Side Missions Are Missions Too: Dean and Lewis Of Side Mission Records.

Side Mission Records – England/Wales, United Kingdom.

Side Missions Are Missions Too: Dean and Lewis Of Side Mission Records.

This is unambiguously the age of the underground Record label, rejoice! If you’ve even paid even the slightest bit of notice to your HUD, radar, map or quest list these past few months (no one is forcing you – yet) then Side Mission Records may have made an appearance. However,  if it hasn’t, then be prepared, as you’re about to veer off that crucial plot defining story mission in favour of a certain music-based rabbit hole that may or may not be full of those “Perfect Rabbit Pelts” you so quest after for hours of grinding hours.

So before we actually converse, we shall start with a silly one. In the first manner of description that you fall into naturally and unedited – Who are you? Why is it a side mission and what am I doing here?

[Dean] – We are one and a half drummers, Lewis from Bogans and Dean from Bear Trap.. after we ran out of Red Dead Redemption 2 conversations, Lewis said he always wanted to start a record label, which I’d also mentioned had been on my mind for a while after trying it years ago but as DIY labels are as common as bands with how easy releasing is, so we knew we had to do something a little different, or what we believe to be a little different.

So the original plan of ‘a distro then birth a label?’ Just turned into a full blown store supporting all things in the DIY Punk scene. Which now has us working with Back From The Dead Records, Bad Granola Records, Brassneck Records, Dirty Sushi Records, Disconnect Disconnect Records, Fast Decade Records, Horn & Hoof Records, Lockjaw Records, MFZB Records, Moose Records, Mudcake Records, TNSrecords, Umlaut Records, Bubble Tea Records and Failure By Design Records, whilst trying to build an ‘Unsigned’ section to be proud of… You are here because when a man and a lady love each other.. I’ll DM you now about the rest.

Ah – Red Dead 2, what a grind that was. One and a half? Curious! I shall await the DM.

Would you say the Distro idea was a stopgap between wanting to pursue a full-blown label or rather a clear goal? And as an extension to that, how much at this stage do you feel the Distro side of Side Mission Records will feature in regard to prominence up against your forthcoming in-house releases? Ponder this is a I gather my birth records.

[Dean] – I would say it’s a clear goal… We want to bring the excitement back to ordering physical music. If you order a CD, you don’t just get that one CD you ordered.. that’d be too easy. Everyone involved knows this is our goal and we have plenty of freebies to keep orders interesting.

We’re insanely proud of what we’re doing with our first release, we’ve avoided all easy options and just aimed to leave out mark.. but the store won’t take a back seat to the label side.

This is why 25 hour days and whatsapp were created, we don’t stop sending ideas and there’s plenty more happening to again, ‘make us proud’.. I’m chatting you whilst in work, Lewis is currently adding new stock whilst he is in work… Welcome to the Side Mission!

Well, you can’t argue with your commitment. When is my DM scheduled in? The 27th hour perhaps?

How long has this been in the making? I’m talking from the very first glimpse of an organised effort. If you care to be brutally honest, what has been the biggest struggle? Id like an answer from each of you as I feel DIY collectives, labels, bands, are often generalised in effort. Despite the collective camaraderie, you are all individuals after all. (trying to type this without looking up THAT scene from the Life Of Brian pushed me to my limit).

[Lew] –  Not long at all! It was maybe around Christmas time, or just after, when we started chatting about the whole idea properly for a couple of weeks. It all kicked off from there really. A few emails were sent to UK DIY Labels introducing ourselves, registering the label, me spending an additional amount of spends because I forgot I had a first name, and that NEEDED to be on the paperwork. What a blag that was. Best £60 I’ve spent… Aside from that cock up.

