INTERVIEW 46. roque ruiz (cloudberry records)

The most interesting thing about independent music is the amount of individuals running small labels around the world simply because they love music. (They were definitely an inspiration for me to start this blog).  Not only the variety makes the scene(s) richer, but also brings freshness and new ways to approach music distribution. In some cases maybe, they can even bring some ‘fear’ to major labels and its archaic way of dealing with music (Wired published an article about small labels hacking the music industry. I don’t agree entirely with some points, but it’s worth the reading).

One of the best examples of people running labels for love and thinking about the independent scene as a community is Roque, the guy behind beloved Cloudberry Records: a label that believes in
‘- unrequited love
- systems of resistance
- sense of community
-DIY ethics
- international socialism’.

The label was born in 2007, and since then, built a strong catalogue of indie bands from all over the world, all connected by jangly guitars, a C86 vibe and the good (and never old) indiepop spirit. I dare to say that Cloudberry already has a place in independent music history not only because of the artists it releases but also (and most importantly) because of the way it "treats" music. With a true DIY sense and no ambitions of becoming something big, the label manages to stay away from the "label trend" that every now and then picks a label or two to be THE labels of the moment.

I honestly feel that Cloudberry will be one of those labels that in 15-20 years, people will remember with great affection. Indie kids of the new generation will discover its catalogue with the same amazement my (our) generation had towards Sarah Records. Roque is building something bigger than trends. Something meaningful in terms of music and the way it is made and distributed. 

Read my interview with Roque… there’s no better way to understand Cloudberry, its birth and what it stands for. Origins, aesthetics, DIY sense, dreams of creating a Cloudberry Festival and music distribution are among the subjects.

01. Tell us a bit about yourself and your relation with music.
Music is a central part of my life. I can't imagine a day without music. I carry my portable cd-player everywhere. I still haven't made the transition to an ipod. I still buy CDs that's why. And I still buy records. Lots. I love collecting records. Most of the stuff I have is indiepop, I like some other stuff too but I feel that my money better go to what I love the most.
I'm based in Miami Beach, close to the beach. It's usually sunny here and way too warm. Half the time I speak Spanish. Lately after work I like to get key lime sorbets on the way home. It's refreshing.

 Roque also releases a Cloudberry fanzine with interviews and a cd compilation.
02. How, when and why did you decided to create Cloudberry Records? And why name it Cloudberry?
Cloudberry officially started on February 1st 2007. But of course I had started working on the label before, since December 2006. I had just put out a tape called C-06 to celebrate 20 years since C-86 and it went really welll. I did a very small run though, 75 copies. I should have done many more I think. Looking back at the bands that were included, it probably would be considered influential and a classic, no kidding.
Anyhow, that was the spark that made me start Cloudberry. I learned a lot from that release and made contact with some great up and coming bands. Then, you know just like the cartoons, a lightbulb popped up over my head, and thought that for a small investment, for a small label, the idea of using 3" CDs as a format for singles hadn't been done in a successful way yet. Some labels had done it before, but I feel they didn't explore all the possibilities, and that's why at the moment I did it, many people felt this was something very new, and in some cases, revolutionary. But it was just a lot of research.
I am a designer, and so, this was quite an exciting part, creating the package design, the look of the label, logo, etc. I feel in Cloudberry I have let loose many ideas I have had even though it seems there is a very straight line in the overall design of the label.
About the why?, well, it is true that I was involved with another label at the moment (Plastilina) but I had time, I had the drive, and the passion for indiepop.
Also at that specific moment, I remember every band was setting up a Myspace, which made it easier to find bands. It was really an exciting time! But with so much quantity I felt a filter was needed. I thought Cloudberry could be a filter.
There was so much music available all of a sudden, but where to start? My reasons for creating Cloudberry are many, but I think the most important ones are to work in a way that doesn't follow any capitalist model and to help build a stronger indiepop community. To some extent
I humbly believe these things have been achieved.

