Fruits de Mer Records, a
small label is very nice.
Both guys who run the small business are kind of monomaniac, their stuff to them is the recovery.
The recovery of psyche nuggets
made by the current group to be more precise. But not on any format, that of colorful 45T please. Our friends have already left two Vibravoid home 45T (Krautrock
Sense and What Colour Is Pink?) Vibravoid but these are the stars of the label, the Celebrity! Near the mainstream! The other is really unknown at Underground, I
suspect them to register their friends, neighbors, aunts? Oh, yes the cover of "Dreaming With Alice" was conducted by Mark Fry Himself.
Small meeting with one of the monomaniac, Andy Bracken
Fuzzine : Small présentation. Who are the two monomaniacs ruling the destiny of Fruits De Mer Records. What was
your initial idea ?
Andy Bracken – Okey-dokey, I think I understand the question… The two monomaniacs governing the destiny of Fruits de Mer (not to mention the world more generally whether it be de Mer or,
indeed, de Terre), are Keith ‘Jonesy’ Jones and Andy Bracken, also known as ‘me and him’. If this gets translated into French, half of it isn’t going to work.
The initial idea was to start a label that released limited quantity vinyl records of brilliant sounds, plunged from the depths of the late-60s and early-70s of a Psych, Kraut, Acid-Folk
or (when Jonesy gets his way) Prog vein. When it became apparent the owners of the original tracks weren’t going to let us do that, we thought we’d have them buffed up and de-scaled by
contemporary bands, to create a series of highly sought after and collectible records. And, do you know, I think we have.
F : Why this french name ? An old love of shells ?
AB – An old love of the French, I think. Goes back centuries, to the language of the Courts, between the Norman invasion and the popularisation of the guttural English language by
Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales”. Still, c’est la vie! Keith’s missus, Liz, suggested the idea, as it’s her favourite meal. Much like her choice in men, she likes them cold, wet and a little
bit smelly. And it seemed to fit, as we’re dredging up old things in our net, and serving them up in a fresh and appetizing way! I do like shells, if I’m being perfectly frank, but have
to admit that it wasn’t a factor.
: Where do you find those
groups, with virtually no existence ? How do manage to research ?
AB – In the most part, they find us. And lots more besides. We’d love to do more with more bands, but it’s just the two of us doing this as a hobby business. We don’t actually make any
money, or anything. But the love we feel from customers is reward enough…no, really. It’s amazing how many quality bands and artists are out there, but in a world where the internet has
made things so vast, the cream gets hidden amidst the murk. And most of the murk ends up on major labels, it seems. Have you noticed how band names are getting longer and longer? They
have to do that just to find something that isn’t already being used. It’s mental. Too much stuff out there, and most of it not tres bon!
F : You are ultimately specializing in covering, often in a demented way, dark psychedelic/acid folk/krautrock. How do you
select the songs ?
AB – it’s really a collaborative thing. As soon as Keith and I get a submission from a band, we’re thinking as to what they could cover. But it isn’t just ‘covering’ in the traditional
sense. They have to re-interpret and push the envelope a bit. We’re not looking for pub bands to bang out reverential covers of Beatles tracks. There’s a lot of artistry in this.
With our ideas formed, we go to the band. If there’s common ground, we can be pretty sure we’re going to do something with them. We brainstorm stuff, and sometimes get through 30 or 40
suggestions before settling on one or two. The final hurdle is then marrying up the band’s identity with the tracks chosen, and keeping enough of both in the right measure. Another thing
we encourage is for the bands to experiment and go out on a limb. The world has become a bit safe and conformist, and we really do have to almost tell bands to try this and try that. We
give them a bit of a free rein, and they’re usually more than happy to run with it. I think (hope) the results are better for it. That’s not true of all bands – some you don’t need to
manage at all - but we do have a big say in the whole process.
I never thought I’d say this, as we choose tracks we adore, but in some instances I think our versions are better than the originals, and most are as good but
: No problems with
copyrights ? Any complain from the artists ?
AB – No, none at all. We always get a licence for the tracks we cover, as we think it’s only right and proper. It’s tantamount to theft to not do so, in my opinion. We’ve had a couple of
instances where the licensing people couldn’t accurately identify the songwriters and copyright owners (possibly too obscure), but they grant us permission anyway, and say they’ll get in
touch if it’s ever resolved.
F : Why do you mainly work on the 45 size ? How is the artwork done ?
AB – Ah, but 45 is a speed, not a size…in fact, most of our 7” rotate at 33.3 rpm. We grew up with 7” being the only affordable format on which to buy music. LPs were too expensive, and
tapes too plastic, so there’s a real affection there, I think. You know, I vividly remember buying old Squeeze, U.K. Subs and Generation X 7” singles on coloured vinyl back when I was a
kid, for example.
Logistically, 7” is the best place to start a vinyl label. Artwork is affordable and home-printable, storage (initially and when things don’t sell) is easier, and post and packaging a lot
simpler. Just the amount of sticky tape you get through on a LP is staggering!
