you resource for all things shoegaze & dream pop.

28 November 2011

Record Label Spotlight: Captured Tracks.

When The Sun Hits is honored to feature Captured Tracks, one of our very favorite record labels, in the 7th Record Label Spotlight of our ongoing Record Label Spotlight Series.

Brooklyn-based label
Captured Tracks has released material from exceptional bands like Blouse, Wild Nothing, Craft Spells, Catwalk, Beach Fossils, The Soft Moon... and the list goes on (see their entire catalogue HERE) in short, these guys have one hell of a band roster! Factor in the cool side projects Captured Tracks is responsible for, such as the Shoegaze Archives series, and you've got on your hands a solid and creative record label - they know what they are doing and they are doing it right!

Just as a recap, the Record Label Spotlight series will focus on the dedicated people at work behind the scenes of our favorite records and bands - the ones out there discovering new music and finding a way to bring that music to us - the record labels. Believe it or not, there are some labels that are still honest, passionate, and fair to their artists. The Force is strong with them. These are the labels When The Sun Hits want you to know about.

Record Label Spotlights include an interview with the label, tons of information about the bands on the label (including in depth spotlights on 5 bands on the label), videos, links, photos, resources, and a FREE mini sampler put together exclusively for When The Sun Hits readers by the record label. In short: It's a win.

And so without further ado, we present to you The Awesome.

When The Sun Hits Interviews Mike Sniper
Owner of Captured Tracks

How did Captured Tracks get its start?

It was actually my second try at a label. I'd had a reissue-only label with a friend called "Radio Heartbeat" but I found the agreed upon era and type of music we were focusing on too limiting for me. At the same time, I was recording and releasing output as Blank Dogs with a lot of different small labels. I was also pitching a lot of artists to these labels, quickly realizing I can be doing all this myself. So, that's how it happened. I was working at Academy Records in Brooklyn and on off-hours would be in the basement putting together Dum Dum Girls 12" EP's. It was pretty hectic right from the start.

Would you consider
Captured Tracks to be a shoegaze and/or dream pop oriented record label?

No, not at all. Although I do love that music and I think it's fair to say in influences a lot of artists on the label in some way shape or form. Even Soft Metals, who are 100% electronic and dance-friendly have stated in interviews how much the sound of that music has influenced them. Shoegaze/Dream Pop was my favorite current music when I was in high school ('91-'95) so I was deeply entrenched in it. I was buying Pale Saints and Slowdive releases as they were coming out. Pretty exciting.

How do you choose the bands that are to be represented by your label? Is there a specific sound you are looking for?

There's no checklist, per se, but there needs to be dynamics and songwriting chops above all else. Sorry if that's vague.

Who are the 5 most recent shoegaze/dream pop acts to be represented by Captured Tracks?

Well, without saying any of them are purely shoegaze, I think Dignan Porch, Wild Nothing and Aias are the closest. Catwalk's "One By Words" is a perfect shoegaze song to me, but most of his songs aren't as swoony. Beach Fossils, Minks and Craft Spells all have songs that can be described as shoegaze, too.

Catwalk. One By Words.

What do you think of the modern shoegaze/dream pop scene?

I don't think it ever really went away, it's just kept ebbing along and evolving. I think it's interesting where it's gone and how you have bands as different sounding as M83 and Weekend gaining popularity. To put it simply: I like it!

Are there any other shoegaze/dream pop record labels (old or new) that you admire?

You have to say Creation, don't you? Where would we be without Alan McGee? 4AD, Creation and smaller labels like 53rd and 3rd, Fluff, Hut, there were so many in the 90's to try to keep up with. But Slumberland is the one that stuck around and is still relevant today. Mike Schulman is a class act and someone who cares about and loves good music and his bands.

Can you tell us a little bit about what's currently going on with Captured Tracks (new releases, new bands signed, tours, etc)? We're especially curious about the new Shoegaze Archives! Can you talk a bit about that, as well?

