Playlist: Emotion Wave


Founded amid frustration at traditional gig staging, Emotion Wave have evolved to showcasing producers and musicians. Mike Pinnington talks to the initially reluctant label…

A “bastion of creative minds”, together Neil Grant (AKA Lo Five), Matt Lewis, Sean Fearon, Andrew Bates and Mike Stanton are Emotion Wave, a night and label dedicated to relaxed electronic, experimental sounds. Formed in 2015, they have evolved to regularly release compilation albums across different media, from which a “friendly and supportive community” has emerged. I spoke to Neil, Sean, Andrew and Matt about the venture, how it came about and where it’s headed.

The Double Negative: When, why and how was Emotion Wave founded?

Neil: Emotion Wave started as a night in summer 2015, basically because I couldn’t find the right environment to perform my own music in. I’d played some really bad gigs prior to this – alongside your usual guitar bands on a stage, to an audience who just looked bemused at some bloke stood behind a laptop. The music I was making just didn’t work in a club setting or a traditional band venue, so I tried to imagine the best possible scenario: a sat down, relaxed affair, with a broad mix of electronic/experimental sounds, that’s not so loud you can’t chat with friends – basically a more informal setting where the performance is less front and centre and it’s more about bringing people together and absorbing the sounds.

I went to the Well Space (now closed) and got chatting music with the people who were running the cafe, they just offered me a regular night and that was that. It was petrifying to be honest, I didn’t think anyone would come to the first one but I was pleasantly surprised. Since then we’ve been putting nights on every couple of months using the same formula and it’s grown into this really friendly and supportive community.

“These compilations did better than anyone expected, so becoming a label was a natural progression”

Have things changed in the intervening years? In what ways?

Against all my protestations the night has evolved into a label, of sorts. For the last couple of years we’ve put out a compilation around Christmas [the last one being the collaborative Mates compilation], featuring artists we’ve come to know over the years. We’d launch them with all-day music events, with no intention other than raising a few quid for local charity and hopefully making more people aware of the talent in Liverpool. These compilations did better than anyone expected, so becoming a label was a natural progression – though I’ve always been against the idea. I’m so used to producing and distributing my own music myself online, plus I’ve never set out to make money, so didn’t see the point initially. I always associated labels as commercial entities and in my own experience the minute money is a desired outcome it determines the decisions you make, which is at odds with the intentions of Emotion Wave. Besides that, running a label felt like a logistical nightmare and a waste of time and effort, but I’ve since come around to the idea that it doesn’t have to be that way.

There’s a core group of people who’ve been supporting the night since it began and they’ve all put themselves forward, bringing their unique skills together to make it happen – so we’ve now got Matt Lewis who’s now our visual lead, with Andrew Bates providing some lush photography. Mike Stanton’s helped to spread the word with his writing and Sean Fearon’s built a home studio to work on producing our first individual artist release for Bye Louis. So, despite my reservations it‘s kind of sprung out of necessity and almost beyond my control really. Emotion Wave is bigger than me now, it’s like a cooperative that’s the sum of its parts. I do like the idea of giving someone starting out a bit of a bunk up if I can, providing we do things our way: short runs of nicely crafted physical releases – tapes, CDs or whatever. I don’t want to be a promoter though and I don’t want to run something that’s some sort of merry-go-round for passing artists we don’t have any relationship with. It’s got to be meaningful for us all to be personally invested in it, basically.


We also tried putting on a different kind of event: a full day of live music in the grounds of Birkenhead Priory – called A Day in the Sun. That was a steep learning curve as we’re used to being a bit more DIY and not having to deal with the financial side of things and all the red tape that comes with something on that scale – but it was well received and gave us plenty to consider if we decide to do something like that again. The whole thing’s become a bit of a playground for weird ideas really. I was toying around with this idea of using other forms of currency in exchange for music, as I don’t think money is a good yardstick of worth in these days of streaming and the proliferation of music. I thought it’d be nice if we could exchange music for positive actions. The mechanics of making this a reality have proven difficult but I’m going to keep working on the idea…

Is the way you release music changing?

