London duo Rexy released their one and only LP (Running Out of Time) in 1981, and just over thirty years later, Samantha Urbani found it by chance and immediately fell in love. Her fandom from afar eventually spawned a Facebook correspondence with the former bandmates (Rex Nayman and Vic Martin), and now the record’s officially been reissued on Urbani’s new label URU.
I spoke to Urbani over the phone recently to talk about this fairly serendipitous turn of events, and about what sorts of things we can expect from her label (apart from its apparent knack for helping to facilitate the resurrection of obscurely legendary bands); internet-eavesdrop on our conversation below, follow Urbani on Twitter, and be sure to grab a copy of Running Out of Time in all its reissued, limited-supply glory HERE.
So tell me a little bit about this whole concept of starting your own label; how long has that been something that you’ve thought of pursuing, let alone implementing?
I kind of always thought about it (just vaguely conceptually), probably as long as I thought about making music, probably since I was a kid under ten years old; I was obsessed with finding out what was going on behind the songs I was hearing on the radio or the records I’d buy at the record store, so the idea of it was always kind of in the back of my mind, but as I’ve grown and had more experiences on the industry side of things and made more friends who do this kind of thing, it’s just as feasible as any other project. I’m excited to do it!
And how’s it been to navigate all of this so far? Have there been any steep learning curves, or has it been a pretty natural fit since you were already involved in the music scene?
Yeah, it’s been pretty natural. It’s been pretty good just having my relationships with people on the label side of things being closer and communicative in a different way.
Cool. Now, tell me about your initial discovery of Running Out of Time; I have a general timeline for that, but how did you actually end up with a copy of it, and do you remember where you were when you first heard it?
Yeah, I do remember where I was; I used to live in this place called Market Hotel in New York like five and a half years ago, and everyone was always just sharing music, and we all had eclectic tastes (everything from super pop music to super obscure stuff), but we were all just constantly sharing with each other. So I heard one of the songs from one of my roommates’ laptops, and I really felt magnetized towards it. He and I became kind of obsessive fans of the album together.
And I didn’t actually get a copy of it until now; I never owned a copy of the vinyl, which is crazy. I only had a downloaded torrent of it, because it was impossible; I couldn’t afford…I wasn’t going to spend $200 on a record, you know? And there was some random BlogSpot post that had a download link, and there was no place else I could find it online. I remember trying to Google to find out who this front-woman was who was singing, and I just had no context for her, like even whether or not she was still alive, or what her story could possibly be. But I was just really curious for years, because I don’t really…it’s kind of a funny thing to say I’m starting a label, but I don’t listen to all new music that comes out; I’ll go for months and months and not listen to anything brand new that just came out. And it’s nothing against that music, it’s just that I miss it; I don’t stay online or stay connected all the time trying to keep up with all the new stuff coming out. So for me, in 2010 when I first heard that song, that was my favorite “new” album, even though it was thirty years old. I listened to it constantly when I was touring, and at weird lonely points, or when I was DJing at super social, sentimental times, and it totally just became a soundtrack for me, and felt as current and as relevant as anything that was coming out, but to me it was just preferable sonically.
Well, and it’s one thing to really like a record and even research the person who made it, but what was the moment that you decided to reach out? What did you say?
It was pretty cute fan mail-style. [Laughs] I just kind of gushed to her a little bit, because I didn’t know how she would take it, and I didn’t want to come off as too cool or something, you know? So I just made it very clear that I was…I don’t know, I think I just told her how special and unique her voice was ,and how iconic her delivery was, and that it had meant so much to me and was one of my favorite albums ever, and it was very cool, because she didn’t expect to hear that from anybody. She hadn’t thought about the music she’d made then in a very long time, and it was just a moment in her life when she was a teenager, basically. Like, when I was a teenager, I was a visual artist (I mean, I still am, but that was what I was focusing on then), and I would do all of these mechanical sculptural installations, but I just didn’t have any kind of end-goal, and I didn’t have the motivation of success or acceptance by any community; I didn’t really care about that, but I would work really hard on these projects and then invite twenty people into my house to see it, and then it would be gone forever, you know? So if in thirty years somebody was like, “I found photographs of your installation and it’s the most beautiful piece of art I’ve ever seen!” it would just blow my mind, because that just seems like a little blip of time to me, and I think that’s what it felt like to her to make that album.
