What can I say about Matinée Recordings, other than it’s probably the best POP! label out today, or of the last several years, for that matter. With an ever-increasing catalog, already stocked with around 35 records, each one is no less than amazing! Releases from new bands, like the Lucksmiths, Ego, and Sportique, as well as reissues/new releases from older bands, such as the Siddeleys, Remember Fun, and Razorcuts, are only the tip of the iceberg here. Learn a little more about the label here, and then visit their website and get some fine pop records!
IP: How old are you, and how long have you been doing Matinée?
Jimmy: Thirty-three…just old enough to know that running a record label is no way to support oneself. I’ve been king of the Matinée empire for four years now.
IP: How did you get started with the label? Was it an extension of Roundabout Mailorder, or a precursor?
Jimmy: I started Roundabout in 1996 when there were relatively few good pop mailorders around. The legendary Mousetrap had just closed, and Parasol was going through a phase where they weren’t carrying nearly as good a selection as they do today. The best mailorder at the time was Mind The Gap but I figured there were a lot of people in the US who didn’t have the patience to order records from Germany so I seized the opportunity and it took off really quickly. I had a very serious job at the time and the mailorder provided me a creative outlet. The first ten catalogs were paper only, which sounds like blasphemy in today’s online world but were fun to create because I used all the stamps I received from around the world as graphics.
Roundabout opened a lot of doors to starting a label, because I was in constant contact with 50 plus indie labels around the world. The original concept for releasing music was a cassette compilation celebrating a year of Roundabout mailorder and involving songs from the labels featured in the catalogue. As I began to contact bands, I received a tape from a friend in Australia with a song by Sweet William…and after one listen I abandoned the cassette plan and wrote to the band offering to press a 7″ single and Matinée was born. Working on the single was a wholly more creative endeavor than the mailorder and naturally a bit more appealing way to spend my free time.
IP: Why did you quit doing Roundabout?
Jimmy: After a few years of running both and keeping my dayjob, Roundabout had grown to a size that I could no longer run it on my own. By this point there were several excellent mailorders in existence. Perhaps not so coincidentally, the label had grown quite a lot in this time so I sacrificed the mailorder to permit Matinée’s continued development.
IP: Why are there so many Matinée shows abroad? Why not do any stateside?
Jimmy: The Soirée Matinée (August 1999 show on a boat in Paris) came about when the Lucksmiths were heading through France and we had the crazy idea to bring The Windmills and Sportique over on the Eurostar and have Ego drive up from Montpellier. The show was great fun thanks to superb organization from Matt and Naomi of Cowly Owl! in Paris, but I’m afraid the boat closed down for awhile afterwards because it was too loud.
As the majority of bands on the label are English, I go to London a few times a year to see everyone. For each trip I cajole somebody into arranging a show or two which are always great fun for me because I get to see several Matinée bands play in one night. The shows have been useful in creating a sense of community for the label and the bands. We did two shows in April and I’ll be back there in October for a few more.
There is talk of stateside visits in the next year from several Matinée bands, including the Windmills, Would-Be-Goods, Pipas, Sportique, and Simpático, so we may be bringing shows your way soon enough. If anyone is interested in bringing your favorite Matinée band to a town near you please let me know.
IP: How do you decide what to release? Do you get contacted by many bands?
Jimmy: I receive between 5 and 10 demos a month, and some of them are really quite good. I know immediately if I like a song, and it usually has something to do with good lyrics and good melodies. I listen to every demo I receive in the mail, and summarily dismiss every one emailed to me as an MP3 or a weblink. This seems to narrow the field considerably. I have worked with 22 different bands to date, although several of the bands have common members (i.e., the Windmills and Melodie Group; Sweet William and Simpático; Lovejoy and the Snowdrops; Sportique and Razorcuts; Bella Vista and Pipas). While the majority of the release schedule involves new releases from existing bands, I am always open to receiving demos from new bands.
IP: Why do you release (or re-release) so many records from older bands (Razorcuts, Siddeleys, Remember Fun, Visitors, etc)? What bands are in your sights next? Can you track down the James Dean Driving Experience or the Servants?
