Of the many label projects emerging from the wellspring of 2020’s lockdown, Accidental Meetings is, in our eyes, by far one of the most essential. The label appeared out of the blue with crucial releases, and have never set a foot out of place, despite the rock-hopping approach to selecting disparate artists from across the globe and across the spectrum of danceable and listening music.
A clutch of cassette-only mix releases from the likes of Azu Tiwaline and Bristolian cult edit-maker Ghost Phone; a steadily-growing vinyl strand, featuring leading UK dance music artists (Soreab) alongside more undercover picks (Elijah Minelli, Angel Rocket); brilliantly-curated nights in Bristol and London with top-line acts coming through — Accidental Meetings do it all, and tie the lot up with a bow of singular and unique artistic vision, thanks to their sole in-house designer.
We’ve been hooked since the start: from Vancouver’s wzrdryAV and rogue Arab dub myth Abu Ama, to semi-regular US/Bristol link and underground favourite Best Available Technology, onto their more obscure acts and the utterly brilliant latest LP, ‘Clever Dog‘ from Memotone, at Inverted Audio we’ve been beyond happy to get the word out there about just about everything the label have been doing from the get-go.
Despite being deep in their discography, much about the label’s group-ran nature needs answering, and we’re here to do the asking: in the interview you’ll find some light shed on the birth of Accidental Meetings, their artistic curation and knack for securing killer releases, as well as the Modus Operandi of the four behind the label: Lucien, Sholly, Ciaran and Georgia.
The mix, recorded by founders Lucien and Sholly as Accidental Meetings, might show off some of their dubby tendencies, but — as you’ll know if you’ve followed the label for a reasonable period — the group are more than well-equipped for supplying the surprises, and they’re here in true wealth. Strap in, and prepare for one of the most original podcast contributions in the IA MIX Series.
Interview by Freddie Hudson
"We always imagined turning the party into a label anyway but COVID-19 definitely accelerated the idea"
Hello! Great to have you on the IA MIX Series. We’ve made no secrets about our love for what your label does. Can you start by introducing the Accidental Meetings team?
Lucien: Hey! Firstly – thanks for having us, really appreciated. I guess I’ll start – I’m Lucien, alongside Sholly, I founded Accidental Meetings, and direct the curation and programming of the label, party and podcast.
Sholly: Yo! I’m Sholly, also founded Accidental Meetings, and am mostly involved with the curation of the label and podcast series, as well as lineup curations for the parties we throw.
Ciaran: Hey, my name is Ciaran and I’m responsible for the visual output of Accidental Meetings.
Georgia: ‘I’m Georgia (aka i-sha) and I am a resident DJ for the Accidental Meetings parties, and every now and then contribute ideas towards curation of line ups etc. and help where I’m needed!
How did the label come together? Are you a group-curatorial or is there a division of tasks between you?
Lucien: I think it came together in a smoking area of a club in Brighton, shouts to Volks. Myself & Sholl used to be a part of a collective in Brighton, now defunct. It was a sort of hybrid club / art sort of night, with installations in room 2’s alongside the club night. I think we both felt the pang to do a fully focused club night, solely based on music.
We ran that for a couple years and then lockdown hit, we always imagined turning the party into a label anyway but COVID-19 definitely accelerated the idea. We started building our first release, which was a compilation of artists connected to Accidental Meetings, whether they had played at a party, been on the podcast series or had just met throughout it all.
I guess it is slightly divided, in regards to the artistic direction and visual identity – it’s completely on Ciaran. He has full control and will take lead on whatever he feels the music represents really. He’s one of the best around to be honest and we are very lucky to have him with us
Ciaran: I mainly just stick to what I know: Luc, Shol and myself will chat a lot about how things could look initially, then I’ll give them updates to give feedback on.
