Every indie fan knows that you need a label that you can rely on. Trawling through the masses of new releases looking for new bands is such a daunting task (though often satisfying) it’s good to have a label that you know is going to give you something you’ll enjoy. I have a few labels that I feel I can always rely on, but none more so than Deep Elm. Deep Elm are curators of good music, making sure it is well organised and accessible, and going far beyond being just a mere label.

I first encountered them a few years ago with an album by The White Octave, a really great punk album, reminiscent of Bluetip and Burning Airlines. Then I bought the Appleseed Cast’s 'Low Level Owl' album, which has to be one of my absolute favourites albums of all time. A combination of subtle indie and guitar pop, with unrelenting experimentation and the obvious influence of post-rock and even space and prog rock, made a unique sound. From there I was introduced to the direct, intense approach of the likes of Cross My Heart, Pop Unknown and Camber, the harmonious pop of Brandtson, the unrelenting passion and progressive approach of Red Animal War, the sleepy spaced out vibe of Logh. The list goes on and on, it seems that Deep Elm have a band for most of my moods. The recent run of releases has been of a particularly high quality. Special mention must go to Sounds Like Violence, whose debut EP “The Pistol” is probably my favourite release on Deep Elm to date, and probably the best new band I’ve heard for a long time as well.

Deep Elm began several years ago, when a man named John Szuch decided to leave his job on Wall Street and do something fun with his life. Many calls to many of his favourite labels’ respective owners later and John was prepared to release his first single. Now Deep Elm has worked with dozens of bands, watching them go from unknowns to well respected independent figures.

The label has now expanded and is run by three people. Pennyblackmusic chatted to Chuck Daley, to try and find out what makes this small label so consistently good when so many struggle to find enough genuinely worthy material.

PB: To begin, briefly introduce yourself and describe what you do at the label, Deep Elm?

CD: My name is Chuck Daley, and I take care of promotions and publicity at Deep Elm, which means I take care of magazines and radio, I do tour press and all sorts of stuff like that. But since we’re only three people working here we all do a little bit of everything. I used to do all the mail order, but we’ve got a new guy that does all of that. It’s definitely a community though, well a small community of three people anyway, that share a lot of responsibilities. But my main job is promotions and publicity.

PB: Basically to go all the way back to the beginning, when did you first get interested in music? What were sort of things were you in to from a young age?

CD: I think I really got interested in music when I first entered high schoo. I was probably 13 or 14. I’m not quite sure how old I was, but I started to listen to a lot of my dad’s old records, like classic 70's rock records that he had on vinyl, because he was a pretty avid collector of music. He liked a lot of bands like Buffalo Springfield, the Allman Brothers and Steely Dan that had more of a southern style or were jazz influenced rock groups.

From there, I got into the alternative format, I suppose partly through MTV’s show '120 Minutes'. The main band I got into was Buffalo Tom, I liked all that early 90's alternative thing that was going on. In college, I became a radio DJ and my interest grew from that. And I got talking to people who were into different kinds of music. I had a couple of roommates who were into punk stuff and they kind of got me into that. It kind of all snowballed. If you have a general interest in music, you are always looking for something new and exciting, something that you can’t find in the mainstream.

PB: When did you first decide to work on a record label?

CD: Oh, I don’t know if I really made that decision! Probably when I got the job at Deep Elm! I guess it was kind of coincidental or maybe pure luck. I had been a fan of Deep Elm and some of the bands and I happened to be on the website and saw that they were looking for someone to come and join the Deep Elm team. I was living at home at the time after graduating from college and I was looking for something to do with my life and applying for jobs. . The job description was pretty cool and it incorporated a lot of things that I had learned in college, and it was going to be with music, and I could use my communication and writing skills and it seemed really cool so I whacked off a resume, and then I waited a few months. John was doing Deep Elm by himself at that stage. and wasn’t sure what was going on. Eventually, however, it worked out and he decided to give it a go, and I’ve been here about four and a half years now.

PB: What would you say have been the most satisfying moments of running the Deep Elm label so far?

