Nick Triani is head of Soliti, a Helsinki-based independent record label. We’ve featured a number of excellent artists from their roster over the past year or so and we were delighted when Nick agreed to answer some questions for us. He also put together a great sampler playlist that will give you the real flavour of Soliti. I think he’s a Spurs fan, but hey, we all have our problems.
Where did the idea come from for Soliti and how did you begin? What does the name mean?
I’d been working A+R at a very reputable Finnish indie about six years ago. The company was sold to a major and after a little while, I was laid off (and most of my roster too). I spent a few months mulling over what to do next and decided to start Soliti (and picked up a few of those bands that had been dropped). Soliti is Italian for ‘usual’. No special meaning sadly 🙂
What’s an average day like for you?
I spend most of my working day on the label. Nowadays the turnover of material we’re releasing is fairly constant, be it albums, eps, singles or videos. I also work some promo for non Soliti related stuff domestically – and edit an online magazine which publishes daily, called One Quart Magazine . But generally, it’s full on.
What’s the musical ethos behind the label – how do you decide what fits and what doesn’t?
I tend to only get involved with bands or artists that I like personally. I have to really love something to want to release it (so much work goes into this from all concerned). It goes both ways of course, some artists really like the label. We’re definitely ‘artist friendly’ in that respect. Once I get involved with something, I trust the artistic vision, right from artwork to finished record. In that sense there isn’t so much traditional A+R activity, I’ve rarely signed a band to the label and thought I need to change something to make that artist work or more accessible. What we release is an honest representation of where that band or artist are at that time – with no filter. I like that idea a lot. Regarding what fits, that’s totally open. I guess some people see the label as some kind of ‘shoegaze’ or ‘indie rock’ label, but i don’t. I think it’s definitely run with independent soul, but within those ‘borders’ the label repertoire remains fairly varied.
What’s the secret of your success so far?
Success is fairly negligible if we’re looking at record sales or stuff like that. It’s not really important to me on those terms. Of course that doesn’t mean we haven’t released popular stuff, we do. I think there is still a strong identity to the label and that’s probably been the thing that’s crossed over the most. Certainly domestically and with growing numbers abroad people do appreciate what we do, and that I can take as a success. Personally, giving a platform to some artists who probably wouldn’t have had access to a label and getting some of that music out there is what I think I can term as something that keeps the label relevant.
Where do you do most of your listening?
I listen a lot at home in the kitchen on a cheap vinyl player through a Bose speaker. Then at the office I listen mostly from Tidal or iTunes through an old amp and speakers.
How did/do you find talent?
I’d say that most of the bands I get involved with are recommended to me from friends or bands on the label. There is a very good community of musicians who play in bands on the label who hang out a lot and go to clubs a lot and see a lot of new music and they are always mentioning stuff. I rarely find something from the demo pile (sadly). Also I go to shows on a regular basis and have found some bands that way.
This was the first song we posted as “SWIT” back in July 2016.
Can you offer any advice to new bands? How should they go about getting their music heard?
I think everything comes down to hard work. I think bands have to be super organized and delegate tasks to different members. Someone needs to do the socials, someone book the shows, someone contact the blogs/magazines etc. And of course make great music. And I think that extra activity shouldn’t necessarily stop when a band sign a record deal or sign with a management company. Bands have to just keep pushing. I’m a bit ambivalent about social media. I do think the mystery surrounding an artist has been lost somewhat but bands increasingly have to engage with social media – so that has become very important. I’d say the most important thing is to work on building your own fan base, regardless of what coverage or level you’re at. Reach out to real people (and not just the industry) as much as you can. Fans tend to be loyal and they can take a band a long way.
We’ve been listening to a lot of music from your label recently – you’ve got some great artists – what’s exciting you for the future?
We have some really great music coming up, it’s all fantastic I feel. The debut EP release from Sonic Visions, a new Astrid Swan album, a new EP from The Holy, a new Delay Trees album and the debut album from Love Sport are all going to be coming out by mid-April. There’s some new projects on the horizon too.
What act, not currently on the label, would you love to sign?
I love Ty Segall right now. His last few releases have been really great. A lot of stuff. Going through a deep Julian Cope phase right now, so if he wants to get in touch!
How do you feel about the health of the Finnish music scene at the moment?
I think that’s complicated. I think the ‘scene’ is very healthy, especially in the underground or non-mainstream aspects. Finland and the media especially have been very concerned with the ‘phenomena’ in music rather than the quality. Pop and domestic hip-hop have been very much the focus for the last couple of years. In the meantime a very healthy indie-scene has grown almost unnoticed which seems to be finally making some inroads into the popular psyche this year. And there is lots of wonderful stuff coming out of that scene. So generally it’s very healthy, and probably better than ever.
What artists are currently putting the country on the map?
Mikko Joensuu, Alma, Satellite Stories, Mumrunner are a few that seem to be getting some recognition right now.
What’s the best new band/ artist you’ve heard?
I’m really into this new band called Verandan and a young guy who goes by the name of Olli.
Is the upturn in vinyl sales having any effect on the label?
For Soliti it’s been negative in some respects. We still have physical on most releases (either a tape, vinyl or cd) but the market in Finland is very small for domestic indie. We’ve made some great ltd edition runs of vinyl with Royal Mint Records (and those sell out very quickly), and actually producing ltd runs and small pressings seems to be the way forward for us. Digital is our main focus simply because most people interact with their music nowadays via those platforms.
We used to press cd/vinyl of every release, but this was haemorrhaging us tons of money. Once we factored in shipping records abroad via overseas dist., hiring PR to work those records, it was an expensive process. So since the beginning of 2016 we’ve focussed on getting the music out there via those digital platforms and then licensing releases to labels overseas when we can- meanwhile supplementing most releases with some physical product.
Personally, I spend most of my pennies on vinyl. But the upturn in vinyl sales includes a lot of classics and very established artists. It’s tougher for newer acts to shift those I feel. When I compare what we sell physically with how much people listen to our releases via the digital platforms, it’s a no brainer. People do stream some of our releases a lot, and that url link to a track or video or album is mostly how people all over the world find the bands on Soliti. I’m no great fan of digital services (though I enjoy Tidal), but that is how the majority of people consume music in 2017. The downside of this of course is the financial comeback from these services is minimal for me, and even more so for the artist. It’s tough.
What makes you happy?
Football, music, books, movies and most importantly my family.
What are your ambitions for the label?
I think to keep introducing great new music. We have a very good track record of this I feel. And expanding the name internationally. It’s happening slowly and that’s fine.
What’s the most challenging thing that happened since you started Soliti?
I touched on this earlier a bit. Surviving for sure. Since the label started a mere five years ago we were very much a label that dealt with physical music – and actually held back on the digital dist. But the digitization of music has affected Soliti’s outlook (and some of the band’s too). It’s much harder to make money now (we are a small label after all). That transition has been hard all over I feel and no different for us. But Soliti is fulfilling the role I’d imagined it to, which is to shine a light on some great music…