We hear something and we’re like, ‘That’s amazing, how did they do that?’, usually, it’s out of respect and curiosity.
Sometimes were like, ‘Hey, can we help you out, and can you show me how you did that?’. It’s a symbiotic relationship. We’re all just progressing together, helping one another out.”
An unavoidable question I have for the pair behind Soft Boy Records is – where are the girls at? For such a progressive and important piquant of the Irish music scene, it’s at odds to not have some female voices on the bill. I’m reassured that the gender divide is not a preference of the label.
“It’s something that we’re looking into,” says Kevin. “We’ve put the call out once or twice.”
And was there a response? Did it fall to the ether?
“In three years of being a record label we’ve had two submissions from women… They didn’t fit the label, unfortunately, and we didn’t want to get into the realm of tokenism. We’re on the hunt for women to fit the label.”
In terms of Soft Boy their hesitancy to fit any women on the bill just to squash some claims is respectable, and they seem as aware of it as anyone else.
“It’s an all-male roster called Soft Boy, you know what I mean? It’s not the best from a marketing standpoint, in terms of the gender divide… It’s something we’re expanding into in 2018 and 2019.”
It’s not about reluctance to fit women in, or diluting a style. It’s about careful curation.
I asked Ellen Kirk, Soft Boy’s visual curator, how she felt as the only woman attached to the label [and a non-musical member at that].
“I’ve never felt different to the rest of them, I suppose,” she tells me. “I think it’s just systemic in the industry at the moment. There aren’t as many women putting themselves forward, which is really unfortunate. It’s quite saddening, but it’s not on the girls, it’s on the labels. I suppose labels bigger than Soft Boy and promoters should make women visible to make people think it’s a viable career option, and to put themselves out there.
“Girls, put your music out there. Boys, look for it and if you’re in a position to, promote it. It would be nice to work with women. But, in saying that, there are loads of brilliant women coming through in Ireland as well, which I’m very happy to see. I think it is changing. And you have things like Gash Collective and GRL crew…”
It’s quite unique in this day and age that a label needs to fit an artist as much as an artist needs to fit a label, and self- sufficiency seems key to any woman or man planning on submitting work to the soft boys. To Kean, this is how the roster is fit with individual artists making sounds true to form.
“That’s what I love about the other artists on Soft Boy… They’re more than just singers or rappers, they’re musicians, they have their own sounds. I couldn’t encourage more the idea of hearing more artists making their own music.”