A love of the physical format, twinned with patience and trust placed in his current artists’ ability is something that is earning Mike Sniper’s label Captured Tracks an undeniable musical presence.
Birthed in Brooklyn in 2008, the imprint, which celebrated its fifth birthday this year, has consistently bolstered a glowing roster with an array of reissues that have seen highly influential bands such as The Cleaners From Venus and The Monochrome Set resurface, with previously unreleased material available in vinyl form.
It’s a risk-taking strategy formed by music aficionado Sniper that has not only made Captured Tracks synonymous with a certain ethos, but also ensured important, yet under-exposed groups have garnered a second-wave musical presence. On the agenda for this month is the intellectual jangle-pop of 80s British band The Servants and the post-punk sounds of Lincoln, Nebraska’s For Against, who are both the subjects of exclusive reissues.
Keeping musically important acts spoken about, as well as propelling the likes of today’s on-fire artists such as Mac DeMarco, Beach Fossils, DIIV and Wild Nothing means Captured Tracks’ catalogue has been sourced from numerous decades and locations around the world. You know it sounds great.
Matthew Liam Fogg: How and why was Captured Tracks born?
Mike Sniper: I had a recording act at the time myself and released records on a lot of other labels at that point. I’d already co-owned a label and was doing some A&R for other labels, so it was pretty organic.
MLF: Given your concise, but steadily growing roster, what is the Captured Tracks ethos when it comes to signing artists?
MS: Just that we like the music and can help them. I like artists who already have a vision of what they want to do. We don’t try to mold them, we just want to see it through and do the best we can to get it heard, hopefully to the point where they can be an artist full-time.
MLF: Reissues are a big part of what Captured Tracks is about, with the likes of For Against and The Servants set for releases this month, what influences you to resurface these artists?
MS: I’m a fan and want people to be able to have the records. I want to keep them in the bins for new people to check out or people who are already familiar with the reissue having an opportunity for a physical object.
MLF: Why do you feel it is important to preserve a band’s legacy in this way?
MS: For some bands (The Wake and For Against not included) the material has never been released, so it’s a really great thing for the artist. This is what we did for bands like Bona Dish and Saâda Bonaire. The music was literally nowhere to be found.
MLF: What is the process for your picking of bands to be reissued? Are they personal favourites, or perhaps artists you feel should have had more exposure?
MS: Well, of course I have to be into the band. Usually something I’ve liked my whole record-collecting life. Other than that, sometimes it’s to make it exist for me, personally, to have it. And if I want to own it I feel like likeminded people and fans of the label might, too.
MLF: With your re-releases, you’ve chronicled a number of influential British artists active in the 80s (Cleaners From Venus, The Monochrome Set, The Servants and The Wake). How influential do you find this era and these groups to be, in today’s music world?
MS: I think it’ll always be influential. It’s like 60s garage and psych or 70s soul. It’s not indicative of any state of affairs: good music is always timeless. Some things may come and go in terms of popularity, but it seems like every five years there’s a rehash of a Shuggie Otis or Os Mutantes craze. Look at Rodriguez, there was a huge surge of interest around ’99 to ’01 on him, ten years later and it’s treated as this lost thing, when in reality, he’d already been through one cycle of rediscovery. But, that’s what’s cool about it; it’ll always be that way.
In 25 years, current records will be 25 years old, you know? So why differentiate. We’re basically reissuing the first Beach Fossils and Wild Nothing records with every repressing of it. I toyed with the idea of a “C/T Archives” separate label but then I remembered that Matador did their Soft Boys and Mission of Burma reissues as regular “Ole” catalog numbers and I thought that was really cool and they were right.
MLF: Members of your current roster teamed up as supergroup Shitfather for CT’s recent fifth year celebration and performed tracks from the likes of The Cleaners From Venus in what was a full-circle of sorts. Do you feel a label’s identity should be more prominent in today’s music?
MS: I think it’s good to have a label identity, but it shouldn’t be so overwhelming that a band’s sound is pigeonholed by it. We have bands like Soft Metals, Naomi Punk and Chris Cohen who all sound totally different.
MLF: You were recently named Best Local Music Label by Time Out New York, do you plan on attaining your ‘local’ tag, or can we expect Captured Tracks to keep growing?
MS: Well, we aren’t focused on NY bands, it just seems they all seem to move here once we sign them. Our hub is here, but we’d never limit ourselves just to NY. We have bands in Sweden, LA, Olympia, and Berlin – all over.
MLF: What is exciting to you about being part of the current New York music scene?
MS: New York is always exciting, musically and non-musically. Some people think it ebbs and flows but I find it consistent. It depends on your taste and if whatever is current is what you like. If it’s not what you are interested, what you do like exists somewhere, in some pocket; it just gets less press.
MLF: You’ve recently spoken about the legacy of certain artists. What are the benefits of giving your artists multi-album deals?
MS: It’s mutually beneficial because you can get a comfortable enough relationship built and you’re not subconsciously worried they are going elsewhere after their release, so you can work hard off cycle. We get to avoid the fiasco of label mania by getting there early and staying the course.
MLF: With the recent opening of CT’s own store, where did the idea come from to get more into the retail side of things?
MS: I’d already owned a record store and had run a bunch after college; we had the space so it was natural progression.
MLF: As we reach the end of what was a big year for CT, what can we expect from you in 2014?
MS: More of the same!