Front & Follow

Location: Manchester, UK Est: 2007

Potted History: “It came out of running another label with a friend,” says Front & Follow’s co-founder Justin Watson. “We spent a lot of time discussing what to put out, but not much time actually releasing anything. I met some great people, including Sone Institute’s Roman Bezdyk. Finding an avenue for his music was a key motivator for F&F.”

Justin co-runs the label with Helen Watson, starting the imprint in London before upping sticks and moving to Manchester. “The legacy of Manchester labels, especially Factory, didn’t really have an effect,” he says. “My music tastes were more focussed on labels like Thrill Jockey and Constellation as benchmarks for creativity and treating people well. The label has always been influenced by slightly random things, people
I’ve bumped into or places I’ve been, rather than where I’ve lived.”

The pair selected their slightly contradictory, entirely fitting name from a segment in ultra-muso mag The Wire. The label’s first release, Elite Barbarian’s sage ’It’s Only When You Get To The End That It All Makes Sense’, emerged in May 2007.

Mission Statement: “The first few releases were purposefully different from one another,” says Watson.

“Putting out Elite Barbarian’s deep electronica followed by Yonokiero (acoustic guitar) and Andy Nice (cello) certainly demonstrated the range we were aiming for, but it meant no one really knew where we were going. Over time, we’ve found our place, but it’s by accident and not by design. It’s been led by what we’ve liked, friends we’ve made, ideas we’ve had or that others have suggested.”

Key Artists: “There is a definite line between Sone Institute, Laura Cannell, Shape Worship, The Doomed Bird Of Providence, and Kemper Norton,” explains Watson of the current crop. “Kemper feels like the centre, with electronic weirdness shooting off in one direction and folky stuff going the other way.”

Collaborations have been key across the label’s history, whether that be the ongoing series ‘The Blow’, F&F artists remixing each other, curated projects like Jo Stannard’s The Outer Church, or artsy concepts like the experimental Long Division With Remainders series.

Future Plans: “We’re working on Volumes 3 and 4 of the ‘The Blow’ series,” says Watson. “Early next year there will be a new album by The Doomed Bird Of Providence, and then we’ll do something to mark our 10th anniversary. I’m hoping Jim O’Rourke agrees to jump out of a cake at a live show.”

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