Some of those tracks with the traditional musical structure do have something ‘cinematic’ about them so it’s easy to see why the ‘Build Me Up’ video gained so much traction. How did you hook up with Vincent Haycock?
It came about through his video commissioner. Ninja put the track out to the commissioner, he said he loved the track and he asked me about the themes that were going on in the song and then came back with this idea based around the three brothers. The themes of the song are basically about missing home but not really wanting to go home, and dealing with that conflict and the relationship, where you’re from and your relationship to your environment around you. He came back with this idea and said that he’d wanted to work with these brothers for a while and look at their environment, how they relate to the world around them and the people around them, and the idea seemed to fit perfectly. If someone had told me prior to ‘Build Me Up’ that the video would be three brothers from Compton I wouldn’t really have seen how it related but the more I’ve seen it, the more I looked at the treatment before it was made, it just seemed to make perfect sense.
Do the themes of home and the town you’re from carry throughout the album or does each song tell a different story?
The overarching theme of the album is about my home town and different experiences, events, people and things within that. Although I’ve written songs from a first person perspective the songs aren’t particularly about me. They’re often imagining stuff from other people’s point of view and trying to empathise. That’s the biggest thing with the album, it’s trying to connect with the world and to empathise with the world around you, and examine the connections you have or the connections you don’t have with the things around you.
Do you ever just make music for yourself?
Yeah I suppose there’s an element of that in all tracks, but I think if you purely make music for yourself you run the risk of alienating your listeners. My music teacher used to always say to me, “It’s one thing to watch someone eat chocolate and it’s another thing if they share it with you”, and I always try and keep that in mind when I’m writing music. I think it quickly becomes apparent if someone is writing something just for themselves. It becomes a bit boring because you can come up with one idea which you love, and you can do it again and again and again, but for other people it just becomes tedious. It’s much nicer to leave them wanting a bit more.
It quickly becomes apparent if someone is writing something just for themselves... for other people it just becomes tedious.
We recently ran a piece about what makes a great label and Midland mentioned that for his label, Graded, he wanted distinctive artwork and a collectible vinyl product “with the digital edges rounded off.” Format fetishism is something you’ve avoided with Super.
Super is a labour of love for both myself and Jonny, who I run the label with. We’re doing it completely out of our own pockets and so from that point of view we’ve tried to release stuff but in a format that’s cost effective for all concerned. We’d love to do more physical releases and have a product that you could hold and collect but it’s tough economic times for everyone and you’ve got to do things within your means. Super is something which we’re going to continue to grow. It’s quite nice because we don’t feel in any rush to do anything with it, we’re just taking each release as it comes and taking our time over the artists that we choose to release and try and work really closely with them. I think the next step for us as a label is going to be to join forces with a few artists and really help to develop them, work with them on a couple of albums and on developing their profile. Just gradually take it a step at a time. Then there are other commercial things that we could look at in terms of publishing and getting a catalogue together to start pumping some money back into the label and hopefully do more physical releases and videos.
But then taking your time allows you to be quite dynamic and Super has demonstrated some serious A&R prowess, including AlunaGeorge and Bondax as some of your first releases. Do you think the nurturing aspect is quite important in the label?
Speaking from personal experience, you don’t feel like creating music when you’re put under pressure. Some people respond differently to it and I think there are certain levels of pressure which can be good, but it has to be applied in a creatively viable way. I think you need to make your artists feel like they’re supported and they have time. Even if there is pressure there, hopefully you can give it in such a way that it’s constructive, and give criticism which is useful and helps them to push things forward. Absolutely, it’s definitely important to nurture those relationships with artists and encourage them to develop.