This week on The Upstate Soundscape the two heads of Rochester label //cae-sur-a//–Cory E. Card and Jen Marquart–will be in studio to play some tunes from their label’s catalog, including some unreleased stuff that you won’t hear anywhere else.
As a label, //cae-sur-a// has played an important role in the development of The Upstate Soundscape radio show, not only by supplying it with killer sounds, but also by expanding the show’s focus (and then audience) beyond the city of Buffalo.
It all started way back in November of 2010 when our little radio show (then going by simply The Soundscape) had only been on the air (on a different signal, mind you) for a little over a month. While the show has been dedicated to experimental music and sound since the beginning, the regional focus of the show didn’t start to come into being until a brand new label from Rochester emailed me about some underground cassettes they were releasing.
That label was //cae-sur-a //.
It was after hearing how great those three original tapes were (which included personal favorite Tone Arm by Buffalo’s Steve Bazckowski) did the idea to make The Soundscape an experimental radio show for the Upstate region really come into being. After finding //cae-sur-a//, I began poking around to see what other labels might be working in the region….little did I know how much I was about to stumble on to.
So it’ll be with great pleasure to welcome Jen and Cory to the studio this Wednesday night to talk about their label, which has grown up alongside The Upstate Soundscape, a radio show that they’ve had an indirect hand in building.
For now, check out this interview with Cory and Jen below, and also check out the mix Cory made for us that was posted yesterday.
What is the story behind //cae-sur-a//? How and when did it get started? What was the motivation behind the label’s creation?
Cory and Jen: We began //cae-sur-a// mid-2010, over a conversation we were having about the idea and desire to run a label, mainly to promote the work of friends and artists that we admire.
Tell us about the //cae-sur-a// team and whoever else is involved with running the label.
Cory and Jen: //cae-sur-a// is a two person (Jen Marquart and Cory E. Card) operation with occasional contributions from friends. Holger Adam from Phantom Limbo and Test Card has written copy for us and Mike Tarantelli is working on some artwork for an upcoming release.
Are there any labels out there that you patterned //cae-sur-a// after or strove to emulate? What labels, past or present, do you admire?
Cory and Jen: We really admire labels that work to establish their own personal aesthetic, maintaining a commitment to putting out great music with attention to both auditory and visual details. Some of these are also close friends whom we have looked to for advice as well as inspiration: Dais Records, Period.Tapes, Robert & Leopold, Tape Drift, Carbon Records, Brave Mysteries, SicSic Tapes. –
What’s your take on the current state of experimental music in general? Is this a good or bad time to be an experimental artist/fan?
Jen: I really don’t think about it much. What is meant by “experimental music” has become so vague. On the positive side of the spectrum this means that the genre is continuously morphing and changing, but it also means that “experimental music” also falls prey to taste-makers and the “anything goes” attitude of its not so experimental counterparts. Is it ever a bad time to be a fan of anything? It’s definitely easier to be a fan of experimental music these days, which is always a plus.
Cory: The one thing that I think is all at once interesting, exciting and at times detrimental to the whole genre is the ratio of participants to audience (you will even see evidence of this in some of our own answers above and below). In many cases and situations they are one in the same. On the positive front, the dialogue that evolves can become quite complex, but it can also quickly devolve into an insular perspective, leading to potential stagnation and exclusivity.
Any releases you’ve heard from 2012 yet that stand out to you?
Cory: Tuurd – I Wish My Wife Was This Dirty (Carbon Records ,CR198). I am also am highly anticipating the new Rain Drinkers LP on Brave Mysteries.
Jen: It’s a bit early in the year for me to commit to such a question… Definitely the Tuurd-I Wish My Wife Was This Dirty LP. I’m looking forward to what else this year has to offer.
Tell us about some of cae-sur-a current and upcoming releases.
Cory and Jen: This year we are picking up the pace even more, we have a ton of great releases planned including our first two vinyl releases, the first of which will be Velvet Elvis’ debut full length, which should be out around April or May, the second is by the German trio Autistic Argonauts, which will see a release in late Autumn/Early Winter.
Last month we released our second Velvet Elvis tape No Rules in the Wasteland and our first split between Giant Claw and The Cats’ Orchestra. These two are highly contrasting in approach, Velvet Elvis being a straight up stoner/doom rock band while the split contains two forward thinking electronic meditations.
