Jack Cochrane on The Snuts' new record, setting up Happy Artists Records and putting the fans first

Jack Cochrane on The Snuts' new record, setting up Happy Artists Records and putting the fans first

It has been quite the whirlwind for The Snuts.

Formed just eight years ago, the West Lothian four-piece have gone from self-released demos (while still working jobs as joiners, mechanics stonemasons and roofers), through two Top 5 albums with Parlophone, to now putting out their third record, Millennials, on their own label Happy Artists Records with support from The Orchard.

Having packed what seems like a lifetime’s worth of music industry phases into less than a decade, frontman Jack Cochrane spoke to Music Week ahead of the record’s release (February 23) about the band’s major label ride, going it alone, artist happiness and the undeniable power of skateboarding dogs…

You are releasing your next album on your own label, but this isn’t your first go at putting music out is it?

“The way we grew up, everything was very live music orientated. We would simply release music so people knew our songs when we played live. We stuck demos on SoundCloud and Facebook so people would come to the show. We’ve always been conscious of putting ourselves in the position of a fan of the band. Our decision-making is guided by ‘How does this work for people who are paying to come and see us?’”

Talk us through your time with Parlophone, you achieved a No.1 together for your debut album WL, which seems quite an achievement.

“For sure, man, for sure. We were really lucky at the label creatively and sonically. We were not only allowed to do what we wanted, but we were encouraged at Parlophone to step into new areas with our sound which we're really grateful for. From an A&R side of things, it was great. There was no pressure to be like someone else, it was about what we wanted to be and taking creative risks, like working with Inflo on the first record or Coffee and Detonate [Clarence Coffee Jr. and Nathaniel ‘Detonate’ Ledwidge] on the second. They are things that brought us on as a band. That side of things was tremendous.”

So why go it alone?

“On the first record we were just allowed to be ourselves because nobody really knew what was going on social media-wise. But when it came to the second record it was, ‘Let’s hit the analytics on this.’ Everything was analysed and it just became this mishmash. One thing we’ve prided ourselves on as a band is we’ve never tried to follow any trends or have a phase. This music is not funnelled to be for one kind of person. Our audience is from all different backgrounds, cultures and age ranges. We have 14-year-olds down the front and 60-year-olds at the back at our shows and we’ve prided ourselves on trying to make music for everyone. So it was a great experience on the label, but it was coming to a point where that social media promo stuff wasn’t right. Fortunately for us, it was just one of those ones where the stars aligned and we were able to leave.”

So you set up your own label?

“It was always a dream of mine to have a label. It’s probably quite a cliché for a band to do that, but it comes back down to keeping that feeling of control and freedom. I remember the first time I felt ‘we’re definitely going to do this’ was the first time we were in the studio in Warner’s basement with the heads of Parlophone. One of the A&R people came down and asked us how we felt the song was going. I was a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed young guy, feeling fucking terrified so I said, ‘Really good! I’m really happy!’, and he said to me, ‘There’s nothing worse than a happy artist.’ [laughs] It was like something out of that book, Kill Your Friends [novel by John Niven]. So I thought, ‘One day we’ll have our own label and it will be called Happy Artists Records.’ So it’s come full circle. To be fair though, we had great A&R at Parlophone. It could be critical, but it was perfect because I’m quite like that when it comes to my own music.”

How did the A&R process work for Millennials? 

“Me and my friend, Scott Anderson, who's the musical director of our live show, produced the album. He’s one of the cleverest guys I’ve ever met when it comes to music and is very critical which was a big part of the process. This time there was no plan to make a record. We just went up to the Highlands, to an island with no pub, no shop, just a bare bones studio – we brought all our own hardware –  just to make music as friends. The idea was just to play and if it was good, great, if not there would be a Plan B somewhere. From those sessions, we recorded half the record. Then we did the rest on the road, recording in hotel rooms, on the bus, dressing rooms and stuff like that. The pace of that lifestyle manifested itself in the record because all those songs are 190 BPM! We were living so quick.”

How is it running a label as an artist?

“We’ve always wanted to do as much of the heavy lifting as possible, so we were always involved and for us it doesn't feel like much has changed. If anything, we’re happier to do this stuff. I think for our management, it’s a much harder job! I give credit to them because there’s so much more expected of them.”  

What is your partnership with The Orchard giving you?

“The hard part of being a band is the cost. Same as the price of a loaf of bread, everything’s just skyrocketed. Everything costs more, venues are really struggling, bands can’t make money and studios are trying to survive too. That’s why places like The Orchard, and the support they provide, are incredible for artists. I think you’re going to see places like that having a lot more success with artists as I feel quite happy with how it’s gone.”       

So now you’re in charge, what is your social media strategy?

“It’s so funny because we always say, ‘If the label were watching what we’re doing, they’d be head in their hands asking why we didn’t do that for them!’ I think it’s so different when it’s your ideas and not someone saying, ‘Can you do it more like this?’ We have the freedom to be sillier with it, it’s not a chore anymore. And there’s no pressure to be on all the time, we even took three months off social media. So we’re in a much better space with TikTok, but I feel no one really understands what it is. If I’m a user on TikTok, I’d much rather watch a dog skateboarding than a band going ‘Yay, it’s The Snuts here, this is our new song about when my dad left…’ I’m watching the dog skateboarding every time! The industry has had a hard time accepting that a lot of the success from the platform is by chance, hardly any of it has taken off by design. 

“Trying to recreate chance is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard. If it’s going to blow up songs and artists that’s really great, but trying to force that to happen is just going to make you, and everyone else around you, sad. I know there are artists who have grown up in that space and it all works for them, which is totally fair, I just feel the one size fits all is not the best approach…  but I’m sure after we sign artists to our label you’ll end up with someone on here in five years time going ‘Jack’s a knob, he’s obsessed with TikTok, he’s ruining my career!’” [laughs] 


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