From Le Pop Stop.
Congratulations on the 10th year anniversary of Matinée Recordings. It’s good to know that Matinée is doing well and continues to release quality pop records. Was starting a record label something you had always wanted to do? Can you tell us a little bit about the birth of Matinée Recordings?
Thank you! Matinée began in 1997 when I heard some ace songs by a new Australian band called Sweet William. I was running an indie mailorder called Roundabout Records at the time and in contact with all the best indie labels across the globe so I thought I would give it a shot myself.
The label took off pretty quickly but I don’t think I ever imagined it would still be going ten years later. Part of its longevity is due to me independently financing all of the releases so I didn’t have to wait for something to break even before I was on to the next release. This potentially dubious financial structure allowed as many as 20 releases in some years so the catalog now has well over 100 releases. The early days were mostly about 7” singles and 10” albums (further evidence of that dubious financial structure) and I am proud to have released all of these gems on vinyl.
We’ve always had a big focus on singles and I think the four song EP is perhaps the best format for a release. All of our recent singles are on CD but we created a custom package with our pressing plant that looks like a tiny LP jacket with a spine so they’re pretty cool and iPod-friendly too!
Most of the bands on Matinée are international, was this something intentional? How do you go about finding bands to release on your label? Do you usually seek them out or do they seek you out? A disproportionate amount of bands seem to be from Glasgow…I wonder what they put in the water to churn out a disproportionate amount of excellent pop bands like Orange Juice, to Belle and Sebastian, and to bands on Matinée like The Hermit Crabs and Bubblegum Lemonade.
I didn’t set out with an intention to sign only international bands but it has certainly turned out mostly that way. Math and Physics Club are the only Americans on the label at the moment but we worked with The Fairways, Bella Vista and Monterey in the past.
Over the course of ten years we have received hundreds of demos and this has resulted in some fantastic signings including Harper Lee, Lovejoy, Math and Physics Club, and Slipslide among others. In other cases we have contacted bands directly. We recently joined Myspace so we’re receiving lots of friend requests at the moment and I generally listen to a few minutes of each band which has lead to some new bands on the roster.
Glasgow is definitely one of the great cities for new bands right now and we are thrilled to have The Hermit Crabs, Bubblegum Lemonade and Strawberry Whiplash on the label. Our other new signings include The Electric Pop Group from Gothenburg, Sweden and Northern Portrait from Copenhagen, Denmark and they are both amazing pop groups so the future for the label is definitely very bright.
What are some releases or moments of Matinée that you are really proud of? Or perhaps that’s like choosing who’s your favorite child..? What were some difficult moments?
Running a small indie label means there are only a handful of releases that ever see the light of day so I can honestly report I am truly excited with every Matinée release. The ‘Matinée 50’ compilation has always been a favorite and I think the brand new ‘Matinée Hit Parade’ compilation is pretty stunning as well (especially the vinyl CD which looks exactly like a tiny 45 rpm record—grooves and all). Picking favorites is never easy but I can report exclusively to the readers of Pop Stop that some of my favorite songs released by Matinée include ‘Train Not Stopping’ from Harper Lee, ‘Darling Please Come Home’ from Math and Physics Club, ‘Wallflower’ from Brighter, ‘Untidy Towns’ from The Lucksmiths and ‘Walking Around The World’ by The Windmills. Ask me tomorrow for some possibly different choices…
The difficult moments usually involve licensing issues. We had our share of delays on early releases by Razorcuts and Lovejoy and The Snowdrops due to licensing and sample clearance but thankfully it all worked out in the end.
Who is the fan base of Matinée Recordings? Would you say most of the consumers are American, or international?
It’s probably one third American and two thirds international although with the dollar continuing to weaken against virtually every foreign currency the international sales seem to be increasing even more. We send loads of orders to Sweden and Spain and the UK in particular but also many to Greece, Italy, Germany, Singapore, Japan, and Brazil. Our customers are a loyal bunch and we love them all!
What are some of your all time favorite records?
A song has to be around for ages before it can make this list so forgive me for the preponderance of 80’s indie. In any event, here are 20 songs that have stood the test of time:
Biff Bang Pow! – Someone Stole My Wheels
The Bodines – Therese
The Brilliant Corners – Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday
The Colourfield – I Can’t Get Enough Of You Baby
Dead Famous People – Postcards From Paradise
Fun Boy Three – We’re Having All The Fun
The House of Love – Destroy The Heart
The Housemartins – Five Get Overexcited
James Dean Driving Experience – Sean Connery
Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes – Splashing Along
Jesus and Mary Chain – Happy When It Rains
The Revolving Paint Dream – Mother Wash My Tears Away
The Sea Urchins – You’re So Much
The Servants – It Takes No Gentleman
The Smiths – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
The Sugargliders – Top 40 Sculpture
Trash Can Sinatras – Obscurity Knocks
The Wedding Present – I’m Not Always So Stupid
The Wild Swans – The Worst Year Of My Life
The Woodentops – Plenty
For current pop, give me The Radio Dept., Camera Obscura or Clearlake please.
Your 3-year old son is ridiculously cute and it was good seeing him enjoy the music at the Matinée 10th anniversary show in Santa Barbara. He seems like he has good taste in music. What are some of his favorite bands or tunes?
Yes, Alexander is well into music and has his own playlist on the iPod. Among the Matinée artists, he is especially into Strawberry Whiplash, Math and Physics Club, Would-Be-Goods, and The Lucksmiths. Non-Matinée favorites include Cats on Fire, Sambassadeur, and The Shins plus old school indie from The Farmers Boys, The Colourfield, Adam and the Ants, The Cure, The Housemartins, the Go Go’s…
We are just finishing a major construction project at our house so at the moment he is slightly obsessed with construction. He wears a toolbelt and hard hat around the house and fixes things all day long so the top song on his playlist this week is actually ‘Bob The Builder.’ I thought his keen ear was unique but our one-year old son Nicholas is starting to have his own favorites now too and the two of them bounce around the house to music all day long.
What do you do when you are not running a record label? What is your day job?
I work as a consultant in the affordable housing industry. Before moving to California I spent ten years working on legislative and policy issues for an affordable housing nonprofit in Washington, DC and my recent work is focused on green building and sustainable development. We are just finishing a major green addition to our house too and overseeing the last 12 months of construction demanded a lot of my time. I’m not sure what I’ll do with all my free time next year but surely Matinée will benefit!