Meet Cousin Will, the local indie record label fostering a new wave of music talent

Meet Cousin Will, the local indie record label fostering a new wave of music talent

From left to right - Auntie Leo & The Backstabbers and The Grogans
Words by Augustus Welby

The label has just put out a new compilation record.

Melbourne surf rock dudes The Grogans have built a dedicated local following over the last couple of years. Propping them up from behind the scenes has been Will Stoeckel aka Cousin Will – the band’s one-person management and record label operation.

Stoeckel started managing The Grogans in early 2018, overseeing Quin Grunden, Angus Vasic and Jordan Lewis’ rise from mid-week support act to triple j-endorsed national headliners. When it came time to release the band’s debut album, Stoeckel figured he’d put it out under his own label. And so, in October 2019, The Grogans’ Just What You Want became the inaugural release on Cousin Will Records.

Stoeckel wasn’t just acting on a whim. He’d moved to Melbourne from New South Wales a few years earlier to complete a Bachelor of Applied Business in the Music Industry.

“We were just chatting and I was like, I might as well put everything that I’m learning into practice with you guys, and it just kind of kicked off from there,” he says. “I’m third cousins with Jordie, which is a very strange connection, but that’s where the name Cousin Will comes from because that was my nickname from all of them.”

Stoeckel’s label aspirations go beyond having a logo to slap on the back of The Grogans’ releases. This is represented by Cousin Will’s upcoming second release, the instructively-titled Compilation 1.

The eight-song collection is out now digitally and on vinyl LP and features one track a piece from Polly & The Pockets, Auntie Leo & The Backstabbers, The Grogans, Velvet Bloom, The Gurdies, Outtatime and The Fillmores, as well as the first solo release from Grogans-frontperson Quin Grunden.

“Lots of the bands come from the Peninsula area or have members who come from around that area,” says Stoeckel. “So a lot of the bands are all connected through going to school together or working together or just little life connections like that. They’ve all formed bands and the community’s developed through whenever [The Grogans] have gigs, obviously we want to get our friends’ bands on supports and vice versa.”

They’re all new recordings, the majority of which were produced and engineered by Grunden. But despite the close personal and geographic links between the artists on Compilation 1, there’s a fair bit of stylistic variation.

Of the eight featured artists, The Fillmores play jangly guitar-pop in the style of The Clean and Dick Diver while Velvet Bloom is a jazz-pop artist who takes cues from local heroes Hiatus Kaiyote and Jaala. The Gurdies are an Australiana-influenced pub-punk outfit and Werribee’s Auntie Leo & The Backstabbers showcase a psychedelic-blues rock sound that’s not too far from The Grogans’ laidback surf-rock.

“I wasn’t too worried about whether all the songs would correlate,” says Stoeckel. “I just wanted to capture the sound of a fraction of our community at the moment and almost, in a way, timestamp where it is on record. So, if anything, the more variation between songs the better.”

Stoeckel’s desire to timestamp the community in its current state signifies an intention to keep growing the Cousin Will family. “I’ve already talk to a few other bands who are interested in another [compilation], so I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s another one next year,” he says.

For the time being, though, he’s focused on giving this batch of artists a leg-up during an otherwise testing time for local musicians.

“A lot of the artists in the current stage [of their careers] wouldn’t be able to press their own records because it is expensive to do. So another whole idea of it was to have this record that everyone’s on and they have their first physical vinyl of their songs. That’s just a nice little thing to have.”

Stoeckel is inspired by the example of local labels Flightless and Anti Fade Records, both of which have grown from microcosmic beginnings into trusted tastemakers. He’s also impressed by the structure of the bigger label and management indies like I OH YOU and UNFD.

So, what are the long-term goals for Cousin Will?

“The main thing at the moment is to begin working with more bands, more within our community as well as branching out. Just hearing bands that I like and that the Grogan guys also like and approaching them and hopefully working with some more people.”

Give the album a spin below.

Cousin Will Records’ new compilation LP, Compilation 1, is out now. For more on Cousin Will, check out their Bandcamp, Facebook and Instagram pages.

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