It’s fallen together surprisingly well! I wasn’t expecting much at all at first when we sent the first wave of emails out, but we were wrong. The big dogs that have run their labels for a fair few years and got the following behind them (deservingly!) have surprisingly (to me) been the most helpful and responsive, helping with questions and some guidance. Some as even as simple as ‘best place for this? best place for that?’, ‘blah blah blah’, ‘how to wipe your own arse’, or ‘1+1’. So, Cheers for the help everyone! Google was there, but rarely tells you to ‘Piss off – find it yourself! Hahaha!’ I personally wouldn’t say this has been a struggle…so far. Dean does a good job his end, and I like to think I match the effort my end. I’ve never seen the Life Of Brian. Sorry.

[Dean] – Not long at all… We started chatting about it late December and once we had the idea of the store we decided before getting over excited to just email some labels to see if they’d be up for it. There is some people we still haven’t heard back from about it, so maybe everyone isn’t keen on the idea but 9 out of 10 people seem to be! And it’s worth just saying a quick thanks to Andy and Tim from TNS and Scott from Brassneck for allowing us to meither them for help on our first release. The simple questions to those guys cut out a whole lot of searching!

I think the surprise you felt Lewis in regard to how helpful the label big dogs have been is very indicative of how labels aren’t the enemy anymore and do much of what they do for the love it rather than to simply the big bad Hegemon! As you both say, there are plenty of them and they started somewhere after all.

To both of you again. You’re just shy of four months in since you talked of the venture, so, how does it feel to have been subject to such a rapid momentum and growth and – because I love to needlessly extend and complicate questions – now you’ve seen the the infamous “scene” from the band perspectives of Bogans and Bear Trap respectively AND from a label’s perspective, has your perception and resulting attitude changed at all?

[Dean] – We didn’t expect the first month to go as well as it did, so we were happy with that and I remember us saying ‘Now the hard work begins, because the buzz will die off’, but you ordering a Tee right before this interview started was actually the sale that made this months sales match the first months, how poetic is that?

The band side is far harder than the label side, and bands have it seriously hard. Getting gigs, and the right gigs is harder than anything.. we put A LOT of hours into Side Mission Records but we’re constantly seeing that pay-off, plus it’s exciting making a few sales and then approaching bands to take some stock off them.. another thing that excited us was people saying ‘Do a tee’, which I didn’t want to do but enough said it for me to say ‘Lets just do it, people always say it and then don’t buy them anyway but at least the option is there’, anyway, we announced them on the Friday and they had paid for themselves by the Sunday and now we’re really low on them… looking back, a lot of my quotes lean more towards the pessimistic side of it really.

[Lew] – We’ve never really seen labels as an “enemy” in any shape or form. More of a surprise on how helpful they’ve been/still are, given how busy they’ve become. If anything it’s made us more respectful of them. That was the basics of Side Mission Records, bringing everything together under one roof, including the bands in our ‘Unsigned’ section. I think if something sounds awesome, it should be heard! And that is something that will stay with SMR for as long as we run this label.

It has come as massive surprise for us given the level of support, positive feedback, growth of the label, bands approaching us and the level of customers buying great music from great labels we stock in such a short time! I’m basically surrounded by music 24/7 now. And we want that to continue. We’re always conjuring up ideas to keep things nice and fresh, and taking different approaches to entice people to make buying physical music fun again.

Naaah my views are still the same in terms of being involved in both the band and the label. They’re two different worlds in the most familiar way! They’re both as fun as each other!

Would you say Side Mission Records is very much way more than a side mission? How do you go about procuring stock from the labels and unsigned bands? Is it an easy process or a long winded one? And now that you have a secret in-house release on the way, how is the process of such different to just running a distro?

[Lew] – Generally, when we approach other labels to stock their releases, it’s a case of acquiring bits and pieces that best represents that label, along with flyers, stickers or anything promotional that we can put forward with any orders we get. We don’t take a ton of stuff, only small quantities of each. My living room can’t handle the amount of boxes I’ve already got in there haha. It’s a case of one in one out. Fill the gap. Spread the word of the labels we work with and drive interest from buyers that may have never heard of them, to them. Similar approach to the unsigned bands/artists we stock. Small quantities, once it’s gone it’s gone. We approach them or they approach us.

