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?
Based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY since 2000, I have worked in pretty much every aspect of the music business. From working in small indie record stores (Rebel Rebel, Rough Trade), to running club nights for 15 years in the NYC/Brooklyn area (booking bands, djing, promoting), managing bands, A&R and Sales at various indie labels (Mexican Summer, Rough Trade), working in physical and digital distribution (Alternative Distribution Alliance), to currently co-running my own record label (Kanine Records) and helping start The New Colossus Festival in NYC its been an amazing adventure.
But I would have to say my greatest feat has been running and maintaining the healthy environment that Kanine Records has had for the past 16 years. From releasing numerous debut releases from indie greats like Grizzly Bear, Chairlift, Surfer Blood, Braids, and many more we have helped culture a true environment of music love. And we continue to do so each day with each new release. You can find the same musical love within many of our newer releases by artists; Agent bla, Tallies, Pearl Charles, Hockey Dad, Honey Lung, Beverly, Fear of Men, Garden Centre, WEAVES, Professor Murder, Living Hour, The Natvral, Wooing, Honey Cutt, and many more.
Where are you based?
I am based out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY. We call the neighborhood Willyburg. It’s a great neighborhood full of amazing people. You have four free skateparks, tons of music venues, an amazing record store (Rough Trade), tons of cool bars, restaurants, and shops all within walking distance from your front door. And with Delis open 24 hours you can always get what you need.
Where do you work? What do you do?
For Kanine Records, an independent record label that my partner, Kay Q, and I started back in 2003, I head the A&R and retail sales division. Our goal is to discover new talent and help artists build a career out of it. I truly love discovering new talent and watching it grow.
For The New Colossus Festival I handle the booking for all of the bands/artists. Our goal is to provide a platform for new / upcoming artists from around the world to perform in NYC (Manhattan) often for the first time in a stress free environment where they can promote their music to new music fans. The festival is not only just for artists and their music fans, but also a way for industry professionals to network while enjoying the beauty that the Lower East Side of Manhattan provides, full of music culture, great food, and enriching history.
What are you listening to?
I’m always listening to thousands of new songs and 100s of new albums a week. Not kidding. I’m a rapid music buyer of vinyl so I’m always collecting great records from the 90’s and new releases from ‘indie’ oriented artists.
But I’m always listening to demos from brand new bands/artists for the label and bookings for the Festival.
Some of my favorite new demo submissions for TNC Festival have come from: Zoongide’ewin (a cool shoegaze band out of Canada), Alexia Avina (indie folk out of Montreal), Hussy (very 90’s alt rock from London), Roxy Girls (UK), Ceremony (US, amazing shoegaze that fits well with all fans of A Place To Bury Strangers), Jeanines (US indie pop at its best), Frankiie (great indie rock from Vancouver), Red Telephone (I caught this band live in Wales and loved it. They reminded me instantly of Placebo, Suede, and Strangelove from the mid 90’s in the UK), Flying Colours (shoegaze hidden down in Australia), Gurr (cool German garage rock / pop lead by two super strong females. Most importantly super super fun with an amazing live show), Hoorsees (young kids from France recreating a fuzz Pavement sound that oozes coolness), Kings of The Beach (garage rock from Spain that makes you party), Donna Blue (indie pop from the Netherlands), and Kaelan Mikla (icy cool new wave from Icleand).
For Kanine Records, we have been super busy working on new records with a ton of artists including: Honey Lung, Tallies, Living Hour, Nicole Yun, The Natvral, Pearl Charles, Garden Centre, Surfer Blood, Weeping Icon, and Agent bla. But most recently we’ve been listening to a ton of songs from Honey Cutt as we have their debut album coming next March 2020 and it’s fantastic sunshine indie pop from Mass via Florida.
