From the lush disco and thumping funk of debut compilation ‘Cosmic Feelings’ to the pop-sampling jungle, garage and trance hybrids of Angel D’lite’s recent ‘Dolphins Have Sex For Pleasure’, Banoffee Pies Records has always been a label that’s hard to pin down. Since it was founded in 2014 by Ell Weston — otherwise known as DJ Autumn and, for some years, one half of a regular DJ duo with Sandy of Dr Banana — the label has evolved as an all-encompassing music platform, releasing music and running events.
The label has seen modern jazz from Ishmael Ensemble, minimal tech from Adam Strömstedt, lo-fi hip-hop via its Beats series, and hazy home-listening on its OTAKU offshoot — and that barely scratches the surface.
“I really like connecting with people,” says Ell of the decision not to focus on one sound or style. “If I heard good music and a good project, it felt like a bit of a shame to turn a blind eye to it just because my label didn’t do that sort of thing. So rather than looking at it like a sole brand, I kind of just look at Banoffee as an umbrella brand to what it hosts. Then it keeps it fresh for me as well.”
Ell remembers being into a wide range of genres from a young age. Though he says his family wasn’t particularly musical, he found “a bit of solace in music” as he was quite an introverted kid. Growing up in Hammersmith, London, he recalls getting into drum & bass and minimal Dutch house podcasts, sneaking into clubs like Fabric and Matter with a fake ID, but never aiming for a career in music. “I think when you’re younger there’s just so much going on, you’re not necessarily sure that all your interests are your permanent interests,” he says. But when he moved to Bristol to attend university “it all kind of slid into place”. Ell started doing various music-related jobs, promotion and the like, meeting new people in the scene — and it all snowballed from there.
Now, a rough count by DJ Mag puts Banoffee Pies’ roster at well over 100 artists. This begins to make more sense when you consider the majority of the 50-plus releases have been four-to-five-track Various Artist compilations — though it’s still an impressive number to reach in just six years. Many of these names will have been unfamiliar before they first appeared on Banoffee Pies; signees are often just starting out, or trying out new aliases for different sounds. When the label launched in 2014, Ell felt like too many outlets were focused on getting in the big, established names that the press obsessed over. “There’s always a lot of focus on artists who are in that top layer and are in the spotlight,” he says. “It’s not like I’m saying, ‘Oh I’ll never release with any big artists’ or anything like that, it was just more that my main focal point was not thinking too much about what sort of profile that person has,” he continues. “If the music’s really good, I’m totally happy to support that person and release it.”