Transparent is Sahil Varma, 23, and Jack Shankly, 20, two pretty chill bros who somehow manage to dig around Myspace’s musical minefield and consistently post great mp3’s way before anyone else.  There is also a label running parallel which has put out Washed Out, Smith Westerns, Fergus and Geronimo etc. For the next of our New Breed series we took them to Borders on Charing Cross Road (in case anyone wants to hoist a blue plaque), and tried to find out where the shit they discover so much good music.

So guys.  What are you really excited about at the moment?

Sahil:  A band called Summer Camp are really exciting us. They make really weird, throwback pop songs that have a kind of timeless thing to them. Really lush and melodic

Jack: Dominant Legs who are pretty hot this week, they are from San Francisco and are friends with Girls, in fact the dude Ryan is now playing in the live band for Girls.

Sahil: They’re kinda a bit like Arthur Russell’s more poppy moments. Really soulful and honest.

What do you think of the lo-fi scene?

Jack: If the songs are good then it’s great.  But it makes it quite easy to hide song writing deficiency. I think that’s why someone like Wavves gets a bit of stick. It’s hard to tell whether or not those songs could stand up on their own. But then again, if a song is really beautiful then it can be very rewarding to have to pick it out of a load of muck and filth, so I guess it works both ways.

He had one good one didn’t he?

Jack: Yeah So Bored was good, the rest of them not so much (for me anyway.)  Shit this isn’t on record is it?


Sahil: Lots of people now regard lo-fi in a bad light because they think it’s just for people who can’t write songs but actually it can sometimes be a much braver and more interesting way to present things.

Everyone is jumping on it.

Sahil:  I guess so yeah, but I think that’s inevitable when ever anything is popular. The best stuff always rises to the top though. For instance, people went mad about Washed Out and rightly so - he’s so prolific and singular in the way he does things. I think the fact that those songs are recorded in his bedroom, in a lo-fi way or whatever, definitely allows that to happen.

Jack: He must have recorded about 100 songs.  They are really really efficient some of those guys. We barely needed to get involved with that at all. He just suddenly landed this incredible couple of songs and artwork on us. I’ve had two emails from Ernest [Washed Out], one saying “yes lets do it”, the other one with everything needed for the 7”.

I think your blog appeals to the people in the music industry who really do love music.  Not the ones who are all “fuck it let’s make monaaaay”

Jack: I want to be those guys, they sound fun.  But I guess there’s only so much cocaine and pink limousines 300 copies of a Small Black single will buy you. It’s a bummer, but I’m getting over it.

Do you think the industry is split into two types of people?  Big fat cats who do it the old way, and then the cooler and fresher labels, like you guys, Moshi..

Jack: Moshi Moshi is really good.  They had that amazing one, two, knock out punch with the two best singles of the year – Kindness and The Drums. I think there are loads of labels that are doing really interesting things and it kind of happens in a way that’s completely removed from the big label stuff, but then again, I kind of like massive pop records and ridiculous million pound stage sets and stuff too.  I think there’s a place for both ways of doing it.

How did you meet?

[Jack starts laughing]

Sahil: Err…

What, Myspace?

Sahil: Worse worse.

Jack: We were fans of the band…an un-named band


Sahil: No


Jack: We neither confirm or deny.

Can you tell me off record? Honestly, I won’t publish it.

Sahil: Ok, we met on the rakes forum.  Well..we didn’t really…like…we didn’t meet through it.

Jack: We met at a show

Sahil: I think initially I regarded him as like a…I thought he was quite pretentious

Jack: Yeah you were right, you were probably right.  No so basically the first time we met was at a Wu Tang Clan show, and the second time was at a Black Flag tattoo convention.

Sahil: That’s a joke.

When did you start to do transparent?

Jack: A  very dark day sometime in 2005.

Sahil: We started out just with the idea of doing a fanzine.  We’d wasted so much time in forums, we decided to do something productive.  So we dedicated loads of time to praising some really bad indie bands in even worse articles.

Sahil: We had Kubichek on the cover once.

Jack: Oh my god that’s awful.  The fanzines were quite cool though, it was a good way to be passionate about things that were going on, even really bad things. It was a fun time. We used to go to a clubnight called WayOutWest, maybe the first all ages thing, and it was just so inclusive and productive. I guess it gave us confidence to try and do something ourselves.

When did the label start?

Sahil: We started putting on nights the same time that we were doing the fanzine, and then the magazine stopped in late 2007, and we kept doing the nights.

Jack: Why did we stop doing the magazine?

Sahil: Err we couldn’t write about music!

Jack: I had a vampire weekend article, all these questions and I just thought, “I don’t know what to do with this, I don’t know how to do this” so I never used it.

Sahil: Then a friend of ours set up the blog for us.  We weren’t that into it at first.

Jack: We were luddites but of course we were completely wrong. We’d probably still be standing outside Nambucca with some A5 fanzines held together with clothes pegs if it wasn’t for him. Big up Clive Martin - tireless force of modernisation, international playboy, gourmet chef.

With online sharing, do you find there’s a lot of pressure to find international bands really quickly?

Jack: I think we’re really competitive, in a really lame way though.  It’s a funny world.

Sahil: It’s more for our own enjoyment that we want to get there first.  And it’s not necessarily international bands, I think the only reason it might seems like we emphasise international bands, is that where a lot of the good music is coming from right now.  But there have been British bands that we’ve wanted to work with but we haven’t been able too.

Jack: We’d like to be part of a bigger label maybe as we are quite ambitious, but we’d have to have the same sort of input we have now and we just really like singles. I think a seven inch single is just a really beautiful thing.

Sahil: I think as a label we want the blog to be the biggest blog in the U.K….And the world.

Jack: Yeah we want to take over the world,  nerd by nerd, one RSS feed at a time…

You two are like Pinky and the Brain.  New bands then?

Jack:  Smith Westerns are great. Some super young kids from Chicago that make this incredible, ambitious glammy kind of pop music. Gonna do big things, I hope!

Sahil: They’re between 18 and 19.  They find it hard to get into their own gigs.

Jack: They’re incredible guys as well.  It makes me feel a bit ashamed of myself.  They’re all so industrious, and we’re just facilitating it.  I’m in awe of all these bands’ creativity.

Sahil: I think we’ve been very lucky to work with a lot of American bands.  There seems to be a definite difference in their attitude.

Jack:  Check out Perfume Genius, he’s amazing.  He’s the most amazing, saddest, gayest, beautiful man in the world.  He works in a furniture or something and just writes these incredibly sad stories about people he knows who have died or are living really strange lives. They’re amazing.  He also makes these incredible, ethereal videos from found You Tube footage.

Does it get really competitive when you’re working with new bands?

Jack: Well if a bigger label is going to go for it, we just back down.

Sahil: I think we’re quite proud and content with what we’ve had out, and what we’re going to have out.

So, finally, how do you find all these new bands?

Sahil: It’s really geeky and time consuming.  A lot of it is checking friend’s lists on Myspace.  One of the best things about blogging is the ‘online community’, you become friends with all these other geeks.  We actually had two of them come over from San Francisco last week – we’d never met them before.

Thanks boys.

Jack: I’m really worried about Platform commenters being really harsh.

Sahil: Tuvshin