Sister Polygon is the DC-based label run by all four members of Priests: Katie, Daniele, GL, and Taylor. The band started the label in 2012 to press their own debut record, the “Radiation/Personal Planes” 7-inch. Sister Polygon’s most recent release is a 7-inch by Pinkwash, following singles and tapes by Shady Hawkins, Downtown Boys, Sneaks, and more. Here, all four members of Priests recount the history and trajectory of the young label, still a very small operation despite the enormous, energetic force that is its collected discography. A Sister Polygon label sampler is streaming below as well.
Katie: We started Sister Polygon because we wanted to put out a single for our band, Priests. I personally didn’t really like the idea of “shopping” our music around to other people asking, “What do you think of this? Want to throw some money at it, put it out?” It just seemed like a cool thing to do, figuring out how to make a record. Plus, GL had some experience doing this a few years prior. He did a small label as a teenager. So we didn’t even think much about it, just sort of did it.
Daniele: I know GL was also really passionate about putting out a Cigarette 7-inch. They’re an amazing local band here. We still haven’t done that yet, but it is in the works!
Katie: There’s an Italian band called Silver Bullets, they have a song called Sister Polygon. I didn’t even know this until a year ago, when GL told someone this in another interview. All I remember is GL being like, “I think we should call the label Sister Polygon” and the only thing I was insistent about was that we be Sister Polygon Records. I think there was some discussion about us being Sister Polygon Audio but to me that sounds like we make audio equipment. With “records” as the modifier, we can produce records of anything. A record is a document of something’s existence.
Our first release was our own record, our first single. The A side is “Radiation” and the B side is “Personal Planes”. Some people think Tape 1 is the first Sister Polygon release, but that’s not true. We didn’t have the label figured out yet, so Tape 1 is just us bootlegging ourselves.
Since Sister Polygon is run by the four of us, me, Daniele, Taylor, and GL, our operations are based out of our houses and apartments. Right now GL runs mail order so we keep stock at his place. Taylor does a lot of our graphic design. We’ve housed stock at Daniele’s place before, too. I’ve recently been doing a lot of work at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Chinatown. Sometimes I call the third floor of that building my office. I like to sit on the couches in front of this Nam June Paik piece called “Electronic Superhighway” — it’s a giant neon outline of the United States with all these little TVs twinkling.
GL: Daniele and I lived together in a group house, the Foxhole, when the label was first started. We did lots of assembly there, but now everything is conveniently housed in a very small closet with a beautiful view of the entire city in my apartment.
I’ve come to realize that most people don’t understand how small of an operation SPR is. It takes a lot of wrangling on our part to get something out into the world, but when we finally do, we’re usually besides ourselves with joy.
Daniele: The roster has come together very organically. We all had an idea in the beginning that we wanted to focus on DC music, and we have to a large degree. But also, as we met more and more cool people from touring as Priests, we wanted a way to be involved in what they were doing and be supportive, and the label was a way to do that. There’s just some people whose art you really connect with, and I think it’s only natural to try to become friends with them if they’re within your orbit. Keeping that in mind, SPR is essentially a vehicle for making our music and our friends’ music more widely available.
GL: A lot of the people that are on the label are close friends and are very involved. Whether it’s assembly or getting the word out, all the bands have been pretty invested in the releases they’ve done, so it’s been helpful to have not only the support of the four of us, but also the support of the people on the label.
Other than us being passionate about the music we’re putting out, there was no specific direction when we started the label. We decided that we wanted to have a set aesthetic that would be two colors. So it’d be like the Downtown Boys record is pink and blue, and the Shady Hawkins cassette is white and black, and the Priests 7-inch is red and yellow. We wanted to stick to that kind of two-tone aesthetic
Daniele: Not to be confused with 2 Tone the ska label. That is NOT our aesthetic. [laughs]
Katie: The four members of Priests run the label, but we’ve had lots of help and advice. Both Dischord and K Records have been very supportive of us since the get-go. Calvin was the first person to order copies of our stuff for the K Distro. It’s not like they even make money off stuff like that. Same with Dischord, they’ve always stocked Sister Polygon releases and sold a lot of them. Whenever we’ve had questions about digital distribution or how certain things work, they’ve been super helpful. We’re lucky to live so close by.
Doing any sort of work where you’re unfamiliar, it is kind of like driving at night. You don’t really know what problems you’ll run into until they’re about ten feet in front of you. Plus, anyone involved in music knows that the way people consume music is constantly changing. People say that’s true now more than ever with the internet, but I think it’s always been true. I think records were first mass-produced around 1900 so in the greater scheme of things, buying pre-recorded music is still a relatively young market (compared to like, buying paintings or houses or human labor). So I don’t think, in this hundred and fifteen year period there’s been too much stasis in “The Way The Market Works”, if you will.
Taylor: When it comes to design stuff I’ve definitely learned the hard way to do proof prints before running off a bunch of things. Currently have a stack of 100 or so Sneaks j-cards that I now use as scrap paper >:-) Also, bone folders are a godsend when it comes to assembly!
Katie: We just love music and try to support and produce music we have strong feelings about. It’s pretty simple. We also are pretty small and have minimal operating budget so I guess there’s a built-in frugality involved.
GL: Yeah, we just try to put out music we’re passionate about; it’s not confined to genre or gender or anything else. It’s just stuff that we feel like, Oh my god, this NEEDS to be in the fucking world. We put out stuff we’re passionate about by any means necessary.
Daniele: As for the future, we just had a couple new releases (the Sneaks cassette and the Pinkwash 7″), and those things usually take a while to come down the pipeline. We have some stuff we’re just starting to be involved in now (the aforementioned Cigarette 7″, a Gauche cassette), but we’re also working on a new Priests album simultaneously, so it may take a month or two (or three) before we release anything new. I’ve come to realize that most people don’t understand how small of an operation SPR is. It takes a lot of wrangling on our part to get something out into the world, but when we finally do, we’re usually besides ourselves with joy, because it’s always so good and so worth it.