Filipe Gomes & The Jigsaw Pieces hail from Canterbury, Kent and now the singer-songwriter is making a splash with his unique approach to running a record label including mixtapes (on actual cassettes), a gig on a boat and handwritten letters. Left Turn 4 Records was started by Filipe Gomes and co. in 2006 because they, “Couldn’t really be bothered to look for record deals” and saw out 2012 with a string of live shows.
The folk musician turned record label exec spoke of LT4’s beginnings in his usual relaxed manner saying, “The first band we approached was Rough Comforts, an old friend of mine but he was also studying in Canterbury and when you’re a student you have the opportunity to start stuff up.”
The label took a break and returned in 2011 to forge their own path with a long list of unique selling points including their most popular venture, mixtapes.
The idea began as a limited edition release and evolved into a way to connect with bands without commitments, now they launch one each season, the next being the Winter mixtape in January.
LT4 combine analogue and digital by releasing a cassette (or digital download) you can buy and the mixtape streams a single a day online, for free and they’re pleased with the results.
Filipe Gomes enthusiastically described the benefits of their old meets new initiative saying, “Bands have been listening to each other’s work and offering each other gigs and contacts: it has brought a lot of bands together.
“If you talked to one of the bands they could probably tell you every other band on that mixtape which is something we are very proud of.
“If we release a mixtape and you’re number five on that list you have to listen to all the other music before your song comes out, it’s a nice way of doing things and often because we choose within the same genre they can really relate to each other.”
Left Turn Four Records also offer deals where you can buy a cassette and get a walkmen or buy a walkmen and get a cassette though Filipe admitted this had to do with nostalgia he stated that he wasn’t trying to corner the hipster market who are increasingly turning from vinyl to portable cassette players, “Doing it was mostly because we could manufacture them, I’ve got a whole rig here that allows me to record multiple cassettes in one go and it was never really to do with trends.”
Although, the timing of their mixtapes has come at an opportune time as this year marks the 50th anniversary of the cassette and a lot of sentimentality has been lavished on the arguably obsolete music format as sales tripled.
Their relaxed attitude, however, does not always serve them well as the label has become a bit genre specific because LT4 find bands through their own folk shows but Filipe quickly pointed out that, “We’ve included some electronic in our mixtapes, we also like some good old fashioned rock and kind of pop songs as well, we’re into anything, we really are, it just depends on who we’re meeting at that time.”
Gomes’ label always seems to choose the road less travelled, considering their approach to selling cassettes is that they split them with the band, 40 per cent each and leave 20 per cent to one side, belonging to neither of them.
Then whoever sells out of cassettes first can buy them off the other for the manufacturing price, Filipe described this saying, “If you talked to any artist who worked with us I think they would say they are part of Left Turn 4, they are part of us.”
Some of the company’s concepts are a little complicated but they’re intriguing, as the creator went on to detail one of their more elaborate gig set-ups, “Last Christmas we did a show that was on-board a boat, the sound was set up on a multichannel performance, so there would be eight different speakers.
“The lead singer’s voice might be coming from a speaker 50 metres away from you so you don’t actually have to be watching the band to experience the music.
“The audience could walk around the boat and they could always hear the music and it was affected by the space.”
This is just another of example of how LT4 mix the old and the new to make exciting concepts to promote and release music. Though, one of their most endearing ideas was their use of the mailing list.
When they have a show at an intimate venue, LT4 handwrite invites to each person.
Gomes said, “We like this idea of personally inviting people to shows as snobby as that sounds.
“We really care about the people who turn up to our shows because they support the artists we’re supporting and that supports us.”
Surprisingly snail mail worked because every time they have written invites they have sold out venues.
In the new year, Filipe Gomes & The Jigsaw Pieces will be releasing a new album among LT4’s 2013 list of music which also includes their winter mixtape in January and their next signed band release Ephraim Greenland.
It’s difficult to imagine what new or old techniques they will be employing next but maybe that’s the good thing about small, independent labels: they can experiment, push boundaries and have fun with their ideas.
Whether you think cassettes are kitsch or rubbish, you love all things nautical or you get sea sick, even if you have personalised stationary or pee in letterboxes, you cannot help but admire that Left Turn 4 are choosing their own path to promote independent music on a budget.