How We Listen is an interview series where Byta interviews artists, their teams, and everyone else working in and around music about how they find, listen and experience music, new and old.
Who are you?
Where are you based?
The unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples (aka Vancouver, Canada).
Where do you work? What do you do?
I work at Mint Records, a well-established indie record label that’s been putting out mostly Canadian indie rock and punk since 1991. I write grants for the label’s touring bands. I also do a lot of other things, including tour booking, radio tracking, band wrangling, event organizing, and a whole mish-mash of other projects. I’m currently focused on a new Safety and Inclusion initiative at the label, and preparing for the onslaught of upcoming festivals and conferences. I’m also a musician, toiling away in my spare time, currently trying to finish writing an album of my own for my new(ish) project, Garbage Dreams.
What are you listening to?
I’m all over the place with what I’m listening to these days. Cate le Bon is my longtime fave and I’m usually listening to her at some point on a daily basis. I’ve recently been enjoying stuff from the Éthiopiques collection again, Mulatu Astatke and Alemayehu Eshete are some faves. Post-punk and indie rock are always floating around in my ears. I still listen to a lot of Vancouver bands, and to be honest, a lot of Mint bands, even when I’m off the clock! If you really want to dig deep, it’s up for all to see on my Spotify page. I make monthly playlists as part of a very low-key podcast I co-host with Orono from Superorganism called Mistakes & Mixtapes. We each choose a song a day and then, presumably we chat about our playlists with each other at the end of each month, but since we’re both very busy and generally live on opposite sides of the world, we’ve mostly just been making the playlists and not doing so much of the recording the podcast part!!
How do you discover new music?
At the office Mint’s label manager, Ryan, is usually playing Spotify on the office speakers, so sometimes I’ll just Shazam a song if something I don’t know comes on that I like and don’t already know. I do the same while watching movies and TV series etc. I’ve been trying to learn more about the world of music licensing so I’ve been doing a lot of focused TV-watching in the name of research. But we also get sent a lot of demos at the label, I’ll listen to those. I do a lot of glancing at blogs and podcasts, I’m on a handful of mailing lists for music news in general. I recently started listening to some record-label specific podcasts that I highly recommend for anyone interested in learning more about the other side of the music (Other Record Labels, The Future of What). Bandcamp has done some really great editorials that get me looking at music that I think I would otherwise never encounter and that platform in general is such an amazing resource. I am friends with a lot of music-minded folks on social media, so I’ll take note of recommendations and try to give things a listen. I follow other labels and see what they’re putting out, I try to keep up on the new releases. Blogs in Canada like Some Party and the Cups n’ Cakes Network are focused on Canadian content, so I’ll check those out to keep tabs on what’s going on, and of course I keep up with Exclaim! on the regular. CiTR is one of Vancouver’s trusted college radio stations and I try to listen when pals have shows, though I’m not an avid radio listener during the work day, as it can get too distracting. But I do the radio tracking for our releases every week so I’m usually checking out college charts and taking notes on who’s showing up there. In the US, for blogs I love the Grey Estates, and KEXP is always putting out great content as well. Our lovely publicist Nathan at Riot Act Media is usually promoting great artists, so I like to keep up with their roster. I still go to quite a few live shows, though don’t get out to live shows in Vancouver as much as I used to. But I’m often at festivals and conferences for work where I see a lot of new bands. I’m also a sporadically touring musician and I tour-managed one of our bands this summer and ended up finding a lot of new bands just through researching who to play with in various cities. I think booking and going on tours is a great way to find new music!
What formats do you usually listen to? LP, CD, Cassette, Digital, Streaming Services and why?
I’m listening to a lot of Spotify playlists right now because my record player is currently out of service and needs to be fixed! I also just really enjoy making playlists. It brings me back to my youth when I made countless mixed CDs. I love making themed playlists but I also really enjoy listening to full albums and it’s just not the same to me when you’re playing an album from a streaming service.
I miss the process of engaging with the physical product, looking at the album art, pulling the record out of its sleeve, carefully placing it on the turntable, and flipping the record when it’s time, and then putting it back and selecting the next one from the collection. There is a very lovely, tactile ritual to listening to vinyl and I don’t think anything can replace that experience for me. It’s my favourite way to listen to recorded music by far.
I mostly buy vinyl on tour from bands I’m playing with or from bands who are touring through Vancouver. I will occasionally treat myself to digging around at the local record stores in Vancouver, though I find that I’ve been doing that a lot less than I used to, just because I end up buying straight from bands at live shows more often than not and I’m not exactly rolling in money! But I do love to support the record stores when I can! Red Cat, Neptoon, and Audiopile in Vancouver are all great stores run by lovely people!
I still have a CD player in my van but I don’t drive that much and will often connect my phone via aux cable and play my Spotify playlists but I do sometimes love to just put a CD in the player and then I usually drive around listening to the same CD over and over and over and over. Currently, I’ve got Built to Spill’s There’s Nothing Wrong With Love in the van and I’m nearing my exhaustion point with that one, as is anyone I’ve driven around in the last, oh four months or so. The hidden track on that one gets me every time, and it’s also such a relic of the time and format.
I used to buy a lot of cassettes because my car (before the van) had only a cassette player. But I’ll still buy cassettes mostly just from touring bands to support them, though I rarely actually listen to them because I don’t currently have a working tape player!
Where do you do most of your music listening?
I listen to music a lot, most often it is via Spotify either on my commute or in the office. When I’m at home, I have playlists for various moods and activities that I’ll put on. As I said, my record player has been broken and it may even be time to upgrade so once I deal with that, there’s going to be a LOT of vinyl listening at home because I’ve really been missing it!
How do find and listen to pre-release music?
We are sent a lot of demos at Mint so I do end up hearing a lot of pre-release music via our Slack channel that’s usually connected to private SoundCloud streams from artists directly. I check out premieres when they are drawn to my attention, usually via social media or blogs but I’m not usually seeking out new premieres specifically. I still really love music videos so when someone premieres a new video, that is actually my favourite way to experience a new artist or a new project or album or single. I find it more engaging and it’s easier for me to understand where an artist is coming from. Sometimes hearing so much music all the time, it’s hard to give my full attention to something specifically because there’s just so much content everywhere and only so many hours in a day.
What are your frustrations with listening to music digitally? Any benefits?
I am always fearful of links in emails for music, but if it takes me to a trusted source like Soundcloud or Bandcamp or Spotify, that’s my preference. I rarely download files to upload to iTunes just because of space and priority and I’m scared of downloading anything, especially if it’s coming from a relative stranger as in the case with new artists submitting demos. But, I definitely think that links in an email is much more likely to get a listen rather than say sending a physical demo CD.
I appreciate the versatility of being able to listen to things digitally while I’m out and about, but I am a sucker for physical products and that will always be my preference for engaging with art in the way it was originally meant to be presented. A lot of time and thought goes into album artwork and design and concept and it’s not really the same on a digital platform. I’m sure that’s already changing with the times but I think no matter how many extra features you add to a digital release, for me it doesn’t really compare to the physical product in my hands and that goes for the whole listening experience.
How do you keep track of everything you are listening to?
Spotify is currently really my biggest storage facility. I have playlists galore. I also use Shazam a lot, and then will go back and look through the list of songs and add ones that I want to revisit later.
Do you tip other people off to new music? How?
Mint works with a lot of up-and-coming bands, so whenever we have a new release, we are usually sharing a lot of new music from new artists. We also have guest curators updating our monthly Mint Picks playlist, which is nice for me to both find and share new music! Personally, the biggest way that I share new music is through my aforementioned podcast. Whether or not we release an episode, I will usually make my playlists public at the end of each month. Perhaps this year we will record more episodes so there’s a bit more actual story sharing going on beyond the playlists! Either way, I will keep making my song of the day playlists and anyone who’s looking for something new to check out is more than welcome to check there!
Anything you want to “promote”?
Some other really amazing records came out of Vancouver last year that I feel deserve some attention. Divorcer’s Debt Jubilee and Only a Visitor’s Technicolour Education were both notably great releases (there are a lot of really great bands in Vancouver right now, too many to mention!) A Vancouver staple, Apollo Ghosts, released a beautiful album in October with all proceeds going to support the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and the UNIST’OT’TEN Legal Fund. It’s a beautiful album.
Mint has some great releases coming out in 2020 as well! Only one has been announced so far, lié’s You Want It Real comes out in February and we’ve got an exciting new artist joining the roster in April so everyone should keep an eye out for that!
I’m really excited to go to Treefort Festival for the first time this year! I’ll be playing with Garbage Dreams and supporting Necking, promoting Mint, etc. so if any of you readers find yourselves in Boise in March, let’s hang?!