From Try Happiness.
What made you start your own label?
I was working a very serious and high pressure job at the time and I needed a creative outlet. I have always been a music fan and having my own label seemed like a dream. It took off fairly quickly and has been a great run so far.
What expectations did you have?
I wanted to release a few 7” singles but I never envisioned it would grow to its present size. At first I didn’t want to release albums but of course after working with bands for a few singles it made sense to branch into albums. Having modest expectations is the key to achieving success I suppose.
Were there any specific label or labels that inspired you to start your own?
My favorite labels are the ones that have an identity and aesthetic of their own. Of course a label should never overshadow its artists, but I tend to support labels that have a cohesive collection of artists so that when a new band comes along I trust I may like them as much as my old favorites. Old school labels like Creation, Postcard, Sarah, and Summershine all had a defined label aesthetic and were certainly inspiration for starting Matinée.
What’s the best thing about running your own label?
It makes interesting cocktail party conversation. Other highlights include hanging out with popstars, designing artwork and receiving nice notes from people who buy the records and write to say thanks.
And the worst?
Accounting, taxes, and deadbeat distributors who never pay us.
How much of your time do you put into Matinée?
It varies significantly but at least 40 or 50 hours a week. Pretty much full time.
What do you do when you’re not working with Matinée? Do you have a full time steady job?
I have worked for ten years with a nonprofit organization that helps provide affordable housing for the poor. They are based in Washington DC and I worked there full time until 2001. Now that we live in California I work for them on a consulting basis. My degrees are in architecture and city planning and this job involves a lot of policy analysis and work on legislation pending before the U.S. Congress.
Is there any specific release that you’re extra proud of?
Every release is my favorite at some point but I’m sure in 10 years time I will look back very fondly on the Matinée 50 compilation because it is such a great statement about the label and all the associated bands. The new Smiths tribute record is also special because The Smiths are my favorite band of all time and the fact that I have now contributed to their esteemed history in some way is rather unbelievable.
How do you get in touch with the bands that you’re releasing?
It varies. Matinée has released records by 31 different artists. At the beginning I contacted bands to invite them to do a release. More recent artists are either offshoots of existing Matinée bands or bands that sent me a demo. We receive a LOT of demos and some of them are really quite good but I can only take on so many bands so I have to say no to a lot of good music.
You’ve released very few American bands. Is that a strategy (like Radio Khartoum) to release non-American bands?
Not really. I listen to a lot more foreign bands than American ones so I suppose the label represents my taste more than anything. I also receive more demos from foreign bands than American ones. I would love to have a great American band on the label but the demos I receive tend to be more rock than pop.
How many copies do you sell of a Matinée record? And how many copies do you press?
Most singles are limited to 1000 copies but occasionally I’ll do more if the release coincides with a tour or if distributor preorders indicate I’ll need more than 1000. There are a handful of singles that have sold out and several more of the early 7” will sell out this year. For albums I press between 1000 and 2000 initially but repress titles when necessary. I hope to keep all albums in print but over time I will have to delete some of the back catalog.
Do you buy a lot of records yourself?
Yes, but far fewer than I was buying a few years ago. I have become friends with a lot of the other indie label owners so I tend to trade a lot of records these days and the ones I do buy are generally on bigger labels.
What do you listen to, besides the music that you’ve been putting out yourself? Do you like any of the Swedish indiepop bands?
I still listen to a lot of indie classics—The Smiths, Jesus and Mary Chain, House of Love, Trash Can Sinatras, Bodines, Echo and the Bunnymen, Orange Juice, Colourfield, Brilliant Corners… plus a handful of current bands—Clearlake, Camera Obscura, Tompaulin… I am looking very forward to new records this year from Morrissey and Trash Can Sinatras. I am also a big fan of the Swedish indiepop scene. My favorite Swedish bands are The Radio Dept (!!), Edson, Airliner, Aerospace, Free Loan Investments, The Legends, and a few older ones like Popundret, Honeymoons, Poprace and Leslies. I should probably release more Swedish music, but Labrador does such a good job with it already.
Have you noticed a decline in number of records sold due to downloads of mp3 files?
Not really. Some of our most recent releases are among the top sellers to date. I am certain there are people downloading Matinée releases instead of buying them but we are lucky to have a loyal and growing fanbase so we have not experienced big declines in sales (yet).
What’s happening in the near future? What records are in the pipeline ?
We have just released a new single from Pipas, an album from The Liberty Ship and the “Romantic and Square in Hip and Aware” Smiths tribute CD. The next few months will bring new releases from The Fairways, Would-Be-Goods, The Snowdrops, Lovejoy, Harper Lee, The Young Tradition, Pale Sunday, The Guild League and more!