What started as a monthly night at Notting Hill Arts Club as a platform for new talent is now a fully fledged label and promotions company operating on both sides of the Atlantic. This year Communion Music turns ten!
They’re celebrating their decade in existence this Thursday (1st September) with a party at the House of Vans, featuring the evening’s house band, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, alongside a strictly one-off, rotational who’s who from Communion’s past and present including Jack Garratt, James Bay, Bear’s Den, Dan Croll, and the label’s very first signing, Matthew and the Atlas. They’ll be joined on the night by a handful of Communion’s future faces too, including Banfi, Joseph J Jones, MarthaGunn, and Rukhsana Merrise.
In homage to a decade of wonderful sounds, Communion Music has put together a list of all the music that has a special meaning to the company’s ten year history.
Matthew and the Atlas – To The North EP
Communion Records was launched 4 years after the Communion nights started, and this was the first artist record that we released, so it will always have a special place in our hearts. It definitely speaks to the sound and identity that was swirling around the label at that time, but Matt’s remarkable voice has always made his music sound like no one else’s. This EP contains the track ‘Within the Rose’, which is still one of the greatest songs we have ever released I think.
Daughter – The Wild Youth EP
Elena Tonra, who fronts Daughter, played at the Communion clubnight a couple of years before this release, and then very much came into the fold, playing Communion shows and appearing on our first ever release, the ‘Communion’ compilation in 2010. Shortly after that she formed Daughter with Remi and Igor. This EP was produced by Communion co-founder Ian Grimble and I’d be surprised if Kev Jones didn’t appear somewhere on it with his bass, as he did on most records we put out in those days. Listening back to this EP now, it’s still stunningly good.
Half Moon Run – Dark Eyes Album
I remember listening to this album (it was virtually a finished record by the time we signed it) for the first time. It was just so accomplished and touched on so many ‘BIG’ reference points (Radiohead, CSNY, Kings of Leon…) while managing to sound unique and left field. I think we had already signed the album by the time we first saw them play, at a tiny show in London, and we were blown away. They are excellent musicians and for a three piece, as they were then, made an extraordinarily broad and rich noise. Amazing harmonies. They ended up getting 2 or 3 A-List singles on Radio 1, which was unexpected and felt like a mini victory for ambitious alternative music.
Catfish and the Bottlemen – Pacifier Single
This single (also produced by Communion’s Ian) was originally the B-side off the debut Single ‘Homesick’. We couldn’t record new music quick enough to keep up with demand from fans and radio, but the B-sides off the first two singles were so good we just ended up releasing those. It can be easy to underestimate a band like Catfish but they knew / know exactly what they want – thousands of kids like them singing their songs back at them on a Friday night. If that was a remotely easy thing to achieve, then everybody would be doing it. They also instinctively understood and embodied many of the things that we talk to new artist’s about – touring as much as you can, working at being the best performers you can be, building a relationship with your audience. By the time we met them they’d been a band for 5 years, played hundreds of gigs and had loads of knock backs. They were just 100% ready.
Bear’s Den – Islands Album
We had been working with Bear’s Den and their frontman Andrew Davie for probably 3 or 4 years by the time their debut album was released. We’ve grown alongside each other over that time – it’s a great partnership in that way. Watching this album be gradually taken into the hearts of people in the UK and further afield, and the live shows get bigger and bigger was an absolute joy. The album itself feels like it encapsulates the whole first few years of their existence, with songs on it that they had been playing live for a very long time in various forms. For that reason it also feels like it encapsulates a whole extended period of our life as a label, which is one of the many reasons that it is so special to us.
Rukhsana Merrise – September Songs EP
Rox recorded this EP before we met her, and it was on the basis of this music that we started working together. Although we’ve moved away from this perception, in the early days Communion Records was very much associated with singer-songwriter/folk music and its perceived contemporary incarnations. The exciting thing about these songs is that Rox sounds like she is mining that world – definitely channeling a bit of Joni Mitchell – but in a way that is really playful and totally unrestrained; both sonically and in terms of the stories she is telling. In truth September Songs doesn’t really sound like anything or anyone else, which is invariably a great place to start.
Communion Singles Club Vol. 1 – Viola Beach, Boys That Sing
We launched the Singles Club as a way to more spontaneously put out one-off early singles from great new artists – really trying to recapture the simpler immediacy of what we did when the label first started, and Ian was producing records that we’d then put out soon after. This was the first Singles Club release, and obviously what happened to the band and their manager Craig has forever changed the complexion of how it will be remembered. I wanted to include it here simply because I think it more than stands up as one of best singles we’ve had the privilege of releasing; from a band (and manager) who had so many of the qualities we most admire and value in new artists we work with.