Fluffer is a London-based night that puts on messy bands, really loudly. This year saw them put on the first ever Fluffer Fest, and Mike, Al and Carrie are also the same team behind Fluffer Records (currently releasing tunes by Love Buzzard, but about to expand). They also hand delivered Finn's copy of their Shake Your Fist compilation - which was lovely.
After our eyes had adjusted to the dim half-light and we’d settled in to our beers, I started chatting to Mike, Carrie and Al about the seemingly endless source of chaos that Fluffer taps into. After explaining a little bit about Raw Meat, guiltily admitting that I don’t know shorthand and accidentally calling them all un-cool, we began.
Raw Meat: So, guys, tell me how it all started. It’s Fluffer Records, right? Before it became Fluffer Fest or anything else?
Al: Yeah, the night is called Fluffer, and then Fluffer Fest was obviously… How did it start?
Carrie: Think we were just sat in your flat. [laughs] “We need to release some vinyl.”
Mike: Well yeah, that’s pretty much what it was. We sat around, wanted to put out Al’s band [Al is the drummer in Love Buzzard, Fluffer Records first release] It was a pretty swift conversation though: “Why don’t we just start a record label then?” “Ok cool.” Pretty much went from that.
Al: We just try and figure it out as we go along.
Mike: I think we’ve got more heavy into music promotion than we have done into production stuff.
Carrie: Like the monthly nights, they’ve been a big part of it.
Mike: Yeah, but we started out to put a release out.
Al: It kind of all merged into one. We launched with Slaves and ourselves [Love Buzzard] and then pretty quick after that we released that vinyl. That was June last year.
Mike: We’ve played loads of different venues, but we seem to have gravitated towards Power Lunches.
Al: They just don’t care if it gets trashed.
Mike: We put Cerebral Ballzy on, it was our second night, it was… pretty punchy. And they were off to Leeds/Reading the next day, so it was like a warm up gig for them and… f*cking hell.
Carrie: The air-conditioning came down… all the lights went out…
Mike: Shit got… really freaky. I spent the whole gig just holding the PA up on the wall.
Al: The singer got pissed off because he got kicked out right before they went on, nearly had a fight with the bouncer, the manager ripped all the merch down and went and sulked in the van. So you had to go in with a whiskey and talk him out.
Carrie: Yeah they sent the calm person in.
Mike: I missed all three of the first bands because I was sat there policing this argument between the bouncer, the manager and the lead singer. Basically every hour on the hour I was taking another bottle of whiskey out to their tour bus. I mean… It was an awesome, insane, ridiculous gig. It kind of set the tone for what we want to do. Maybe not with all the damages.
Al: Well, anything that gets the night talked about I think. Get’s people down. But it’s been like our momentum I think. We’ve got loads of good bands now, and Fluffer Fest now…
Was this year the first Fluffer Fest?
Mike: And the last. [laughs] We did a pop up festival a few years ago under a different name.
Al: Called Dead Space. It was just out on a bit of dis-used land and that got shut down by police.
Carrie: It was three days after the last of the riots and it was in a car park out the back of a curry house on Brick Lane.
Mike: We had so many good bands down, we had an awesome spot for it… Well we’re not welcome back to Brick Lane anyway. I remember, I phoned the cops, I phoned the council, I phoned so many people asking, “Are we good to go?” and they were all saying, “It’s a great thing for London!” And then… I knew we were in trouble at soundcheck.
So, at the very beginning?
Mike: Well for the space we were in, Al had insisted on getting the most ridiculous stage PA system… it was ten times bigger than we needed. And at sound check there was the first ‘pwoing’ on a guitar and this person started screaming, “What the hell is going on here?!” I can remember, I felt like my whole body was shaking, and I was like, “Is this too loud?” and Al was going, “Nah, nah it’s fine.”
Famous last words?
Carrie: The whole row of the neighbouring house were people hanging out of the windows screaming at us.
Mike: Six hours later someone starts throwing rocks over the gate into the crowd.
Al: Because we refused to shut it down as we had our council permit. So they got about thirty people outside.
