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August '10

Y&L Interview in The Fly

Sonic Youth
Aug 03 2010 5:54 pm, Pic: Words: Niall Doherty

Fanzine. Clubnight. Label. Tour. Top Ten. At 25, you could forgive Sara Jade and Nadia Dahlawi for feeling like they’ve done it all. Cos they pretty much have. This month, their label, Young And Lost Club, reaches its 5th birthday and the duo are celebrating in the way they know best - by releasing a compilation comprising of 35 of their best singles. Of which, astonishingly, there’ve been over 50 so far - releaseaholics in the old fashioned indie label sense, Young And Lost Club have been knocking out an average of ten single releases a year since their inception. Quite a feat when you consider that their first release, Vincent Vincent And The Villains, saw them make great use of the music industry’s finest art - making it up as you go along.
“It was pretty disorganised,” smiles the gently spoken Sara, sitting in an east London coffee shop. “We were really into Vincent Vincent and they said they wanted to put out a single and if we put a label together then they wanted us to release it, so that really spurred us on. We had no idea what we were doing.” “We just learnt as we went along,” nods Nadia, the more dreamily-voiced member of the pair, sitting opposite Sara, “it was a hectic learning experience. We didn’t know about anything – we didn’t know about catalogue numbers, where to send the records to...” “Mastering, mixing...” interjects Sara.
That was back at the beginning of 2005, but Sara and Nadia had already established themselves as all-round music wunderkinds around the capital’s burgeoning band scene in London. Having become best friends at school (indeed, the pair are near-inseparable and, in seven years of knowing them, I’ve still never seen them row...), their first project was a fanzine, Pyhrra, for which Pete Doherty was a short-lived contributor and where Razorlight received their first ever press coverage, in 2002. Soon the duo launched their first clubnight – dubbed Error Campaign – at Notting Hill Arts Club. “The fanzine was something we started at school,” explains Nadia, “cos we had nothing else to do. We didn’t really think about starting a label at the time.” “Then we did our first clubnight – Special Needs, Neils Children and Art Brut all played. There was a queue round the block. It was really, really good,” adds Sara.
At a time when Queens Of Noize were mainstays at Barfly on a Friday night, so too soon Error Campaign became synonymous with the revitalised, exciting wave of bands in London. By the time they changed their moniker to Young And Lost Club, at the tail end of 2004, they were putting on raucous, riotous nights at Push in London’s Soho, getting ready to host a regular Saturday night at LA2 and setting plans for the label to come to fruition. “We’d been working with so many bands and there needed to be bridge between a band who were just starting and a band who were signing a major label deal, getting some attention along the way,” says Sara. It’s an ethos that’s stayed at the centre of the label since the off; Vincent Vincent’s release was followed by sold-out debuts from Good Shoes, Larrikin Love and Action Plan in 2005, Y&L’s reputation as tastemakers-du-jour growing with every release. Stellar singles in 2006 soon followed, with much-hyped debuts from Pull Tiger Tail and White Lies’ forebears Fear Of Flying, but it was a nu-folk four-piece from West London in 2007 who marked a true turning point skywards for the label. “We love every band and we’re glad for every release, but Noah And The Whale were the first band we really wanted to work with long-term – they had a really amazing set of songs,” says Nadia. Indeed, Noah saw Sara and Nadia join forces with Mercury for their first long-player release, Noah becoming the first Young And Lost Club band to invade the Top Ten. For ten weeks. “The deal with Mercury came about cos we’d known the A&R man there, Richard O’Donovan, since we were about 17, when he signed Razorlight,” explains Sara. “He was someone we’d always looked up to and trusted. We never work with Mercury on singles, only on Noah. It was a really big thing for us, the album going Top Five and the single being Top Ten.”“All the singles are done independently,” Nadia points out. “We even do distribution on the singles ourselves. We do everything from signing the band to putting it out...”
The marking of the 5th anniversary of the self-confessed only “female-led record label in Britain” is both a salute to five years of possibly the purest label in the country – the only running theme through the releases, it seems, is that Sara and Nadia love the band – and a send-off to the mid-noughties influx of guitar bands. Indeed, the pair are unsure if, in five years, they’ll have released another 50 singles. “There are bands out there,” sighs Nadia with the spaced-out weariness of someone who gets sent a lot of Myspace links. “But no good ones,” adds Sara. “Even now, we don’t do as many releases as we did. It’s more that we pick the bands we want to work with and concentrate on them. Planet Earth, who we’ve been working with for a year and a half, are finally ready to start recording their first album.” “When we started the fanzine,” continues Sara, “there was definitely more of a community. You’d go out to a gig every night and see the same people. We were talking with Rhys Good Shoes about it recently, about how the bands used to support each other so much – they’d support each other at gigs, do collaborations together, go to clubnights together...”
That, though, underlines the evolution of Young And Lost Club even more – it would’ve easy for the pair to anchor themselves with the bands who were around when they began and then be dragged down with them when they sunk. Instead, underneath their charming, shy exterior, lay two of the most perceptive people working in music today, the passion at the heart of their label making it, alongside Moshi Moshi and Wichita, one of the most important indies operating in the country. “We’re on a much smaller scale than they are,” offers Sara. “It’s just the two of us and we’d never want to take on more than we could handle,” concludes Nadia.
Don’t underestimate just how much Sara Jade and Nadia Dahlawi can handle, though – 53 releases and counting, Young And Lost Club march into the next decade poised to shape it as much as they have the previous one...
‘Young And Lost Compilation’ is out on Young And Lost Club on August 16th.
A timeline in the life of Young And Lost Club
'96 Sara Jade and Nadia Dahlawi meet at St George’s School.

