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I first came across Alexis through a borderline obsession I have with one of his acts, We Cut Corners, and have happy memories of fireside fun down at Other Voices in Dingle a couple of years back. I didn’t realise at the time just how far-reaching Delphi Label really is, but as my knowledge grew, I recognised the Alexis’ outlet as something a little bit unique on the Irish music scene.

I was particularly taken with their special edition releases, such as the handcrafted five-copy only four-EP release for Record Store Day 2011 (see below right), which remains one of the most treasured items in my record collection. They put out a similar release a year later. This is a small label that takes its image and integrity seriously, and does the best it can to produce something unique and interesting at every corner. In connections with Le Galaxie – who’ve now made their way to a major in Universal – and We Cut Corners, the label is also home to two of Ireland’s hottest acts. I was delighted, then, when Alexis agreed to give me his take on Delphi, and Irish music in 2015. Kindly legend that he is, he’s offered up the most in-depth ‘State of the Nation’ to date.

delphi boxsetWhat are the greatest challenges facing a small label in 2015?

Well, the obvious answer is the perennial challenge to release hit records!  Whatever else you could say, every small label is hoping to have that success.  It’s the one thing that can provide the revenue and reputation that allows you to stick at it and grow.

Beyond that, the greatest challenge is bridging the gap between a relatively unchanged cost-base, and dwindling revenue streams. This may sound like old-hat to the casual observer, ‘label complains that no one is paying for music‘, but at the coal-face it is still very much the big issue.  This is illustrated by how few small labels are still releasing music in Ireland.  It’s impossible to exaggerate the degree of structural change that’s occurred in the recorded music industry.  The flow of wealth in intellectual property away from creators/rights holders, and to the dominant intermediaries (as in the big services that deliver the music to listeners) is on a massive scale.

We still by and large live in an economy where it’s necessary to pay the going rate for any number of services and overhead items, and that’s the same for the things labels require, be it office costs, staff, advertising and promotion, design, manufacturing of physical product, but people consume music in a way which is economically completely unlike that.  The reality is that unless you have an out-and-out breakthrough hit it is very hard to make the numbers add up, certainly if you’re releasing physical product.  There is the argument that the digital age has provided the opportunity for artists and labels to enjoy a commensurate fall in their cost base, in terms of harnessing digital know-how and technology for recording, production, artwork and design etc.  The reality is that professional product still requires professional services, studios, engineers, designers, videomakers and everyone needs to be paid.  The sums are often not so pretty!  A recent article reported that 1% of artists are earning 77% of all revenue from recorded music, I’m not sure how that compares to 20 years ago, but it is something which generally does not bode well for new, independent labels… so back to finding that hit!!

How do Delphi pick your artists?

‘Pick’ sounds a bit like going into the artist shop and browsing the rails, and not many artists, managers and labels are pret-a-porter.   In our case it is a pretty organic process, firstly we want to be confident we are dealing with something really exceptional creatively.  Then it’s about nurturing a relationship and ensuring there is a fit in temperament and vision for the shared goals of artist and label/manager.  So the process is generally gradual and requires patience, and releasing records takes time.  Sometimes I get emails from bands saying they want me to release their record and they’ve already set the release date for 6 weeks time, that’s obviously totally unrealistic!  For a small label like us, we can only ever work with a small number of artists anyway, so committing to a brand new artist is pretty rare.  You quickly learn that you can only ever do things in which you have complete conviction, for the simple fact that you have to champion it day-in day-out, so without that you soon come unstuck.

music alliance pact

When I first came to Ireland, I was very focused on the Dublin scene. There just seemed such an abundance of good acts for a relatively small city, and so much to absorb every night. As I became familiar with the heavier acts, though, I found many of them referenced counterparts north of the border as some of their greatest influences: the likes of And So I Watch You From Afar, Therapy?, Fighting with WireNot Squares and an artist I’m very proud to introduce to MAP this month, Axis Of

The trio hail from Portstewart, on the northern coast of our island, and are signed to awesome Northern Irish record label Smalltown America. Brash single Port Na Spaniagh from debut album Finding St Kilda first drew me to them, but this track ‘Munro Bagger’ is every bit as ear-wormy. It’s taken from sophomore album ‘The Mid Brae Inn’, out next month, Download below, or snap up the whole lot in advance of its February 2015 release, here. Enjoy!

Click the play button icon to listen to individual songs, right-click on the song title to download an mp3, or grab a zip file of the full 18-track compilation through Dropbox here.

IRELAND: Hendicott Writing
Axis OfMunro Bagger
Having dropped their metal edge in favour of a rough-around-the-edges melodic punk-rock buzz, north-coast Northern Irish act Axis Of look set to explode in 2015. Famed for their vibrant live show, the three-piece were described by UK magazine Rock Sound as “the most exciting act to come out of Northern Ireland, possibly ever”. Second album The Mid Brae Inn, out this month, features this vicious, craggy melody and plenty more worth getting your teeth stuck into.

ARGENTINA: Zonaindie
Mariana PärawaySirena
Somewhere between Mendoza and the Andes, Mariana Päraway becomes a mountain siren who sings about entangled fates in her latest album, Hilario. Mariana’s music navigates through pop, folk and electronic landscapes resulting in a deep, refined sound exploration.

AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
Sydneysider Travis Baird is a multi-instrumentalist who earns a living scoring video installations, playing as a session musician and performing on tour with the likes of Melodie Nelson and Sounds Like Sunset. AFXJIM is Baird’s solo project, which consists of home recordings pieced together from loops, drum machines and field recordings of everything from kindergarten classroom chatter to police radio transmissions. It’s a subtle fusion of experimental electronica and acoustic songwriting, falling somewhere between Tortoise-inspired post-rock and the folktronica of early Four Tet. Distant is the title track of AFXJIM’s second LP. Carried on a bed of slide guitar and rumbling percussion, the track’s centrepiece sample features singing “recorded to MiniDisc in a bus-top karaoke bar in the Costa Rican backwoods”.

BRAZIL: Meio Desligado
Aproveita is the first single from Duani’s debut solo album, which will be released this year. He became famous in Brazil in the 90s, playing forró (a very danceable rhythm strongly related to the Northeast culture of the country) with the band Forroçacana. In this single, he plays all instruments and sings. The lyrics are a manifest about comprehension in love and its different ways of desire, packaged with black music and soul.

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