Sure. We're eagerly awaiting debut LP's from some recent signees like Catwalk, Heavenly Beat, DIVE and The Jameses. It's pretty exciting for me and my staff to heat new material by our artists as we're all fans. We have the debut LP by BLOUSE on Nov. 1st, so that's been a focus of our attention for a while. We've also just confirmed a huge Cleaners From Venus reissue project which is very exciting for all of us.

The Shoegaze Archives idea sprang out of the fact that the era wasn't really being investigated by too many reissues while the late 70's and 80's have been mined so heavily. That coupled with most talk about that first wave of Shoegaze from '88 to '93, it's almost only ever about Slowdive, MBV, Ride, etc. in the mainstream indie press when there was a really huge international scene. I thought it was time to really investigate it more and offer wider releases to bands that never had that opportunity when they were around. Neither Should (aka shiFt) nor the deardarkhead material we're doing was ever on vinyl, because they were released when vinyl was pretty much dead. In that way it's almost a project of mine so I can personally have the records in my collection! Our next confirmed reissue in the series is Half String, beyond that we have two other things that we're working on that are currently unconfirmed.

What is your goal for Captured Tracks?

I always use Daniel Miller from Mute Records quotes on this. He very simply stated that a record label should be the result of the tastes of the owner and staff and that should be the only rule. This is why you had the same label (Mute) doing Non AND Depeche Mode, Diamanda Galas AND Erasure. If there was a goal with us, it's just to do our best to get the music we like to the widest audience possible for the artist without compromising our or their integrity.

deardarkhead. Oceanside.

What do you think about free downloading and file sharing? How does it affect a record label?

We work with it. I'm ok with it and don't fight it. At this point, it would be like horses trying to fight the existence of the car. I think if someone downloads a record for free, likes it and then buys it at a record store or when the band comes to town at the merch table, well than that's an ok thing. As a label we're focused on making things that people want to physically own, so that they can feel like more a part of it. I'm 34, so I still have a lot of records and tapes I bought when I was younger, I can listen to the Lush Spooky double 10" that I bought at the merch table in Philadelphia. You can't really have that experience pointing to an mp3 and saying "I downloaded that, right after it was on Pitchfork.... those were the days!" However, the easy access to download music has really opened up people's tastes and allowed them to hear way more than simply whatever your local radio DJ would play. I think a lot of labels forget that the reason why people like a lot of their bands is because they tried it for free first. That's a modern situation that most labels are trying to react to in an antiquated way.

Beach Fossils. Youth.

How do you feel about the state of the music industry today? There is no doubt a massive change underway; how do you see it and do you feel it’s positive at all?

Labels will still be relevant if they're looked to as a source of consistently good and interesting music and providing their audience with more than just a bunch of hyped artists they had enough money to sign. A lot of labels are doing that now and are losing the focus of what makes a label a label. Once you dilute whatever it is about yours that makes it special, what does a label even mean in 2011? Bands don't need labels anymore to have their music heard, but a label is still an asset if it has a culture that goes along with it. We will see a lot of labels cease to exist if they're not applying that.

Do you prefer vinyl, CD, cassette tape or mp3 format when listening to music? Do you have any strong feelings toward any of them?

I'm a record geek. Worked at record stores from 18-27 and currently co-own a record store, so there you have it. I really do like listening to music digitally though. It was really infuriating making cassette dubs and carrying them to school every day, though tapes still have an intrinsic charm. CD's were OK until the music industry killed them. They made them cheap by trying to sell the same object for $17.00 that falls out of a magazine everytime you open one.

What is your philosophy (on life), if any, that you live by?

Try to get by without causing too much pain, I suppose.