Mike: Three squad vans showed up and they shut it down. They said, “You’ve got permission and stuff, but this shits going to escalate pretty badly. Do you really want the next London riot on your hands?” [all laughing] The worst thing was, at one point I was facing off about fifty irate local residents with two bouncers behind me… I was like, “Shiiiiiit. Sh*t.” While this guy is yelling at me, “We're gonna bring an army down and we’re gonna shut this down.” And then the bouncer just whispers in my ear and goes, “Mike, one word from you and in five minutes I’ll bring my own army. We’ll have a proper fight.” [all laughing] Honestly! He was an absolute head case. And I’m still there thinking,”Shiiiiiiit.”
Al: Meanwhile the party’s still going on, and we’re all like, “Mike, see you later mate!”
Mike: Yeah every now and then I’d get from Al, “How you getting on?” “Not brilliant mate, just leave it with me.”
Carrie: “Ok! We’ll be inside!”
Mike: Yeah so we’ve got a history of… trouble. But the nights just couldn’t have gone any better.
Carrie: Especially as we didn’t really know what we were doing.
Mike: But now we’ve just gone from strength to strength.
And so Fluffer as a night has always been at Power Lunches?
Mike: Yeah, but for Fluffer fest we knew we needed a bigger venue... and somewhere people would want to be all day.
Ah, yeah. I love Power Lunches to pieces, but sweat dripping down the walls and no light or air for a whole day?
Al: It’s great for the night though. Just not quite for the festival.
Mike: But in terms of total number of bands, Fluffer Fest was 20 bands, two days... and I don’t think it could have gone any better to be honest.
Carrie: It went amazingly smoothly.
Mike: Which we’re almost disappointed with. [laughing] Like, why isn’t the place burning down?
Carrie: We lost a band…
Mike: We lost one band, yeah. They said they were 30 minutes away and then just never showed up. We managed to get another band in earlier though to fill the slot.
Al: These guys form Grimsby called the Sewer Rats. I think they’re the second track on the compilation.
Carrie: They actually came down and played three gigs in three days, because we played out of the back of a van on the Friday night before the festival as a guerrilla gig sort of promo. Pulled up outside the back of the Old Blue Last and there must have been about 200 people outside.
Mike: They were meant to go up to Swansea the next night but they stayed up all night on the Friday and sacked of Swansea to play again. It was one of those things where you don’t really know how it’s gonna turn out. We just chucked everyone into the back of a van…
Al: Borrowed a generator off our mate…
Mike: It was really fucking loud. And it was almost like flies around a sh*t basically, people were just drawn, and there was this awesome crowd.
Did you get any sh*t from the Old Blue Last?
Carrie: We were in and out in half an hour.
Mike: Someone was shouting something out of a window above the Old Blue Last.
Carrie: Couldn’t hear them over the music.
Mike: It was so, so good. To be honest, the whole weekend was just amazing.
Al: There were so many good bands though, just back to back fucking great sets.
Was it a conscious decision when you started Fluffer that these were the kinds of bands you wanted to play, or is that just your guys taste? So was the thinking, “These are awesome bands, we’re putting these bands on.”?
Mike: It started with bands who we just like the sound of…
Al: Definitely guitar-based, noisey stuff though. But I think we’re open to other stuff. Bloodsport were a bit more afro-beat, dancey kind of stuff.
Carrie: And John J Presley. Bluesy.
Al: I think there’s definitely been a theme, but I think we’re definitely open to widening it up to stuff that we like. We don’t want to get too typecast like that.
Mike: It was actually really interesting because on the Sunday of Fluffer Fest, apparently up to about eight o’clock it was busier than the other days. Saturday night was ridiculous after about nine o’clock. I think we were at capacity. Phobophobes and Skinny Girl Diet both pulled big crowds in.
I do think the line up was varied enough – like you say, it’s not like it was typecast – different people could enjoy everything on there.
Mike: Everybody stayed. And I think this is something that sticks for our nights as well; a lot of people just go and watch a band and then move off, but generally when everyone comes to a Fluffer night, you’re in for the night and it’s a big night out. It happened on Fluffer Fest as well – no-one really turned up, played and left or turned up, watched a band and left. I think that’s why it was so busy throughout the whole day.
Carrie: And a lot of the people that came on the Saturday stayed and then came back on the Sunday as well.
Do you guys DJ in between bands, or do you have someone that does that?
Mike: We got DJs in.
Al: One of them, a guy called Gary The Tall. [laughing]
Mike: Honestly, he’s one of the greatest guys I’ve ever met in music. Gary The Tall.
