans generally look for, but might be something wildly different to what they’re used to,” says the Reprezent Radio broadcaster and DJ who’s released on labels such as Monk Audio in the past. Before this year’s rona roughness he was part of the Strawberries & Creem festival programming the electronic music stages. “If the vibe is correct, it will have a home with us.”
From what we’ve heard so far, the vibe is definitely sounding right and ready for the label launch in November. They’re also looking for artists to work with, so if you’re sitting on a whole stack of material as a result the major turbulence, Archway might be worth hitting up.
Read on to find out how as we talk to Cardinal Sound (real name Frazer) about the lockdown, the label and life as full time live music worker who’s reacting a situation that sometimes feels like it will never improve again…
Labels and new projects like this are the ultimate silver lining from the curse of 2020. Was there a particular moment during lockdown where you thought ‘right! I need to sort this out!’?
I’ll be honest, at the start of lockdown everything around me sort of just crumbled, as it did for everyone. All projects got put on hold and it was a weird time for me, and a strange place and headspace to find myself in. To be right in the middle of the intense lead up to festival season, to have DJ sets and radio sets all lined up, only for it all to go to shit was unsettling to say the least. So I thought I had to do something positive, to try and create some value out of the situation. That’s when the label idea really came to life.
We gotta celebrate these things. All the cool new collabs and labels and podcasts and streams and all these creative things. Any in particular stand out to you?
One thing I thought was really sick was the way some mates of mine started utilising Patreon as a way to both supplement the income lost from shows, but also to help a new generation of producers learn to create music. One-to-one tuition is the best way to learn in my opinion, and if I could have made the most of that back when I started producing like five years ago, I definitely would have. People like Hyroglifics, Sustance, the Overview music boys have done really well to take the negative scenario we all found ourselves in, and turn that into something positive for the scene. Degs’ Degscast has been great to watch too.
Do you think we may eventually look back and appreciate aspects of 2020 as being in terms of how we all move forward?
It’s been a year where everyone was forced to stop. From that, people have had the chance to recalibrate and reassess everything about themselves. Careers, relationships, lifestyle, all of it. I think 2020 will be a turning point for a lot of people, and many will come back stronger from it. That’s not saying that people will be better off because of the pandemic, I’m under no illusion that it’s going to ruin a lot of lives and cause huge difficulty, I just hope that people can overcome these hurdles and take strength from that. The way I’m now looking at it is that we can’t just sit on our hands, we have to try to adapt. This is how life is going to be for a long time, so it’s essential to overcome these obstacles where we possibly can.
As someone who’s spent the last seven years working in the live sector for Strawberries & Creem, this year must have been really challenging for you?
It was the first time since I was 20 that I didn’t spend June in a field setting up and de-rigging a festival site. The live/nightclub sector has definitely been one of the worst hit industries, with very little support and clarity on a re-opening date, even a partial one. Once this second wave has subsided, nightclubs could look to operate safely and utilise similar, or more stringent, methods to pubs, ensuring a controlled environment and discouraging people from hosting free parties where there are no measures in place to stop transmission. We all want to be back doing what we love, but without regulations in place it’ll be a lot longer before we’re all able to go back to festivals and outdoor events… I’ll take my “sensible” hat off now.
Has the rave shut-down influenced what you’re writing in the studio?
I feel like in terms of production value, what I’m making now vs. the start of lockdown has improved dramatically, and tunes are getting finished at a quicker rate, which is sick. It used to be that I’d sit going over and over the same track, making tiny tweaks that actually made fuck all difference. The tunes I’ve been coming out with since lockdown have been a mixed bag though, some club tunes and some more intended as a listening experience. In my folders at the minute there’s enough for about four or five EPs.
But it’s difficult not being able to play them out, as you can’t gauge a crowd response to them, which is what ultimately informs the decision of putting them out or not. The free time also helped me play a lot of guitar again and brush up a bit more on the keys, so I’ve been using both of those whilst writing. From the age of 11 I barely put my guitar down, then adulthood rears its ugly head and you have no time for anything like that anymore. It’s been great to blend those musical influences back into the overall mix.
What’s in the overall mix for Archway?
Despite what’s been going on, I’m incredibly excited about the future. We aim to leave no stone unturned in search for great music and want to try and push some boundaries wherever we can. Alongside the main Archway releases, we’re looking to start a free release series called Gateway, where we can elevate some fresh talent and get them their first release out into the world. We have a few of these lined-up and are currently in the search for the first signings to the roster. Once we’re able to, parties are high on the priority list. Festival sets too.
And you’re currently accepting demos?
We are actively accepting them! The team (Jimmy Ostler, Keiran Lawler, Alyx Hatton) are searching for new music as we speak. We have a demo submission box on our website www.archwayrecords.co.uk or you can email us on email@example.com. We’d love to hear your music. We’ve also got a limited run of Archway tees on their way (Big up T>I & Diane) next week so look out for those too.