Established in 2011, in four short years FINA has become one of the most essential and respected house imprints of its time, counting electronic luminaries such as Move D, Leif, Roberto Rodriguez, Cottam and Francis Inferno Orchestra as part of its artistic family.
Originally an offshoot of Ralph Lawson’s 2020 Vision, FINA is now under the sole ownership of Leeds DJ producer Simon Morell, with plans to build on its ever-growing reputation for quality and consistency into 2015 and beyond. Setting its distinctive stall out from the very release – the shimmering deep house of ‘Live East, Die Young’ from a then relatively unknown Mic Newman – FINA’s releases possess that extra morsel of quality that makes them shine just that little bit brighter.
While FINA undeniably releases a wide variety of music, there is a common thread that connects each release; a rich vein of funk and soul than lies at the heart of the label. More musical than your average house records, recent releases in the manner of Rick Wade’s ‘Sweet Life’, Powel’s ‘Cloud City’ and Borrowed Identity’s ‘Bang Bang Boogie EP’ have taken the label in an ever-more considered direction, the slowing tempos and intricate melodies of these records belying FINA’s absolute indifference to following the bassline-focused bandwagon-jumping of many of its contemporaries.
Kicking off our new monthly series, highlighting some of our favourite labels in the UK and beyond, we thought we would catch up with Simon Morell and get the scoop on all things FINA Records. Below, you will find information on the label’s history, ethos, releases and future in, what we hope, will be as educational and informative (for all you aspiring label heads out there) as it is entertaining.
“We try and stay true to our roots – that is quality underground house”
What does FINA Records add to the dance music spectrum?
Originality. We try and stay true to our roots – that is quality underground house – but what I think makes us distinctive is that we’re always open to experimenting with styles and tempos. We’re not afraid of mixing things up from one release to the next. Rather than sticking to the same formula, we like to showcase eclectic mix of sounds – from both well established and lesser known artists. Even thought our back catalogue is varied, I like to think we’ve created quite a distinctive sound with FINA. It’s hard to put your finger on it exactly, but when I hear a demo, I just know instinctively if tis right for the label’s sound.
When did you first think about launching FINA Records
Well. It’s been going for 4 years, but I guess after I stopped promoting DDD – I had the space to concentrate on what I’d been wanting to do fro a while – that is setting up my own label. Although I loved running the party, after 9 years it became a little bit monotonous and the clubbing scene in London was changing. So it was time to explore different avenues for me. And most of all I wanted more of a creative outlet – I loved curating lineups nights and wanted to start creating a sound but via a label instead. At this point, Ralph Lawson approached me and Matt long and suggested we set up and label together using 2020 as a platform to help us launch.
When did FINA Records actually launch?
Our first release was Mic Newman’s (aka Fantastic Man) ‘live east, die young’ in 2011. Early this year we’ve launched our sister label, FINA White, which focuses more on peak time house and techno.
Story behind the FINA Records’ name?
I can’t remember exactly but basically me Matt and Ralph were banding a few names around. At the time Ralph was about to have his first daughter and he liked the name Afina ( I think its spelt like that) He mentioned it and then it somehow got shortened to FINA which in Italian means ‘pure’ and ‘fine’ – as in ‘a fine wine’. And we all thought that was a perfect fit for the sound we wanted to create so went with it. It was nothing to do with an old petrol station – although I quite like the way our logo is a bit similar! I’ve found an image of an old reto FINA pump actually and was thinking of using it for the artwork of our forthcoming compilation – ‘Refill’.
What was the most difficult aspect of launching the label?
Like I said, FINA was originally set up in partnership with 2020. Without the backing of such a seminal label, I think it would have been a lot harder to work with the acts we wanted to work with from the beginning and so launching would have been a lot harder. Move D for example did the remix on our second release – without the association; maybe he wouldn’t have given us the chance to work with him – who knows. Either way the support we got from Ralph at the time was invaluable in helping us establish the brand.
We ended the partnership in end of 2013- Matt wanted to concentrate on their own projects and Ralph on 2020. I wanted to continue in the direction the label was gong. I now manage the label myself and have Juan Corbi on board to work alongside me on the A & R side of things. We’ve got the same musical vision bot FINA and FINA White and that’s the fun and creative part. But getting back to your question, event though FINA is relatively well established now, the difficulties don’t stop there. I suppose the hardest thing for smaller labels like us is that good music sometimes gets overlooked and it’s a battle to get heard. These das you cant’ always rely on the music to do the talking. Just look at the Beatport charts. It’s the money and marketing that all too often speak volumes.