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Olive Grove’s Archipelago

Collaborations are key to the vinyl countdown (with Martin John Henry and Jo Mango)

By • Apr 6th, 2020 • Category: Feature

Record Store Day may have been postponed until June (or later?), but for some, every day is a celebration of vinyl.

That’s why Glasgow-based label Olive Grove have over the past months periodically released their Archipelago series – three beautiful 12” split EPs with the final instalment just out.

The latest instalment contains music from perhaps the best-known artists in the series, at least in underground terms – neither Henry and Fleetwood or Circle Meets Dot are household names, but that’s deliberate.

“I’m taking Olive Grove back to the way it was supposed to be at the start,” says owner Lloyd Meredith. “I’d lost the way of that I suppose, the idea was always to make the label a stepping stone for bands to move on to something bigger.”

More recently the label has put out releases by familiar names on the Scottish scene, such as Randolph’s Leap and Scottish Album of the Year shortlistee Carla J Easton (who recommended two of the bands for the new series).

So Meredith hit upon the ‘Archipelago’ concept, pairing his favourite upcoming acts and giving them one side of a 12” EP. He confesses to being “smitten” by Glasgow synth-pop duo Pocket Knife, the ideal contrast to Jared Celosse, winner of the inaugural Stewart Cruickshank award for most outstanding songwriter.

In November, acclaimed west coast singer Chrissy Barnacle was teamed up with Falkirk duo Moonsoup – “the first time I’ve asked a band after a gig if they wanted to be involved – it was a bit like asking a girl out, just going up to them – one of the scariest things!

“They’re amazingly talented… all six (acts) all have special talents,” he adds quickly, “and gel together.” And this one big happy family has another couple of additions.

The latest, and final instalment in the series sees two groups of sorts, duos in fact, collaborating, but Henry & Fleetwood (Martin John Henry from De Rosa – the household name – and Gillian Fleetwood from the State Broadcasters) have worked together before; on an Olive Grove release ‘On The Forest Floor’.

With his band preparing a new album and with several solo releases under his belt, Henry’s prolific output is spread across several projects.

“I don’t usually have a clear idea of which project I’m writing for,” says the Bellshill musician, “as my song ideas come intermittently and without any particular intent.

“Typically I bring a rough idea to all the projects then see where it sticks.”

The duo squeeze five tracks onto the EP including a couple of traditional arrangements by harpist Fleetwood – ‘Bessie Bell & Mary Gray’ and ‘Lassie Lie Near Me’ – while Henry’s closing track ‘The Room’ is now sung by his partner – “very much improved by the change in gender and Gillian’s wonderful voice,” he smiles.

The final piece on the jigsaw is Circle Meets Dot – multi-instrumentalist Jo Mango partnered with Scots-based Californian songwriter A. Wesley Chung – the two having decided to co-compose while teaching others on a songwriting weekend.

Mango, from Glasgow, has worked in the past with David Byrne and Teenage Fanclub, so putting the new duo’s four tunes together was pretty much another (very enjoyable) day at the office.

“I do love collaborating,” says Mango. “It definitely throws up combinations of things and makes ideas happen that never would have happened otherwise. “Plus, you get a reason to hang out with people you really like and go on exciting trips with them!”

She may be fortunate in that mostly her partnerships have gone pretty smoothly. “I think you know quite early on in a collaboration if it’s going to work easily or naturally or not.

“The only collaborations that haven’t worked would be those where there isn’t
trust – if the other person just can’t let go control,” she says.

However, the Bishopbriggs-based musician is happy to let others take the reins – especially on the business side.

“If it was just me, I’d still be making music,” she says, “but I’d just be more lost as to how to let people hear it.

“And more exhausted with all the admin!”

Which of course falls to the long-suffering Meredith, his house currently swamped with boxes to be unpacked and then sent out to buyers.

However, there is some joy among the simpler things for a DIY label executive, as the Olive Grove mainman explains the ‘ecomix’ run that the new record is pressed on.

“It’s literally pellets left over from other coloured vinyl – you take pot luck what you’ll get, so every record opened is different and magical – EPs before were black and sometimes smudged, but there are green, orange, pink, and I just found a red one.”

So it’s all worth it in the end? He laughs. “I still ask myself that!”

‘Archipelago’ 5/6 is available now – more at olivegroverecords.com.
This article originally appeared in the Motherwell Times.

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