Interview: Dan Goldin of Exploding In Sound Records
Posted: by The Editor
Well first, I wanted to say congrats on releasing Ovlov’s new record, tell me what that process is like? What does your end of the deal look like when it comes to releasing a record?
It’s pretty casual with our label. There’s not really any contracts or anything so it’s just kind of when the band is ready to release the record and our schedule is good. We figure out when we can slot it in and from there it’s kind of a matter of collecting all the assets and everything. Making sure there’s artwork, and we have the masters and all of that. Then the whole process of getting the album made and starting the press campaign starts.
So what exactly would you say is your role in EIS?
Well there’s only two of us, so we both do a lot of everything. I do most of the A&R sort of speak. Deciding what we’re going to release and when we’re going to release it. I also handle all of the shipping and a good bulk of the press. Sometimes we also hire out publicists. I update the website and pretty much everything that needs to happen is just between me and Alec who I run the label with. He handles a lot of the distribution stuff, like putting out the digital distribution. We both stay very busy.
You have a pretty big army of bands on the label ranging from Big Ups to Pile and Ovlov as mentioned, what sparks you to pick up a band? What do you look for?
Nothing super specific. We prefer to have a band that has their own drive without us needing to push them all the time. So, like bands that really want to come out and play shows, release records and kind of stay busy. But obviously we have some exceptions to that rule, with bands who don’t ever want to be busy and just want to release an album every now and then. So it’s hard to say that there’s one specific criteria that we look for. Mainly it’s just “do we really love this band’s music? Do we believe in it?” and do we want to help them open to a wider audience.
What would you like to say is the sound you’d like to evoke through Exploding In Sound? I know you mentioned that you don’t go for anything specifically but I do hear a lot of the bands you sign have more intricate guitar work, is there anything you look for when you’re going to a show or browsing Bandcamp that makes you want to work with someone?
I mean it varies, there’s definitely a common thread just because that’s my musical taste. It just happens that some of them end up being kind of similar, but for the most part it’s pretty varied. Yeah a lot of them play loud guitar and bass music but you wouldn’t say that Ovlov sound like Big Ups or Bethlehem Steel sound like Pile. I just think that I look for bands that are making interesting music. Making essentially good songwriting, that if you stripped everything back from it, the songs will still hold their own. This may not be true, but I like to think that any band on Exploding in Sound, if you watch them perform and it still holds its own because the songwriting is just that tight.
So you and Alec started EIS, how’d the idea of starting a label come to fruition?
I had always wanted to start a label once I knew what record labels were. I had originally started Exploding in Sound as a blog. The idea was that I could eventually generate enough of an audience from the blog that people who trusted the taste of the blog could check out what we were doing through the label. Eventually in 2011 I moved from Boston to New York and it felt like if there was ever a time to start it, it would be then. It was one of those things where you always feel like you’re waiting for the right time, but you’re starting an indie rock record label, there’s never really a right time you just have to jump in at some point.
So there are many aspects of DIY culture that are tied into the label, can you speak a little bit about your experience working more with independent people or DIY creatives and how’d that influence the overall message for Exploding in Sound?
Most of our bands operate pretty entirely on a DIY sort of level. We don’t really deal with anyone who has a manager and for the most part for better or for worse bands who have booking agents. There’s not a lot of outside help in that sort of way. I think DIY culture speaks a lot to the drive of everyone involved because you’re obviously not falling on the idea of “someone else will handle this” so if you want to see this done, you gotta go do it. It just puts the emphasis on the people you surround yourself with. It makes you think a little bit harder on “should we work with this band or not?” like, what are they doing for themselves and how much do they really want to push this.
So the message in Exploding in Sound always seems to put the music first, what do you do to not fall into the rabbit hole that some other labels have done where the money comes before the music?
