INTERVIEW: Mehdi Safa (shelsmusic)

Back in 2012, Mehdi Safa, the man behind shelsmusic, was kind enough to talk to us in detail about his label (you can read that here and here). Six months later, we interviewed Astrohenge, one of my favorite discoveries of 2012. So when we heard this week that shelsmusic had signed the London quartet, we thought we'd ask Safa to tell us more about the latest addition to his roster.

We briefly talked last time about how you found new acts to sign--how did this one come about? We've been following them for a while. Their drummer is an old friend who used to play for a band called Eden Maine and we played shows together when we were in a band called Mahumodo. Last year we booked a tour for them, Erlen Meyer and Manatees, and started talking more. They mentioned that they were working on a new album and asked if we'd be interested in releasing it, and of course we totally jumped on it as we were already big fans!

Where is the band in terms of working on its new album, and what are your impressions of what you've heard so far? They're in the middle of writing and demoing it now and are aiming to head into the studio later this year to record. [They're] currently deciding on studios/producers. I've only heard four tracks and I love it--they're unlike anyone else and with this new record I'm excited to see how far they push themselves forward.

When did you first cross paths with Astrohenge and, at the time, did you think they'd be somebody you'd want to work with in the future? First I ever heard of them was at a Down I Go show in London back in 2008 I think. I was standing outside the venue and this interesting fella came up and introduced himself and we started talking. He mentioned that he was starting a band with Kieran [Iles] (Eden Maine drummer) and the way he described it sounded frikkin awesome...with the crazy keyboards, and knowing how good of a drummer Kieran was, I was already very interested. We exchanged emails and he sent me some links to demos that week. I loved what I heard and have been following them ever since. They released their debut on another good friend of mine's label (Eyesofsound) and when I heard it, I loved it and was an instant fan.

How big of an impact did touring with these guys have on your desire to sign them and, for those of us who haven't seen them live, how would you compare their live show to their recorded output? They are incredible live and it played a big part. They blew everyone away including myself when we played with them at The Peel in London in 2012. I think they're great on record, but there are a few bands that are just meant to be experienced live and they are one of those bands.

The record will be the band's third full-length--how involved will you be in the process (recording, art, formats, etc)? We're all on a very similar frequency when it comes to art/production etc. I already love and am 100% on board with the bands' vision for the production. The producers they have mentioned are ones I love and have wanted to work with myself for *shels. Latitudes have record with some as well. And I love the artwork they usually bring to the table with their past releases. We usually tend to work with bands we already gel with creatively, and Astrohenge/Shelsmusic is the perfect marriage. I don't expect we'll be doing much other than making sure they don't put photos of Kieran's bare ass on the cover!

What do the next few months have in store for shelsmusic? We're relocating our office to Thailand for the next few months. Might just stay there, haha! Will be focusing on training Muay Thai, eating plenty of thai food and working on finishing the new *shels album. Meanwhile, we have the new Manatees album coming out on vinyl this year and are very excited to be releasing Eden Maine's debut EP The Treachery Pact on vinyl. That was produced by Converge's Kurt Ballou over 10 years ago and was recorded on tape, which is going to be perfect for vinyl! Can't wait!

Check out shelsmusic here.

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