Lucien: And, as we said above, programming & curation is with myself & Sholl, with G chipping in, and all of us bouncing ideas off each other really. The boring admin & PR bits are also handled by myself…
Throughout your releases there is a binding thread in the artwork. It’s recognisable, but not repetitive. Each piece is harmonious with the music, which extends also to the party posters you produce. Can you talk us through the art direction and decisions which go into it?
Ciaran: The art direction has kind of just snowballed from the very first posters. It’s quite unorganised and atomistic at times but I feel like this causes the releases to feel like their own entity rather than part of a ‘catalogue’ or ‘brand’. I take the opportunity to use every release as an exercise in communicating the spirit and tone of the music, trying not to repeat or regurgitate from previous artworks.
Most recently, with the Soreab album and Memotone tape, I have enjoyed combining a more hands-on approach to the design and typography. Using digital and analogue techniques in harmony whilst not making their application look too obvious.
Ultimately though, the whole process of art-working should be a joy and should take time to get right. At the end of the day you’re providing a visual language for what can be a very personal project for some musicians, the least you can do as a designer is reciprocate the effort.
I’ve often found myself mentally tagging Accidental Meetings with ‘Dub’, but it evades that definition precisely, much like Bokeh Versions and some of the gold on the defunct Boomarm Nation. Labelling music sucks, but what, in your words, is your interpretation of the sound you are releasing?
Lucien & Sholly: Ay yeah – it definitely does evade it. Funny that – reminds me of Bokeh’s Bandcamp bio “Not A Dub Label.” Always used to laugh at that. I don’t know to be honest – I hate pigeonholing music, like you said, and everything is linked anyway. Our interpretation is probably just music that feels right at that moment, made by artists who we really respect and rate. Hopefully it stands the test of time!
One of the things which struck us instantly with your label was not just the spread but the quality and calibre of the artists you brought on, pretty much from the very get-go (with 96 Back and Kincaid on the first compilation). It’s not always easy to convince a well-known artist to release on an unproven label: what was your trick?
Lucien: For sure haha – we were kinda surprised as well to be honest! I think it really helped with it being a party first, especially as the compilations are made up of artists connected to Accidental Meetings in a way. So that first one was mainly artists who have played a gig with us. Maybe they felt like they owed us, ha. Kidding, I think just because we had a connection with them beforehand, it really helped get them on board. Also nobody had anything to do in lockdown so maybe it was out of boredom, who knows.
"The art direction has snowballed from the very first posters. It’s quite unorganised and atomistic at times but I feel like this causes the releases to feel like their own entity rather than part of a ‘catalogue’ or ‘brand’"
I have to ask, personally: what releases and labels inspired the first few releases (not inclusive of the tape series)? I think you first got in touch with the WzrdryAV album, and while he’s not exactly unknown I always considered him to be a little niche. The follow-ups from Abu Ama and Best Available Technology are, to varying degrees, parallel to that.
Lucien: In regards to the WzrdryAV release, discovering the collaborations with SeekersInternational got him on our radar, and then fell in love with his beats through that. And with SKRS, there’s the link to Bokeh Versions, who have definitely been a big inspiration for us.
They’re one of the best to do it ever, and very lucky to call them friends now since moving to the South-West. With the Best Available Technology album, that came about from us seeing him play in a pub in Brighton to like 10 people, I think our house was half of that number too.
That night also featured Bokeh affiliates on the bill too, it was so so good. Abu’s constant output always got us intrigued too, the guy is a machine and we were a bit in awe when he said he was up for getting involved. I guess it’s just a build up of all our favourite labels to be honest, you have so much inspiration before starting a label, but to name a few would be The Trilogy Tapes, YOUTH, Good Morning Tapes, 12th Isle, Bokeh & Stroom.
The mixtape series’ curation is something I really love from the label, even if I’ve not managed to get my ears on all of the mixes yet. What guides that, separately as it seems to the label, and why did you decide to keep it strictly tape?
Lucien & Sholly: With the mixtape series, I think we just wanted a platform to really showcase a mix. They can be so special, and really provide a great insight into artists. Definitely an interesting way for a musician or collective to showcase themselves, and it can be really personal too. What guides the curation is that it’s made up of artists who really have a true sound or serious insight into their own taste.