But for a lot of people (myself and a lot of my friends who I realized were fans either before putting out the album or that have reached out now that I’m putting it out), that music is really timeless, and it’s really cool to be able to explain that to her, and to one at a time be like, “This person wants to do a cover; check out their music!” I introduced her to a lot of different people’s music who are fans of hers, and it was really exciting to her to see the similarities and to know that she maybe influenced these bands. And then also Vic Martin who wrote and produced; he’s a legend, but also kind of unsung. His writing is really unique and really special and cool.
Were either of them at any point hesitant at all to sort of dredge all of this up?
Yeah, there was definitely a process of communication to discuss how we wanted to do it, and then other labels were approaching them as well. It was a really long process to figure out. It also ended up happening a lot more slowly than everybody had wanted; there are always stops and starts, but it’s interesting to me to be on this side of it now, because as an artist, it’s easy to get frustrated and not understand why certain things take time, or you have expectations that aren’t fulfilled or something. But it wasn’t just like, “Yeah, let’s do it! It’s done!” [Laughs] It was definitely a process, and it still is; on my end it’s pretty DIY, you know? I have my friends at Lucky Number who are super helpful, and my management is super helpful, but just me personally, as far as shipping things and distributing things…it’s a lot of work, but it’s also totally fine, you know? [Laughs]
Right, well obviously you care a lot about it, so I’m sure that helps.
Yeah, it’s just been this fan project; I’m not making money off of it, and I’m never going to, but that makes it feel even better in a way, you know? [Laughs] I just got to do it as a fan, and to introduce other musicians to what they did. I’m actually really excited about what they’re going to do in the future.
Yeah, is that kind of mind-blowing to you to know that they maybe would never have gotten back together as a band if it hadn’t been for A) you having had reached out, but also B) the internet kind of facilitating this entire process, from the initial discovery to the actual correspondence?
Yeah, it’s really crazy. It’s very crazy. It’s an insane thing, and I don’t want to take credit for it because it’s everybody’s synchronicities and individual paths of life that have come together this way, but knowing that we sort of planted a seed and fostered things is the most awesome, rewarding, exciting thing, you know?
Absolutely. So apart from this, what are your plans with the label?
Well, there are some other projects and other artists that I feel similarly about that only had a one-off single at some point. There’s a lot of stuff that I’m really into that would be cool to release on compilations, because when I was growing up and finding music, that was my favorite way to discover things, was to find either compilations of things or film soundtracks, because there would sort of be this curated group of a bunch of different things at once, rather than, you know, just trying to sort through and listen to everything. So I think if I can do things like that, that would be great. I am interested in new artists, but I don’t want to fully sign a band; I’d rather do a one-off 7-inch with people that I kind of have some ties with and mutual support with. I love putting together collaborations like I’ve been doing with these covers, so things like that as far as music goes.
And then I also kind of want to use this as a platform or an umbrella to do multimedia things eventually, but I’m just not trying to make it explode out into the world like this crazy thing; it’s a very comfortable, self-evolving thing that’s just going to be self-fulfilling, and it’s kind of an open-ended umbrella for whatever, you know? [Laughs] That sounds very inarticulate, but there’s just no goal of making it something that’s super trending or very…the popularity or the visibility of it is not the goal; it’s just the name of a new platform I’m creating, you know?
Totally. Now, Rexy’s got that one song “Alien” which is kind of a fuck you to their label’s uselessness or whatever, and obviously you’re not a corporate Columbia Records type setup or anything, but what are some things that are really important to you to convey and maintain now that you’re on this side of things?
Yeah, for me, very personable connections are a really important part, and just having close relationships and being able to mediate; even though the label side of things is technically the business or industry end of it, I’m just the kind of person who likes to mediate things and be a translator between different people who are maybe having a hard time communicating. So just having super personal relationships with artists, especially artists who are older and not really involved in the music world; I relate to that so much, just as far as kind of wanting to stay on the outside of things sometimes. So to create a real closeness that’s not just some A&R bullshit that’s trying to make everybody happy all at once. It’s just about being very honest and very human with people, and listening to and hearing out people’s concerns, and maintaining a sense of intention and excitement about whatever you’re doing without letting the ups and downs or perceived successes or failures or whatever get in the way of a goal or an intention. Just maintaining an intention throughout.