The success Steve Courtnell and Rob Litchfield have experienced with all things Pie & Vinyl is a well versed subject and justifiably so. Since opening their doors to hungry ears and bellies less than two years ago they have moved on from strength to strength, earning plaudits from all sectors – both local and national. But anyone thinking that coming up with the idea of marrying sustenance and sound was where their talents ended would be gravely mistaken. Their mission has to taken them beyond Castle Road and into music venues around Portsmouth. Ask Steve or Rob and you’ll find that Pie & Vinyl Presents – and record label arm Pie & Vinyl Records – are deliberate moves to build something of a larger musical group rather than spontaneous decisions brought about by chance. Think of guys like All Tomorrow’s Parties and Pitchfork with their many musical arms – festivals, labels, gigs and magazines – and you’ll be somewhere close to seeing the bigger picture. Nothing, it seems, is beyond the reach of Pie & Vinyl, just as long as it follows the remit of being for music fans, provided by music fans. Steve gives a bit more detail on their motivations, “the Idea of P&V presents it’s to get people excited by associating our name with up and coming acts. You look at Bristol, and how Brighton used to be and the place has a lovely creative vibe to it… I guess if I’m truly, truly honest – there is an element of doing the things you’ve always wanted to do – and calling it your job.“ His words do bring an important logistical issue to light though. There is more at stake for Pie & Vinyl than a lot of other local promotions, this is their job and, as with every other job, the books need to balanced.
With this in mind, Rob is keen to point out that there isn’t and endless money tree no one seems to know about in the city or a wealthy benevolent benefactor signing blank cheques. “We don’t make any money from this (promoting)” he explains, “the shop is our bread and butter, this is just us trying to do our bit for new music we like.” Pie & Vinyl rely on making sure they can provide good music in a sustainable way. Events have been built up to the stage of the Gland Rock all day festival gradually through initial in store performances, curating Southsea Fest stages and working with the Registry pub for regular Friday night gigs. Having the focus on quality artists and not necessarily purely attention grabbing names has paid its dividends as well, resulting in Pie & Vinyl hosting bands as they begin to shift gear into the big leagues as it were. Drenge, Wolf Alice and Bo Ningen have all formed a strong bond with Steve and Rob enabling Portsmouth to continue to have a strong contingent of travelling musicians to play alongside local acts.
“We like to support local bands, and help put Portsmouth and Southsea on the musical map. It’s a great music city, with many diverse acts and arts and it’s getting stronger all the time. It’s a pleasure to be involved in pushing the area and creating a higher profile.” – Steve Courtnell
All in all, it may come across a bit obvious and sickly sweet; the idea of music lovers providing music for music lovers under a sound, reasoned approach, but that is exactly what it is. Pie & Vinyl are without question one of Portsmouth’s biggest music and business success stories over the last two years and they continue to grow on the strength of a lot hard work and good taste.
This is the third in a series covering some of the local music promoters in the city, Champagne Justice!, Strong Island recordings and Pie & Vinyl Presents as they curate an all day festival in aid of the Feel Yourself Campaign which aims to raise awareness for the importance of checking for breast and testicular cancer.