'F' is for Fence
Fence Records continue to produce some of the loveliest tunes to come out of Scotland, with increasing international acclaim. David Pollock visits them on home soil and hears about the East Neuk of Fife’s highlights while he’s there
‘There was an article in the Sunday Times at the start of this year,’ says Johnny Lynch, head caretaker of Fife’s Fence label and also known as The Pictish Trail to his own musical fans. ‘They had an A to Z of musical genres in the world, all the regulars like indie, rock, grime, hip hop - and then under ‘F’, they had Fence Collective down as its own genre! Which was flattering, but kind of odd.’
What the above anecdote does more than anything is demonstrate the variety which can be found on the cottage label, which is based in Anstruther, a fishing village in the East Neuk of Fife. At one time Fence was pigeon-holed firmly within the alternative folk genre and their most famous alumnus James Yorkston, now on Domino Records alongside Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys, is very much a folk artist. Yet Lynch himself and the label’s founder Kenny Anderson, aka Domino’s King Creosote, blend large doses of rock and indie along with a more rustic sound. Pop chanteuse and local girl KT Tunstall spent her early days as a Collective member, while this year’s releases include more mainstream rock offerings from The Red Well and Player Piano, and electronica from Edinburgh’s Found.
Formed in the mid-90s purely as a vehicle for releasing Anderson’s solo 8-track recordings, Fence was based around burnt CDs which he would sell to friends and at gigs (it was so named, says Lynch, because ‘Creosote goes on the Fence’). Shortly afterwards, the label also started to release the music of Anderson’s equally prolific brothers Ian (aka Pip Dylan) and Gordon (aka Lone Pigeon, a sometime member of The Beta Band and The Aliens), as well as material by friends and fellow musicians the trio met while playing gigs in St Andrews.
From limited runs of fifty CD-Rs to full-blown professional recordings sold via the Fence Records webshop, the micro-label has transformed into one which retains its artistic independence while building a name for itself in international underground music circles. Lynch got involved in 2003 and now runs it while Anderson concentrates on his music career. ‘Fence is the sort of thing which runs on time rather than money,’ says Lynch. ‘We don’t have to rely on spending the London standard in terms of advertising and press, and we can make a living just selling the relatively small amounts we do.’
The community aspect of Fence is accentuated by April’s Homegame, a micro-festival based around various small halls and venues in Anstruther, and now in the sixth year of its widely-acclaimed life. ‘We put on our first Homegame in 2004, using just one hall’, says Lynch, ‘and people still came up from Leeds and London for it. It’s grown so much since then that we’re using eight or nine halls this year, to fit in about 700 people. Big Fence names like King Creosote and James Yorkston will be there along with friends from around the country and abroad, but demand’s always so huge that we don’t release details of who’s playing until after it’s sold out - it’s kind of like Glastonbury in that respect, just a wee bit smaller!’
The Fence Homegame will be held in various venues around Anstruther, 17-19 Apr, www.fencerecords.com, £64.50 for a weekend ticket (or £74.50 for a ‘Sooper Dooper’ ticket, including access to a secret venue and a copy of King Creosote’s new album ‘Flicking the Vs’).