Carrie: He does all our Fluffer nights.
Mike: Basically, every night, something bad happens to Gary. His tunes are amazing, quality. He’s addicted to buying vinyl. One of the nights he comes up to me like, “SH*T, MIKE, I’M GONNA DIE.” He’d sliced his leg open on some random nail that was sticking out at an obscure angle that only Gary could somehow manage to lacerate his leg on.
Carrie: Slightly over exaggerating. It was a cut. And he was shouting, “I’m gonna die! SH*T. Do I need a tetanus jab? SH*T.” He also has a radio show on NTS.
Al: And there’s the guy Russ [Russell Taysom] who does all the artwork for the flyers. He DJs as well. Him and his mates, they do a zine called Flabby Dagger, kind of like Viz… cartoon stuff.
And what made you guys decide to do Fluffer Fest? When did you think, “This is fun, let’s make it bigger.”
Mike: Generally it’s Al. I’m quite happy to keep doing things that are working. Generally, whenever I think we’re getting on top of something and it’s going really well; Al’s like, “Right I’ve booked two days at the Victoria.”
Al: Standard thing to do is a one-dayer isn’t it, so we thought, “Fuck it, let’s do two". It was tied in with the release of Shake A Fist.
Carrie: So, International Cassette Store Day happened to fall on the same day. It just came about by chance really.
Mike: And the cool thing was that pretty much every band straight away was like, “Yes please, I want to be part of this." When you listen to the tape you’ll just realise how good the weekend was .Not just for the people that went but how good the music was, how diverse the sound was. There was just so much fucking energy throughout the whole thing.
Carrie: I thought it was quite nice as well on the day that even the first band had people in there. The graveyard shift of two o’clock on a Sunday, The Kneecaps had 15/ 20 people. It was quite busy.
Mike: It’s pretty cool isn’t it? I mean understandably we got to bed at about seven or eight in the morning on Sunday. [To Al] I don’t think you went to bed on the Saturday night. [laughing] It was a good party afterwards. Getting up, finding the motivation to get up, thinking “God, we’ve got to do it all again.” But we got there and there were people ready. I say we got there… we didn’t, but Carrie got there.
Carrie: Yeah, some people were sorting it out. I just took the Sewer Rats with me.
Let’s talk about Shake A Fist a bit. Was this the first release other than Love Buzzard?
Al: Yeah. First other bands and first compilation. So that’s cool in itself.
Was that just a thought of, “we’ve made a lot of friends, we’ve got a kind of back catalogue…”
Mike: I think it was more the fact that we knew Fluffer Fest was going to be an amazing day, it coincided with International Cassette Store Day, all these guys have great music…
Carrie: It just seemed like a really obvious, great idea. And it was a really quick turnaround.
Mike: It was just something we wanted to do because it was a cool idea and because the festival was going to go on and it’s where we wanted to be. We got it from concept to production in two/ three weeks. Hopefully that will be the start of something else; we’ve got two or three bands we know really well now, we feel we know enough to start putting other bands out.
Al: The plan is basically… we’re releasing [Love Buzzard’s] EP at the beginning of December, so that’s the next release, and then after that we’re gonna do a new band…maybe another Shake A Fist, maybe not. It depends what comes along. But in the new year we’re going to release our first 7” release of a different band other than myself! [all laughing] I’d love to do another cassette release if we could.
And these tracks, are they all exclusive to Shake A Fist? Or was it that they were ready to go, had the stuff, and you just said, “We want you, you and you.” And it’s more about Fluffer than the releases themselves?
Mike: Some of these I think are only going to get released on this.
Carrie: Some of the bands said, “Right, as it’s for that, you can have this song.” Things they had ready.
Mike: In fact two bands sent stuff that was specifically for Shake A Fist.
Al: That is the only place you’ll be able to get most of those songs in physical form. We’re not releasing a download for this. But I think for future ones we might tie them up so they can’t release it.
As people who have been involved in it for an extended period of time, do you feel like there is a growing scene in that kind of garage and psych stuff?
Al: Yeah definitely, massively. Tame Impala and people name checking older psych bands.
Mike: I think we’re pretty good at finding bands. Slaves got singed, God Damn have got signed, Tennis Club have got signed… there’s definitely, of the stuff that we’re picking, people are getting noticed in the industry.
