Label Focus - Captured Tracks
Beginning in a Brooklyn basement in 2008, Captured Tracks has gone on to change the face of music across America. One of the most prolific and consistent independent labels has produced huge artists from Mac DeMarco to DIIV to Wild Nothing alongside other acts like Perfect Pussy, EZTV, Reptaliens and Mourn whilst reissuing influential British artists like The Monochrome Set and Cleaners From Venus. The bands may differ but they share a pop sensibility - even if it is clouded by the influences they bear - that can only be the result of label boss Mike Sniper's taste for it.
Previous to Captured Tracks, Sniper ran a power pop label. You can never accuse Widowspeak or Beach Fossils of being power pop, but they are not adverse to an infectious hook or a clean, sweet sound. The B Boys certainly know how to turn on the pop with last year's fantastic album Dada, full to the brim with color and energy.
But Sniper wants a broad church. Grunge revisionist, Chastity is a perfect example - as well as Gift Wrap, Wax Chattels and Matteo Vallicelli. Captured Tracks is no sub-genre label, it is the fruit of the passion and perseverance of a global collective of music lovers.
Five Minutes with Mike Sniper
Happy 10 year anniversary - How have you been celebrating this significant occasion?
On a beach in Tahiti, visiting all the sites that inspired Gauguin, sipping on tropical drinks and eating extremely fresh seafood. Not really, actually I do not know if I've celebrated at all. I'm a bad celebrator.
Can you describe the music scene in Brooklyn in 2008? How has it changed since then?
The year 2008 was pretty pivotal. It was at the nadir of the "Loft Pop" DiY scene (Crystal Stilts, Vivian Girls, caUSE co-MOTION!, Woods, et al.). Todd P. was booking Market Hotel, 285 Kent might have been around then, Glasslands, Monster Island and all those other spaces were there. Out of town bands like The Oh Sees, Grass Widow, Abe Vigoda would draw really well and everyone from the above bands and scenes would be there. Simultaneously, the Wierd Records scene was also going nuts and you had Martial Canterel, Led Er Est and touring acts like Nite Jewel would draw heavy at that. Blank Dogs, my band, was kinda straddling both of those scenes. It was just super active and successful, no one was the top dog, it was all very much "all in it together." Everyone was supportive and bought each other's records, supported each other at shows and places like Pitchfork and Fader actually gave a shit. Can you imagine?! So, yeah, we came out of that as a label, just behind Woodsist and Sacred Bones.
Being an artist yourself, did that shape how you ran the label? Did it shape who you signed?
Sure, I mean, I think less about myself being in bands and more about understanding the distribution, touring and press circuits before I started. It certainly helped I was friends with John Dwyer, Jeremy Earl, etc., so I could put their records out right from the get go, sorta fly-by-night handshake deals, nothing serious. I only started to really sign bands in 2009, that's when I signed Wild Nothing and Beach Fossils. I definitely wanted bands to arrive to me with their sound down pat, ready to work hard and an understanding of their audience and their aesthetic, still do!
For those new to the label, could you give 5 records that have helped define Captured Tracks?
Hard one, but I think you have to put Wild Nothing Nocturne, DIIV Oshin, Beach Fossils Beach Fossils and Mac DeMarco Salad Days on there. After that it's pretty hard. The Soft Moon's debut, Widowspeak's debut, Craft Spells Idle Labor, the Perfect Pussy record... man, I dunno if I could pick a 5th and final.
With a roster like yours (Wild Nothing, The Soft Moon, Beach Fossils, Mac DeMarco, DIIV, Craft Spells, B Boys, Molly Burch), what is one of your most memorable artist discovery moments?
Wax Chattels live in Auckland, NZ. Signed them (in all but paperwork) the next day at brunch. It was that fast. If you see them live you'll see why.
Re-issues are a core aspect of Captured Tracks - how do you decide on the records you re-introduce us listeners to?
I try to reissue stuff that is really in need of a reissue as it is unavailable on a lot of formats, but also fits into the culture of the label. Older music and newer music living together. Sometimes it's something like Luna which has this large built-in audience, and other times it's Saada Bonaire or Bona Dish, which has a cult following that I feel our audience would respond to and enjoy.
You’ve been a label for ten years now, what is one goal you have for the next ten years?
Exist. Not be crushed by the horrible world.