Geographic North

Bobby Power & Farzad Moghaddam

Right to Left: Farzad, Bobby, Lee, and Farbod (in photograph).

Farzad Moghaddam: Farbod Kokabi and I worked closely together at WRAS, Georgia State University’s student-run radio station. We shared a similar passion for music in that for us, it wasn’t just the audio that made a record, it was all the details that encompasses an album—the artwork and basic packaging, but also the stuff others would find a bit negligible—the center label, the cover sticker, the j-card (extra points if your record had one). For us, these bits and pieces reflect the craft of constructing an album.

So I approached Farbod about the idea of starting a label that focused on the artistry of a record as much as the music itself. This happened while we were in Los Angeles to DJ Dublab’s Tonalism event. He was already one of my favorite graphic designers and after a few brief conversations, it was obvious we shared the same vision. By the middle of the trip, when asked what we did in Atlanta, we told people we ran a label. We also get asked about the label’s name a lot, and honestly, whatever meaning it had at the time is now lost on us. I think we liked the way the words Geographic North looked together.

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Bobby Power: About a year or so in, the Farzad and Farbod invited Lee Summers and I to build out the label even more. We’ve all been friends for years and it just kind of came naturally, as each of us brings a unique sensibility to the table and makes everything the best we can.

All four of us are heavily involved with shaping the label’s presence. We’re four music nerds who obsess over design, and vice versa, and try to answer to each of our tastes as much as possible. It’s really not hard either since our obsessions overlap quite a bit.

Farbod and Lee shape our visual aesthetic 100 percent. They’re definitely eager to check with me and Farzad when putting together a new release, things of that nature, but what they’ve come to execute is flawless, in my biased opinion.

Farzad: The first release we did was A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever Vol 1, which came in 2008. We were big fans of ASDIG’s record at the time and simply wanted to hear more, so we reached out to Ben using contacts from the radio station. By this time Farbod and I had pretty much worked through developing a rough vision for the label and were set to start with a 7” series that we deemed somewhat of a love letter to music. I got some advice from a few people I knew locally that had their own labels, and then did my own research to figure out the manufacturing aspect. From there, we contacted a number of musicians we loved and built a roster for the series. Ben was really supportive and excited about the idea, so that reinforced our enthusiasm and warranted the initial sticker shock of releasing a 7” record on your own.

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Bobby: Actually, most of our early catalog was locked-in with the first half of You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever subscription singles series. Most of those bands were ones we’d originally met or worked with while working at WRAS (A Sunny Day in Glasgow) while others were just folks we knew either are friends with (Psychic Powers, Tussle) or tangentially through other friends (Soft Circle, Warm Ghost), or were just huge fans of to begin with (Landing, Tarentel).

From there, we really started to dig a little deeper and reach for sounds by other acts we’d either established new relationships with (Windy & Carl, Auburn Lull, M. Sage), known for years (Lotus Plaza, Test House, James Conduit), or folks we’ve been following and felt aligned with what our label is all about (Mountains, Hiro Kone, Clipd Beaks, Windsor for the Derby).

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This is all to say, we strive to work with people we genuinely feel close to or know on a more personal level. Even though we see them in-person on an occasional basis, we feel like we’re working with friends who happen to make legit music. We’ll hope to continue this natural parlay into even dreamier projects in the future.

We’ve always run Geographic North from our home(s), a base that’s come to sprawl quite a bit. Lee and Farbod still hold down the headquarters in Atlanta, but I moved my family to Denver earlier this year and Farzad has been hitting the books in dental school in LA for a few years now. Aside from designing, cutting, packaging the artwork and storing stock at home, a bulk of business is handled online, be it through a linked Dropbox account or a flurry of emails and chats that go on forever.

We’ve been lucky to keep things relatively low-key without any real snags along the way, but we’ve definitely learned a lot as well. I’d say the turnaround of certain projects has held its own learning curve. Each pressing plant has its own style of customer service, windows for turning around tests and final pressings, etc. It can get a bit tricky when you’re sitting on something totally amazing – or something that you just want to get out into the world as soon as possible, only to find out some surface noise on a test pressing bumps back everything another couple months or so. Coming into this as fans and massive consumers of physical releases, we really started to understand just how much goes into these things come announcement and release day. It’s all totally worth it though.

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Establishing a direction

Farzad: I think at the time of starting a label, you’re so excited about this secret world you’ve stumbled into that your only vision is for it to be “cool.” You’re experimenting and testing the waters. Anything that developed into a direction, aesthetic or sound, happened organically as a result of the process. We still kind of have no idea what we’re doing.

Bobby: That said, it’s all really an evolving process. Our tapes have been more and more streamlined, in the interest of keeping them more fun and quick projects for both us and the artists involved, but we’ve tended to play with a variety of materials and routes for packaging. From different colors and weights of vinyl, card stock, letterpressed inserts, PCV jackets without artwork, etc. It’s all just trying out new ways of delivering our releases in new but distinct, recognizable ways.

Everything we’ve done up until this point has been incredibly rewarding, and we’ll continue to step it up where we can in regards to a few things.Figuratively, we’re going to continue to broaden our horizons, and put out sounds we adore that we haven’t had a chance to highlight yet. We’ll still be focusing on the vibes people have come to know us for thus far, but we’ll be opening it up a little bit more and moving forward on a few dream projects that have been in-the-works for quite some time.

Literally, we’re gearing up for a few new projects running deep into 2015, all of which are a bit too early to speak on just yet. But they’re all stunners. We’re also readying the debut by the Flag, Ted McGrath’s debut album. Ted has been around for a minute now and we’d initially asked him for a tape. What Ted delivered, though, was an absolute monster of modern NYC no wave. A real beauty of ugly music. That one’s got some choice remixes coming with it too.

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