Right now, Transgressive Records is enjoying quite some purple patch.
The London-based indie turns 15 this year and it’s the perfect time to highlight the fact that it’s grown way beyond the 7” imprint powered by an initial £1,000 punt from co-founders Toby Langley (who goes by Toby L) and Tim Dellow. Together with, company partner Lilas Bourboulon, who came on board in 2006, the pair have turned Transgressive into a modern music company offering records, publishing and management, while their Rockfeedback promotions arm puts on 200 gigs a year in London.
The three are interviewed in the new edition of Music Week, out now, and the timing couldn’t be better, with their flagship early signings Foals (now a publishing client) celebrating their first ever No.1 album.
“When you talk about loyalty, Foals are one of our best bands. It’s glorious,” said Dellow. “When you publish them and the entire catalogue and work closely with Warners and the band on the records front, it’s a great team.”
Foals are just a small part of the Transgressive success story – the trio rave about new signing Arlo Parks and new management client Wesley Joseph – and Langley said it’s all down to ethos.
“The music industry has a natural aversion to new perspectives, it wants to have something familiar and well trodden, to avoid feeling like a an outlier,” Langley said. “We feel completely the opposite. We’re trying to embrace new perspectives and bring those to people. If we can do that then it’s going to do what art’s supposed to do, heal, console and educate.”
Ahead of Langley’s appearance on the A&R masterclass panel at BBC Music Introducing Live today, here’s an unseen extract from our Transgressive Q&A:
How does Transgressive operate within the modern music industry?
Tim Dellow: “We’re appreciative, what we offer is different and those artists that do sign with us take a leap of faith, we’re always transparent about best case and worst case scenarios and what we’ll do differently. We’re really hardworking and that’s the core of it. The three of us have been working together 13 years, for better or worse you know what we are and we work really hard to understand those artists and amplify their message. That’s the fun of it.”
Toby L: “We’ve got a patience level that means that we’re not trying to do anything overnight, we’re willing to go the long haul and see things through to whatever level that is, world success or bumps in the road you don’t expect. We’re not going to turn our backs when it gets hard, we’re gonna alwayas push through, we believe in the people we work with and don’t ever lose that hunger or love.”
We’re not going to turn our backs when it gets hard
How has the label developed over the 15 years?
TD: “The recognition that you should back your own tastes has carried over. We’ve just signed Arlo Parks, a really important artist we’re really excited about just at the start of her journey. We know from her songwriting she’s one of the greatest we’ve ever worked with. She’s going do really well, getting to the stage where she’s massive and people are singing her songs and it’ll hopefully be a big cultural event. Everyone will be saying it and that won’t make her any less special than now when three people are saying that. It’s finding that and opening that out and that’s what we’ve got better at.”
TL: “If people are looking in one direction, we’re looking in the other. Songhoy Blues or Kokoko are challenging signings on paper, they’re from countries where it’s hard to get a visas in and out, they don’t have ties to any scenes, to us that’s more appealing. It’s what they stand for musically, morally, politically… They’re making brand new records people will look back on and say were important. That responsibility is something we feel part of.”
Having this label culture makes it easier for oddities to gravitate towards us
How do you see the future for Transgressive?
Lilas Bourboulon: “We’ve always dreamt of working with artists all over the world, complete trailblazers, from Sophie to Flume to Kokoko. Having this label culture makes it easier for oddities to gravitate towards us. We’re very solutions-driven as a company, so whichever partner can bring an artist to market, we’re going to collaborate with them, we look at people rather than companies. We’ve never taken anything for granted, when we’ve had success somewhere we’ve never said, ‘Ok we’ve made it, let’s sit back and relax’. We’re continuously looking for how we can move forward. We're developing our American operation and we definitely have the ability to be relevant on a global scale now. We’ve got the basis to do that with our team and signings, so that’s what we’re pushing for.”
Pictured above (L-R): Lilas Bourboulon, Tim Dellow and Toby L
PHOTO: Matilda Hill Jenkins