ed mazzucco (shelflife records). interview #23

ed mazzucco (shelflife records)

shelflife records started in a bedroom and now "lives" between portland and san francisco. it was the love for music that led ed to search for foreign indiepop bands and expose them to the american public.
now, 15 years later, shelflife is known throughout the globe and is one of those labels that managed to create an universe of its own: to me, for example, shelflife is a sunny autumn afternoon in a park all covered by yellows and browns of leaves (you must have a different image so, let's leave that to our subjectivities. but feel free to share yours in our comments).
what we probably have in common, is the fact that some of the bands that we hold close to our hearts entered in our lives thanks to shelflife (days, burning hearts and punky's dilemma are mine, just to name a few).
anyway, the best way to get to know a bit more about the label is letting shelflife speak for itself. that's what this post is about: show the chaotisch admiration for this label and let people feel more close to it.

so now's time to let ed, the guy that started all, talk about it.

01.first of all, how the idea of creating shelflife came up?
the name or the label? i'll answer both. i used to work in a soup kitchen in my teens and the term "shelflife" was used a lot there with food. we believe we are releasing music that has a long "shelflife". it also means that we like shelves, which is also true. the label came about to help get international pop bands some recognition in the states. it's 14+ years later and we're still doing the same thing....

02. i’m very curious to understand the logistics involving the label. could you take us on a ‘virtual tour’ on how is a day on shelflife headquarters?
ha, shelflife is still very small, run out of my home, and diy, so there's not much to tell. it's just matthew and i (who both live in different cities) and kate who comes in to "the office" once a week. a typical day is me working my real job for 8-9 hours (web designer) and then working on shelflife for 2-3 hours after that. matthew handles all the art production and blog promotion, kate mainly deals with digital distro and radio/press, and i do everything else.

03. on the label’s website, when talking about the submission of demos, you mention a ‘shelflife aesthetic’. could you talk a bit about this aesthetic?
we have to put that so we're not getting all death metal demos. we had hoped artists who send us their submissions would have known or listened to our catalogue to see if their band fits, but that wasn't the case. even now we still get a good deal of horrible stuff in our mailbox, but at least it's funny for kate and i. i should probably change that line now to "if your band sounds anything like tool, you can skip us."

04. what’s your involvement on the making of the albums released on shelflife?
it's a bit 50/50. with some releases we're more involved with the music production, artwork, etc... while others the band hands us a finished product. just depends on how confortable the artists are with working with us. we like to give our artists creative freedom when they want it.

05. of course, I have to ask you about your views on today’s music distribution (and sharing) system.
labels who are against music sharing are fighting a losing battle. we're cool with people who "borrow" mp3s of our albums, but would hope that if they like it, they would purchase the cd/vinyl or even pay for a proper digital download. if you're a true fan, you need to support the bands who make the music you love. i think people who like shelflife and what we're about already feel that way.

06. what about music blogs. friends or enemies? or both?
friends. blogs are great. anything that can help spread the word about a band is critical for success. shelflife has it's own music blog in fact: http://blog.shelflife.com/

07. now let’s turn to tears run rings, your band. you have just released your second album on clairecords. what came first: the label owner or the musician? and how would you describe your sound?
musician. i've been in bands my whole life, so music is a creative outlet i need to survive i think. tears run rings is like a family. we all live in different cities, except laura and i, so when we get together we celebrate. our music ends up being influenced by a lot of 90s shoegaze, as that's where our hearts are. it's what happens when you love reverb and can't hide it!

08. is there any artist(s) that you would like to see releasing something through shelflife?
yeah, there's always a long list of artists we keep an eye on. air france, moscow olympics, and boat club probably top our list.

09. in this times of music sharing and drops on sales of albums around the world, is it possible to live as a label owner or do you have another job?
sadly even when sales were amazing it was impossible for me to live off shelflife. indiepop doesn't pay bills...and i've lived in some expensive cities i guess. right now the label supports itself release to release. but it's always a fighting battle trying to survive. we're never truly comfortable, there's always a little dirt under our nails if that makes sense.

10. give a word of advice for those that feel like creating a label in the future?
my dad always says: do it, but if you're going to do it, do it right! and if you have the money, do it all the way.

11. recommend something you’ve been listening lately.
i really like that new museum of bellas artes 7", um... looking at itunes... the new proctors songs, korallreven, weekend (slumberland), seeland, benoît pioulard, the european, chiddy bang and nicki minaj have all been on high rotation.

12. anything else you feel like saying?
i feel like saying bird: "bird".


buy tears run rings album here

go dancing

eux autres ~ go dancing (single)

'broken bow' is the new album from eux autres and is set to be released on november, 23. the first single 'go dancing' was released today on their bandcamp. beautiful track... very eux autres-esque...

get the song and sing along here.

headed west

daniel alvarez ~ headed west (beep hop records, 2010)

you have never heard of daniel alvarez. and that's a shame... he's a new artist from patterson, (sunny) california and is signed to the (also new) beep hop records.
beep hop is a fairly new label, its founders are cherub and neil, both musicians. cherub has a project called yum yum meow and neil is part of the panduhs (already featured here).
some time ago they sent me this song called 'headed west' and asked me if i could write a few words about it.
i asked them if i could share the song here and they agreed. so here's a few words about 'headed west', this beautiful song filled with a melancholic californian melody...
this song has the kind of simplicity that gets you by surprise and hits you instantly for its uncomplicated lyrics with a poetic mixture of sadness and hope. this ambiguity will make you press 'repeat'. trust me. you'll do it either because you're a melancholic or because you simply relate with the emotion and feel a certain complicity with him. most likely will be because of both...
he has this incredible sense of melody (thank you, mellow guitar) resembling those warm winds of a lazy day in california in an undefined time (today or 20 years ago? doesn't really matter...)
think of east river pipe and the east coast and imagine a guy capturing the same feeling and giving his own aesthetic on the east coast of the usa.
around here, we are looking forward to hear more from daniel and beep hop... hopefully soon!

and here's the song for your summer end: headed west.


romantic states

romantic states (beko dsl, tater junction)

from baltimore (usa) comes romantic states. an experimental project from jim and ilenia, floating around layers of shoegazey guitars and fragile melodies.
i really like the name of this act because it fits so well with the music they intend to create: all the tracks have this beautiful melodies resembling the naivety and melancholy of the days when the romanticism inside of us isn't duelling with our being. and they are calm and soothing.
but there are moments when this same feeling, comes unsettled and even aggressive. that's when raging, distorted guitars take over and a cathartic moment erupts in the romantic states.
their music is mostly an instrumental voyage with sporadic moments of singing. a really enjoyable voyage through the darkest and brightest places of our being.

here's the free single released on beko.

01. one way is right
02. looks like water

and two songs from the tape released on tater junction.

walking tour

'one way is right' and 'walking tour' are simply beautiful moments.
you can also find a lot of free tracks on their myspace (there's a link that will lead you to the band's last.fm page where you can get them all)

palms on fire. interview #22

palms on fire
it’s been some time since we had our last round of interviews… so during the next week or two the blog will be featuring bands and people that are really admired around here.
to start, let’s go to russia and talk with palms on fire. actually if you had to take a guess where they come from based on their music, the last place you’d think about would be russia.
the 4 piece band (formed by 3 boys and a girl) makes music for the tropics, beaches and summery places, with a mixture of punk pop and surf music.
they have two ep’s released on holiday records and one of the catchiest songs released this year (‘palm tree’).

here’s what max said…
01. first question is to understand the origins of everything and has a few parts. when did you got together and decided to start the band? where does the name come from? and where in russia are you?
we're from the city of izhevsk. It’s small industrial city located in european part of russia and known as birthplace of the kalashnikov assault rifle.
in 2009, me and my sister anna decided to record some songs. we wanted this to be a "beach punk", but we could hardly imagine how it should sound and what we would have as a result. we were very inspired by bands such as the ramones, beach boys, talulah gosh.
the name "palms on fire" came right after recording the first songs, i made it up while listening to them and we realized that that's really what we need. then we sent those records to our friends and they liked it, and that just encouraged us to gather the whole band. it was not hard to find right people so our old friends drummer konstantin korolev and bassist anton bochkarev went in with palms on fire.

02. what inspires you and if palms on fire' were a landscape what would it be like?
we are inspired by lots of things: old american movies, the romance of the 80's, and everything that happens to us, the stories of friends, people - anything can serve as inspiration for writing a new song.
landscape? hmm. Night, fireworks over wild beach.

03. how do you record your songs? do you have access to a proper studio or something like that?
almost everything was recorded down at home, we like it, and it makes us feel free and independent, and it gives a chance to experiment a lot and not to be in a hurry. we enjoy making it all by ourselves and being responsible for the whole recording process, that's the only way we can get exactly what we want it to be like, and it's great. also we rent some place for rehearsal, so there were something recorded over there. but currently we are not able to rent the entire studio.

04. talk a bit about the independent indiepop scene in your city and russia.
izhevsk in the 90s was considered as the capital of the experimental electronic music of russia, but now, to my mind there's nothing interesting in terms of music, but there are plenty of bands. so it's a bit hard to advice anything special for you to listen.
the most famous indie pop band in russia now is probably motorama, and we really like the band from st. petersburg pinkshinyultrablast, they sound really cool.
05. you have two ep's released under holiday records. how did this partnership started?
it all started with jacob graham who wrote us on myspace, he said that he really liked our music, and offered to release it on holiday records. we do like this label and of course we agreed to partner.

06. both ep's were released as free downloads. what are your thoughts about music distribution nowadays?
i don't think that all music should be just for free. but for new bands it is the only way to bring their music to many people. now i'm not sure that there are any people willing to pay for our music, but if there are some, probably we will think of sales someday. personally, it's been long time that i bought music.

07. what's next? do you have plans of releasing new songs soon?
there are no really big plans right now, just keep on writing and recording new songs.

08. your idea of a perfect pop song is...
actually hard to explain...but you should feel it, that this melody and the lyrics had been in you long before you heard the song.

09. do you get to live of your music?
most of us have jobs, and music for us is a hobby, not a work.

10. any song(s) you'd like to cover?
yeah, we would like to make a cover of devo - space junk.

11. name the perfect place and time to hear your music.
during a bicycle trip on a sunny summer day.

12. recommend something you've been listening lately.
i really like the french group dondolo, especially their album dondolisme.
also like the group control club, they are from france too.

13. anything else you feel like saying?
i just wanted to thank you for your interest and wish you a good luck.

download the free ep's...

01. sweet desire
02. sand castle
03. we have time

01. palm tree
02. deep forest
03. you are my dream

the new improved hypocrisy

the radio dept. ~ the new improved hyprocisy (labrador records, 2010)

this is probably the subject of the day on music pages and blogs around the world: the new the radio dept. song criticising the current right-wing swedish government.
the press release from labrador says:

"the new improved hypocrisy" is the radio dept.'s second distinct political song. the first one, "freddie and the trojan horse", from 2008 was '...about the untruthfulness of the swedish right-wing government and how the leading party seized power by portraying itself as supportive of the workers' (the radio dept.).

for those not really into the swedish political scene - like myself - i did a little research and here's my quick overview about the situation:the elections will be held next sunday and nearly 7 million swedes will vote. as the last polls show, nothing is decided since the government coalition (formed by the moderate party, the center party, the liberal people's party and the christian democrats) is only 1.2% ahead of the red-greens coalition, the main opposition bloc (formed by the social democrats, the left party and the green party). political analysts say that anything can happen and the result is unpredictable.

so, you know how it works: click on the image and you'll have the song. really good song, by the way!

geidi primes

grimes ~ geidi primes (arbutus records, 2010)

arbutus is one of my latest findings in terms of labels...it’s based in montreal and was born from an art and show space called lab synthèse.
it has a short but extremely strong catalogue with artists ready to gain more visibility any day now (most notably blue hawaii, already causing some buzz on the blogosphere).
but today we’ll talk about grimes, the musical project of claire boucher. on her myspace, she describes her sound as “post-human liturgical majesty”. it is a mixture of electronics and lots of vocal layers that sounds corky, weird, spacey, lo-fi… the first time i heard the album, my overall impression was that if the world went into a decadent state (let’s not even get into our current situation as a planet) this music would be used for some sort of cult near a river with black water in the year 2130.
but don’t get me wrong, it’s not dark music. actually it’s quite elevating and floats in a very peculiar way evoking - in an original way - traditional songs from around the globe.
weird canada have the best description i could find in terms of placing her music in the universe, saying that is a “strange hybrid of björk, the cure, micachu, and other avant seamstresses, leaving a footprint in every decade and thankfully landing in ours. chord progressions and samples are pulled from any source imaginable and the aggregation results in a kate bushian trail of decadence.”

here you can download a song (one of my favorites) from the album: zoal, face dancer

clicking on the album artwork, you'll be taking to arbutus website where you can download her album... you should definitely get it.

below, you'll find a short documentary directed by emily kai bock called 'human heart' that shows a bit more about the artist (and her fascination on planets, milky way and space).


entre rios ~ paraná (preview)

soon the new album of argentina's entre rios will be out (september, 24). great news! this is quite significant because it's a celebration of their 10th anniversary.
even with the band members changing throughout the years, their sound still has the early freshness that puts me in this summery-feel-good mood...

anyway, you can check a new song called 'paraná' (a river name and also a state of brazil).

music to see. 09

starting our september works, some visual instigation accompanied by great music!

first, peter broderick singing 'sideline' in stop motion. 

sambassadeur and its quest in 'i can try.
finland's 2009 revelation delay trees performing 'desert island song' live.

and two videos from papa topo, the lovely teenage duo sensation from spain.