I just think it’s really important to release the records that really speak to you rather than the records that you think are going to be popular. It’s just one of those things that you can see certain labels who chase what’s hip and what they think is going to be big. We almost for a lack of a better business sense, do the opposite. That trends are going this way but we’re going to release this record because we love it. Sometimes we even prefer that challenge to see “well this isn’t hip at all, can we get people into this?” Just trying to balance it out because everyone is talking about how “rock music is dying” but it’s probably better than it’s ever been. It’s just probably not what the large press powers want you to focus on. But at the same time, I can name like 500 different rock bands that I currently love. So we’re just trying to build something where even if you don’t know some of our smaller bands, the hope is that if you know even some of our bigger bands over the last 7 years that you trust in the artists we work with. That you’ll check out the smaller ones or realize that some of these bands are making really good music whether they’re getting that kind of attention or not. Hopefully we can get that kind of attention but if not, but the goal is at least our audience will still embrace it.
Cool, kind of riffing off of that, what are some bands you’ve really been jamming out to so far in 2018?
There’s this band in London called Goat Girl, they’re on Rough Trade and they are one of those bands positioned to be instantly successful. But their album is really, really good, it’s 19 tracks and they’re all fairly short songs. I really loved it. I’ve been listening to a lot of metal over the past two years. For whatever reason I’ve fallen into the metal rabbit hole. I’ve been listening to a ton of this band called Pig Destroyer, they’re just this speedy, hardcore, grime metal kind of stuff. For the most part, I don’t listen to all that heavy of music, but when I listen to them at work the day flies by just a little quicker.
So over the years, there’s been a huge growth within the label as a whole. What have been some of the key moments you would say that gave the label success?
Mainly Pile and Ovlov. No, but I think we started off really strong and even though we didn’t really have all of our press stuff figured out in the beginning, but within our first 10 releases we put out like Pile, Speedy Oritiz, Ovlov, Porches and Fat History Month. Bands that were pretty well loved on a cult sort of level or grow into a bigger label, like Porches and Speedy did. I think that helped to bring a general awareness to the label. But after the first year or two we kind of started to release an absurd amount of records. After 2013, we had put out I want to say 13 releases and since then we’re up to our 87th. It’s just kind of spiraled into putting out 6 or so releases a year to putting out 20. It’s generally not the greatest of ideas to put out so much music but I do think in a way it just widens the audience. Even if it catches just a handful of people, that’s a new handful who are catching on what you’re doing.
You have a very interesting community who follow the label. What has been your experiences interacting with community members or just different people within the music industry who respond to the bands that are coming out from the label?
Community members are always cool. It’s always nice to see that people still care. I think some of our more die-hard audience who really care which is nice when we want to release something we really love but we’re not sure if anyone will latch onto it. Especially with those releases it’s nice to see people that we’ve met throughout the years who are real down and excited for not just the big release but the small ones too. As far as music industry people, there’s lots of people who know who are supportive and into what we’re doing. For the most part we operate under the outskirts of anything you may call “industry”. But there’s a lot of peer labels who’ve been super supportive who you can bounce questions off of or you can rant about the many problems that come with operating a DIY label.
Awesome, so what can we see release wise in the future for Exploding in Sound?
I’m really excited about all of them. In August, we’re doing the second tape of the month club. A new EP by Baked. In September, there’s a Pile record compilation of their EP’s and hard to find singles, basically all of their non-album songs. Amazing artwork by Nicole Rifkin. Human People’s full length in September. In October, Fond Han will be releasing a new record, which are one of my favorite bands on the label. They have really weird and interesting music, but are sad and mopey one moment and go ballistic the next. Tom who’s the lead songwriter behind Fond Han is just a freakishly good musician and has so many ideas and the fact that he can make them all into one cohesive thing is pretty unique. It’s one of those things where they don’t have the same pull as some of our other bands, but I’m really excited for people to hear it.
Where do you think EIS will be in the next 5 years?
Not to sound negative, but in the same place we are now. Just releasing records, we really believe in, but I don’t think we have a strong desire to jump up to any sort of level. Obviously we hope people will keep paying attention to the releases. We hope to keep growing, but pretty much doing what we’re doing.
Interview by Sarah Knoll
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