For my own music pleasure, I’ve been listening to these records lately;
Sports Team (UK), Mick Trouble (US), Whenyoung (UK), Trudy and The Romance (UK, I caught them last May in Manchester and they were fantastic), Working Men’s Club (UK, I caught them in Brighton last May and instantly fell in love with their cool Post Punk chants), Fontaines D.C. (Ireland), Patience (UK), Penelope Isles (UK), FEET (UK, this band knows how to make me laugh with songs about walking their dogs and the weather), Blue Hawaii (this Montreal duo also play in Braids, but for this project they make great synthpop that is fun to dance along to. Super addictive), Just Mustard (very cool 90’s alt rock that mixes shoegaze and pop from Ireland), Girl in Red (bedroom indie pop from Norway), RIDE, Ty Segall, Ellis (indie pop from Canada), Seablite (indie pop in the vain of C86 from California), Lust For Youth (chilly synthpop from Sweden, that also reminds me a bit of Pet Shops but colder and darker), DIIV, Interpol, Temples (UK), Fat White Family (UK), The Lovely Eggs (I befriended this band in Wales and bought all 6 of their albums off them right there. That is how much I loved their live show), and Sacred Paws (from Glasgow making Post Punk fun and dancy).
How do you discover new music?
I mostly discover new music from going out to live shows. I follow certain promoters and see what they book as I trust their taste. Adhoc and Popgun in Brooklyn are my personal favorite promoters. I always look at the opening bands as that is very important and usually where new music discovery happens.
I also enjoy going to record stores to see what they are selling. Since I love buying vinyl it is exciting to see what other labels are releasing and what the store is playing. Often you can discover great new bands from the employees working at shops. I honestly do find a lot of new bands that way.
I occasionally do find a new band via Social Media. That is how I found one of our Kanine Records artists, Honey Cutt. I was planning a trip to Florida to visit my Dad and made a post about it on facebook. Later on I got some notifications that I should check out some cool bands from Florida since I was going there and Honey Cutt were one of them. I checked them out as well why not and instantly loved their songs so kept digging further.
Bandcamp is my favorite place to discover new small bands. Their platform is just great and really is a great music discovery place.
There are a small amount of music blogs where I will occasionally find some new artists. DIYMag.com from the UK is one. I discovered Honey Lung and Tallies from that blog and once I saw them live was amazed.
What formats do you usually listen to? LP, CD, Cassette, Digital, Streaming Services and why?
I listen to all formats. And to be honest there is no better format. It’s just up to your preference.
I’m a huge vinyl collector and before that a huge CD collector and before that a huge Cassette collector so the physical medium will always be my favorite method to enjoy music.
But I make playlists on my laptop to listen to while travelling as so that I don’t have to rely on trying to find good WiFi to enjoy songs.
I mainly use streaming services like Bandcamp, Apple Music, and Spotify for research to be honest on new bands as I have a massive physical record collection and enjoy listening to it the most. But do use these services often to explore new music.
Where do you do most of your music listening?
I have all of my vinyl, CD, CS collection stored in our office so we listen to records all day long in the office. That is mainly where I listen to music and enjoy it the best that way.
When I’m biking, walking, skating around the neighborhood, I don’t listen to music on headphones. I enjoy taking in Life’s surroundings and being aware of your environment. Life is a beautiful place and I’m super lucky to be able to enjoy where I live.
What are your frustrations with listening to music digitally? Any benefits?
For streaming my frustrations mostly come with WiFi issues. The songs cutting in and out while I’m trying to take them in. I get an insane amount of Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Spotify, and download links, which is all totally fine. It just is not as enjoyable as listening to music in a normal format with no interruptions.
How do you keep track of everything you are listening to?
If I like something enough where I need to pay attention to it, I make playlists on my iTunes/Apple so that I can come back to it.
Do you tip other people off to new music? How?
All the time. Via our music Festival bookings and what we release on Kanine Records.
But I also still make mixtapes (CD) for close friends and some of our artists on Kanine Records. I made Sarah from Tallies a couple mix CDs of bands that I thought she would love to listen to while they were on tour. I always love doing that. Being able to share music with people is super fun. And when you make a mix CD or CS it shows more love as you had to make more effort over a Spotify playlist.
Anything you want to “promote”?
Everyone needs to check out Garden Centre’s new album ‘A Moon For Digging’ coming out November 1 on Kanine Records. Maximilian Levy is truly a genius. Fans of Neutral Milk Hotel, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Daniel Johnston, and Graham Coxon will instantly love his quirky taste in lyrics. He writes amazing songs about nature and the discovery of the human mind that is hidden in a world beneath our feet.