By the end of this article there’s a decent chance one of these four acts will be your new favourite band….
Royal Tunbridge Wells in Kent may not be the first location you think of to set up a record label, but for one man the leafy Kentish suburbs have proved ideal.
For nearly thirty years Sugarbush Records has been selling used records to collectors by mail order and also releasing brightly coloured new vinyl pressings of some interesting bands in highly limited runs.
Every Record Tells A Story caught up with Markus Holler, owner of Sugarbush Records to find out a little more about his record label and the distinctive bands that have their music released by him…
Q. It looks like you began selling records and then moved into releasing them: is that right?
Markus: “Actually I did start the label first, back in 1990 or so, when I was with my band Silent Blue. We pressed 1000 copies and these sold out. The record dealing came later in about 1992 or 1993.”
“Vinyl has always sold well for me and in fact the high point was about 9 years ago when the prices were the highest and virtually everything sold.”
Q. How are you finding the vinyl market right now in general?
“Prices are lower now due to the many repesses coming onto the market. But good stuff is also harder to find, although I am not complaining as my business is still doing well!”
Q. How do you convince bands to allow you to release their records on your label?
“I just ask, or often bands come to me too, and if it is a record I really like I’ll try to convince them to let me release it. The deal is that the band gets free vinyl to sell at shows and so forth which usually clinches the deal – the band actually get money for their album!”
Q. You produce small quantities of albums, often in coloured vinyl – you appear to know what appeals to record collectors and music fans! How do you make sure the pressing plant treats you as well as bigger players, and how involved in the process are you?
“Well they treat me well because we have a relationship and I do spend a lot of money with them every year – last year we released 20 albums! I have a few people who master for us and some of the bands provide their own masters. Most of them have been a-ok, also the pressing plant always do an excellent cut – which is also crucial. I do subcontract most of the releasing process so am a project manager of sorts…who pays for stuff.”
Q. Tell me about The Junipers. How did you team up and what are your thoughts about the new album.
“I put a tweet out in 2013 asking if any bands fancied submitting some demos or an album for me to release. The only band who got in touch were THE JUNIPERS and we did the deal once they sent me the album. I think they are amazing and their first album for the label PAINT THE GROUND is my favourite ever release I have done. I love them and would like to continue working with them.”
Q. Who else should we particularly look out for on the label?
“8×8 are incredible: a heady blend of HIGH LLAMAS / BEACH BOYS / BOWIE type Pop and a really great find. GREEN PAJAMAS are a long standing act of real quality. PUGWASH are superb of course. And a new band from right here in Kent called THE BRERETONS who are superb, and remind me of early COWBOY JUNKIES a little. We have just released their very fine album. All fine bands and artists who deserve a good career.”
Q. Do you have an over-riding vision or plan for the label?
“Keep releasing good music and move into slightly different styles too. I’d love a Hard Rock/Prog act in the vein of early URIAH HEEP or T2 but modern with their own sound and not a retro act. Or even a Psychedelic Jazz album of sorts. This year we have more GREEN PAJAMAS as well as KONTIKI SUITE, PRIMARY 5 (band from Glasgow, formed in 2003 by former Teenage Fanclub and Soup Dragons drummer Paul Quinn) scheduled for release. We also distribute the labels YOU ARE THE COSMOS (similar to us but from Spain) as well as MEGA DODO (excellent UK Psych label). But as far as the business side goes, put the money back into the music and don’t go bust!”
Having now caught up with a few of these albums on Sugarbush Records, here’s just four of the acts worth checking out:
First is The Junipers, from Leicester, as mentioned a couple of weeks ago on these pages. Their album Red Bouquet Fair is a superb. Here’s the excellent “The Old Man Mini Suite”
Next up is The Breretons, from Kent. Their debut album came out this month and is an excellent blend of folk, pop and rock. Here’s “When We Were Young”….
Trolley is a four piece power pop band from Milwaukee. This track “Step Into The Clear” from the 2016 album Caught In The Darkness is excellent.
The Wellgreen are a Glasgow based band whose Summer Rain album is a collection of great pop songs. “Maybe It’s The Pressure Of City Life That’s Tearing Us Apart” isn’t quite as snappy a title as the one that Joy Division came up with, but it’s a warm and likeable song – lovely stuff: