Stop Pop and Roll is a new independent label from Boston, which specialises in what it describes as “dark” or “pessimistic pop”. Raised from the ashes of another local label, Jackass, it was formed in February of last year,but has already garnished a strong reputation for producing quality records that have a sophisticated sound and packaging.

Stop Pop and Roll, which self describes its catalogue as “music that could probably save your life”, currently has two artists on its roster, both of whom are veterans of the Boston independent music scene.

The first, Ad Frank, was formerly the vocalist and frontman in two local indiepop groups, Miles Dethmuffin and Permafrost, but when the latter group broke up in mid 1999, went solo. ‘Mr Fancypants’, his second solo CD, combines David Bowie and Jacques Brel theatricalism with an 80’s synthesiser sound, and was released on Stop Pop and Roll in April of last year.

The second artist, Paula Kelley’s musical career began in the early 90’s as a guitarist and an occasional vocalist in the internationally successful shoegazing group, the Drop Nineteens. After leaving the Drop Nineteens in 1992, Kelley (who is also the subject of a Ppennyblackmusic magazine interview this month-Ed) went on to front another two groups, Hot Rod and Boy Wonder, before turning solo at the beginning of 2000. Influenced by the vocal harmonies and musical textures of Brian Wilson, the Bee Gees and Burt Bacharach, “the queen of baroque pop”, as one critic has defined her, released her solo debut album ‘Nothing/Everything’ on Stop Pop and Roll last September.

Frank’s debut album, ‘Ad Frank’, the final Boy Wonder EP ‘Break the Spell etc’, and a six song Paula Kelley solo EP ‘A Bit of Everything’ were all also previously released on Jackass, and are still available through Stop Pop and Roll.

Stop Pop and Roll is managed by Aaron Tap, with the assistance of his friend, Sander Wolf, and Wolf’s wife, Annette. Tap is another veteran of the Boston music scene. A guitarist in a lattter line-up of Boy Wonder, he also for many years fronted his own band, the glam rock and punk-influenced Betty Goo, with whom, again on Jackass, he released various EPs and albums. While still playing occasional guitar with a local instrumental outfit, the Weisstronauts, Tap has largely abandoned playing his own musical career to concentrate on managing Stop Pop and Roll.

In an exclusive interview with Pennyblackmusic, he talked about to us about Stop Pop and Roll’s first year and a half, both its releases to date, and his plans for its future.

PB : Why did you decide to call your new label Stop Pop and Roll ?

AT : Somebody else on the West Coast also had a label called Jackass. We had had the name longer, so if we had wanted to fight them over it then we could have. We didn’t really feel like puttting the effort in though , because Jackass is a kind of a silly name anyway. My partners and I, therefore, came up with about fifty seperate names and options, but none of them really stuck, and then one of us finally thought of ‘Stop, Pop and Roll’, and we decided to go with that. ‘Stop, Drop and Roll’ was a public self-preservation service announcement from the fifties for what you were supposed to do if you caught fire, and we adopted ‘Stop, Pop and Roll’ from that.

PB : What are the different roles of the three people involved in managing Stop Pop and Roll ?

AT : I am in the old fashioned sense of the phrase the A & R person. I not only look for new artists, but I am also there for them. I try to help them out, and to brainstorm them with ideas, and also to increase their exposure and to act as their liaison with the label. I am the man in the middle essentially.

Sander Wolf has been in the music business for about ten
years or so. He's a Berkeley college of music grad, and works both as a music journalist and a publicist. He does a lot of the leg work in the press for Stop, Pop and Roll. He is the CEO, while Annette's our real-world business expert and Treasurer.

PB : You have had long term relationships with each of Stop Pop and Roll’s two current acts, Paula Kelley and Ad Frank. You released records by both of them when you were still running Jackass, and you also played guitar in Paula’s previous band, Boy Wonder. How did you first become involved with both of them ?

AT : It all started with a show that my old band did with Ad’s old band, Permafrost. We were on the same bill and on the day of the show our rehearsal space landlord changed the lock on the door because another band, who also used the practice space, hadn’t paid any rent. When we got to the venue we met Permafrost and, therefore, had to beg them to let us use their gear, which they very kindly did. As a result of that, we became friendly with them, and I got introduced to their circle of people. One of the first people I met was Paula, who I hit it off with also. I had always been a fan of Boy Wonder anyway, but I didn’t know anyone from the band. I had watched them play though many times, and so when their guitarist quit, I stepped in.

PB : Is friendship a really important part for you of running a label ?

