“Sonorous Circle is a brand new independent label releasing some of the most exciting young artists in New Zealand at the moment including the much lauded Seth Frightening and Glass Vaults. We caught up with them to find out what makes the label tick and what their future plans are…
Interview with Thomas thanks to Courtney Sanders at UTR.
Tell me how Sonorous Circle started?
The seed was planted in 2006 when I realised that music was going to consume the lives of my friends and I forever. Having had this realisation it became obvious that we should take steps to combine forces and bring our collective futures more under our own control. The first manifestation of this impulse was the website, which sat around with nothing on it for a couple of years until we figured out what to do next!
How long has it been going, how has it grown and how do you guys maintain it with all your other projects?!
The first release (the Perpetual Balance CDR) came out in 2008. With everything else going on in our lives we still struggle to afford the label as much time as we would like, so we are probably guilty of leaving it to maintain itself for the most part! It has just grown very gradually and organically so far as we continue to meet new people. It’s a lot to do with keeping up momentum though and 2010 was a good year for us in this regard.
For the record, tell me what bands / other things you guys are all up to?
Sean is the prolific song writer Seth Frightening, and I spend alot of time with this project too – playing live and recording. We are currently working on his second album with a third already written so there’s plenty to do there! Then we are in another band together with Reece McNaughten called Cancer. And I have a project with Matt called Perpetual Balance. He lives in Melbourne and plays in the bands Akaname and Ornithologist, aswell as his solo project ‘In the Interest of the Convoy’. And I have one called i.ryoko. I also do a bit of mastering for people – like recently Secret Knives and Snowfield. And I just finished a short film soundtrack for my friend Sandy. Sean’s a cleaner at the hospital, I just finished a degree in composition/ sonic arts and Matt works at a cafe in Melbourne and builds valve amps and records bands in his self-built studio ‘Weighing the Earth’ in his spare time. That’s possibly all but probably not!
You have a really high calibre of artists on the label. How do you choose who to release?
Thankyou! Some of it is our own music and the rest is made by talented friends of ours. Sean, Matt and myself are extreme music enthusiasts so we love listening to new music. If any comes to our attention that we deem excellent and it doesn’t have an umbrella to hide under we take pleasure in offering it our frail wing.
Why do you think people want to be released through Sonorous Circle?
Maybe for the same reasons kids join gangs.
Tell me about what you’ve been up to in the past 12 months in terms of releases?
It’s been a sweet year! We had the honour of releasing what I think are some brilliant pieces of music by some lovely people (sample tracks below): ‘The Prince and His Madness’ by Seth Frightening (download & CD). ‘Meats the Beatles’ by Arkitype (free download). ‘Glass EP’ by Glass Vaults (free download and recently a 12″ vinyl thanks to the Jukboxr label in the States). ‘The Teledermatologist Handbook’ by Paperghost (download & CDR). / ‘2’ by Minnelli (free download).
How do you guys feel about the whole ‘change in the music industry’ as a result of technology, from traditional recording and releasing of albums to free downloads, band camp and the like?
These are exciting times because they are unsettling times – ie, dehumanised, money-driven major labels can burn! The abundance of free digital music is excellent but this does have its downsides in that perhaps the music is devalued to an extent. But it doesn’t have to be – I am excited about the resurgence of vinyl production as an opportunity to reassert the strength of the complete album with beautiful artwork that people can cherish so much more than an mp3 with a pixelated image. And I love the way high quality music production is a million times more doable than it used to be – allowing excellent music to be made in bedrooms by people with no money before sending it to people around the world for free in an instant. There are pros and cons but matters of the music industry will always play second fiddle to the music itself and the creative freedom of the artists who make it. We will find a way to survive I’m sure.
There seems to be a strong musical community around Sonorous Circle, and as a result a really high level of output. Tell me about the strength of the community and how you think it affects the strength of your output. In other words, the bonuses of community and collaboration:
Yes, community and collaboration are the best! I think the New Zealand community in general is just amazing. In Wellington in particular there seems to be so much going on all the time. We owe alot to the community based around the Frederick St Sound and Light Exploration Society – the audiences there are open to anything and always provide a welcoming atmosphere. In general there are so many lovely, talented, supportive people everywhere! Continually inspiring and encouraging. Thanks to one another we are all personally and creatively much better off.
How do you intend to develop the label?
Well, as yet we really haven’t even got ourselves out there so we will be making a real effort now to try and get artists the recognition we think they deserve. The goal is to find ways for us to all survive in the world without compromising artistic integrity. I am interested in publishing (getting music synched to film/tv) as it seems a logical way to try and generate income to decrease our reliance on real jobs and the government which keep us from starving. Getting some vinyl pressed and releasing more, encouraging more collaboration between artists, making soundtracks, putting on more shows and getting bands overseas with distribution and touring is also in mind.
I read somewhere that you put a real emphasis on the recording process of your artists – tell me a little bit about this:
It’s more that the artists we like tend to have a passion for the process – we mostly all record ourselves and see it as an act of honing our craft, playing around and trying new things and having the opportunity to get into some nitty gritty detail to develop and enrich the music. And if you are writing the music itself during and as part of the recording process, the processes themselves can become a major part of the musical composition, which can often lead to a more interesting listening experience.
OK, so tell me which artists you are really excited about at the moment.
Deerpark were super impressive when they played in Wellington last week! Their new album is totally worth checking out. Dan Beban’s musical ventures are always inspiring – Sign of the Hag being one in particular – and anything happening at Fred’s. So excited to hear the new tracks Zach Webber (Paperghost) and Glass Vaults have been working on. And the music of Campbell Kneale is always exciting. In regards to music overseas, I am hanging out for some more Akira Rabelais, Genghis Tron, Cornelius, Ryoji Ikeda or anything similarly capable of mind-obliteration, horizon-expansion and/or soul-resonance. I haven’t really been keeping in touch with what’s coming out recently to be honest though! Any recommendations?
What’s in the cards for the future with Sonorous Circle?
In terms of releases we have two coming up from Melbourne – from Bleach Boys and A Dead Forest Index, then the new Seth Frightening album as soon as possible. But who knows exactly – there’s always exciting things brewing and I for one am excited for the future.”