Well besides the three compilation albums, I thought it’d be a good idea to test the water with putting something more like a regular release out – so we released Propagate, an album of remixes and comp tracks I [Lo Five] made for other people.  That release seemed to go smoothly, so it’s given us the confidence to try it with Bye Louis – I’ll hand over to Sean to say a bit more about this one…

Sean: I’d been building up a personal home studio for a while, and it would have been stupid not to offer it out to people whose music I’ve got an interest in. After Kieran [Callanan]’s first show for us I’d mentioned it, so for a while we’ve been tinkering away at this first release. He’s a great songwriter and really knows how to get the best out of the various synths and oddities that I’ve collected over the years. As this is going to be the first ‘true’ release for Emotion Wave, we took some cues from the compilations we’ve worked on in the past that worked well – limited runs of 50, all with a handmade and individual element that the artist has decided on. I think it’s something that resonates with audiences well while also keeping us grounded. We’re an independent community based operation when it comes to every other aspect of Emotion Wave, so we’re keeping that mindset with the label.

“All music that’s made these days has an ‘electronic’ component, right?” 

Tell us a little more about the nights you put on.

Neil: It’s been badged as an electronic night but I’m not 100% keen on that term, it feels too restrictive and it brings with it a lot of expectations. All music that’s made these days has an ‘electronic’ component, right? Plus I’m wary of it becoming a boy’s synth club, for me it’s more of an outsiders club. I always feel like I’m on the periphery of genres and scenes, so the night was a place to justify my own existence and bring together those people and see what happens.

Andrew: I’m definitely in agreement with Neil here — Emotion Wave has been a bastion of creative minds, usually on the fringes. I’ve met so many people at these nights, all of whom are intensely passionate about something creative and artistic. Of course, I can always be found having conversations about movies. Everyone who attends our nights, they’re approachable and friendly. I think we’re all looking to connect at some level, and while the music at its core brings us together, we all go off on tangential discussion. That’s always interesting and vital.

“The urge is always there to have things documented in a tangible way”

I believe you’re also working on putting out a regular publication, what form will that take? 

Matt: I’d been toying with the idea of us producing something in a physical format for a while. But I wasn’t sure what, and how. I’m a graphic designer, and love print, so the urge is always there to have things documented in a more tangible way than just posting on social media. My initial thought was to take all of the images Andrew had captured at the nights, utilise Mike and Sean’s writing skills and put together a book. That’s kind of OK in itself, but I didn’t feel it served much of a purpose other than nostalgia.

After some discussion we agreed that it should be something more regular, and collectible, but without putting ourselves under any pressure to churn x-amount out per year with everything else we have going on. There’s no publishers or stakeholders to please, so why not explore ideas and themes that are more left-field, things that we’re interested in that feed into the music we like without being about the music itself. The result is DOTT. Our first issue will be out in the Spring and, amongst other things, will contain an article on numbers stations (if you don’t know what they are it’s definitely worth looking up), a first-person account of a UFO encounter and a short story.

All of the contributors are either ourselves or people from our little community. As with the nights we put on, we see it as a platform to champion others such as writers, visual artists etc., as well as an outlet for our own creativity. It’ll take the form of a zine rather than a posh, coffee table book, albeit with some added production values. The general feeling is to not be too restrictive with what goes in it and just see what happens.

Tell us a bit about some of the bands on the playlist.

Neil: There’s a nice mix of styles on there – we’ve all got our own preferences and I think they gel together really well. Actually, it’s a good indication of what our monthly radio show on Melodic Distraction  is like too. We’ve all chipped in a few tracks each, including local artists that are associated with Emotion Wave.

Mike Pinnington 

The next Emotion Wave night is on Saturday 9 February, Drop The Dumbulls from 8pm — £4 OTD  

Images, from top: Emotion Wave night, courtesy Andrew Bates; Mates Compilation

Posted on 30/01/2019 by thedoublenegative