DC & Brooklyn-based indie label Carpark Records (Beach House, Cloud Nothings, Dan Deacon, Speedy Ortiz, etc.) are celebrating their sixteenth year in business this March with three separate showcases (one in Brooklyn at Baby’s All Right tomorrow, 3/6, as well as one in DC at DC9 this Saturday 3/7, on and another in Austin for SXSW on 3/19) PLUS a dope-looking limited-edition 12″ picture disc (out May 26th) ft. nine exclusive, full-length songs and nineteen locked grooves by artists from across the Carpark roster. (Proceeds from all of these things will go to Little Kids Rock, which is a charity that brings free music instruction and instruments to under-served United States public schools.)
I caught up with Todd Hyman, owner of Carpark Records, about what’s changed (and remained the same) over the last sixteen years, as well as about how the sweet sixteen festivities were conceptualized and what we can expect from them. Read up on all that below, grab tickets to any // all showcases that apply to your geographic location, pre-order the picture disc, and follow Carpark on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest updates. HERE WE GO:
So first of all, congratulations on sixteen years of Carpark, that’s huge!
Thank you, it’s hard to believe!
So what made you go with a sweet sixteen as your mega-milestone as opposed to the more traditional five year increments?
Oh, you know, we always like to try to be a little different; people usually go with the five, ten, fifteen, twenty, and I think originally we were trying to go for a fifteen year celebration, but things didn’t quite pan out, so we said, “Why don’t we go for sixteen?” But the idea was sort of a basketball-sweet-sixteen sort of theme; we’re college basketball fans over here.
Cool. And obviously sixteen years is quite a bit of time, so how (if at all) would you say your mission or approach has changed from the outset?
Well, the mission is still the same in that we’re trying to put out quality music that reaches as many people as possible. The kind of music has changed over the years, though; the label kind of started off as purely electronic, so we’ve been through various stages, and now it’s more about whoever or whatever I like, that kind of thing. We’ve got guitar bands, bands with electronics, people doing stuff on their computers…whatever sounds good, really.
Totally. And when you started out in 1999, the record industry was obviously different to how it is now; was there any aspect (with regards to heavy digitization in particular) over the last sixteen years that was especially difficult (or especially easy, for that matter) to transition into as a label?
I wouldn’t say there were any really difficult transitions, it was just kind of going with the flow, really. When I started the label in 1999 it was just when people were starting to exchange music freely on the internet, and it was right before iTunes and other sort of DSPs started establishing themselves. It was a bit of a free-for-all…maybe you could say it was a rough time to start a label in the sense that labels that had started in the early nineties knew what it was like to sell records and CDs, and we started at this point where sales were just starting to fall for physical formats while digital was still sort of this new frontier that no one had really figured out yet. I remember some of our early artists were trying to use that to their advantage; one of them (Marumari) would take his songs and put them places where people would download free music, but he’d title the tracks with other famous people, kind of like an early version of hashtagging I guess. So for example, he’d say “Marumari vs. Stereolab” or something in the hopes that people would search for that name and stumble upon his track and think, “This is awesome!”
That’s smart! Yeah, I think it was a very good time to come along and be able to navigate that frontier; obviously it’s panned out well for you in the long-run. Now, you WILL have this physical picture disc in celebration of the big sixteen, so who kind of conceptualized that? (It’s very cool-looking.)
I think one of our employees Steph found the images, and then our graphic designer Rob Carmichael went with it from there, put some effects on it, gave it kind of a psychedelic loop vibe, for lack of a better term; it’s got quite a few locked groove loops. It’ll be a couple of months until we get to see one in-person.
Fantastic! And for the shows that are happening, will all of those have the bonus incentive of free T-shirts for the first fifty guests to arrive?
How’d you determine the line-up for each of those showcases? Was it mainly a geographical convenience thing, or…?
Well, we did email every single person we’ve ever worked with to say, “We’re doing these parties as well as a picture disc, so if you’d like to do a show or a track, let us know.” So the ones who wrote back are the ones who are playing, and so for the New York show there are a few who live in NYC, and then we’ve got Ear Pwr from North Carolina, Greg Davis is coming down from Burlington, Vermont, Jimmy Whispers is from Chicago…so kind of the immediate area, but some people who are putting in a considerable haul to get to our show, which is nice of them.
Awesome! Well we’re very excited for those. And I know it’s difficult to predict what will happen in even ONE year, let alone another sixteen, but what do you foresee for the future of Carpark?
Well, you know, I’m not much of a predictor of the future, but we’ll just keep doing what we do, finding more music to put out, and hopefully hopefully people will be into it…that’s kind of how we operate, I guess.