CD: When you’re doing an independent label there are always ups and downs, but the best moments are the moments where, and I think this goes for everyone here, you get to see your bands playing live, and feeling the live energy and the independent spirit. It’s those moments when I feel, ‘Wow, I really love what I’m doing’ and it just kind of connects. There’s been a lot of great shows, I couldn’t point to just one, but for me they’re what I’d single out as some of the best moments.

PB: Do you have a lot of contact with all the bands on your label?

CD: Well, at the very least I’d say we talk to all the bands at least once a day. It’s a pretty open door policy, where they can call us if they need anything, and we can call them if we have a question that comes out, and we need to be in constant contact because we have a ‘do it together’ kind of policy. Of course, if a band comes anywhere near where we’re located in Charlotte, North Carolina we definitely go out to the shows. For instance, Burns Out Bright are from Columbia, North Carolina, which is probably only an hour away, so I’ve probably seen those guys about ten times in the last few months.

PB: Deep Elm makes no shame out of using the word ‘emo’, (for example, in the Emo Diaries compilation series) when so many bands try to avoid using that term. Why don’t you have a problem with it?

CD: Well, people seem to have this misconception about Deep Elm that we claim that we’re the Emo label, and while we have 'The Emo Diaries' series , that much is true but even with that it is just a name. We never wanted to define ‘emo’. We just wanted to document a sound that is powerful, and it’s an open submission compilation where anybody can send stuff in, and if you listen to those records there are all kinds of different styles.

PB: Deep Elm's completely all over the place stylistically, isn’t it?

CD: Yeah, it is. It’s based on stuff we like, and us trying to help out bands we like. It’s given many bands an opportunity to shine. But if you look at the website and the band bios, and all the things we’ve written there is no mention of the word ‘emo’. I’ve never said, “yeah, these guys are emo, you should really check ‘em out”. I’ve never said that, because I think it doesn’t do the band justice because I think it lumps them into a category that can’t be defined, and that does them a disservice.

PB: It seems to me that the style of bands on the label has changed slightly in the last year or so? Do you agree? Is it deliberate?

CD: Um, well, I think a lot of the younger bands that we’re working with are just generally more rocking, but I don’t think that’s an intentional shift! I think the diversity on the label is really good.

The Appleseed Cast had such great experimentation on ‘Low Level Owl’ and also on ‘Mare Vitalis’, and then you go to something like Desert City Soundtrack who are incorporating an early 90's screamo feel with piano, and there’s David Singer doing indie-pop stuff and Drive Til Morning, who have almost an alt-country vibe, and then there’s Logh from Sweden who have the orchestral, atmospheric sound. We’ve never lent towards one particular style. We love the music, but we all have different tastes so you never know what’s gonna strike us. We just happen to have come across Lock And Key, Burns Out Bright and Fire Devine and they’re all aggressive and rocking. It just so happens they’ve all showed up at the same time. But that’s not to say that if a demo showed up tomorrow from an ambient trip-hop band and we all really, really loved it that we wouldn’t sign it. We just want to help these young bands make it to the next level. We’ve done it before with Planes Mistaken For Stars, Appleseed Cast and Brandtson. They all started out as young bands not knowing what the hell was going on and now they’re touring the world.

PB: When you release albums, how much input do you have on the actual release, in terms of track listings, producers, sleeve art?

CD: We pretty much do everything together. As far as writing the music, well we never tell a band how their record should be obviously. We can make a suggestion if a band doesn’t know what producer to use, but it’s really the bands' stuff. As for the tracklisting and sequencing, we are an outside opinion that can see things objectively. John is really good at sequencing stuff. He just knows how to make things flow in the right way, and we’ve had bands give us the master recordings and John switches some songs around and it’s a totally different record and the band can be like "Holy Crap!" But obviously, the band still has their say. And it is the same with artwork. Sometimes the band don’t even have any ideas and they’ll ask us to do something, and sometimes they’ll have a finished sleeve or a few photos and ideas that we’ll work together on. Hopefully, everybody’s always happy with the end result.

