“I’m about a mindset, not a specific sound. We present heavy music in a way that doesn’t rely upon OTT machismo or ‘brutal’ imagery” – Alex Fitzpatrick
Alex Fitzpatrick and Ellen Godwin founded Holy Roar in 2006 with a simple desire, to transplant their experience in the Birmingham music scene (a burgeoning portfolio of work for “webzines, tiny record labels and putting on lots of shows”) to London, while fitting it around the “necessary” day jobs. Ellen’s ‘real’ job has since taken her away from the Holy Roar (she still has an active ‘advisory’ role) leaving Alex as overlord of the Holy Roar interns. The label is an admirable exercise in putting your money where your mouth is; spotting acts that you love, seeing them passed over elsewhere and so championing them yourself. ”Rolo Tomassi were the deciding factor” explains Alex, before rather modestly adding “I’m quite pleased to have been proved right on that front” Alongside Throats they have “smashed through in ways they shouldn’t have, not in the conventional sense” that an ‘extreme, spazzy’ band could manage such success seems to have vindicated Alex’s passion for music that would otherwise miss out on wider recognition.
Some labels focus on one genre to a the point of monomania, Holy Roar aren’t interested in that. Like all reasonable people Alex has an eclectic taste, he knows that others out there do too, “it is about mindset, not a specific sound,” the trick is to avoid a schizophrenic feel, aesthetics can blend but shouldn’t jar. Holy Roar are about heavy music, presenting it in a way that doesn’t rely on OTT machismo or ‘brutal’ imagery. A “more inclusive” feel, one that welcomes new fans, and doesn’t derive pleasure from esotericism. A ‘heavy’ label that takes in Brontide’s crisp clean, complex polyrhythm math-rock, Slabdragger – “Sludge as fuck” and Run, Walk!’s cheeky-grin, invincibility-of-youth-powered riffage and all points between. A Personal favourite of mine, the now sadly defunct, Cutting Pink With Knives are perhaps the perfect embodiment of how a label can be heavy, whilst also managing to be irreverent, restlessly creative and most of all decidedly un-pofaced.
Inspired by US labels Hydrahead, Robotic Empire and Deathwish, Holy Roar are trying to drag the UK by its boot straps to the same level of love, care and attention to detail that they apply to the packaging aesthetic. Modest again, Alex insists “we’re still playing catch up.” What this means is amazing value-for-money bundles of tees, merch and music and a constantly evolving roster “keeping it fresh is easy, there’s always new, amazing bands coming through” they drive the label to find creative ways to get the music out there and create new things. That has seen them embrace a cassette revival, limited editions and short runs, Christmas albums (“not this year 25+ releases in 2011 was plenty!”) and to be one of the first labels in the UK to offer a free download with physical purchases. The rise of illegal filesharing has also seen a rise in merchandise purchases (perhaps by people with guilty consciences), for a label that is strong on distinctive merch this has been a boon.
Cult and beloved of fans, but also respected enough that they are the first port of call for overseas collaboration. An already busy and successful 2011 was capped with an exclusive vinyl only release for noise metal legends Will Haven. It is January when I speak to Alex, the month of sober (figuratively and literally) reflection and he already had releases from Last Witness, Brontide and new boys Monolith lined up, “piles more in the works though” he assures me, as if that wasn’t plenty for now. He is particularly excited about new boys Monolith, and Crocus who will be taking time out of their “relentless” touring to release their debut album – “very excited for that one.”
Holy Roar has always ploughed its own furrow though, and little has changed since 2006, little needs to change when that furrow means restless creativity and openness to new and exciting ideas then nothing much needs to change. “We moved into a very small office in July 2011, our first office!” But Alex is still getting excited about “silly uncommercial music” working his socks off to promote it. This is a good time for DIY “perhaps due to the economic climate” more great labels, more awesome shows, more awesome bands. Long may it continue to be awesome!
This post originally appeared on The What Where When on 16 January 2012