In 2021, Night School turned 10 years old. Back in 2020 I had grand plans to celebrate still being here, to ten years working with amazing people, incredible experiences, surpassing expectations and generally surviving. We planned a compilation of unreleased music from some of my favourite artists and collaborators. The past 18 months or so had different ideas and now, 10 years and a few months on from LSSN001, we’re all still here and that’s all the celebration we really need.
Night School started in London in 2011 with two 7″s by two DIY groups that sounded really different and everything since then has operated on the same, often chaotic but always sincere, modus operandi. The label grew to include releasing LPs by inspired musicians who’d go on to become lifelong friends, then reissuing some of my favourite ever recordings by people like Strawberry Switchblade, The Space Lady and Jackie Leven. The label has often flirted with professionalism, often adopting collective pronouns, alluding to the royal we, offices and other operational machinery when in reality it’s one guy working at night and on weekends after his day job.
All my favourite labels run like this to a lesser or greater extent. Along the way there have been junctions in the road where I could have made decisions that resulted in more financial stability but they never felt right. There’ve been plenty of failings, wobbles, time-stresses, the wonders of human error. But there’s been infinitley more moments of excitement, joy and togetherness. Night School Records has never been about me, I’m just the chief cheerleader, the pushy (or maybe not pushy enough) parent. I’ve sometimes felt uncomfortable being so visible being the sole employee of the label to the extent that writing this and including a photograph is supplying plenty of anxiety.
Just over 10 years ago I decided to sell most of my record collection to make enough money to make 2 runs of 300 7″s for two bands I really believed in. Terror Bird and Golden Grrrls would go off and do other things together or apart but LSSN01 and LSSN02 with their hand stamped or painted labels and amateurishly screenprinted sleeves will always be a source of pride for me. I don’t mind admitting it was a bit of a dark hole that forced me into action, but I’m glad for it now. Ever since then the label has ping ponged between debt and success, noob mistakes to unexpected triumphs and back again. The label has always been and always will be open, open to what’s round the corner, what’s been, open to fail and open to share. I’ve never supported myself financially with the label so I can take risks. I’m sure this is confusing for some followers of the label, maybe it’s thrilling, I don’t know. My personal listening is all over the place and so is Night School. It has always aimed to be evolving and shifting, never settling on one style or type of music. Sure some people will enjoy some of the output, but not all of it. That’s for the beholder to decide and “curate” for themselves. It’s a messy, uncategorisable (I think), slippery thing, this label, but the joy in it is hopefully what comes through.
Running a label in 2021 is, in many ways, harder than it was in 2011 but I’m as excited now as I’ve ever been for what’s next. I’m definitely more sincere now than I was back then (and I was already insufferably sincere ten years ago) so you know I mean it when I say thank you to everyone who’s ever invested their time and money in any of the artists and the releases I’ve had a hand in realising.
I hope we can do it for ever.