If you have been paying attention for the past few months you know that I have bee showering Pressed And, Born Gold, Leisure and Digital Leather with all sorts of affection, scented gift soaps and meats on sticks. They are some of my favsies new artists, well new in the fact that I stumbled upon them. By stumbled I mean lathered myself up in their glory.
What do these acts have in common besides and affection for Steve Urkel, My Little Pony T-shirts and they both look great in assess chaps? Well I found out about them through the bandcamp site of Crash Symbols.
Crash Symbols is a little label out of Oakland with awesome taste in artisan cheeses and electronic based music. They also are champions of cassettes.
I know, cassettes?
I thought the same thing, who the Fuck even has a cassette player other than homeless people trying to sell their wares on the street and my dad?
But after sitting down with the Dwight, Liz and Jheri I can kind of see their point. I can also see the outline of Jheri's junk, he likes his pants to be TIIIIIIGGGGGHHHHHT!
PS. They also have a Kickstarter going to help with the printing costs of their magazine Decoder. Throw these fuckers a bone or two, and support the spread of quality art.
SYFFAL: Our readers are in a constant state of arrested development, and turn to us for all of their music needs because we are not afraid of saying Fuck, dick and poop. So please address the following for us:
Dwight: We are a small tape and vinyl label based in Oakland, CA, founded in West Virginia, and hoping for the best. I don't know about everyone else, but I'd probably opt for alligators... they seem more patriotic somehow.
Liz: Can we have electric eels instead?
Jheri: I'm with Dwight. I'd definitely pick alligators. My house would be in the bayou and the moat would be swamplands.
SYFFAL: So while I have enjoyed everything on your label, I am not quite sure why one starts a label these days, what was your thinking and desired goals?
Dwight: Actually starting was really an outgrowth of other things. I'd previously run a label... at least in part because I love music and at the time I wasn't able to make any. My wife and I actually just started making music together as Visiting Houses. The name is a Talking Heads reference, if you're interested.
Jheri: For me it was that I wanted to have another way to put music out there that I was into. I met Dwight and he already had that label know how and we got along great so it just made sense.
Dwight: I think our current vision is unclear... I at least tend to think that whatever our manifesto, trying to foster good music and help musicians in a positive, moral way, is our practical goal.
Liz: Yeah, I don't know that we have many specific "goals", other than just promoting music/musicians that we care a lot about. Whenever I hear music that I really like, I always think "Man, I wish I'd made this!", so being able to at least help them with releasing it (and occasionally doing artwork for them) is adequately rewarding.
SYFFAL: Whats up with the fucking tapes?
Dwight: They're beautiful. They're cheaper to do and can be done in more convenient quantities. It's not just practical, though. Some of our releases have been pressed to vinyl, sometimes by bands themselves or by labels when they get picked up, and many of the musicians involved have told us that the tapes still sound better.
Jheri: Yeah, there's a misconception that tapes are terrible quality. The only downside to tapes is you can play your favorites so much they wear out. I think that's true of vinyl too.
Dwight: I think it should be explicit: we're for tapes and mp3s. There are definitely people of different tempers that we love, but I know two things about myself: 1) I like tapes and 2) I like mp3s. It's a convenient suite of things and for me the pairing is significant – I have plenty of tapes that I vocally prefer hearing on tape instead of listening to mp3s. Some whole albums I've found boring played through iTunes and my laptop speakers, but adored on tape and played through our deck. I like the whole range of experiences.
Liz: Tapes really do sound great. I also enjoy tapes for multiple aesthetic reasons... designing the packaging for them is super fun, probably even more fun than designing vinyl packaging. I do love vinyl, just because I probably have more early memories relating to vinyl records, but I think each medium is different and advantageous in its own way (besides CDs, they just suck).
SYFFAL: Do they still have that same sweet smell that they had back in the 80s?
Dwight: Even more so than in the 80s - thanks to the addition of kosher lavender oil to the cocktail of ingredients that produces our tape reel. It was my innovation. They work better "all around" (quoth the scientists) now.
Liz: I was only around for 3 years of the 80s, but I can say that the tapes we put out smell even better than the "Macarena" tape I had when I was little.
