This year sees the Young And Lost Club label celebrate its half decade. We catch up with Sara, one half of the duo that is always at least 7 steps ahead of what‘s hot and happening in the indie scene, and over the page is our review of the album released to celebrate the event—every track handpicked by the girls, it‘s a stellar synopsis of their glistening career so far.
Sara Jade and Nadia Dhalawi, aka founders, owners and luminaries of label Young & Lost Club have been best friends since they were 11. This is a shame, because after our phone call (possibly the most uncomfortable interview of my life, crouched in the bottom of my garden like a little gnome, hoping to get signal) I would like the softly spoken sweetheart Sara to be my best friend. However, I‘m not here to harp on about my new girl crush. Not when there are far more exciting topics to talk about – like the fifth birthday of Young & Lost Club….
So, think back five years – why?
We‘d been doing our zine for a while (this is their Pyrrha zine, which was the first publication to review Razorlight, and a journalistic platform for a young Master Doherty, that the girls clandestinely reproduced on school photocopiers) and seen so many amazing bands that should be signed to a label and getting singles out there. There seemed a gap in the market for smaller bands to be making that first step, so we thought a singles club would be a good idea.
Did it feel like a natural progression from the Pyrrha zine to the club nights to the label?
Definitely, but we didn‘t set out for it all to happen – there was certainly no master plan. One just followed on from another. We loved being in London, being with all the bands, and when you‘re so absorbed in that it feels like the natural thing to do. We‘re just really lucky our hobby is our job.
Have you learned a lot along the way?
We had to! We literally had no idea what we were doing when we started. It‘s all been a huge learning curve, we had no clue and just felt our way along. With each project and band and single you learn something new, and you just have to accept that you will make mistakes, but can‘t be afraid.
What advice would you give to someone looking to set up their own label?
That it‘s tough! Be prepared to work very very hard for not very much money. You‘ve got to do it because you love it. But if you‘re really into music and you really love a band you don‘t mind putting hours in.
Hard work, but presumably a lot of fun – you tend to party quite a lot?
Well….not as much as we did when first starting out. I definitely don‘t go out every single night now. But if you‘re going to be DJing until 4am, you might as well make the most of it…
Is the party animal streak a rebellion against boarding school?
To be honest none of this would have happened without boarding school – well without the zine, which only happened because we were bored at school and Nadia and I needed something to keep us entertained while we pretended to do our homework. And with that we realised that London was the place to be – it seemed exciting, with such a buzz around the scene back then.
Back then – what has changed?
Well there are still a lot of bands around, but less opportunities to see them. There was a community when we first started but it‘s not like that now. Even little things, like when we used to go out every night and there would be a choice of two or three indie nights. Now we‘re lucky if there‘s that many a week, across the whole of London.
Do you think the whole do it yourself ethos is disappearing?
Not at all – myspace is DIY. I know everyone has a real downer on myspace, but it‘s such a good platform for artists to get themselves heard. They don‘t need major backing or finances, just the internet. And there‘s loads of bands doing their own recording and artwork…I don‘t think it is at all.
What do you look for in an artist?
Whether we like them!
But what’s the process, how do you discover them?
Usually we already know the band, or get introduced to them through other bands – there‘s a small scene, or there definitely was when we first started. A lot of bands we know from their previous incarnations, like Pull Tiger Tail, or Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong, we knew him. The only exception is Good Shoes, who approached us and things went from there…but then it turns out that we had friends of friends anyway!
Are there any bands that you’ve loved but had to accept would never prove commercially viable?
Well a few of the bands on the compilation haven‘t gone on to become big successes. It would be easy to call it an album of hit and misses, but when we were going through our releases picking out what to put on there we literally just went for our favourites.
Who would you have loved to have signed in the last five years but didn’t manage to?
There‘s so many bands Nadia and I love and have loved… we were meant to release The Horrors first single but they ended up signing their record deal (with A&M) really quickly before the release could happen.
What has changed for you guys in the last five years?
The first couple of singles were 7‖s, and then we started doing CDs after that. In the last year or so we‘ve been putting out downloads. With the Young & Lost digital club we offer free tracks every fortnight, something special like a b-side or a remix, or an exclusive that the band have done just for us. Noah & The Whale did a cover of Tom Petty‘s ‘Last DJ‘, as a protest to the closure of BBC6 music. I think if you want people to buy something you have to give them to it in a special format. Or for free to make them come back.
Finally, to coin a lyric, where will you be in five years time? Walking round a zoo?
Doing what we‘re doing. Putting out more albums…that‘s something we really want to do. And another Young & Lost Club tour. Yeah, just growing steadily and naturally, like we have been. I love it.