Hippos in Tanks

Travis Woolsey

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Hippos in Tanks

Hippos In Tanks comes through two independent interests in recorded music: my interests and those of my partner Barron Machat. In both cases our passions were fostered through our families, who lead record-centric existences. Our experiences and relationship with records differ greatly yet we ultimately reached the same conclusion: we should take part in making music. We owe a special debt to our fathers who passed this wonderfully meaningful disease onto us.

Practically, the labels beginning occurred after I graduated college and went to work for an online company in Los Angeles, which is where I met Barron. The business was music related but bares nothing in common with the label. From the start, the two of us realized that we share similar dispositions in life (the most salient being that we share the same birthday) and developed a powerful friendship. Eventually we came to understand that our engagement with the company was simply a job and while it served us in the most basic ways there was a tremendous amount of dissatisfaction. Namely, the rapture of economic security dissolved and in it's wake lied a future of blunt horizontal flatness. As people, we felt our time was worth spending on something more meaningful then material comfort and charted a course to build something we could have a greater, non-material stake in – a label.

In early 2009 a pivotal change occurred in the form of a new opportunity: we received a request to host a radio show on Los Angeles station KXLU. The slot left a lot to be desired seeing that it was from 2-4am on Saturday morning, but it offered us the chance to build something ourselves and play records, so we accepted. The title of the program was Hippos In Tanks (named after a novel written by Burroughs and Kerouac) and initially focused on vintage sounds. The program went on to have several incarnations during it's run before we settled on playing contemporary music. The time spent curating and broadcasting proved to be an important element of developing the label identity and more importantly the show gave us a confidence, albeit modestly that our taste's were something people enjoyed.

The plan of where to start with the label took time to develop and was never linear. The only sure thing was a commitment to viynl. At first we thought of doing some reissues, but focusing on the past seemed like the wrong move and eventually we decided to release music from our peers. A major influence for this decision was a growing awareness and respect for small labels like: Acephale, Tri Angle and OESB.

By early 2010 we had developed a decent flow of communication with artists we admired and wanted to release. Unintentionally, the list was made up of artists based in either the U.K. or New York. We knew a trip and a larger commitment was necessary to bring the label to life so we left our jobs and traveled to NYC and England for much of spring 2010. During these trips we laid the foundations for the label and by June we released the first HIT record, an EP from Brooklyn based Von Haze. By December of this year we will have released an additional five records: White Car, D'eon, Laurel Halo and Games (x2).

We are still getting started, but our fundamental ambition is to build a lasting imprint that people care about. In order to make that happen we look at other institutions that have accomplished this and draw upon their approach as a guiding principle. We strive to make sure that our projects stray away from mediocrity and instill a sense of curation but not pretention. When it comes to looking for records, a central interest is finding artists who inspire us and communicate stimulating notions about nature; we've come to realize that these qualities are in the collective self interest of everyone involved. Barron and I both agree that great artists make great A&R people and we have been fortunate to get excellent recommendations from many of the people on our roster.

Any success we have seen this year is undeniably connected to our belief and confidence in the people we work with. Daniel Lopatin has been a major partner from day one and has contributed great amounts of insight into the label. Our PR support from Judy Miller and Christine Morales of Motormouth and Keong Woo of the UK have been quintessential in giving life the label a proper introduction. Lastly, without the help of our parents and close friends we would not have been able to do any of this. We remain immensely grateful to everyone, especially our customers.

Hippos in Tanks Mix
01 Laurel Halo, “Metal Confection”
02 Games, "Shadows In Bloom (SLOW)”
03 d'Eon, “Keep The Faith”
04 White Car, “Spread Spit Slap”
05 Von Haze, “OUTSYD THA NITE (White Car Edit) Salem Remix

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