Forever Young: Song, by Toad founder reminisces on the successes of the label
- David Pollock
- 5 September 2018
Matthew Young looks back on ten years of the record label and tells us about the celebrations lined up to mark the milestone
Self-confessed 'stubborn bastard' Matthew Young didn't so much start a label as offer to help out a few friends in releasing their albums, initially talking to Broken Records (they eventually went with 4AD, understandably) and eventually making a name for the imprint with Neil 'Meursault' Pennycook's Pissing on Bonfires / Kissing with Tongues LP a whole ten years ago. Young was a medical engineer at the time, and a music blogger in his spare time, although he became a full-time record label owner with the release of Meursault's All Creatures Will Make Merry in 2010; it became such a success that he had to give up work to devote his full attention to it.
Since then, Song, By Toad has become one of the most successful cottage industries in Scotland, a proper self-sufficient indie label in the most traditional sense; although its largest levels of renown still exist at home in Edinburgh, where Young has a studio-cum-small-scale gig venue for private parties only in his garage. The label's other key artists over the years are identified by Young as David Thomas Broughton, Siobhan Wilson, Adam Stafford, Jonnie Common, Modern Studies, and Sparrow and the Workshop, with eagleowl, King Creosote, Naked, Paws and Rob St John all appearing on SBT releases.
'I didn't realise how few labels there were out there,' says Young, 'and that someone who's willing to be organised and hard-working and reliable, that puts you at a massive advantage over most people who are working in music, to be honest. If you're willing to act professionally, it's surprising how quickly other people start to treat you the same way, and it doesn't take too long after that to begin to feel established – not necessarily that you know what you're doing, but at least that you're the right person to be doing it.'
He lists many of the artists above as being among the highlights of the label's life so far, reserving particular praise for Meursault – who have now moved on from Song, By Toad – as the artist whose releases did most to help establish it. More recently, Young has also been pleased by the fact Modern Studies have moved on to be signed by Fire Records, and by the love which has been shown for Siobhan Wilson's SAY Award-nominated There Are No Saints.
'For me, though, the big successes weren't the things where we were going to work hard on a record and knew it would do fairly well,' says Young. 'It was the things we'd do just because I thought they would be really, really good, even though they seemed commercially suicidal; the David Thomas Broughton triple-vinyl, or the split12-inch series, or Jonnie Common's ridiculous fridge magnet project, or something really small-scale like Faith Elliot's tape release which everyone jumps all over. When the world agrees with you that the daft ideas are also good ideas, it feels like so much more of a success.'
A selection of different celebratory gigs are happening throughout autumn and winter, including one at Henry's Cellar Bar in Edinburgh – where the label's artists played most of their early gigs – and Inshriach House near Aviemore, where one of Song, By Toad's definitive early split-12s was recorded. 'These relationships are important,' says Young. 'I know there are a few of us occupying the same ground here, and that technically makes someone like the Lost Map guys our competitors, but it's impossible to see it like that. The friendships you make are half the fun of doing something like this.'
Song, By Toad's 10th Anniversary shows take place at Inshriach House, Aviemore, Sat 15 Sep; Leith Depot, Edinburgh, Fri 28 Sep.