GIGsoup continue their celebration of indie label “Song, By Toad”. This article was written by Oliver Holt, a GIGsoup contributor
Song, By Toad is a (very) indie label based in a house in Edinburgh. It’s run by Matthew Young and his wife Kate. Ever since it began in 2008, these guys have consistently supported promising young artists from Edinburgh and beyond. Young is a music fan through and through, as seen in his brilliant little blog (also called Song, By Toad) and is a genuine champion of indie music in the original sense of the word. He’s also an eccentric, swearing Scot who makes no apologies for the way he is – this lovely excerpt is from the blog:
“Swearing – oh yes, forgot this one. If you don’t like the swearing and the inappropriate sexual content… honestly, just fuck off and try pulling that gherkin out of your arse and relaxing a little.”
Song, By Toad, like so many good (and awful) ideas, began as a drunken promise on a night out. Young and his wife were in a pub in Leith, Scotland and after then-unknown Broken Records finished their set his wife offered to put out their first record once she got her next bonus.
Young realised that he absolutely no idea how to run a record label and the idea nearly stalled in its pre-foetal stage before it could be turned into something when Broken Records’ fame grew far more than his still non-existent record label could accommodate for and they signed to legendary indie label, 4AD. In most cases, Young would have given up on the idea as a drunken episode, but this universe appears to be the one where he actually decided to pursue this bizarre venture.
Young already had a music blog called Song, By Toad, which is a line from the Wind and the Willows. It was named as such because he used to listen to the audiobook so much as a kid and his mum used to call him Toad whenever he acted horrid or spoilt. With a weird name already at hand, they decided to press ahead.
Their first signing, Meursault, an Edinburgh-based indie band, released their critically acclaimed Pissing on Bonfires/Kissing with Tongues in 2008 and its unexpected success forced Young to actually make Song, By Toad into a more ‘proper’ business. By 2010, they had 14 acts, were recording albums in their own living room and Young quit his job as a design engineer to work full-time on the label. His wife continued working as a fund manager to keep a roof over their heads and the label afloat.
Over the next few years, Song, By Toad would put out albums by a number of excellent acts, like the delicate, sad Galaxie 500-alikes, Eagleowl, the 90s slacker rock revivalists PAWS and the noisy, but poppy Plastic Animals. Farwell, Bastard Mountain (a fittingly rude name) by Bastard Mountain was released on the label in 2014 and showcased the folkier side of the label, while Youngstrr Joey operate on the lo-fi/indie end of the spectrum.
Fast forward to 2016 and Song, By Toad is still operating in the same slightly ramshackle manner, as evidenced by Young’s latest blog post about the shooting of the video for Adam Stafford’s Phantom Billions in his house. He feels a little ashamed with how professional the film cast and crew seem compared to him and his label, but ultimately is just happy that his acts are getting the kind of promotion a music video can offer.
Young is a foul-mouthed, no-nonsense and straight to the point Scot who began Song, By Toad as a labour of love and seems happy to stick with this originally half-baked alcohol miasma-cloud of an idea. He has no love for the mainstream and doesn’t even care whether the acts on his label stick with him or move on. They don’t even have contracts for their artists. He’s always on the lookout for the next new thing and the more obscure the better. We hope Song, By Toad continues in the same weird and ramshackle way and keeps putting out great music.