Hey, if you’re a geek like me, you wanna gobble up all the dirt on independent music. With that in mind, here’s the extended version of my Sound Check interview with Weird Canada about their latest and greatest happenings. – AG
Weird Canada says “we are northernly”. The popular website is a northernly force of nature.
Weird Canada (weirdcanada.com) is essentially a music blog championing underground, “weird” music. It’s got wonderfully hyperbolic reviews written by clever and musically adventurous musicians and music lovers. It also has reviews of underground publications, essays on underground culture, podcasts, and real live, human events — mainly music shows, of course.
Weird Canada’s latest feat of strength is bound to be a game changer: with the help of a $50,000 FACTOR grant they (amazingly) received last year, the website will now become an underground music distributor under the moniker Wyrd Distro. This makes it an invaluable resource for bedroom record labels and underground musicians looking to connect with audiences in a day and age when music distribution and promotion has become increasingly expensive and barrier-laden. Musicians and labels will also benefit from Weird Canada’s significant built-in readership.
For music fans, the one-stop-shop distro the distro will offer means that listeners can order albums from obscure musicians from all over Canada from one very awesome place.
As an added dimension, the website is launching the Weird Canada Imprint feature, a monthly blog series which will profile micro-independent record labels from across the country, some of whom will be represented by Wyrd Distro. I spoke with the Weird Canada Imprint editor, Josh Robinson, about his new gig. Josh, conveniently, also lives in Saskatoon, and he had a few Sask. label suggestions to share.
Could you describe your role in the Imprint feature?
It’s my job to curate the features of the Imprint project and to assign various micro-independent labels to our volunteer contributing writers. I also edit the features and maintain our label database – we’re at about one-hundred micro-independent record labels already. The Weird Canada collective is trying to connect with micro-independent record labels in Canada, especially those labels from underrepresented or marginalized communities – for example labels up north in the North West Territories or on the east coast, like Sackville. We’re looking for representation of those critical areas, those untapped artistic spaces where there is a collectivization of music and a label presence.
One hundred labels in your database…does that mean that you guys have been banking profiles toward creating this feature?
Yeah, what (Assistant Editor) Natalie Binda and I did before launching the actual feature was build on the existing label database by scouring the internet and having discussions with numerous bands who have been reviewed through Weird Canada and who are close band friends to us. We asked them about the labels that are present in their communities and then established connections with the record labels to give them an idea of the Imprint feature and what Weird Canada is all about. Now we have an awesome, awesome, awesome database of really wicked music collective resources from all over Canada.
Databases seem to have an increasing presence in the music world, for example WFMU’s Free Music Archive and the Ontario Independent Music Archive, which sort of have an echo within the idea of a record label as a gathering together of music. How important are underground labels and music databases for the contemporary music listener?
I think that nowadays all the creative impetus is really starting to fall on the individual, independent musician. I feel that the role of the record label these days is that of a curator. Micro-independent record labels are local, over-arching creative bodies that musicians are able to release through, under, with…essentially friends helping friends. When it comes to distributing and sharing music, the most important thing is an interest within the community it’s coming from. The local record label, and every one of the labels we have in the database, is essentially that. You can take a look at labels like Healing Power in Toronto, or Amok Recordings in Toronto or Dub Ditch Picnic in Winnipeg, all of these micro-independent record labels are curating different types of music for the communities they exist in. That’s the big thing these days: labels that are entirely community focused, as opposed to a major label going, ‘here, we’re going to sign an artist to a four-year release deal and see what happens’.
Do you have any Saskatchewan-based micro-independent record labels to recommend?
My personal favorite is Leaning Trees Records, which is a very quiet label. They don’t release often, but what they have released has been unbelievable — everything from Shooting Guns, to a Caves/Stephen Cooley split cassette, to the new Ketamines 7”. Leaning Trees has done for [Saskatoon’s] underground music what an underground record label should do: bring disparate musicians together and really help them with promotion, distribution and physical format releases. This is critical support especially when the cost of being a musician and sharing music is constantly rising. Leaning Trees is a really good example of a bedroom record label that’s focusing in on their releases, doing limited runs and not taking on too many projects at once.
[Experimental electronica label] Pop Quiz is really the polar opposite: quick run, digital, easily accessible and with an artist catalogue that runs about as thick and as deep as the Saskatoon phone book. Their approach is to collect music across varying genres and release it digitally.
I’m a part of a record label here in Saskatoon called the Sound and Silence Collective, and we’re doing a lot of the bedroom stuff as well.
Here’s a short list of Regina music labels and initiatives if yer lookin’ fer local:
- 13th Ave. Records
- Harvest King Records
- Prairie Shag – Regina’s underground music compilation/cassette
- Holophon audio collective