A fifth birthday party usually involves lots of games, jelly and ice cream. Maybe an entertainer who you have to watch really carefully. When you’re not an actual child and you’re more like an online shop, none of this applies, thankfully. Instead of balloon animals and pass the parcel, we thought it’d be a nice point at which to speak to the man behind perennial Proper stockist Distant Echo.
Based in Liverpool, a place which proclaims to be in England but not of it, Distant Echo draws on the music and football culture of its home city but extends its reach beyond Merseyside. It’s in Liverpool but not of it.
We had a little chat with Daniel Nicolson, who founded Distant Echo from his bedroom five years ago.
Five years is an achievement in business, especially while there has been a recession on. How have you done it?
It’s a bit corny but I do think it’s down to the service. Deliver what you promise to people and they’ll come back.
What was your background prior to Distant Echo?
You’ve occupied three different addresses, the first of which was your back bedroom. Having done similar with Proper, how hard was it to make the transition from hobby to real, actual work?The transition happened really quickly to be honest. My plan was never to run it from a bedroom in the long run. With balancing everything else I knew it couldn’t run from home for too long so once the right office came up I went for it.The name is a nod to a well known song. What is playing in the DE offices right now?
Have you ever been down in the tube station at midnight?
I got attacked by some Chelsea fans getting onto a tube train once. I first felt a fist, and then a kick.
You’re based in Liverpool, a city which has a real sense of uniqueness about it which can’t be said of many other UK cities. How much of that Scouse DNA is in Distant Echo?Unlike some other things I’ve done over the years I haven’t played on the connection too much. But it is there. A lot of the culture Distant Echo celebrates has roots somewhere in the city, whether that be “casual” or music. Our office sits above the original site of Wade Smith.
We’ve done a lot in this small part of the world. Despite the rain.
I’m obsessed with regional dialects. What’s your favourite Liverpudlian phrase or word, and why?
Well, I had a mag called Boss. The parent company of Distant Echo references Class. I always fancied getting the hat trick of Scouse words and having a bar called Sound. But then someone got there before me so we just drink in there now.
Your most popular product was a Dukla Prague away kit which has football, music and geeky-good connotations. Is that a good representation of your customers?
I’d say so. It’s a broad church. You find there’s different parts of the country and continent that sway towards different brands. Different ages as well. But by and large we sell clothing that broadcasts some sort of cultural message. And you can’t get more cultural than a Half Man Half Biscuit song, I reckon.
You’ve also got Steeple Pine, another shop with a slightly obscure music lyric name. What made you set that up as something different rather than evolving Distant Echo? Once we had the model set up I knew I wanted to expand upon the brands celebrating that football/music culture.
You’re involved in fan politics, for want of a better phrase. How do you think fan power has influenced football culture in the UK over the last few years?More than perhaps the average person thinks. Football is undoubtedly about the money and power but there have been notable victories.
Tell us about Boss Magazine. You were involved in that weren’t you?Yeah, BOSS was a Liverpool FC fanzine I started and ran until last year. We only got to a paltry sixteen issues by each time a new one came out it was a bit of a thing.
The whole purpose of BOSS was so that in a few decades time someone can pick up the mag and know that’s what young Scouse lads were doing at that moment in time and we achieved that.
You’ve also helped shape Mundial Mag, where do you see that going?I’ve been involved in the fringes in a very minor way and it’s been great to see it get to where it is now.
I think there’s a huge place for brands to align themselves with magazines like Mundial, Umbrella and of course Proper and commission them to undertake projects, be it print, online or event led that they can’t necessarily do themselves, or maybe aren’t quite cool enough to do themselves.
Yeah hopefully. We’ve got a solid customer base on both sites which we’re immensely grateful for and we look forward to the next five years.