Beyond their burgeoning catalogue, we were drawn to their music in part because Britt and Amanda Brown write vividly about their artists.
Of Matrix Metals:
“Few crews have begun capturing the imaginary high life of neon Corvette rides, Ray-Bans at night, and sea-breeze mind-surfing better than the Outer Limits Recordings collective.”
“Plastic palm trees. Beach scene snowglobes. Airbrushed neon sunset hotel paintings. All shining examples of potent Fake Escapism at work, in real life. And if you’ve ever wondered what the audio equivalent of this kind of cheap coastal utopian simulacrum is, take a good listen to the recorded works of Mr. Matt Mondanile aka Ducktails.”
If you're getting a California vibe, it's not entirely misleading: though they've adopted an international stable of musicians, and likewise distribute from their home to a global circle of enthusiasts, the label was founded in 2003 with “an emphasis on community-based bands and really artful/hand-crafted releases.” Britt Brown writes about his label, five years on.
The world reveals itself once you start looking
We didn't start the label already knowing about every underground band in the world. It wasn't some label birthed out of a pre-existing knowledge/love of the global underground music universe. I feel like we’re probably the black sheep amongst labels in that regard, but for me and Manda, NNF was pretty much started in a total void. Like, we knew some local bands and dudes in LA who played music but we weren’t in touch with any local (or global) underground scene or anything like that. I was into plenty of weird music but mainly in the way that I’d go to Amoeba and buy Parson Sound and Stickmen With Rayguns CDs and be like “this shit is awesome!” We knew no one our age who was creatively attempting anything fucked up/psychedelic/weirdo/etc.
But we both loved cassettes since high school, so when the decision was made to start a label there was never a question as to whether or not we were gonna do tapes; that was a given. We weren’t “tape traders” or anything that official, though Manda had run a K/Kill Rock Stars-style label in high school that only used snail mail catalogs, hidden envelopes of cash, and did lo-fi tapes and 7-inches and whatnot. Once we put out the first NNF tape things opened up fairly fast…within weeks we were meeting lots of cool art youths and kids that ran bedroom labels and various internet drifters. It only takes a few website links and suddenly you're like, “Oh this distro Fusetron is pretty cool… Who are all these bands I’ve never heard of?” The world reveals itself once you start looking.
As for where we first hear the bands/artists we release, it varies, as it does with all labels I’m sure. During the first couple years of NNF I’d say we found out about bands mainly through local shows. We started going to the Smell a lot, and to the sick Neon Hates You festivals that Brian Miller from Deathbomb Arc would book and there’d invariably be some insanely amazing new band we’d never heard of before. LA was really rich with hybrid experimental punk-damaged bands for a while around 2004-2005.
Times changed though and I’d say for the past few years it’s more common for us to find out about the bands we release through general word-of-mouth and the occasional mind-blowing tape/CD-R that finds its way into our hands. We have lots of friends in bands that tour a lot and often times people will recommend shit to us. Neither me nor Manda has the patience to trawl through Myspace or anything like that; for some reason that website’s whole aura makes every band seem way worse than they actually are so we try to avoid it when possible. In general my personal instinct is: the more human the method of discovery, the better the odds I’ll like it.
It’s funny to me. I’d say about 40% of the NNF mail order we do ships to outside the US (to Canada, UK, Euro, etc), another 40% goes to the east coast, and the remainder 20% is scattered everywhere else. Despite being located here, we don’t sell a lot of records on the west coast. We help book shows for touring friends as often as we can, and we’ve set up a few mini-festivals here and there, but it’s not like most people in LA have ever heard of our label or anything (our main local paper, the LA Weekly, has only written about one NNF release ever, and when they did they called us a “San Francisco label,” haha). We do our best, there’s just a SHIT TON of entertainment-oriented hustlers out here, so there’s a looooooong line of bands and actors and t-shirt designers and record labels and writers and bullshit all busting their ass for their 15 minutes of fame, which is very overwhelming for the average media-consumer.
Of course in terms of the bands/artists we release music by, it’s obviously SIMPLE AS SHIT to work with people from all over. Bedroom labels run by 15-year-olds that only make cheap, photocopied edition-of-10 CDRs can easily work with artists from Russia, Puerto Rico, Madagascar, wherever; all they need is an email address and a search engine. So, being “national” as a business means nothing in the internet age. Hell, neither does being “international.” I will say though that as a label we find it VASTLY preferable to work with bands/people we’ve met in real life at least once. It’s way saner, more satisfying both emotionally and aesthetically, and it’s far easier to sort out difficulties when they do occasionally arise. It’s not a hard-line policy by any means, but it’s nice.
01 Ducktails, “Gem” (S/T LP/CD)
02 Pocahaunted, “Time Fist” (edit) (Bored Fortress 7″)
03 NASA, (Track Two off Diamonds & Wood)
04 Absinthe Minds, (B1 off The Song Of Returning Light)
05 Secret Abuse, “I Stole A Gun That Sings With Joy/Rib of His God” (NNF119 7″)
06 Sun Araw, “Beams” (Beach Head)
07 Mythical Beast, “River Blindness” (Scales)
08 Odd Clouds, (Track Two off Deceiving Illusion LP)
09 Topaz Rags, “Tarot Harem” (Tarot Harem 7″)
10 U.S. Girls, “Rise + Go” (NNF141)
11 Vibes, “Shake It Off” (You God It)
12 Peaking Lights, “All The Good Songs Have Been Written” (Imaginary Falcons)