With our first release on it’s way, and understanding the time and cost that’s gone into it. Especially if this is something we’ll continue to do, which I’m pretty sure we will, the distro side of things might slow down a little, but its not completely off the table. We’ve a new project which we’ll be launching in July (if all goes to plan!) But the distro and ‘Unsigned’ sections will still be a thing for sure.

A hybridised label at grass-roots level it seems then! Ok, so just to tie-off this part of the interview. Can you each give me a three releases you have distro’d that you’d consider your favourites?

Next we will discuss your chosen side-mission.

[Dean] – I’d have to say Dead Neck self-titled through Mud Cake Records, Firstly it’s an absolutely incredible EP. It was the first “real stock” we’d agreed to stock which came around by swapping a 4×12” guitar cab for the stock. So, it has a certain romance about it.

Skaciety ‘Overstaying Our Welcome’, of Bad Granola Records, they released this on 1st January last year, and for me it was one of the best releases of the year. Coming out so early in the year it held up well. Plus they’re just a class band.

Both of the Shackleford EPs are my third choice. Such a good Pop-Punk band, recorded and live, proper top set of guys too. Everyone should check ‘em out.

[Lew] – I’d have to agree with Dean with the Dead Neck release #deadgood. It was pretty cool that we got to team up with Zebrahead for their latest release ‘Brain Invaders’, and finally I’d have to saaaay The Murderburgers latest release.

Very good choices gents. Right, so, as you know I’ve read that gratuitously large info-OVERLOAD Dean sent me recently. Tell me why you had the idea of having a side mission and why you chose the one you settled on? How does it all work and factor into the day-to-day running of SMR?

[Dean] – The name Side Mission came before the decision to have a Side Mission. You know that info-OVERLOAD? Well, rewind back to when we were playing RDR2, Lewis left me quite a fantastic Facebook voice message about how he was having a piss in the urinal and there was a strange looking guy next to him ‘Maybe he has a Side Mission?’ to any gamers, we all know that odd looking person generally has a mission, or at least stuff to sell. So when ‘Dental Records’ was taken, I had a brief thought of ‘Some Kind Of… Label’ to tie in with the events stuff but it just clicked – Side Mission Records, and it didn’t sound shit either! To us anyway.

It was practically the same sentence that was ‘and we can actually have a side mission’. I’d already been looking into Music Minds Matter charity previously about potential gigs and fundraising so it all came together pretty quick. I just think, what if Lewis hadn’t been having a piss near a weird looking character and been drunk enough to tell me about it?

Can you imagine? You could have ended up with ‘Audio Urination Records ‘ or perhaps something more tame – ‘Distro and Record Shop’. Who knows? Perhaps something to do with baked beans. I hope the people reading this get that reference. If you do, leave a comment!

Anyway, it’s been great talking to you both, to finish off can you both explain and fabricate in a paragraph-ish a side mission that the gentleman having a piss would have for you. It has to be in relation to Side Missions Records. Oh and if you have anything to say to the people reading this, now is the time!

[Dean] – He would have just touched Lewis on the shoulder, pre-hand wash, and said ‘Lewis, don’t ask how I know your name, do me a favour and I’ll let you taste my finger. Try and gather as much of the scene into one place and make physical music exciting. Getting particle sized payments off Spotify isn’t cutting it right now… I may never see you again, but you have a face I can trust, do you just want to taste my finger before you leave?’ – Thankfully I was at home tucked up in bed during this.

Big thanks to all of the labels who are on board, all of the bands we’re working directly with, and to every person who has even visited the store!

[Lew] – hahaha!! I can’t top Dean’s response! Just a thanks to everyone that’s been involved since day one! It can hopefully only get better from here!

There we have it, the story thus far for Side Mission Records. On one last note, I have actually heard the voice clip in question and I can wholeheartedly say that it is utterly and fantastically beautiful.


Founder of Ear Nutrition, Matt is sadly over 30 and first cut his words writing for the now defunct site, Musically Fresh. He enjoys a variety of guitar-driven music but can usually be found navigating a web of Skate Punk, Hardcore and everything in between.