Ten Years of Livity Sound: A word with Peverelist | LOUD Bristol Issue ThreePosted on: 21 Dec 2021
This article was first published in the third issue of LOUD Bristol, 365Bristol's dedicated music magazine. Read LOUD Issue Three and browse our first two editions here.
Ten Years of Livity Sound
In a quick decade, Livity Sound has risen from a vehicle for personal projects to stand at the forefront of a great epoch of experimental electronic music. Here, label founder and revered producer Peverelist reflects upon ten years of pushing the envelope.
“This happens a lot actually,” Tom Ford, better known as Peverelist, laughs during our phone call. Wanting to pin down an appropriate tag for Livity Sound’s output, I’ve asked him to explain the label he set up in 2011 to me like he would an aunt at a family party. It’s Monday morning, granted, but a decade on the question still seems an unsettling one. “I guess it’s a hybrid of lots of different things. It’s good to have a bit of everything.”
Drawing on Bristol’s Soundsystem culture and dub roots alongside a catalogue of expansive styles blurred together, it’s tough to peg it down to any one thing. I suspect, though, that this is intentional. Livity Sound’s journey from a vehicle for personal projects to a global powerhouse of forward-thinking electronic music is as much the offshoot of its ethos as it is about the music. In fact, when Tom released the label’s first 12-inch in collaboration with Kowton, he only wanted to channel the spirit of the early days of dubstep. “A lot of the ideas were like those in the early days of dubstep, in that the music was very varied and there was this anything-goes kind of attitude. As it got bigger, it became narrow and canonized into a very specific sound. That’s when I started to lose interest.”
True to form, Bristol was a key playground for the burgeoning scene, and Tom a vital cog at the heart of the city’s budding dubstep community. For 10 years, he worked at local institution Rooted Records, before setting up Punch Drunk (his first label) in 2006. As Peverelist, his track ‘Roll With The Punches’ is regarded as one of the finest to have come out of the city. By 2011, the writing was on the wall. Dubstep’s heady, formative years were a bygone era and the sound that had enraptured the UK’s underground clubs a decade earlier had gone sterile, as a standardised, cut-and-dried recipe became commonplace. Rooted Records closed its doors permanently and Tom was left looking for new avenues to explore.
“I needed a fresh start and wanted to focus specifically on my own interests in techno, UK funky and dark garage and explore those areas,” he says. “When I started Livity Sound, it was very much because I was into lots of different types of music. I was trying to put all of those influences back on the table to have a wide scope of things we could do on the label.” Immediately, a buzz began to follow everything Livity touched as the label’s first releases - all solo and collaborative projects between Tom, Kowton and Asusu - demonstrated a new wave of possibilities post-dubstep. “We had similar ideas about what we were into and so those tunes became the first releases. We thought, ‘let’s just put it out there.’”
A decade down the line, Livity have released Molten Mirrors, a compilation LP to celebrate 10 years in existence. Featuring 19 artists, the record is a snapshot of where the label is now and the perfect summary of its evolution. The 12-inch features long-time affiliates Hodge and Batu, who were among the first to become part of the Livity family through its sister label. Always open to fresh ideas, in 2012, Tom launched Dnuos Ytivil - better known simply as the reverse label - to focus on giving emerging talent a way in. “That started out as a vehicle for other artists I felt were on a similar tip. I’ve always been interested in giving people their first release.”
It was also an indication of the far-reaching non-specific realm Livity was heading for. Each artist brings their own flavour to the mix, from Surgeons Girl’s synth-led melodic sonic to Bakongo’s percussion-heavy beats and Ido Plumes’ agile dub mechanics - the label thrives on variety. Never afraid of turning a page, Tom’s anything-goes approach has resulted in several directional shifts. It’s this procedure that adds to the excitement around a Livity release. In a sense, the label’s own catalogue is a red herring of itself. “It’s good not to repeat yourself,” Tom says. “You need to change things up a little bit. That’s always been the spirit. The music isn’t tied to a particular genre or a specific scene, it’s joining the dots between lots of different things.”
Long-term label affiliate and world-renowned DJ Ben UFO headlining a recent Livity Sound party at the Trinity Centre. Photos: Beth Sheldrick
Over time, the lines between the two labels have blurred, and many artists are now main label linchpins. But perhaps the best example of Livity’s growth throughout the years is the international community Molten Mirrors showcases, with the likes of Azu Tiwaline (Tunisia), Toma Kami (France) and DJ Plead (Australia) featuring. “I’ve done a lot of travelling and met a lot of people with different ideas and it’s good to spread our wings. It adds another dimension. It’s healthy,” Tom explains, insisting that he’s never had a plan despite a vague desire to pursue his tastes and interests. “I think if you make a plan, you’re setting traps for yourself. It’s very much just ‘put a record out and see what happens’.”
As I ask about the future, it becomes clear Tom is, as ever, sticking to the ethos that’s brought him this far. He’s fully focussed on the present, having marked October with two EP releases and preparing for a busy run of shows through the winter season. For now, as he has been for an incredibly successful decade at the helm of Livity Sound, he intends only to “keep rolling on”.
Main Image: Beth Sheldrick
Head to Issuu to read the full third issue of LOUD Bristol, featuring an array of interviews with renowned artists, venues, labels and more.
George is a journalism graduate and writer passionate about music and culture. Get in touch via email at email@example.com