5 Captured Tracks Bands You Need To Know

Craft Spells

Toward the end of 2009, in a bedroom in Stockton, CA, a 21-year-old Justin Vallesteros began layering simple synth and guitar lines to create the sound that would become Craft Spells. What began as an experiment soon became a vibrant world of elegant guitar chords laced over looped rhythms, heavenly synth melodies, and pulsating bass. When Vallesteros recorded his first track "Party Talk," an outpouring of online enthusiasm led him to return to his native Seattle and flesh out a full band for the debut LP Idle Labor, released on Captured Tracks in Spring 2011. If you love Felt, The Smiths, Echo & The Bunnymen, and the beautiful monotone drone of Ian Curtis, Craft Spells might soon be your favorite nuevo-new romantics.

Wild Nothing

Wild Nothing is the solo project of Virginia born Jack Tatum, whose music is the product of an unhealthy obsession with nostalgia. Equal parts teenage wasteland and inexplicable regret, his songs are the kind that could only be made by the young at heart. Tatum began recording under the moniker Wild Nothing in the summer of 2009 in Blacksburg, Virginia. Upon gathering attention in indie music circles, he was signed to Captured Tracks and began touring with a band. His debut full-length, Gemini, was released in spring 2010 to acclaim.

"The closing bars of Portland trio Blouse's "Videotapes" find Charlie Hilton singing but trailing off and never finishing her thoughts”What it was like to see you again, what it was like. And you kind of figure there is no conclusion, or at least not one happy enough to repeat. Or maybe the story ends when the song starts, like love is just a cycle and you find the key when you hit rewind, so Hilton's answer is scored by the woozy intro synth that dips in and out of tune, mimicking a nervous, dreaming brain flirting with lovesick loss of consciousness, or as if the band over-drank to fight off butterflies and now they're staggering to right themselves. "Videotapes" is the first track we've heard off Blouse's presumably heart-wrenching, multiple-Kleenex-necessitating self-titled debut full-length, produced by the band's own (and Unknown Mortal Orchestra bassist) Jacob Portait." - The Fader

Soft Metals

Soft Metals is a multi-disciplinary electronic duo from Portland, Oregon now residing in Los Angeles, California. Its members Ian Hicks and Patricia Hall were brought together through a common love of 1970s and 80s synthesizer music and began writing and recording songs together in the spring of 2009. Inspiration came to them by way of experimental electronic sounds, film soundtracks, early industrial music, minimal synth, house, techno, synth pop, krautrock, psychedelic rock, and shoegaze. Ian and Patricia share songwriting duties and compose the music together before writing lyrics and adding vocals. Their songs are built from moody, improvised sessions together using exclusively electronic instruments. The meaning of the raw music they make is explored and interpreted afterwards with lyrical themes ranging from life experience, films, literature, history, science, love, conflict, and death. Soft Metals prefer to express themselves freely rather than adhere to a particular genre. This freedom gives them a diverse sound somewhere between dance music, austere synthetic pop, and experimental electronic composition. Their two best known songs, "The Cold World Melts" and "Psychic Driving" are demonstrations of this varied sound. "The Cold World Melts" is driving, assertive, and passionate. "Psychic Driving" is delicate, introverted, and vulnerable. Some of their songs remain in their unpolished improvised form to pay homage to authenticity, spontaneity, the joy of sound, and experimentation while others are studio based exercises, fusing new and old production technologies.

The Soft Moon

Raised under the burning sun of the Mojave desert, Vasquez channels both his punk upbringing and Afro-Cuban heritage to sculpt decidedly dystopian soundscapes for a new generation of torn romantics. It’s a record set somewhere in the near post-apocalypse where technology enchants as much as it destroys.

Captured Tracks Mini Sampler

Free Download

Click HERE to download the Captured Tracks Mini Sampler - for absolutely free! The 7 tracks on this Mini Sampler were hand chosen by Captured Tracks, just for you. Rad. The set list is below! (You can download individual tracks from the Mini Sampler by clicking the track name in the set list)

1. The Soft Moon. Total Decay.
2. Beach Fossils. Vacation.
3. Craft Spells. Party Talk.
4. Blouse. Videotapes.
5. Soft Metals. Eyes Closed.
6. Minks. Araby.
7. Wild Nothing. Vultures Like Lovers.

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