Up next we have tapes by psych/folk duo April in the Orange, drone/folk trio Riasni Drova Consort, the minimal electronics of Lefterna as well as some amazing tapes by our good friends Rambutan and Fossils From the Sun, BLACK CHALK, Fear Konstructor and a whole lot more. You can check our forthcoming page on our website.
8) Is there a past release that you feel deserves a second look?
Cory and Jen: Thats a hard one… as I really love everything we have put out. If I had to pick one to gain more attention than it has I would say the Novoe Tsarstvo release that we did back in September.
Any advice for aspiring label owners?
Cory: Have patience, only release stuff you can really stand behind, and budget appropriately
Jen: I don’t think Cory emphasized patience enough! patience// patience// patience, plus realistic goals and devotion.
Any Upstate artists/labels you are really into at the moment? Any one we should look out for?
Cory and Jen: As far as labels go, the ones run by friends we have known and worked with for many years: House of Alchemy, Tape Drift, and Carbon Records are always doing great things, that respect and excitement turns into the musicians as well: Tuurd, Rambutan, Fossils from the Sun, Burnt Hills, Century Plants, April in the Orange, Velvet Elvis, Jungle Heart, Pengo, Blood and Bone Orchestra, Licker, Foot and Mouth Disease, Harold Biffen, Andy Gilmore R(ockin) Scott Oliver and our friend Jarek Miller who plays drums with our band Stone Baby sometimes.
Cory and Jen performing as Stone Baby (Image courtesy of Ithaca Times)
What’s the experimental scene like in Rochester? Where would you tell somebody to go if they came to Rochester wanting to see experimental music?
Cory and Jen: Rochester has a long history within the experimental music world, extended back, to our knowledge, to the beginning of Joe Tunis’s Carbon Records in the 90’s, but most likely way before so there are some heavy hitters such as Pengo (who have been in existence for a long time), Coffee and many of the other bands mentioned above (for a more complete history talking to Joe Tunis, John Schoen, Nuuj or Jason Finkbeiner would be of the essence).
The scene really revolves around a certain level of interconnectivity and crossover; I believe Joe Tunis alone has some 14 projects active and inactive. As for venues since the A|V Space closed there has not really been anything stable. Occasionally Rochester Contemporary Art Center will put something on, and there are also sporadic shows at the Bug Jar, as well as house shows that pop up here and there. To come and see something you would probably have to know the participants or someone who knows them to be able to fully experience it.
How does somebody get a hold of //cae-sur-a//’s stuff?
Cory and Jen: The ideal place is our website. We sell on Discogs under CommonError. Carbon Records and Flipped Out Records run by Jackson Wingate carry all our releases and both have some of our out-of-print titles, such as Steve Baczkowski’s Tone Arm and Pine Smoke Lodge’s Season Above Lakes. I cannot recommend either of them enough for quality distribution and as stand up individuals.
We also have some releases distributed through Eclipse Records, Tomentosa, 905 Tapes and DNT Records.
If you are in Rochester and into grabbing stuff at a store, all current //cae-sur-a// titles are available at Needledrop Records.
As a cassette-only label, what’s your take on the re-emergence of the cassette as a legit medium to release music on?
Cory: I have a deep running attachment to cassettes; I think I got my first tape when I was 5 (Springsteen’s Born in the USA, still have it), made mix tapes constantly throughout my teens and into my 20’s, my Master of Fine Arts thesis was all about their physicality, so all in all I can say I am excited about cassettes in general. Though they may not have the best sound, they have a durability and physicality that is lacking in other mediums, plus they are relatively cheap to produce.
Jen: My Sony Walkman was my best friend growing up. I could fill an entire bag with cassette tapes to get through family vacations or uncomfortable wedding receptions/ graduations/ retirement parties etc. There is a definite nostalgia: shoving paper wads in a Tiffany tape (unwanted birthday present) so i could record songs off the radio and having just enough money for cassingles. Most of our generation has some similar connection with the medium. Does that legitimize tapes? Not a clue.
Tune in Wednesday night at 10pm to 91.3 FM WBNY to hear Jen and Cory live on The Upstate Soundscape. Stream at WBNY.org.