We kept it on cassette as we wanted it to be physical, and tapes are the best medium for a mix in our eyes, they’re also not digital as legally we couldn’t put them on Bandcamp like that lol.
We noticed you originally billed yourselves as a Brighton lot, but now we see you fully ensconced in the music scene over in Bristol, running parties, hosting Noods shows and playing just about all the cool parties we see going on there, as well as events in London. Can you tell us a bit more about the great stuff you’re involved with, for those not aware?
Lucien: So us four all met in Brighton and therefore that’s where Accidental Meetings started. Then over the last couple of years, myself and Georgia moved to Bristol, whilst Sholly and Ciaran moved to London. Essentially that’s the reason why the parties have moved to Bristol & London. I really dislike the notion of promoters running parties in cities they’re not affiliated or connected with in a way, it can be quite detrimental and also common unfortunately.
We feel really comfortable in Bristol & London at the mo, couldn’t be in better places to be honest. In Bristol, we host a monthly Noods Residency, inviting some of our favourite selectors every show. We’ve found the perfect home for our parties too, at Strange Brew. It truly is one of the UK’s best venues hands down.
Georgia: I started working at Strange Brew in January and it’s been great to see Accidental Meetings have some really special nights at the venue. The format they go for is a long evening / night, which works well with the space as it’s super versatile. The live acts usually kick-off in the front room, and later on in the night the music / performance will proceed into the backroom. I think it’s quite rare to see people stay at a venue from start to finish for 8 hours but in Bristol there is such a great crowd and supportive scene and quite often at these nights people will present for the most of it.
Sholly: Now I’m in South London, I’m just a 20 min walk from clubs like Venue MOT and Ormside Projects, so it has made the most sense to support these two fundamental clubs that are driving the scene at the moment, as without these venues the London scene would not be the same. So, yeh big up to Kit Seymour and Melissa (MI-EL) for trusting our parties too.
We had our first party at Venue MOT last year in November which was very special, with our next one in November with OKO DJ, Nosedrip, Tribe of Colin, Ossia, Robin Stewart & i-sha. As the label has been focusing more towards non-club tones recently, we’ve put together a gig at Cafe OTO in February, launching a new release for 2023. These nights are definitely going to be a more common outlook for us in the future.
As for the radio business here, Balamii has been my first point of call for sure, especially living so close! The show has mainly focused on the label side of things, looking towards more ambient and experimental artists, which has been very enjoyable!
Speaking of London radio, outs to the Kindred crew, Scar, Jojo and Noah, who are grafting away with their nights and radio bits, it’s really inspiring stuff. We’ll soon be linking up with them for a takeover before the Venue MOT party next month, so big thanks to them and looking forward to that!
Can you shout out some of your groups’ favourite discoveries in the underbelly of the South West?
Lucien: Too many to name to be honest! The band Quade I’ve found since moving here, they’re great. B.Rupp too, who’s one of the heads behind Noods as well. SON I saw recently who were mind-blowing, Kelan is pushing great stuff, Tara Clerkin Trio are wicked. Eldon, Withdrawn x Birthmark are killing it as well. Not to forget Saskia too. Too many!!
It’s also been great to become close with some of our old favourites, shouts to Memotone, Jabu, Ossia, Sunun, Robin Stewart, Rose Again & the Mickey Zoggs crew, the whole of the Young Echo crew actually and all affiliates,
And to close, can you tease some of your next upcoming projects?
Lucien: We can’t let too much out! But expect another compilation by the end of the year, bit more weird and dark than this one. 23’ is looking exciting too, with a free jazz/techno cross over, an eerie vocal led EP, a punky esque release, some hard instrumentals served up on a 7, a mixtape from one of our fave label-heads & working on a vocal led album from an artist based in North Africa. That’s all we’re giving!
Photo by Charles Maclagan