Carrie: We saw him actually at the Victoria, that’s when we met them.
Mike: When we started all of it, all we wanted to do was give a platform. Through releasing vinyl and putting on good nights, that’s what the whole thing Fluffer was about. Giving people a platform to get out there, get noticed, get some buzz.
Al: Just getting a night going where people are jumping around. It’s always been like a f*cking…it bugs me in London how people just stand around. Coming from Leeds where you go to a gig and you go to get pissed and jump around. And Leicester as well probably.
I grew up in Hampton mate, everyone just went nuts because you thought you’d never see a gig again.
Mike: Genuinely though, it was just a lot of fun to put Shake A Fist together and put it out. It was just a good laugh; from the banter with the bands, how excited everyone was for it. And it’s cool because everyone downloads sh*t, but to have something physical, people were acting like it was a vinyl – smelling it even.
Al: It’s so nice to have something physical… it’s different to just releasing a download.
Mike: What I think we are going to start doing is selling Walkmans on the side though. I was advising the people that didn’t have one to head down Brick Lane to the nicked stuff.
Yeah! Get Russ to do a Fluffer image on each one.
Mike: That’s not a bad idea actually!
Carrie: Yeah! Thanks! [laughing]
25% of all takings. That’s on record.
Mike: …It’s a crap idea.
Something we do at Raw Meat is Past, Present and Future., so what are your tracks or artists?
Mike: Can I count Slaves as my future? I just think those guys are amazing. They’ve got a unique sound. I’ve seen them so many places, they get such a great crowd, I just genuinely want them to do well. They’re trying to do something in a genuine UK punk scene. I want them to do very well, they’re just fucking awesome.
Carrie: My favourite band from anyone we’ve played is a band called Mother, and a song called ‘Up For Hours’. I think it’s amazing. They played Leeds/ Reading as well this year.
Al: My ‘future’s Sewer Rats.
Carrie: I second that.
Mike: Everyone’s in the same place with Sewer Rats. That’s a very big group.
Let’s talk about the past, I want to hear some history here.
Mike: I’m… well I’m not embarrassed, I’m proud. [Carrie laughs] Al hates this. This is why I’m not allowed on the decks. I was schooled in Oasis and I’m never ever gonna leave it. I was 14 and I’ve never been buzzing my tits off about a band like I was Oasis. …don’t publish that.
Al: Robert Johnson would be mine.
Carrie: I was so like, 2006, landfill indie.
There’s nothing wrong with that.
Carrie: No-one in particular… Maximo Park, Pigeon Detectives and The Kooks (but they’re still here).
Carrie: I dragged Al to watch them with me at Bestival. It was full of screaming girls and he was just stood there.
Al: Fuckin’ hell.
Mike: Royal Blood. That album is just ridiculous.
Carrie: Oh yeah definitely.
It’s really interesting that that sort of stuff is charting. I was in Topshop the other day and was laughing to myself that they were play Pulled Apart By Horses, because they have to because it’s cool. At the same volume as all that respectable indie techno. It was so harsh, it was a pleasing moment for me. Al, I’m still awaiting your 'present'?
Carrie: I think Al likes Love Buzzard.
Mike: Oh shit yeah, we should have said Love Buzzard!
Al: Yeah, I’ve been listening to Eagulls today. They’re the last band I listened to before I got here.
Carrie: We’re going to see them. Mother are supporting them as well.
So, the future of Fluffer Fest? Will there be another one?
Mike: 100% but it won’t be in the same form, I don’t think.
Al: Ooh! Intriguing. [laughing]
Mike: Well hear me out, hear me out, right. The only reason I say this is because I want to do another Fluffer Fest and Al will decide we have to do something ridiculous. Bigger, weirder, better. That’s usually how it works.
The guys from Fluffer were so much fun to speak to, it felt more like I was on a really successful blind date (with three people). With such an incredible night, a beautiful compilation and the ambition (dare I say vision?) to make Fluffer even more than it already is, I see it becoming a staple of the London up and coming scene. Bigger – probably. Better – if it’s possible (but please don’t change too much). Weirder – without a f*cking doubt.
To check out November's Fluffer at PowerLunches, 29.11.14, featuring BABA NAGA, Riddles and Virgin Kids click here.
To get your tickets for Love Buzzard's EP launch at the Shacklewell Arms, 06.12.14 click here.