Jimmy: I suppose three releases from “older” bands is more than some labels, but it’s only three of 37 releases to date so it’s hardly part of the Matinée mantra. The Visitors and Remember Fun releases came about because both bands had such quality unreleased songs that deserved to be heard. The Siddeleys CD is a similar story…although half of it has been previously released there aren’t too many people in the world who can claim to own all the original records. Each of the releases was tremendous fun to put together but all involved tricky issues with masters and licensing. A Razorcuts compilation CD is currently in the works and faces the same challenges. Following several releases by Gregory Webster’s new band Sportique, he approached me with the idea of a retrospective for his former band and I jumped at the chance. We are working to make it a release that adequately documents the brilliance of the band. Although James Dean Driving Experience and the Servants are two remarkable bands, I have no plans to look for them or other defunct bands at the moment.
IP: What are a few of your favorite Matinée releases? Non-Matinée?
Jimmy: Every release was my favorite at some point in time. It’s impossible to retrospectively pick one, although I love the Sweet William 7″ because it was first…the Bella Vista 7″ because we mixed it in my library…the Lucksmiths “Southernmost” 7″ because I sing a bit on the b-side…I’ll stop there before I get in trouble, but check out the forthcoming compilation “France On A Bicycle” and you’ll see what some of my favorites are. On the non-Matinée front, my ever-changing list of the greatest songs ever recorded would on most days include the following:
15. The Brilliant Corners – Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday
14. The Servants – It Takes No Gentleman
13. The Weather Prophets – Almost Prayed
12. Razorcuts – I’ll Still Be There
11. The Jam – Town Called Malice
10. The Bodines – Clear
9. The Pale Fountains – Jean’s Not Happening
8. Orange Juice – Flesh of My Flesh
7. Aztec Camera – Oblivious
6. Brighter – Wallflower
5. The Colourfield – I Can’t Get Enough Of You Baby
4. The Style Council – Speak Like A Child
3. Jesus and Mary Chain – Happy When It Rains
2. Trash Can Sinatras – Obscurity Knocks
1. The Smiths – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
On a given day the list could also include something from House of Love, Biff Bang Pow!, Adorable, East Village, 1000 Violins, Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes, the Wedding Present… Most of these bands I discovered in high school or college but then again it should take awhile before a band is considered classic in my book. I do find a handful of new bands outstanding, though, including Clearlake, Trembling Blue Stars, Brideshead, Tompaulin, Birdie…
IP: What’s been the best Matinée seller so far?
Jimmy: The “Staring At the Sky” CD from the Lucksmiths takes top honors, but the balance of the top five is all vinyl, including the “Smile Took Over” EP, the Bella Vista 7″, the first single from Sportique, and Harper Lee’s “Dry Land” single. I think it’s great that people are still buying vinyl in good numbers. Two recent CD releases that have sold very well are The Lucksmiths “T-Shirt Weather” EP and Harper Lee’s “Go Back To Bed” CD.
IP: What do you do when not doing the label? Why did you quit your job to do the label full-time?
Jimmy: I studied architecture in college and then went to graduate school for city planning. This led me to working with a nonprofit on Capitol Hill for the past eight years developing and implementing tax incentive programs for affordable housing. After eight years I figured out that all the money in the world is no tradeoff for long hours and incessant stress so I decided to take a year away from traditional work to concentrate on the label. The Matinée release schedule could surpass 20 records this year, which leaves me little free time. That said, I travel quite a bit for the label and with my soon-to-be-wife Mary who works in the renewable energy field and can usually be found on an American Airlines flight to any of a number of distant lands. We are busy finalizing details for our wedding later this year in Guatemala. I also have spent a lot of time lately overseeing renovations on our house which is 100 years old and more challenging than the most difficult tasks involved in running a label.
IP: What are your plans for Matinée in the near future? Long term?
Jimmy: The rest of this year includes 7″ singles from Lovejoy, Slipslide, Melodie Group, the Snowdrops, and Pipas; cd singles from Harper Lee and Would-Be-Goods; albums from the Windmills, Razorcuts and Simpático; and two compilations.
The only real long-term plan for the label is to increase exposure for the bands through more effective promotion. I am happy with the size of the label at present…if it grew much more I would need to employ some people which might prove difficult because I still am folding 100 percent of the vast profits back into it!