Community, Passion, Adaptability, Endurance, Openness, and Adventure: Unveiling the Essence of Big Stir Records

Big Stir Records is celebrating its sixth anniversary, and to commemorate this milestone, they have announced the signing of six new bands to their roster.

Rex and Christina engage in a conversation with Sweet Sweet Music blog, discussing the journey thus far.

SSM: By cleverly concealing it, how did you manage to harbor such a momentous secret about signing six new bands in honor of Big Stir Records’ six-year anniversary?

Rex & Christina from Big Stir Records: Thank you so much! They say the secret to comedy is timing, and this was basically the same thing. There were a lot of artist announcements building up – and to be fair, a few of these bands, like sparkle*jets u.k. and The Flashcubes have been working with us on singles and other projects for a while now. And we’d done the Sorrows release with Arthur Alexander, and the solo album from Steve Stoeckel of The Spongetones, and they’d been happy with what we’d done and we were honored when they brough their next projects to us.

Meanwhile we very suddenly found ourselves working with Graham Parker, and The Cyrkle, and since we hadn’t officially announced any of those projects and were looking for the perfect time to do so… it dawned on us that we had six new artists to announce, right on the eve of our Sixth Anniversary as a label. So we made it into a themed event!

SSM: How did you secure the legendary Graham Parker under the esteemed banner of Big Stir Records? The world yearns for this revelation!

CHRISTINA: Believe it or not, Graham found us, on Twitter of all places! He reached out to us telling us he liked our style – later on he’d say that it was because we’re “not f***ing boring”, hahaha! – and we got the message in the middle of recording a live podcast. We weren’t quite sure it was really him, but we were on a Zoom call with him within a week and it just came together really quickly. He was looking for a label with reach beyond the UK – the great 100% Records is still handling this release in the UK and EU – and we were his pick from among several notable contenders.

We’re still pretty dazzled by it all, although Graham is an incredibly down-to-earth guy to work with. Still incredibly intense and mesmerizing as a performer, though, as we found out when we met him at a gig in Northern California just after the ink dried on the contract. And what a songbook he has to draw on… just amazing.

REX: We’ve never gone chasing after any artists – at all! There has always just been an abundance of talent surrounding us so there’s never been a question of “what comes next”. When someone like Graham – and there really aren’t many like Graham! – comes to us, we do what we always do: set about working out how we can live up to the quality of the work, and getting it to as wide an audience as we can. It’s daunting and exciting at the same time!

SSM: Should you distill the essence of Big Stir Records’ illustrious six-year journey into a mere half-dozen words, which carefully chosen gems would encapsulate its very soul?

R&C: Community, passion, adaptability, endurance, openness and adventure. All credit is due to the amazing artists we’re fortunate to have on board, from the first batch until today. We just work really hard and try to learn every new skill set that’s needed to keep get their music out there.

SSM: Amidst the tapestry of time, was there a singular, pivotal instant that molded Big Stir Records into the marvel it stands as today?

Rex: For me, I think it was a very quiet moment between just Christina and myself at the very beginning of the pandemic. Everyone everywhere was shut down in some fashion, and between the two of us we realized that there were going to be a lot of artists at loose ends, and a lot of other people in need of new music and art to get them through some unprecedented, difficult and isolated times.

We agreed that we were in a position to help both groups: to get the music being made to the people in need of it, like never before. It would mean that while a lot of people were looking at a lot of unwanted free time, we would be working harder than ever and re-inventing our own wheel, but we recognized we were among the few in a position to do something meaningful… and that doing so was also going to give us a sense of purpose as well. I really believe that all the big, big things that have happened for the label since then came from that private moment of commitment between the two of us.

Christina: It might sound odd from the outside, but for us it was such a transformative moment to be invited to be distributed by The Orchard, Sony’s Independent Labels distribution arm. It’s hard to explain how much difference real distribution and genuine support makes, but any artists who have struggled with the impersonal and not-exactly-competent paid third party distributors out there will understand how much difference this makes. But the biggest thing about it was that being invited – you can’t just “sign up” – was a recognition and validation of how much we’d grown and learned in a really short time. It also meant another crazy learning curve, but that process got us ready for new and bigger challenges, too. Mostly, though, just being recognized for how far we’d come, and how quickly we’d gotten there, made us feel like we had “arrived”.

SSM: Reflecting upon the bygone six years, which grand triumph looms largest in the annals of Big Stir Records’ esteemed endeavors?

Christina: Way back at the beginning, around 2015, Big Stir was just a local concert series in LA, but we saw it as building a community, filling a need for the artists on that scene. In 2016 our band The Armoires did a little tour of the UK and we started to hook up with bands over there, and the “scene” became a little more global, to the point where a year later we were ready – nervous, but ready! – to launch BSR as a label, starting with another much more expansive tour including a lot more bands from the US and UK. Right before we left, Don Valentine of the UK blog I Don’t Hear A Single posted a piece with the headline “I Want A Big Stir Over Here”… he was writing about the UK needing something to unify its community the way we had done in California, and that gave us the confidence that we were doing the right thing in launching BSR, and doing it on UK soil with a bunch of US bands involved!

It may seem like a small thing now, but at the time, “Big Stir” had only ever been the name we used to try to get enough people to come out to a gig in North Hollywood that we could keep doing shows every month. So it was a big deal to see it being used in an international context, and as a role model for how things should be done, even! Even though our reach is astronomically wider six years later, it wouldn’t have gotten there without that kind of grassroots support around the world in those early days. There are many examples of that, including you right here at Sweet Sweet Music, but the timing of that one felt like a game changing event.

Rex: It’s tough to pick one singular achievement, because by the time each milestone comes to pass, we’re already working on things well into the future. But for me it’s a recurring thing that I love every time it happens. Most people don’t think much about record labels, especially these days, because they’re “just businesses”, and that’s fair in most cases. But for real music lovers we’ve almost always had special labels with unique personalities where we will at least check out – and usually love – everything they put out. Not even by genre, but by their own unique vibe and vision: Bomp!, SST, 4AD, Not Lame, Factory, SubPop, Sarah, Flying Nun… amazingly, we’ve been compared to all of them, and even some of the more personally curated biggies like Sire, Elektra, and Geffen. That thrills me every time, not so much because it puts us in the “big leagues” but because it means someone gets what we’re going for: not just looking for hits or chasing the money, but assembling a great roster of artists who want to push the sound forward, and who, taken all together, create something that’s a sound of its own, united under our umbrella. That’s always been the dream, and it’s a low-key but incredibly meaningful “triumph” when people say we’re achieving it.

Both: Thank you so much for asking us to answer these questions – and for all you support throughout the years! There is much more to come and we can’t wait to share it with you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s