Jheri: Dwight's really been pushing the lab techs to come up with a scratch and sniff variety too. He's kind of a tape visionary.
SYFFAL: I have noticed that your artists seem to have various deals going on at one time. Is this accurate? Was it a conscious choice to avoid exclusivity? Does one of you want the relationship more, while the other thinks you are just having a good time?
Dwight: Very accurate. We try to be flexible with everyone and "exclusivity" is not a great priority. Whenever possible, we give away digital copies of all our releases for free. Fortunately, the tapes usually sell at a good enough volume to keep us swimming in free download credits, so that whole approach continues to satisfy.
SYFFAL: Outside of the obvious, like people not buying records and trying to break through a wall of clutter and noise, what is the biggest issue facing a label today?
Dwight: I used the word "moral" in one of my responses because that's a real priority for me. Really, we exist for good only so far as we can do well for the musicians we work with. So, for most labels, the biggest issue is going to be financial. Thankfully, Crash Symbols is mostly self-sufficient, but I think the financial relationships that define a label in its regional and intellectual context will ultimately be the nexus of self-conscious research and critique for any dynamic imprint.
Liz: For us, I think it's getting more people to take tapes seriously. A lot of people are still very surprised when we say that we release almost primarily cassettes, because they associate them with kitschy 80s paraphernalia. The truth is, tapes are more useful than CDs at this point (at least to people who are really into music)... CDs are basically disposable, and they get damaged so much more easily than tapes.
SYFFAL: What do you look for when looking for a new artist?
Dwight: I think we particularly enjoy working with people that share our worldview. To us, tapes are cosmopolitan. We like people that are ambitious with their works. We've done a lot of electronic music and very dancey stuff, but normally Jheri goes in a completely different direction, and Liz's interests are skewed more towards pop and rock. I think it's a good balance... Crash Symbols is, to a certain extent, the overlap in our aesthetic sensibilities.
Liz: Yeah, we don't necessarily look for something specific in an artist, other than the fact that at least one of us is really into their work. I like that we have a diverse catalog that kind of reflects our collective tastes. It also helps if they're a nice, intelligent, easy person to work with.
Jheri: Yeah, diversity in our releases is definitely something I really value. Easy to work with also goes a long way. I think we all three try to keep things as placid as possible. It's a struggle, what we do, so we want to keep it fun.
SYFFAL: Where do you see the label going in the next few years? or is it one of those burn down the office and collect the insurance money deals?
Dwight: We work from home, so we probably won't be burning down the office... but we're planning a bunch of new nonsense.
Liz: I don't think we're planning on ending Crash Symbols anytime soon! In a dream scenario, we'd be making enough money to put out tons more tapes and tons of vinyl, not to mention other merchandise (Crash Symbols lunch boxes or baby onesies, anyone?)
Jheri: Lunch boxes for sure. Crash Symbols is definitely a labor of passion and we love what we do. The only place I can definitely see us going in the next few years is further. We've done so much that we're proud of in a little over a year and we still have a lot more we want to do.
SYFFAL: Is Pressed And as adorable as Digital Leather is musky?
Dwight: They're actually both equal measures. I mean, Andrew from Press And is more homey and Southern, where Shawn from Digital Leather is lewd, but they're both really very friendly.
SYFFAL: If we at SYFFAL were looking to start a label/distro house. What advice would you give us?
Dwight: Make sure you really give a shit.
Liz: Yeah, I guess I'd just say that you should be sure you're willing to put a lot of work (and money) into it.
Jheri: Totally. Don't commit to a release you can't afford. Don't say yes until you have the money in front of you. Don't expect pre-sales to fund your releases.
SYFFAL: Please promote anything you would like.
Dwight: I have chosen to promote with my question 10 space, my father. He makes an amazing web-comic called Dyspeptopia and listens to all of our releases.
Liz: Aw, Dwight's cute. I guess I'll promote Nomadic Firs - they're a band that we've gotten to know quite well over the past year, and he (Ryan) and his wife (Holly) are probably the most supportive people we've never met. Plus the music is awesome, obviously.
Jheri: Well then I choose to promote my mom... to the rank of Sky Captain. I love you mom.