As is often the case with small DIY labels, Orchid Tapes began from a desire to self-release my music. It was early 2010 and I was living in Toronto, attending a visual arts university, and I was finishing work on my first album as Foxes in Fiction, Swung from The Branches. I chose the name Orchid Tapes really early on, it comes from a rearrangement of the song title ‘Tape Hiss Orchid” from Deerhunter’s second album Cryptograms, which remains an extremely important album in my life.
Around that time (the optimistic blog heyday of 2010), there were a ton of smaller little cassette labels popping up online all the time that were either run by bloggers looking to expand beyond the role of taste maker or by musicians themselves. I was really inspired by the perceived ease of being able to start your own internet-based label, and I didn’t know the first thing about trying to reach out to actual labels to find opportunities, so creating one of my own seemed like the best thing to do.
So that was that! After self-releasing my album on the old label’s Blogspot, a weird series of events followed that resulted in Swung from The Branches receiving a lot of unexpected attention due to a rumour that was largely propagated on the 4chan sub-forum /mu/ that the (completely re-titled) album was a secret side-project of either Panda Bear or Bradford Cox. It was a really surreal and weird thing to happen, but after the dust settled and everything got cleared up with the few websites that covered the whole thing, it ended up being exactly the kind of initial exposure the label needed to move beyond the depths of obscurity and for me to feel inspired enough to push the label beyond myself and my music.
Since I was only 20 at the time, I didn’t really have any experience or knowledge about running a label or what the process was going to be like (which I think is kind of redundant when you’re just running a cassette label), but I didn’t even really know any musicians in Toronto at the time that I could work with. It wasn’t until I met Mathew Lee Cothran, Rachel Levy, Dylan Khotin-Foote and Sam Ray through MySpace over the next year that the Orchid Tapes’ core began to materialize. We all lived in geographically disparate places but because of the internet and the kind of music we were making, we were all drawn close together really quickly, despite the digital divide.
[Ricky Eat Acid]
In March 2011, Rachel, Dylan, Johanna of Yohuna and myself all met up for the first time for a tour of California in which Rachel acted as our designated driver (the entire ridiculous thing is documented on YouTube). It was on that tour I first met Brian Vu, who I now live with, running Orchid Tapes out of our (slightly bigger) apartment in New York. Bringing Brian into the mix changed things immediately for the label. His aesthetic sense is unlike that of anyone that I’ve ever met, and the entire stylistic approach of Orchid Tapes is indebted to his talents as a designer and visual artist.
[Brian Vu and Warren Hildebrand of Orchid Tapes]
In the time since, the kind of community that’s grown around Orchid Tapes has turned out to be something more than I could have ever expected. We’ve come to know some of the most inspiring and talented people that I’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting and we’ve been able to connect with people in ways that I only ever dreamed of. One of the main ideas I’ve had about Orchid Tapes from the start is to have it be something that exists to release music that’s created from a place of love and honesty and has the potential to affect people on a deeply personal level, and I like to think we’ve accomplished that through the things we’ve shared with the world. We may still be a fairly small label, but seeing the way that people have responded to what we’re doing is both extremely moving and inspiring.
Anyways it’s 2014 now, and we’re a little bit more than just a cassette label, which is really exciting. Releasing Ricky Eat Acid’s Three Love Songs on vinyl earlier this year was a tremendous and personal success for us and it embolded us to continue releasing records. We’ve also been lucky enough to put together four incredible showcases in both New York and Los Angeles, which have helped us put faces to the people who are listening to and supporting what we do. We’re releasing some of the best music I’ve ever heard over the course of the rest of the year; fucking unbelievable records by Alex G, Elvis Depressedly, Mister Lies, and I get to release my own record as Foxes in Fiction, which feels really good after arrangements with other labels have fallen through. We’re setting up with physical distribution soon which will certainly help get this music we believe in so much out to more people. Lots of good things.
[Sam Ray aka Ricky Eat Acid, Mat Cothran aka Elvis Depressedly, and Alex G]
Things have changed and developed a lot for us in really positive ways lately, and it’s all left me feeling extremely blessed to be in the position I am and know the people that I do. We’re very much a family-driven label and that’s something I never want to change or compromise on, even as our roster grows and expands. We wouldn’t be anywhere if it weren’t for the people that have chosen to support us, or the musicians that we’re lucky enough to work with. To say that running Orchid Tapes has been the greatest collective experience of my life wouldn’t be overstating it.