INTRODUCING: Mellow North + Ashtray Records
We are finally able to sit down with Daniel of Mellow North and Ashtray Records at quarter to twelve on a Friday morning. We are four weeks into the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown so we are surprised to see that he is joined by four more of the total eight that make up the crew. They go on to explain that they are isolated together in their shared house (affectionately dubbed ‘the ashtray’ by friends) where they have become what seems to be a 360° production house.
It’s no surprise that the collective are sitting on a lot of work waiting to be released. With production covered by Joe, Benji and Sanjeev, words and vocals from Daniel and Ollie, and video visual duo Ben and Oscar bringing music and words to life, you can see how ideas become finished projects in the blink of an eye. All captured and documented by photographer Jack.
Their latest release, Slippin’, is the product of Mellow North, made up of original collective members and the first artist signed to Ashtray Records. The group work together in an organic way; Slippin’ was made by Ollie free styling over a beat that Benji made that day and is tied together by Daniel’s vocals on the chorus. When I first heard Slippin’ I could immediately hear the influence of London’s alt R’n’B/ indie artists, the likes of Loyle Carner, Bakar and Oscar Artist. The mellow drum beat, exposed guitar chords and the poetic flow conjure lazy summer days and the haze of adolescence. With each part being created separately and woven together, the narrative of the lyrics feel a little disjointed between the chorus and the verses. But that is how it feels to be young and navigating the journey from adolescence to adulthood. We can see a bright future for Mellow North; to see them grow and develop as artists, both as a collective and individually. They say the best way to learn is to do and that’s exactly what they’re doing.
Both as Mellow North and with Ashtray Records they are learning as they go with their own releases, teaching themselves marketing, promotion and A&R, they hope to grow a roster of artists that defies the traditional idea of sticking to one genre. And with that, rejecting the traditional structure of a label, instead leaning towards a more management focussed way of working, allowing the artists creative freedom and the support of a circle of artists who are all invested in each other's success.
Despite building a business with Ashtray Records, Daniel talks animatedly about the importance of friendship coming first. “If one of us blows up, we all blow” he says, highlighting the value that each individual plays in the collaborative process. Initially focusing on their own releases for Mellow North and solo projects, the ultimate goal of Ashtray Records is to identify and give a platform to artists that impress them.
With the time lock down has allowed, Ashtray Records are working on their craft and slowly building momentum for when we are all released from lock down. The collective has been writing more music and planning how to weave visuals into their live performances; we’re excited for when we are able to soak up the full Ashtray experience in person.
Listen to Slippin' by Mellow North on Ashtray Records here.