shelflife records started in a bedroom and now "lives" between portland and san francisco. it was the love for music that led ed to search for foreign indiepop bands and expose them to the american public.
now, 15 years later, shelflife is known throughout the globe and is one of those labels that managed to create an universe of its own: to me, for example, shelflife is a sunny autumn afternoon in a park all covered by yellows and browns of leaves (you must have a different image so, let's leave that to our subjectivities. but feel free to share yours in our comments).
what we probably have in common, is the fact that some of the bands that we hold close to our hearts entered in our lives thanks to shelflife (days, burning hearts and punky's dilemma are mine, just to name a few).
anyway, the best way to get to know a bit more about the label is letting shelflife speak for itself. that's what this post is about: show the chaotisch admiration for this label and let people feel more close to it.
so now's time to let ed, the guy that started all, talk about it.
01.first of all, how the idea of creating shelflife came up?
the name or the label? i'll answer both. i used to work in a soup kitchen in my teens and the term "shelflife" was used a lot there with food. we believe we are releasing music that has a long "shelflife". it also means that we like shelves, which is also true. the label came about to help get international pop bands some recognition in the states. it's 14+ years later and we're still doing the same thing....
02. i’m very curious to understand the logistics involving the label. could you take us on a ‘virtual tour’ on how is a day on shelflife headquarters?
ha, shelflife is still very small, run out of my home, and diy, so there's not much to tell. it's just matthew and i (who both live in different cities) and kate who comes in to "the office" once a week. a typical day is me working my real job for 8-9 hours (web designer) and then working on shelflife for 2-3 hours after that. matthew handles all the art production and blog promotion, kate mainly deals with digital distro and radio/press, and i do everything else.
03. on the label’s website, when talking about the submission of demos, you mention a ‘shelflife aesthetic’. could you talk a bit about this aesthetic?
we have to put that so we're not getting all death metal demos. we had hoped artists who send us their submissions would have known or listened to our catalogue to see if their band fits, but that wasn't the case. even now we still get a good deal of horrible stuff in our mailbox, but at least it's funny for kate and i. i should probably change that line now to "if your band sounds anything like tool, you can skip us."
04. what’s your involvement on the making of the albums released on shelflife?
it's a bit 50/50. with some releases we're more involved with the music production, artwork, etc... while others the band hands us a finished product. just depends on how confortable the artists are with working with us. we like to give our artists creative freedom when they want it.
05. of course, I have to ask you about your views on today’s music distribution (and sharing) system.
labels who are against music sharing are fighting a losing battle. we're cool with people who "borrow" mp3s of our albums, but would hope that if they like it, they would purchase the cd/vinyl or even pay for a proper digital download. if you're a true fan, you need to support the bands who make the music you love. i think people who like shelflife and what we're about already feel that way.
06. what about music blogs. friends or enemies? or both?
friends. blogs are great. anything that can help spread the word about a band is critical for success. shelflife has it's own music blog in fact: http://blog.shelflife.com/
07. now let’s turn to tears run rings, your band. you have just released your second album on clairecords. what came first: the label owner or the musician? and how would you describe your sound?
musician. i've been in bands my whole life, so music is a creative outlet i need to survive i think. tears run rings is like a family. we all live in different cities, except laura and i, so when we get together we celebrate. our music ends up being influenced by a lot of 90s shoegaze, as that's where our hearts are. it's what happens when you love reverb and can't hide it!
08. is there any artist(s) that you would like to see releasing something through shelflife?
yeah, there's always a long list of artists we keep an eye on. air france, moscow olympics, and boat club probably top our list.
buy tears run rings album here
09. in this times of music sharing and drops on sales of albums around the world, is it possible to live as a label owner or do you have another job?
sadly even when sales were amazing it was impossible for me to live off shelflife. indiepop doesn't pay bills...and i've lived in some expensive cities i guess. right now the label supports itself release to release. but it's always a fighting battle trying to survive. we're never truly comfortable, there's always a little dirt under our nails if that makes sense.
10. give a word of advice for those that feel like creating a label in the future?
my dad always says: do it, but if you're going to do it, do it right! and if you have the money, do it all the way.
11. recommend something you’ve been listening lately.
i really like that new museum of bellas artes 7", um... looking at itunes... the new proctors songs, korallreven, weekend (slumberland), seeland, benoît pioulard, the european, chiddy bang and nicki minaj have all been on high rotation.
12. anything else you feel like saying?
i feel like saying bird: "bird".
buy tears run rings album here