AT : Yeah, very much so. It is not easy putting a record out. It is important, therefore, to have a common goal, and so it’s nice to be doing it with friends. If things become difficult , we can all keep site of the idea that we’re trying to help each other succeed, and instead of just having some kind of faceless artist shouting “Give me more money” or some belligerent label shouting "sell more records!", it means we can all pull our resources together.

PB : Paula and Ad are very different acts. What criteria are you looking for when signing an act to the label ?

AT : We are trying to retain a concept within our roster. Ad and Paula are very different, but there are also key things in their music which they share in common. Within a very broad spectrum, both of them are making music that has a melodic pop sound. Each of them also writes music with very dark lyrics. I sometimes describe it as ”pessimistic pop”. When we first formed Stop Pop and Roll, we coined a phrase, “dark music for bright people”, and that’s what we are going for when signing acts, It is more a conceptual continuity than a stylistic continuity.

PB : How much personal input and creative control do you allow the artists on your label and on a product ?

AT : My stance is that the reasons we have signed the artists we have signed is because we think that they make really good records, and what we want to encourage and help them to do is make very professional sounding and looking records.

I try not to get involved really with picky, choosy issue type things as far as what songs I think they should record and how they should arrange them On very rare occasions we might have an idea to offer, but we wouldn’t try to push it through with an iron first or anything like that.

I see our job as focusing on making our records sound almost as good as major label records, and packaging them in a way that makes them look like a really professional piece of work. We’re not looking to put out music with a real sort of indie vibe.

PB : Why have you decided to adopt that approach ?

AT : There are two reasons really. Ad and Paula both produce music with a nice, slick sound and I think that their music benefits from that. We also decided from the label’s standpoint that if we were going to go that extra mile and put a lot of money in into getting out our records out, we should really make our records look like we have put a lot of money into them and something that people, as a result, really wanted to own . We wanted to present a united front of “Here we are. We’re a professional company, and this is a professional label.”

I have always been a a big fan of record art, and become really involved in the design of the album covers I get a real kick out of it because when I was a kid I loved album covers and if the record had a great cover, that was an incentive to buy it at times I try to keep that in mind also.

PB : What do you see the role of the label manager as ?

AT : I feel in quite a unique position because, as well as running as the label, I am a performer still as well. I see my role , and the ideal role of a label person though as someone who really understands music, but who does’t think that they have to be absolutely in charge and to always know what’s best. I think the role of the label person should be to know that they have really talented artists, but to let the artists do what they want to do, and to be there to help them with that. It makes a big difference if you are an artist and if you have someone else making the calls for you to promote your records for you. People take you more seriously, if you’re not sitting in your jammies trying to do it yourself, and I see that as part of the label manager’s job too.

PB : During the last couple of years, it seems that you have put your own musical career on a back burner. You used to front your own band, but now instead are concentrating on Stop Pop and Roll. Do you hope to eventually run your own band again ?

AT : I don’t know. I’m sure that I’ll make a record again someday. I didn’t really put the band or anything on the back burner. I just ran out of steam. I wasn’t getting much out of the direction of the group. It was my band as well , so it was my fault entirely. I wasn’t enjoy writing the songs I was writing anymore though, and I was surrounded by all these great songwriters, so I decided to concentrate on that instead. I play in the Weisstronauts, and have contributed some tracks to their next album, so in a way I’m still satisfying that urge. I am more interested though in seeing if the music industry is still something that can work for people who appreciate artistic music, and it’s been a real kick for me to be able to concentrate on that with Stop Pop and Roll. To go back to my previous comment, it’s a lot more fun and interesting for me to make these phone calls when I’m not doing it for my own band.I find it far more rewarding.

PB : Could you every see yourself using Stop Pop and Roll as a vehicle for your own musical talents , or would you rather go to another label to do this ?

AT : I don’t know if they would sign me (Laughs). I suppose that if I ever get around to having an album’s worth of material that I would probably put it out on Stop Pop and Roll as long as I remained as “pessimistic” in my outlook as before, which is very likely.

PB : Final question ! What else have you got planned for Stop Pop and Roll for the near future ?

AT : That’s been the topic of conversation for the last couple of months. We’re trying to figure out what we want to do this year, as we haven’t found the next act to sign yet for the label. We don’t have any releases on the calendar for this year, but we are hoping to release something. We might do a split EP with some previously unavailable Ad and Paula tracks, or we may do a whole compilation with other acts that aren’t on the label. 2003 will also see us release new albums from both Ad and Paula, and we’re now also beginning to focus on that.

PB : Thank you very much !

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