Interview: Ghost Babes Records – For the Love of Compilations

Discovering a label like Ghost Babes Records is one of those unique pleasures in a music lover’s life. The thirst for new music is hard to quench but the sheer volume of it thrown at music obsessives can be hard to swallow. Praise be that here’s an entirely reliable source of quality. Ghost Babes Records have just released Volume III of their cassette compilation series featuring 10 American alternative bands of which I’d previously only come across one (Daddy Issues). So whilst I’m disappointed I’m only catching up at Volume III I’m also adding some me time to the diary to catch up with the first two installments.

Compilations are always a labour of love whether they’re made for personal pleasure, for an occasion or for someone else entirely. Whilst this compilation was not made specifically for any one person it’s hard not to feel some connection with the compiler when listening. As each new band kicks off I’m sure the flush of elation, quite simply the ‘Oh My God I Love This’ feeling links us and everyone else of a similar mind together. The mastermind behind Ghost Babses Records is Ellie Coden and this comp is so good we had to know more. Discover the label and have a listen to a handful of songs while you’re at it.

Overblown: Congratulations on reaching Vol III of the compilation series. For the uninitiated tell us about the story of the label so far.

It’s a very small label, born out of love for DIY/punk rock music and very much inspired by this Brooklyn band i met a few years ago, The So So Glos, who made me re-think labels and the music industry in general.

It’s a bit of a part time effort as i do have a day job in live music so that translates into one compilation year roughly, but it’s been great fun, and so far i’ve been able to include some really fantastic bands, whom i urge you to check out on the Ghost Babes bandcamp 😉 I just felt that people like me weren’t exactly represented within the music scene in the UK at the time and wanted to show them that elsewhere bands were still making excellent guitar music and not all hope was lost.

O: What is it about the cassette format that attracted you to it?

There are a few reasons..the label is generally very ’90s inspired so using cassettes seemed like a good fit; but also they are much cheaper to make and can be made in small quantities, unlike vinyl. Of course very few people will be able to play them, but they come with a download code from Bandcamp anyway so that’s not really an issue..and they look considerably cuter on a shelf than cds or vinyl! Plus, on a personal note, i grew up in the 90s and i have fond memories of my huge tape collection, i guess i just selfishly wanted to add to it 😉

O: What’s the thinking behind only featuring American music?

There was an element of disappointment with the music scene in the UK, as i mentioned above; i feel like it’s getting slightly better now but still the DIY/punk scene is very small compared to what it’s like in the States. I just found my musical taste was being represented more by US bands and i knew there were lots of people like me out there, so i almost wanted to reassure them and bring them some music that i knew they would like. Create a little community of like-minded people, if you will.

It’s also an angle for the label though, there are so many labels/compilations out there so i had to think about what would make mine different/special

O: How do you go about sourcing bands and songs to feature on your tapes? Are there many occasions where you can’t always get the music you want?

Well, it’s possibly cheating a little but i spend a lot of time in New York and go to tons of gigs there, particularly at this amazing DIY venue called Shea Stadium that my friends run (or rather ran, until it closed down last month)..i’ve seen countless bands there that were compilation-worthy. I also get tips from friends in New York, for example one of my top 4 bands of this entire decade, who incidentally is on my first tape, was a totally random suggestion from someone i know. But of course i still do lots of online scouting myself too, you wouldn’t believe the amount of hours i spend on it for a tiny 10 tracks compilation.

In terms of getting what i want, the first and third tape were surprisingly easy to put together, almost everyone i asked said yes (and when they didn’t it was down to their UK manager being typically narrow-minded) but the second compilation was a real struggle, so many bands turned me down (hello Charly Bliss, Ian Sweet, Chumped, Cayetana, Quarterbacks etc..but who’s counting). In fact, they didn’t even turn me down, they just completely ignored me, which i won’t lie was pretty hurtful, but i guess it made me realise that at the end of the day i don’t want to force anyone to be on my compilations, i always ask bands that i absolutely love and i want them to be equally excited to be part of Ghost takes an insane amount of work and effort just to have the privilege of losing money on the project, so if the bands are not feeling the love there’s really no point.

O: Compilations are nearly always a labour of love and often either made specifically for yourself or for a particular person. With these tapes do you make them with a person or a wider crowd in mind or are they simply done because you love them and want to share that love with anyone that’ll listen?

A bit of both really. First and foremost i have to love it 100%-i don’t care about who’s working with the bands, how well they are likely to do in music industry terms, or any crap like that; if i think the song/band is excellent it will go on the compilation no matter what anyone else thinks or says. But as i mentioned earlier there are some like-minded people out there who i keep in mind too (shout out to my friend Craig in Wales and the Art Is Hard guys especially); i’m not trying to please them as such but i know they are likely to appreciate what i’m doing, and if when the tape is released they listen and give it the thumbs up then i feel like my work is done.

Ghost Babes Compilation Vol.3 is available on cassette (quick, there’s only 100) or download code on their bandcamp page. Go Get it here.

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