There'a new label in town, and it's all about collectable music from Malta. Ramona Depares speaks to Michael Bugeja who, together with Aidan Borg, is the co-founder of Twee Records.
Who is behind Twee Records and how was the idea born?
Basically Twee Records is the two of us, Aidan Borg and myself, Michael Bugeja. The idea sprung out of countless conversations about music that we'd have during lunch breaks. We're both music fanatics and avid collectors, particularly of Maltese releases, and just over a year ago, Aidan suggested we should consider setting up a specialist label. Having already released a compilation based on unplugged sessions lifted from my Rockna radio show through Reciprocal Records in the past, I was definitely interested in taking it a step further, so we decided to go for it. We set about picking a name, Twee, which is Dutch for 'two', and focused on what music we wanted to release.
What attracted you to the idea of releasing a cassette?
Originally we wanted our first release to be a 7'' vinyl single, but we noticed that cassettes are making a subtle comeback internationally as limited edition releases for collectors so we revised our plan. Also, since Twee Records was set up primarily to release collectable music, and Cassette Store Day was coming up, we thought we'd switch tact and took the opportunity and kickstart the label with a cassette EP instead. The 7'' single is still in the pipeline, and will now be our next release.
What else can you reveal about this debut release?
Well, the title Rockna Live & Unplugged EP gives it all away really. This first release is obviously linked to the radio show I host every Friday on Radio 101. It will feature one track each from 4 acts, namely Beesqueeze, nosnow/noalps and Sam Christie, who are all local artists, and Andre Camilleri, who is based in Australia but is half-Maltese. All 4 tracks were originally performed and recorded live during the radio show, which makes these recorded versions previously unavailable and unreleased.
How did you go about short-listing the tracks?
There are actually quite a few unplugged performances in the archive, so it's never easy to pick and choose. We went through a couple of shortlisting phases, checking the recordings for sound quality, since they are all recorded live through one or two microphones on the show, and then listening to them several times to finally pick the four for this EP. The tracks we picked are very representative of each of the 4 acts and in case you're wondering - yes, the tracks that weren't picked this time may end up on future releases; some of them, at least.
So what makes your releases potential collector’s items?
As we said earlier, the primary aim behind Twee is to release collectable music from Malta. There are various factors that make a release collectable. It could be either previously unreleased material, a previously unreleased version of released material, completely new material or even previously released music that is no longer available. It's also worth mentioning that our releases will be limited edition runs and they will all be hand-numbered, which instils a collectable factor too.
What formats are you focusing on?
Our preferred formats are vinyl and cassette tape, as we are both avid collectors ourselves, but we don’t exclude exploring other formats, if the opportunity presents itself. We're not trying to infiltrate the 'normal' market really, we're mainly looking to engage the collectors who are as passionate as us about their music libraries. Our initial social media promotion seems to have worked in this respect, as we've already received some pre-orders for the cassette, of which by the way, there are only 22 copies.
What was the biggest challenge putting it all together?
The biggest challenge was taking the first step to setting the label up. Then there was the jotting down of the numerous ideas that started to enter our minds once we had decided to go for it. After that came the prioritizing, a little strategic planning and trying to learn what other abilities and information releasing music requires. We’re actually still learning but we’re confident that local music collectors and hopefully some foreign ones too, will find what we’re doing interesting enough to nab a copy.
Will this be a regular thing for Twee Records? What’s next?
Yes, that's the plan. Of course, the response we get will help us determine how to go about our next step which, as we said earlier, will be a 7'' split single. We already have the tracks for that in hand but that’s all we’re saying about that for now. Meanwhile, we’ll be having an official launch event for the label and the debut release on Wednesday, November 1 at Hole in the Wall in Sliema. Beesqueeze, Sam Christie and nosnow/noalps will be performing acoustic sets for the occasion and we'll have copies of the cassette EP will be available for sale there too.
An edited version of this article was first published on The Sunday Times of Malta on October 29, 2017.