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A Golden Era for Todmorden

A few record releases into life as the Golden Lion Sounds label boss, Matthanee 'Gig' Nilavongse told Now Then about what it means for Todmorden.

Now six years old, the Golden Lion in Todmorden is a pub that has firmly established itself as part of the local music scene. Though small, it has played host to a range of local, national and international artists – and now it’s cementing itself further in the music community by unveiling Golden Lion Sounds, its independent record label. I had the chance to speak to Matthanee 'Gig' Nilavongse, one of the landlords of the Golden Lion and the energising force behind Golden Lion Sounds.

“Over the pandemic, all of the pubs have been suffering,” she explained, “The choice is to have a break, or to try something else. Over Christmas, a lot of people were feeling tired and like they had no energy left. I decided to make something fun, to… spark people’s imagination again and allow them to be creative again.”

Gig added that the idea first developed through a conversation with Andrew Meecham, aka The Emperor Machine, when he asked for a recording of her voice. “That made me think: why not develop this to become a record from the Golden Lion. So, I took that idea and spoke to another friend in Todmorden – there are so many people in Todmorden in the music industry – and he said it was possible.

“We’ve got loads of support from international artists in this and we’re using that to support local artists, who might struggle to sustain themselves during the pandemic. I could see there were loads of talented people in Todmorden, but sometimes to be successful you also need PR and connections, which a lot of local artists don’t have yet. If we can use our connections to international artists, we can help bring local musicians to the international markets, too.”

Gig added that she wanted to keep the sound of the label varied: “In the Golden Lion [pub], you never know what you’re going to get. It might be cosy and folksy in one room, then disco in another. I think that’s the fun bit – to have no rules. It’s a special thing that we want to bring to our record label; we want to include everything, not stick to one genre.

“Our sound is varied; the first record was very electronic, the second more garage and pop, and then Jarvis Cocker and David Holmes, who has made a song especially for Todmorden. Then the fourth one is all women.” Gig added, “[The label] is kind of like the voice of Todmorden; we have a lot of talent here, some [musicians] that are already well known and some that are not, but we know we’ve got a lot of good musicians around here, and lots of sound being produced by this valley.”


Golden Lion Sounds founder Matthanee 'Gig' Nilavongse at the Golden Lion pub

Dave Croft Photography

Gig also talked about the freedoms that come from having an independent label. “The second record [released on 15 March] is The Orielles and The Lounge Society and they’re both from the valley and both successful, so it’s very exciting. Our GLS family twist is that they’re playing each other’s songs on the record, which might not happen with a commercial label. We’re not just trying to create a record; we’re trying to create something really exciting.”

Golden Lion Sounds is a Community Interest Company (CIC), which for Gig means that she can involve more people with a range of skills and support the local scene. “The music industry is already hard enough out there. The money from GLS will enable us to support local bands with access to sound engineers and a channel to share their music. To support GLS is to support the bands and their futures.”

She’s passionate about being able to support the community even further than that: “Even the merchandise involves local artists and designers, and people buy it because they want to support the community interest side of things.”

It’s important to Gig that GLS remains independent and maintains its broad sound in the future. “You don’t want to get stuck in a narrow mind and it’s important to stay open because you can bring in a mix and a variety. We want to prove that you can unite people through music. There are so many groups of people who are separated, and we want to be able to bring them together and find a solution and a way to get along. We listen to people, we talk to people and we focus on how to involve people in the community.” She adds that the Golden Lion pub has always had this approach and that she loves being able to introduce people to new bands and artists. “It opens your world to enjoy a variety of music. We want to bring music to the people without them having to buy a ticket to get to know something new. And you never know, you might like it!”

Gig emphasises that these monthly limited vinyl releases are particularly special because the artists have all become part of the Golden Lion ‘family’ – whether they’ve played there or were supposed to before the lockdown. The first record release quickly sold out and Gig was thrilled to have tracks from W.H. Lung and Working Men’s Club. “It was perfect because at the moment both of these bands are well known in totally different ways, because if you go down South, to Brighton, W.H. Lung is really big and if you are in the North, Working Men’s Club is super powerful; they’re playing with New Order. But then, they have one thing in common - both of them live in Todmorden, so it’s like they’re both Todmorden bands. Then they create these two totally different things, but both very interesting and we were so glad to have them both on the first release because that represents so much of Todmorden.”

Learn more

The records are released on 15th of each month – one in black, and one in a vibrant, exciting colour. They are, however, limited edition – with just 500 of each release being available.

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