- Charlie Caplowe -
So, 10 years. Wow. To be honest it’s both flown by and seemed an age since we started considering the crazy notion of starting a record label. As someone who had only ever dealt with the press side of the music business for many years, it was unheard of for someone like me to even consider such madness. Even in my early experiences of being an indie PR, we only wanted the best for our bands to start them on their way initially, and then to stick with them (and have them stick with us) on their journey once signed to a ‘proper’ label. I now realise that this desire has remained a constant throughout the 10 years of XM too. Except now I hope they don’t have to find another label—that we can work closely together and develop at the right speed and sometimes even off the radar until the time is right for both of us to step up.
Frank Turner came to my office with Million Dead in 2003 and sat opposite me with his baseball cap on, looking incredibly young and a little underfed. I had a feeling that something good was going to happen. I must admit I had no clue what would unfold, or quite what on earth I was talking about when I told them about my decision to start a label and did they want ‘in’. Same when I went that ‘Xtra Mile’ down to Guildford in rush hour to meet Reuben properly and discuss signing to the label. I just knew I wanted to be absolutely involved in the whole process of signing bands, helping them make records and then to go on to release and help them promote their art. A few years after our initial signing spree, XM had to take a back seat as my ‘day job’ in PR became increasingly busy and also precarious with the knock on effects of the major labels’ shrinking budgets and redundancies. For a while I didn’t think I could keep either company going and felt I was staring into an abyss.
Then all of a sudden and seemingly out of nowhere, Frank, who had been solo since his Campfire Punkrock EP, went and wrote the incredible Love Ire & Song. We knew we had something special. Better still, so did people who bought his records and the more mainstream media. BBC Radio 1 playlisted two singles, the album reviews were amazing, shows were selling out up and down the country, and things felt good. I think it was at this point when I realised that the label had legs and I wanted nothing more than to try and discover more bands and new music and help them have a voice and a leg up. I guess it was also then that it struck me that XM could be more than just ‘Oh, Xtra Mile, isn’t that Frank Turner’s label’ (which was obviously incredible in itself). I started to see that people would actually give our newer signings a listen because they appreciated other acts on the label. Was this the beginning of the family feeling within the label that we try to nurture to this day? I hope so.
People have asked me why I don’t just sign a couple of key acts a year and concentrate on ‘shifting units,’ but that’s not why I started Xtra Mile. How could I not sign a band or license an album I love and want all the champions of XM to hear just because I’d reached my quota of acts for the year?! No I can’t really get my head round that. We’ll continue to sign those acts we love and although I sometimes think; are we signing too much, will fans get fed up? Can their wallets handle it? I wouldn’t want us to function any other way.
When I was being encouraged (quite forcibly) to write something to mark our 12 months of XM10, being fairly inarticulate and certainly not confident in these matters relating to me or my work, I was thinking about all the great bands/artists we have worked with and will continue to work with. I was planning to list other highlights but you know, I would rather just say I am chuffed to bits that we released them all. I would just encourage people who have any desire to know the label more, to go discover hopefully their favourite new act by diving into our catalogue and upcoming releases.
I am blown away by some of the things our bands have said about the label…really. I know we are not a hip, A-list indie label but I like to think we always put the hours in, put out some great releases and are as passionate, as fair, and hardworking as our fantastic acts.
Here’s to another 10! (Jamie – that enough time for solo album(s) No.2?!)
Thanks again for all the support, long may we all continue. Onwards and Upwards.
Charlie ‘Chazmo’ Caplowe.