On the precipice of their upcoming CT5 fest, and with the champagne-smashing, bottle-popping opening of their first storefront/record outpost this week, Brooklyn label Captured Tracks has a lot to celebrate—and a lot to do. We caught up with CT founder Mike Sniper over email regarding the label that brought you Dum Dum Girls, DIIV, Mac DeMarco, Minks, and a host of other phenomenal underground successes that took the label to the place that it is now, and vice versa. The Captured Tracks Record Store/Trading Post is now open and available for business, and the CT5 fest starts this Saturday at The Well. More details for that can be found here, and click through here to see a photoset of the opening of the Captured Tracks storefront.
Let's start with a little background on the label. How did you go from the DC Snipers to starting the label. What was the inspiration to start it? Were previous connections necessary to get it off the ground?
DC Snipers wasn't a serious band or anything, it was more or less a punk band, did one tour, released one album while we were around and one after we weren't even a band anymore. I was simultaneously coowner of a reissue label (powerpop/punk stuff) called Radio Heartbeat. I'd worked in record stores after college and was still working at one when Blank Dogs, my home recording band, was getting a bit of notoriety. Put out records on In The Red, Troubleman, Woodsist, HoZac, did one of the first Sacred Bones records and decided to start doing my own records along with other current bands I'd found. Dum Dum Girls I really liked but she'd had no records out and no one knew her, so we did her first release which is also ours, a 12″ EP which I paired with a Blank Dogs 12″ EP. Called in some favors and did one-off records with bands I knew from touring like Woods, Fresh & Onlys, The Oh Sees, and it took off frome there.
What was the first release like? How many copies were printed? How did you start the distro flowing? Any funny stories of the earlier days of CT?
Surprisingly, it was immediately successful. The mailorder was insane, we ran out of the 500 of each we did immediately and had do to run off 1000 more, etc. Just used the same distros I used for Radio Heartbeat and people liked stocking Blank Dogs records, that was the advantage of pairing the unknown band with the known one. The funny thing is now, which is the unknown one? Haha. Early days funny stories? Not too many, I mean the whole thing is funny. We were only going to do 12″ EP's ever and the Beets were saying “But we have a whole LP!” So we did an LP/CD as our 10th release. Wild Nothing had a few songs I said “These are good, make me an album” a couple months later Gemini existed.
What has been your proudest moment in Captured Tracks history?
There's no specific moment per se, it's always nice to sell out a big venue with one of your bands in NYC and just enjoy that.
What was the motivation behind opening the store? Who will curate what goes in the store? How do you think having the storefront will help in contributing to the musical community of Brooklyn?
Well, I've run a bunch of stores and co-owned one already so it's an easy connection. It's 75% record store, and it's a normal one, so it's not “curated.” The curated booths (which are being built now) are temporary pop-up shops for local artists, C/T-related and C/T-friendly. I don't know about contributing to the community. It's just going to be a good place for people to find great records.
How do you see the label growing in the future? How do you keep a consistent image and message while also growing to bigger, newer things?
I feel like bands come to us with their aesthetic already in tact, we don't push it on them or anything. We're signing artists of all kinds of sounds and growing pretty organically, every year we hire one person or so.
What release are you most looking forward to in the coming months?
I'm a huge Flying Nun fan so everything in the pipeline with that is exciting. This reissue for a “band” called Saada Bonaire is really amazing, I'm excited for everything, I don't get involved unless I love the music.