If you’ve been to a gig in the last year, with fans thrashing around a sweaty venue, a crowd full of friendly faces and a band you went home to look up immediately, chances are you were at a Sugar Free show. 

If you’ve been to a gig in the last year, with fans thrashing around a sweaty venue, a crowd full of friendly faces and a band you went home to look up immediately, chances are you were at a Sugar Free show. 


Sugar Free is a label and promotions company set up by Chris Childs, whose growing DIY punk empire, now much adored by Brighton’s music community, started out of necessity. “I actually started promoting shows back in 2010 with my friend Aaron Fitchett. We were in a band together and found it difficult to get shows as we were new to Brighton. Basically, we started putting on our own band and our mates’ bands, and it grew from there. We were booking ourselves because nobody else wanted to! That was under the name Danger Music. When that band split up, I had started working at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar (RIP) and so it just made sense for me to keep putting on shows. Hence changing it to Sugar Free!”


Chris also started Sugar Free out of a love of musical community, of bands looking after each other and the ethos of the DIY scene. “I think I’ve always been excited by the DIY approach to music. I’ve been playing in bands since I was 14, and I’ve always been really into making things happen, meeting new people and helping out other musicians in the same position. From being in a band myself, I like to think I know what bands expect from a show, and try to give them a good experience. Having worked in venues, I’ve worked with a lot of promoters too, and over the years learnt the ins and outs, the dos and don’ts. I guess the main inspiration to do it is meeting so many passionate people in music – whether that’s people in bands, promoters, venues around the country. Live music means so much to so many people at so many different levels, and it’s really nice to feel like a small part of that.”

The plan was always to release records, but “working in venues for years and creating quite a strong network of bands, it naturally first fell into being a promotion platform.” That said, for Chris, a band’s live ability and charisma is integral to what they can do on record. “I love a lot of energy with a live performance, and artists that clearly have fun doing what they do. I’m also a sucker for a sick drummer. I really think if you’ve got a tight, solid drummer you’re onto a winner. I play guitar and sing, but I do really think a lot of what I listen to is based strongly on sick drums and a good vocalist. Also, good vocal harmonies are always a winner for me.’ 


Sugar Free’s first release of 2022 comes from BN1 favourites All Better, whose alt-punk bangers made them a must-see Brighton live band. “I’m really excited to be releasing the upcoming debut album from All Better. We’re putting it out on a tasty cola bottle green 12” vinyl, and I can confirm it looks and sounds incredible. Very proud of it – it’s scary and exciting and it’s coming on the 6th May!” For Sugar Free, the vinyl coincides with what he considers a tipping point in the industry, where independent artists must continue by necessity. “Having the last year or so shrouded with uncertainty, it’s been a nightmare for musicians, venues, labels and anyone within music. Obviously, it’s been a rough time for everyone, I just think people really need new music and live shows in their lives. We’ve had a bleak couple of years, and the world still feels like a mess. I think people need some sort of positivity and escape, whether that be listening to a new record or going to a show.”


Naturally, Chris has his finger on the pulse of Brighton’s live scene, and he’s notorious for watching every band that crosses his path, so it made sense to talk new music recommendations. “There are so many great bands in Brighton at the moment, it’s quite hard to name just a few! I’ve got a lot of love for Cutting Ties, I Feel Fine, Regal Cheer, Couples Therapy, Making Friends, Chalk Hands, Buds (one of them lives in Brighton now – does that qualify?), they’re all killing it. I’ve also had quite a few fairly new bands play shows who have been really cool; Daga, Ranganasher, Madeline North all worth checking out! Oh, and DITZ are doing BITZ.” And live? “I had the pleasure of working at Bad Pond Festival last September and have to say there were so many sick bands on that bill. I absolutely loved Delta Sleep in particular, they were incredible. Seeing so many good bands on one bill was great. Also, my other band H_ngm_n played with Brutalligators in London and they played their album in full which was incredible. Loved it.”

As with most DIY scenes, it’s the people who love the music enough to keep going through thick and thin that make them the inspiring communities they often are. Similarly, for Sugar Free, the future is just about cultivating the music, and more of it. “I’d love to be able to put out more music and focus on the label side of things a bit more,” Chris says, “the All Better release has been an adventure, and as stressful and nerve-racking as it’s been, I would love to be able to release more stuff. I’ve got a load of cool shows lined up for the rest of the year too, with more bands coming from overseas, so I’m excited for those! Hopefully, I can keep doing more now things seem to be returning to some sort of normality!”


INSTA: sugarfreeuk



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