03. What is the infrastructure of the label? Are you the only person running it? How much of your time it takes to do Cloudberry related stuff (like listening to bands, taking care of the making of the releases…)
Yes, it's just me. Still a bedroom affair, even though the record boxes have started to pile on the living room! The setup is probably what you imagine, a computer, a scanner, printer, lots of blank CDs and DVDs, a cutter, scissors, glue, etc. I'm thinking "Cloudberry" 24/7 but the amount of work varies each day. I do have a regular job and that takes most of my day time. There's always something to do concerning Cloudberry though, sometimes a lot, sometimes not so much, but always something.

04. The variety of artists and music being released through the label is very diverse. How do you choose the artists? Can you say what is the ‘Cloudberry musical aesthetic (if there’s any)?
It's a very personal label. At least that's my intention. The only requirement then for me to choose an artist is to like them and feel they fit fine with the musical aesthetics. What is the musical aesthetics? Well definitely I like electric guitars to start. I avoid ukuleles and toy instruments usually. I like 80s sounds, classic indiepop. I like seeing some influence of that on the bands I release. I like fragility in the songs but at the same time I like a lot of edge. I think you can be both. In the best cases, the bands know what indiepop is and know it's history. That makes it easier. I like bands to believe in indiepop and feel indiepop. I don't like bands that
happen to do indiepop by mistake. I think that's where the aesthetics kick in, all these bands I've released are indiepop at heart.
I agree with you when you say that the music is diverse within the releases, most people don't seem to see that, blinded because the aesthetics are very similar between bands.

05. Inside Cloudberry’s website you have a blog where you interview bands from the past (which I think it’s an awesome idea). Everytime I read an interview, I can’t stop thinking about how do you get to find the people you interview… could you talk about how this interviews happen? In your opinion, what are the most underrated bands from the past 20 years?
Thanks. A lot of these people I find by googling their names! Some also get in touch with me after I've written a blog post asking for anyone in the band to get in touch. Other times by recommendations, and some other times I just interview friends to happen to be involved
with music years ago. There's not much to them, I do some research and then I email the band a bunch of questions. Sometimes they answer me, sometimes they dont. I'd say I have only published half of the interviews I've done. The rest are still unanswered. It's a lot of fun
for me to learn the story behind the band, especially if I own their records, it makes it more special.
Most underrated bands from the past 20 years? Well, McCarthy should have been greater than The Beatles. Friends should have been greater than The Beach Boys. TCR from Spain should have been bigger than Julio Iglesias. And This Poison! should have at least been bigger than N'Sync.

06. What do you plan for the future of the label?
Very soon I'll have the Very Truly Yours 7" out and a new fanzine. After that a Youngfuck 7" is already confirmed. I have many other releases on the pipeline too. That's the future, just more releases. I dream at some point to see some sort of small Cloudberry festival, that'd be sweet.

07. Give your insights on music distribution nowadays. Is it financially viable to run a record label nowadays?
Sure it is if you release some mainstream stuff :p But I guess you mean a small indiepop label? Then I'd say no. But it's fun and worth it. I recommend it doing. If you break even consider yourself lucky.
Music distribution is a bit better than some years ago, there are more stores carrying indiepop records. Funny thing is that I feel there are less people buying records. I don't know about MP3s, I don't do digital distribution. I think that's wrong for a label to do, if anyone was going to sell MP3s, it should be the band. What involvement did a label had on making an MP3? Nothing! I feel that part of the music distribution process should be fixed.

08. A word of advice for people wanting to create their own label?
Be a boutique label. Don't aim to be the next Cherry Red with all it's sub-labels. Stick to a genre you love with passion. If you love "everything" don't do it. You have to be passionate of something in particular, so you can focus. If not you'll hit yourself with a wall all the time. A label's job is to be a filter especially now that everyone can have access to any song anywhere at anytime. You don't want to confuse people more. Oh! and have fun!

09. Show us a video you think it’s awesome.
The Wedding Present's Brassneck video:  I'll let the video speak for itself. The quality of the upload is not the best, but you get the idea.
(Can't post the video because it's not available here...)

10. Any band(s) you think the whole world should know?
Not really. I think that'd be bad for the bands. I don't think nothing good comes when pleasing such a huge crowd, the whole world. You try too hard and it's dishonest.

11. Anything else you feel like saying?
Muito obrigado Felipe, it's nice to answer some interesting questions and not the same ones over and over every time I do an interview. It's been a pleasure. :)

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