Q&A with label boss Conor Cusack
London showcase preview
Who would set up an independent record label these days? Seriously? Even the majors are struggling. Downloading and streaming has completely changed both the music producing landscape and the consumer’s way of consuming. Surely you have got to be nuts?…………….Well, ladies and gents, here we have Dublin’s Trout records and their owner Conor Cusack. Conor has been reliably described as a ‘real Dublin character’ (euphemisms abound!) and is even immortalized in a track by the unfeasibly brilliant noiseniks (and one for 2016) Girl Band called “That snake Conor Cusack”. Well LTW had a good old Q&A with Conor and he seems like a bloody lovely bloke to be honest with a strong roster of bands!
LTW: Hi Conor. How is Dublin treating you today?
CC: Dublin is treating me extremely well today. I played a spot of five aside football last night, so was extremely stiff on my walk to work. That said it was sunny and the light was reflecting off the river Liffey like a big disco ball. Two thumbs up.
LTW: Tell me about Trout records. How long has it been going? And how (and WHY??!!??) would you start up your own independent label?
CC: Trout Records used to be the best record shop about this town. It was based in the Georges Street Arcade in Dublin City and sold a mix of scratched cd’s, questionable 45’s and for a brief spell, Ricky Martin keyrings (No joke). The label formed out of the shop, when the then owner Nicholas offered to press the first Spies record (Another Trout band who I play with). That first release (Liars call me king) was a reasonable success so we did the next release with him as well. Unfortunately in the Spring of 2012 the shop closed and the label went with it. A while later I started to really become aware of how much amazing music was coming out of Ireland. All of my friends, and our extended network were releasing incredible records, on their own and with little support. James from Any Other City (Girl Band/ Villagers/ Jet Setter) was a big inspiration as it showed that it was feasible to work with great artists on a small scale. I asked Nick if he minded if I used the old Trout label and started putting out new records and he kindly said he didn’t so since then I’ve been knocking them out!
That’s the PR Pitch. The reality is I ask myself every day why I run my own independent label, it causes nothing but grief.
LTW: You have a showcase of bands (O Emperor, Paddy Hanna, and Saint Sister) coming up in the Shacklewell Arms in London, of which one (O Emperor) had a very nice write up from the NME back in September. Is the talent strong in Ireland at the moment?
CC: Yes! Ireland is punching seriously above it’s weight and is making a huge contribution to music on an international scale. The last few years have seen independent artists like Girl Band, Soak, Villagers, James Vincent McMorrow, Lisa O’ Neil, Bleeding Heart Pigeons, Little Green Cars do extremely well. Then you’ve also lots of bands signing to majors like Hudon Taylor, Walking on Cars, All Tvvins, Gavin James and Hozier , Kodaline etc.
There are also amazing bands breaking through like Jet Setter, Other Creatures, No monster Club, Tomorrows, Cian Nugent, Enemies, Altered Hours, Otherkin, Cloud Castle Lake.
LTW: That is quite a list! The Shacklewell Arms showcase – are these your latest signings?
CC: Yes indeed, Paddy, Saint Sister and O Emperor were all signed this year. Paddy in February, O Emperor in May and Saint Sister in September
I’m absolutely delighted to have them on board, they are all sweethearts.
LTW: What is the feeling coming from the bands? Political? Apathetic? Angry? None of the above?!
CC: Generally when I’m feeling the bands it’s after a house party and they feel warm, a bit drunk and cuddly.
LTW: Ha ha nice answer! What are you most proud of about running the label?
CC: As we near the end of the year, it’s great to look back at what we’ve put out so far and how high the calibre of music has been. All of the records have been well received and each band’s profile has risen as a result. I guess that makes me proud that I’m doing my job right to a certain extent.
LTW: What have been the biggest hurdles (if any?) to you and Trout Records?
CC: Money! Cash flow can sometimes be a pretty big issue, especially when you’re juggling multiple releases at the same time. Twice this year I’ve had 3 records out within 3 weeks of each other which in retrospect wasn’t particularly clever. My resolution for 2016 is to schedule releases one at a time! Another hurdle is time pressure, In addition to running the label, I also work full time for a software company. This means I end up having a lot of late nights trying to stay on top of everything.
LTW: Finally, what’s been happening lately, and where do you (want to?) see Trout Records in the future? Say two years?
CC: The past two months have been spent working on “Madrid” which is the Saint Sister EP, “Lizard” by O Emperor and Paddy’s “Underprotected” single. This involves working with our very talented publicists Dan and Liza to ensure people hear about the records, talking to pressing plants and making sure the records all look right and helping the bands promote the records through touring. Two years time? I’d most definitely like to be rich at that point, so the plan is to do an XL on it and sign the next Adele. I will be holding open auditions in my sitting room so please get in touch.
LTW: Many thanks Conor and good luck with Trout. Keep in touch!
CC: I will
Trout records are having a showcase of bands at The Shacklewell Arms, London with latest signings O Emperor, Paddy Hanna, and Saint Sister on 30th November 2015.
Further information on Trout record can be found via their website
All words by Ioan Humphreys. More writing by Ioan Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.