PB: Do you have disagreements among the three of you there, or does there have to be a consensus on everything?

CD: Well, John owns the label so he gets the final say. We always talk and come to a consensus, but John has the final say. We might talk, and I might say something and he’ll want to do something else and he’ll do that which is fine, because he probably knows better than me!

PB: What do you think have been the strongest albums
released on the label? Do you have any particular favourites?

CD: We were actually talking about that the other day, and are our fivefavourite Deep Elm records and what we think are musically the strongest. We came up with, from the Appleseed Cast, 'Mare Vitalis' and 'Low Level Owl'. To show a such of progression from the first record and then to get even better that was amazing. We all agreed that Red Animal War’s 'Black Phantom Crusade's was a really, really good record. The White Octave record is one that has stuck around even though the band isn’t really doing anything anymore. Desert City Soundtrack’s 'Funeral Car', we think those guys are really, really awesome and that’s a great record and the Sounds Like Violence is probably our favourite record of all time. It's getting such a great response, especially from the UK.

Then there's the new record from Claire De Lune that’s going to be be out on June 22nd. We’re really impressed by those guys. We haven’t had much feedback yet because we’re just getting the promos out but we think it’ll go down as one of Deep Elm’s best releases ever.

PB: They’re a new name. What sort of band are they?

CD: Well, they’re from Minneapolis and they’re hard to describe but I guess you’d say they’re aggressive, indie rock type stuff but with pianos. Actually, Desert City Soundtrack discovered those guys. They did a show with them and the next day called us and said that we had really ought to check them out. There’s two vocalists and they have really well thought out songs. It’s well played,. They’re melodic but it’s not pop or anything. I’d just call it aggressive, indie sounding music. We’ve talked a lot about how to describe these guys and there’s no real good way. But they’re awesome.

PB: What about away from Deep Elm? What sort of bands sparked your interest in music? What are your all time faves? What music are you listening to right now?

CD: I listen to a lot of Deep Elm but I buy a lot of other records, and Will (the other guy that works here) buys a lot too. He told me how many he had recently, a lot.

(To Will) Hey Will, how many records do you have?" About two thousand! I don’t have that many! But I sell a lot back, so I suppose that makes a difference.

But I like loads of stuff I like a lot of older stuff, like Jawbox and the Dischord stuff, and some of the mid 90's emo/screamo stuff, whatever you want to call it, like Indian Summer or Heroin. I’m also into some blusgrass influenced stuff, like Gillian Welch especially and the Scud Mountain Boys or anything Joe Pernice does, Red House Painters. Actually, one of my favourite records of all time is by a UK band, Spy Versus Spy. They put out a record called 'Little Light' . I love anything that Bob Mould has done, Husker Du and especially Sugar.' Copper Blue' is an amazing record. Unfortunately, I have so many its hard to listen to them all and I’m always going through my collection and thinking I should listen to that more. But I’m at the office so much. We work 12 hour days, and also we listen to all the demos that come in here, and we listen to Deep Elm stuff. I , therefore, listen to a lot of records in my car.

PB: What do you see as the future for Deep Elm?

CD: Well, like I’ve said before, we’re committed to helping out young, unknown bands and we’ve never cherry picked a big band to help us get bigger,. What are we contributing with the next Thursday or Jimmy Eat World record? We’re more focused on artists' development and we’ve got some great young bands at the moment that are working hard and have put out great records and can do more. Claire De Lune did a great first record. They can get even better. I think they will. Lock And Key are doing a full length. They’ll be really good. I’m really excited about what the new Settlefish records going to sound like. Those guys are discovering their identity. The first record was good but they’ll really blow people away. Burns Out Bright, I see them play a lot and their new stuff if always good. It’s going tobe fun, seeing how the bands grow and seeing where they take their sound and in the meantime we’ll keep listening to demos and going to shows. Hopefully you’ll see our bands on tour a lot. But, its indie rock, so who knows what will turn up!

PB : Thank you
















Related Links:




Commenting On: Interview - Deep Elm








ie London, England

tick box before submitting comment
 


First Previous Next Last