That said, we always wanted sharp artwork – really well thought out stuff, you know. We’d put a lot of thought into it and pop inserts into the records and stuff. Silly stuff, really, but
people got in touch to say how much they appreciated it. A French art magazine recently got in touch to do an article on 45 rpm artwork, and they wanted to feature us. That was a big
compliment. I said to them, that I tried to bring album quality art to the 7”, and to a degree, I think we have, albeit in a homemade kind of way.
: I saw on your site that
the latest Vibravoid sold recently for $ 60 on E Bay. Then, a few months after, it was available for $ 8. What do you think of this kind of speculation
AB – Yes, the standard blue vinyl (300 copies) sells for about $40 now, and the red vinyl (100 only) sells for about $60. Mark Fry 7” goes for $40+ as well. And I think that they will
only ever increase. We wish we’d kept some more copies now!
But, to be honest, it’s what we set out to achieve. It shows that demand outstrips supply, and that’s the perfect scenario for any business. I’m sure that if we weren’t lazy bastards, we
could actually make a bit of money from it, but we can’t be arsed. Work is for fools!
We’re both record collectors. It’s through a shared passion for collecting vinyl that Keith and I first hooked up, so it’s great that we’ve created these collectibles. Just heard that
we’re getting included in the Rare Record Price Guide published by Record Collector magazine, which is another ambition fulfilled for us.
F : In the same vein, will you reprint you singles, one day ?
AB – Never. For all the reason stated above. I’d feel disingenuous if I did that. Besides, it’d be a bit exploitative to do that now, as I know our customers who have been with us from
the start would buy a copy, and they already have the original.
You know, those records were available for quite a while before they sold out. People didn’t pick up on them - that’s their lookout. Now they have to pay five or ten fold on ebay, and
rising. If that’s the price, then that’s the price. It doesn’t bother me.
F : What is the life of an underground label like ?
AB – See, I’m always hungry, and always on the lookout for fresh stuff. I do that in the music I buy, so it’s only logical that we do it in the music we release. I also buy across many
genres, both old and brand new stuff. I think the life of the label is determined by how fresh we are and whether we keep moving. There were labels in the mid- to late-90s, for example,
that I used to collect, but they stood still, and either went under or don’t do anything now that I want to buy. I’d love to push the boundaries of the remit that we operate in, and have
some things afoot to do that…keep listening!
Just realised that I may have misinterpreted your question. Erm, okay, bear with me… Yes, my life for the past 6 weeks has been spent packaging and posting LPs, and then doing a set of
accounts so that we can see how much money we’ve lost! It’s clichéd, but it’s a labour of love, and it’s a lot of work for very little reward, in fiscal terms, but a huge reward in
putting something out that will outlive either one of us, and is massively appreciated by our customers and a small number of people in the media. As long as we’re proud of the music
we’re releasing, it’s always worthwhile.
F : Small exception, you’ve just realise an LP, A Phase we’re going through. Can you
tell us more ? Is it a new appeal, or will you ever concentrate on singles ?
AB – The 7” will always be our primary medium for release. Thing was, we came up with the Phasing concept, and thought about it as a 7” EP. But we had so many really good bands at our
disposal, it grew to a 12” LP. It was the only way we were ever going to get to work with them all. And it turned out really well.
I see us doing an LP a year going forward. They’re a lot of work, and a lot of expense. 7” can be turned around much more promptly, and there’s a certain dynamism to the format. As I
said, I love the 7” single.
F : Checking you day job, you must own a hell of a record collection. What is your
most valuable treasure ?
AB - I have a few records, yes. Keith has about 5 times more than me – some really good stuff. One of our customers has 75,000 vinyl records. I can’t even count that high. How? Where?
It’s beyond the imagination. If you bought 4 records a day, every day, for 50 years, you wouldn’t have 75,000 records…
Pearl in my collection? There’s two ways of looking at that – scarcity and value, which doesn’t really factor in. Or time and place, which is much more important. I have a good few
thousand records, and I can tell you where and when I got most of them. If you think about it, a record collection tells a life story. It’s all there – every romantic moment, every
heartbreak, every first shag (see how I differentiated that from romance), every holiday and so on. I suppose the answer is much like the reason I believe the label works – because the
whole really is greater than the sum of its parts. Does that make sense? The pearl IS my record collection.
F : Your next project ? Vibravoid giving it’s vision of the french beat ? A scoop for
our readers ?
AB – Ha! Yeah Vibravoid mentalling up some Edith Piaf, Johnny Hallyday and Serge Gainsbourg - it could work! Jane Birkin would need to be contacted, mind.
I’m a big fan of Melodium, and he’s French! Ah, we’re working on about 6 releases as I type, which takes us well into 2011, so we’re not
going anywhere, and have lots of projects and ideas in the pipeline. We’ll see you down la rue! Merci beaucoup for your support and for taking an interest – much appreciated. Please stay
informed by visiting www.fruitsdemerrecords.com – and wear your waterproofs!