Label Profile: Captured Tracks

Mike Sniper speaks to ClashMusic

One of the defining imprints behind the current indie pop boom, it would be churlish to pin Captured Tracks down amongst the cardigan-clad legions. Sticking to its guns, the Brooklyn label has supported music it dearly loves building up a back catalogue that moves from noise pop to dream pop, with a touch of electronics along the way.

Retaining a love for the physical format, the pop song and a fuzzed up guitar riff Captured Tracks has constructed an identity without allowing themselves to be pigeon-holed.

Believe it or not, but for a good decade or so the shoegaze genre was about as welcome as Richard Dawkins at a nativity play. Recently unveiling their new Shoegaze Archives project – essentially documenting fuzzed up vinyl and cassette releases which have fallen through the cracks – Captured Tracks dodges those oft-hurled retro accusations with the sheer quality of its output.

ClashMusic chats to Captured Tracks founder Mike Sniper about the label’s ethos, their output and its story thus far.

– – –

What led to you forming your own label?
I had a label beforehand, so it was pretty much a natural evolution.

You have an obvious love of the physical format, where does that come from?
Being a record collector my whole life I suppose. I think music should still always exist in a physical format. If people still record full length LP’s than that’s how they should appear. Musicians still work in the pop idiom of the LP, with a beginning and an end, an A-Side and a B-Side, and that’s the optimum experience. I’m not opposed to digital at all, there’s room for both and I think the digital aspect of things can be explored more. No one’s really tried to create a unique digital experience yet because it’s still in it’s infancy.

You began by releasing a flood of seven inches, do you have a love for the classic pop single?
Well, that was for two reasons. One, we didn’t have the power at the time to really anchor an LP. It was a fly by night operation and we weren’t set up to do a good job. Secondly, we weren’t signing artists so one-off singles were fine at the time. I do have a love for the classic pop single. What an A-side is and what a B-side is. I love old Cure and Beatles B-Sides that are exclusive to their releases, weird instros and sometimes goofy songs. It’s a lost art.

Do you want to evolve into an album focussed imprint?
We already are and have been, probably since Wild Nothing ‘Gemini’ and Beach Fossils ‘s/t’ took off. We realize we have the capacity to sell as many if not more LP’s/CD/Digital Albums than any other big indie, and we’ve continued to do that since. We don’t do one off singles at all anymore. All of our 7″s are in promotion of an upcoming LP release from a signed act or a tour support kind of thing. We typically do two 7″s prior to any LP, but we’re an LP label, 100%.

Some bands have gained exposure and then left the label, do you find that frustrating?
Which ones? We have yet to lose an act whose LP I’ve heard and wanted to do. There were some early bands where we did their 7″s and I liked their LP’s but passed on them. The Beets signed to Hardly Art recently and they probably belong on that roster more than ours, musically, so that was an amicable divorce. All of our current artists are signed to multi-LP deals. Dum Dum Girls was a situation where we were on our 4th or 5th release when Sub Pop approached them, we obviously weren’t set up to compete with them at the time.

How did you initially find groups to release on Captured Tracks?
Tarot cards, incense, spirit crystals and I try to summon Aleister Crowley. AKA: We see them play live or we hear a demo we like and ask to hear more.

Is there a release you can point to that you feel demonstrates the label finding its own identity?

I imagine since you gained exposure bands now come to you, is wading through demos time consuming?
We get hours and hours a week. But I like to go through it.

The label has a broad pull but is stereotyped as an indie pop hub, does that reputation get frustrating?
Frustrating isn’t the right word. I can’t help what people say. Music journalists are pigeonholing morons, but that’s nothing new, so why fight it? If they want to call Soft Metals, The Jameses and Jesse Ruins indie pop and look stupid for doing so, be my guest.

Do you have a favourite release from 2011?
No. I don’t like doing year-end lists or favorites because it’s shortsighted. I probably haven’t heard what my favorite release from 2011 yet is because no one is writing about it and it’s hard to find. I hate the end of the year because it’s just regurgitated lists of the same stuff from everyone. That being said, I did like The New Lines and Bronze records that came out this year that got no press whatsoever and I liked the new Future Islands and Real Estate which got a lot of press.

Why take the decision to launch the Shoegaze Archives?
Because every other era of music has been so heavily reissued over the last few years and no one else really was. Plus there was a really widespread and international scene that constantly gets overlooked in favor of the bigger UK bands. Don’t get me wrong, I love MBV, Pale Saints and Slowdive but there’s a whole lot more to it than that.

Are there any acts you would love to re-issue but can’t gain the licensing etc for?
It’s very difficult to gain licensing from the Beggar’s labels. Despite having a lot of friends there, their policy makes it really difficult to reissue their material so that you can gain a modest profit while keeping the price down.

Has licensing in general proved to be problematic?
No, most of what we reissue has been artist-controlled. Cleaners From Venus, Should, deardarkhead, Half String are all artist controlled. Medicine was a bit more difficult but once I found the rightsholder it was easy.

What was your first confrontation with the shoegaze sound?
Probably listening to “Isn’t Anything” around the time it came out? Unless you consider JAMC or Cocteau Twins, who I got into fairly young. I grew up near Philadelphia and wound up seeing a lot of the UK bands live when they came through, like Ride and Lush.

What are your ambitions for 2012?

– – –

Catch up with Captured Tracks at their official website.

Join the Clash mailing list for up to the minute music, fashion and film news.