Weekender Records may be a name that you've heard, especially if you're currently resident in the London area where many of their bands having been playing Fopp showcases and headline shows. Should you have ever travelled to a delightful Austrian town in an alpine valley called Innsbruck, you'll know that the blossoming record label is a development of possibly the best rock club in Austria, Weekender Club. To give you more background on what to expect from Weekender in the UK, and perhaps some tips on how to follow your own dreams and establish a club or label, we chat to the club's director and label founder Justin Barwick.

The history of the club begins with a chance meeting between Justin, an obsessive music fan since youth, who was DJing in small café clubs in the Innsbruck region and another music fanatic and Innsbruck DJ Andy Franzelin, who heard Justin playing The Who's 'Behind Blue Eyes' at the same time as the Limp Bizkit version was a hit. The fact that Justin was playing the original impressed Andy enough for him to come over and discover that Justin's playlist including The Smiths, Suede and Oasis, was to his taste, so the two began to voyage to concerts in Munich regularly and realised that people were travelling from Innsbruck to Zurich, Milan, Vienna and mostly to Munich to see bands, but hardly any groups came to Innsbruck. After travelling to London to see a band called The Rocks, they ended up chatting to the band and enquired as to whether they'd be interested in playing in Austria, the resounding yes begun a venture to find a suitable alternative venue in Innsbruck that could host regular club nights and put on live bands. Of course another vital part of a club's image is its name and Justin explains he and Andy came up with lists of "fun but stupid" names including "The Camden Club" and "Twist My Melon Man Club" but after Justin showed Andy Flowered Up's video for the track, 'Weekender', they decided to go with this name.
Justin continues: "Fortunately a friend of mine from the early 90's, a guy called Eugene Kelly, who was in a band called The Vaselines in the 80's, who happened to be Kurt Cobain's favourite band (Cobain recorded three of his songs), said he'd love to come and play, so we decided to launch the club before The Rocks came out with a Eugene Kelly solo show, to our amazement we got about 150 people in for the opening show, The Rocks show was also a tremendous success with 200 or more."

Being in touch with the UK scene, Justin was able to feel out bands that were just starting to make a name for themselves and offer them the chance to play, with Bromhead's Jacket, The Bishops and The Chalets being just a few of those that have gone on to prove successful after playing at the club. One particular tale that the Club Director recounts with joy is of receiving a call from The Rumblestrips saying that they were back in Austria for a festival and would like to play the club again, which he emphasises was an honour. Since these tentative beginnings the Weekender Club proper, a trendy basement club full of pop art prints and music memorabilia was opened on 9th September 2006 after Justin and co bought the lease for the venue and spent a Summer restyling before a triumphant opening show played with Chikinki.

Rule Brit(pop)annia
Being in touch with both the British and Austrian scenes, Justin should be an ideal candidate to shed some light on just why the British scene is such a massive phenomenon over here...
"I think the British music scene is recognised world wide as probably the most important music scene in the world, of course America contributes a lot to the music scene and in bits and pieces throughout the rest of the world there are very important elements added to the music scene, but I think the world looks to Britain as some of the biggest bands in the world historically have come from Great Britain and that's helped. I think probably the main reason for that is the language, it is to do with the British culture as well, it does encourage people to form bands and become musicians; it's very normal for a youngster to pick up a guitar or form a band with his mates at school, but I think it is a help from the language point of view where the English language certainly in entertainment and media is the leading language. I can see that clearly here that people really do look to the British scene for guidance and many of the bands over here in Continental Europe try to copy the British sound as well, which is of course quite amusing, sadly most of them are not doing a particularly good job!"

On Austrian and German bands that our readers should check out, Justin firmly states that there are definitely some good ones.
"Quite recently we've had a few Austrian bands play here, in particular I would highlight Deckchair Orange and When The Music's Over, who have both been extremely good quality bands. If it wasn't for the fact that they were based in Austria, I think they would have the chance to become much, much bigger; it's very very difficult for an Austrian band to break through internationally. Maybe one exception is possibly the biggest, and again an exceptionally good Austrian band called Naked Lunch, they played a show recently at Weekender Club, it was out first show that was officially sold out before doors opened (the club's capacity is 350-400) and they were absolutely brilliant, so brilliant that I'm releasing their single on my record label in the UK. German bands, of course Beatsteaks are a huge band in Germany and Austria but unknown in the UK and beyond, but they are superb, there are smaller bands as well, we've had two bands that I've thought were very good play recently here, Travel Pussy and Blek Le Roc, both talented bands and a great sound. "

The ambitious 43-year old has found that his early dedication to music, and probably an aptitude for making friends in the right places, has certainly helped the club, "I was very passionate about music and right throughout the 70's I was already going to concerts, my sister took me to my first concert when I was about 12 years old to see a band called The Noel Reading Band, Noel Reading was the bass guitarist with Jimi Hendrix and The Jimi Hendrix Experience. I then carried on my love of music, I DJed when I was still at school and I carried on in the 80's Djing for pleasure, although never professionally." Hanging out with various bands led to friendships with acts like The Posies and Ken Stringfellow, who went on to become keyboard player with REM and took Justin along with him for various shows.