'00- '03 The pair start up their Pyhrra fanzine, its aim to “write about the bands we like.” “I was the Art Department,” says Nadia. They gave it out at gigs, Rough Trade stocked it, Pete Doherty contributed and Razor-light got their first bit of press in it. They launch Error Campaign, their first clubnight, during half-term. Special Needs, Art Brut and Neils Children play and a pre-Horrors Rhys DJs.
'04 Both enduring a short-lived spell at uni, Sara and Nadia come up with the idea for Young And Lost Club.
'05 Young And Lost Club’s first release, Vincent Vincent & The Villains’ debut single ‘Blue Boy/The Boy Who Killed Time’ comes out. “How could anyone not love Young And Lost,” says frontman Vincent Vincent, “the girls are the thumping heartbeat of London’s new music scene. If you’ve just heard about a great band, Sara and Nadia will have had them play one of their nights six months previously. That’s why we were so happy to be the first release on what we all knew would be a fantastic label, and I have them to thank for some great memories of those early days.” The Young And Lost Club clubnight is launched to coincide with the first release and singles from Larrikin Love, Good Shoes and Action Plan, who featured future Fly editor Niall Doherty on vocals, follow. “Only three people in the whole world liked Action Plan,” says Niall now. “Luckily for us, two of them were running the best new music label in the country.”
'06 The label gathers momentum with ace releases from Pull Tiger Tail and White Lies prototypes Fear Of Flying and prestardrom clubnight appearances from Jack Penate, Laura Marling, Late Of The Pier, The Horrors and Klaxons. “Young And Lost were the first people to put real faith in our music,” says White Lies drummer and Chess Club founder Jack Brown. “If they hadn’t offered to release the second Fear Of Flying single, we may have called it a day soon after. They inspired me to start up Chess Club Records, gave us somewhere to hang out every week at Frog and Push and meet up with other likeminded bands. It gave us a lot of drive and aspirations. They essentially gave White Lies the experience and step-up we needed to give us confidence with what we were doing.”
'07 Young And Lost Club sign Noah And The Whale and the folk quartet take the label to new heights with debut release ‘5 Years Time’. “It sold 1000 7” in a month and was Pitchfork’s no.1 video,” says Sara. “I can’t imagine how things would have worked out for us if it hadn’t been for Young And Lost Club,” explains Noah frontman Charlie Fink. “From our first gigs as a band and in our development. I believe that they serve as a blueprint for an ethical and sustainable music industry with their firm loyalty to their artists’ creativity and as a consistent launching pad for new bands from their clubnights. In short, the best label in the world.” Singles from Joe Lean And The Jing Jang Jong, Johnny Flynn and The Sigma come out.
'08 Young And Lost Club team up with Mercury to release their first long-player, Noah And The Whale’s ‘Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down’. It goes straight into the Top Five, whilst the re-released ‘5 Years Time’ stays in the Top Ten for ten weeks. The single releases continue to come thick and fast, with The Virgins, Bombay Bicycle Club, Golden Silvers, Pull Tiger Tail and Semifinalists releases all landing.
'09 Noah quickly follow-up their second album with the brooding, critically lauded ‘The First Days Of Spring’. Young And Lost Club host the last ever night at the legendary LA2, and there’s yet more single release aceness in the shape of Everything Everything, Alan Pownall and Ou Est Le Swimming Pool. Over to Everything Everything’s Jeremy Pritchard: “Some of my favourite indie 7” of the last couple of years have come out on Y&L. They don’t seem to repeat themselves, or be lead by trends. There’s very little stylistic parity between Everything Everything and Alan Pownall but Nadia and Sara obviously felt that both songs were worthy of release, regardless. I think that’s the mark of true music lovers running a label.”
'10 Young And Lost Club reaches its 5th anniversary and landmark 50th release and celebrates with the Young And Lost Club Compilation, with forthcoming long-player releases planned for Oh Minnows and Planet Earth, as well as a third Noah LP.