These friendships have been reignited in various ways through the club, after I enquire about the amount of famous faces appearing to DJ at the club, Justin explains that although most are strictly business, some, such as Bonehead from Oasis are previous acquaintances, this leads us to discuss a band that have previously been Room Thirteen's band of the week, Vinny Peculiar. "Bonehead and Mike Joyce the drummer of The Smiths [playing the club] came about because I got to know of Vinny Peculiar; one of the greatest mysteries of music to me is that they're almost completely unknown, but they have two members of The Smiths and their manager is Bonehead, formerly of Oasis. I contacted them via MySpace and they immediately came back to me giving me the details of their manager Bonehead, who by coincidence I'd got to know during the early 90's, so when I got in contact with him it was like old friends getting back in touch, it was a pleasure to have them over here. Everybody who mentions Pulp or The Divine Comedy should automatically put Vinny Peculiar in the same sentence in my opinion, but sadly for them I think they didn't get their lucky break and age is against them now, people are a little bit ageist."

Skipping through the DJ and music collector's personal all-time favourite bands, "the only band that immediately jumps to mind that I absolutely loved everything that they did and still do was The Jesus and Mary Chain", Oasis and Genesis, "in the mid-70's Genesis did have credibility; they lost the plot in the 80's I'm sad to say, but I was a big fan", we move onto the record label, something which hopefully will become a household name in the UK with major radio DJs from XFM, Radio 1 and beyond already saying that they like the work of Weekender Records. Fierce Panda Records has even asked for tips from the emerging label, expressing jealously at smart signings like Eight Legs.

Weekender Records
When I press Justin on what he's looking for in a potential signing, as you may expect, he's unable to offer a specific formula but their sound obviously has to have a strong appeal, and with a broad taste in music and a love of "songs rather than bands", this has seen Justin approaching some bands purely on the condition that he can release one amazing song and making some pretty hot discoveries. The only other clear condition is that the act have to be decent people, "I've met some bands in view of signing them and they've turned out to be complete jerks; I have to know that I can work with and feel proud of any band we sign and I know that all the bands currently on the label are great people."

The label's creation is due to another lucky encounter, "I'm not a great one for planning things," Justin admits, "things happen organically and by chance, in truth the reason that the label started was because when I booked The Bishops the third time in February 2006, their manager was very impressed by what we were doing with the club, he liked the name and the image and asked me casually one day, "What do you think about releasing The Bishops' single in Austria?" I said quite honestly I'd never released a record in my life and wouldn't know what to do but his words to me were that he released the single himself in the UK before they got a deal there and he said he'd give me some guidance. It very quickly moved dramatically forward from that to the fact that we would do it in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and we worked together with someone in Berlin to make it happen and we did get The Bishops' first single out. The knock on effect of that was that I was very enthusiastic about the idea of the label so I made a base in London, carried on working with the person who was helping in Berlin and invested some money in setting up the label officially so we could release records in the UK by artists that I particularly like, obviously many coming through the club here that I see and think they're great and now I can give them the chance to release their records in the UK.

A good example of how things have developed is that last year in November we had the band Brian Jonestown Massacre play at the club, they brought with them unplanned by us an English support band called The Lea Shores, I saw them play and was completely blown away by them, on that day I said I'd be interested in releasing their record and they thought it would be a great idea. We signed them for 2 singles, they're already being hugely hyped in the UK, they're Andy Bell's favourite band without doubt in his words, apparently Noel Gallagher has now also become a big fan of them and they've been signed by one of the biggest booking agents in the world, which has subsequently seen them getting opportunities to support bands like The White Stripes and Iggy Pop, they played at The Royal Albert Hall at the Teenage Cancer Trust show with Kasabian, where they went down so well that Serge phoned them after the show to ask if they'd be the support for Kasabian for their warm up show for Glastonbury, it now transpires that The Lea Shores are now playing at Glastonbury."
Aside from The Lea Shores, Justin somewhat coyly suggests that there's at least one act on the label that he believes is capable of a number one at the moment, but unfortunately this is a double-edge sword which means that after a pact with the rest of the team, he'll have to get a tattoo of the Weekender logo, a dancing girl called Suzie, should that number one ever happen!

Illegal downloading is a hot topic for most labels at the moment, with smaller US labels seen ganging up on those that share their music and threatening law suits on teens and serial downloaders alike - not a nice time. Thankfully Justin's attitude is far more relaxed, "I don't think for small groups it's such a bad thing, we offer our records as downloads and if people share them with their friends it's good to get the band's name out there. If you do download our music, make sure you share it with your friends! Obviously for larger acts like Justin Timberlake, Madonna etc if their records are being copied and sold on eBay and so on, that's very different but for small bands getting the music heard is important." All Weekender Records' singles are also released as downloads, but as to whether there will be a point in releasing CD versions in the future, Justin is less certain, "Alan McGee (Creation Records) has predicted that they have 10 years to go, others have said 20 but I'm still a vinyl fan, you can't show someone an original download of the Sex Pistols or frame it; saying I have track reference number 304 just isn't the same."

Aside from battling downloaders, major labels have also seen themselves losing out to independents as their bands flee for safety, "I think it's difficult if you're a struggling band and someone suddenly offers you a lot of money to sign to a major, it's an attractive prospect and you're not going to turn it down, but I think a lot of bands come away from major labels feeling quite damaged, in some ways you do have to sell out a bit to survive as they expect you to produce hits or get dropped," the avid music fan and caring boss affirms. It's a wild world out there in a music industry, but Weekender Records is proof that there are genuine, passionate fans working to further the chances of good bands.

Current Weekender Records bands include Dogs (who feature on our Bands To See This Summer list), The Indelicates, Subliminal Girls and The Lea Shores (who play Glastonbury, Latitude and O2 Wireless this Summer) . If you ever fancy a summer holiday or ski club in the Austrian Tirol, be sure to check out Weekender Club. To hear more about Weekender Records see here.