Korda Records on their Kompilation 2 featuring the Owls, the Hang Ups, & more
Photo By Erik Hess
Korda Records has already made quite the impression on the Twin Cities. The burgeoning cooperative record label was founded in Minneapolis in late 2012 by longtime friends and musical collaborators Allison LaBonne, David Schelzel, Brian Tighe, and Jim Ruiz, who have all managed to put out new releases from their respective groups Typsy Panthre, Jim Ruiz Set, the Ocean Blue, and the Starfolk -- as well as two compilations and a re-issue of the Hang-Ups self-titled record -- over the course of just one productive year.
Korda will host another showcase to mark the release of Korda Kompilation 2 this Saturday night at the Cedar Cultural Center. The concert also boasts the first live performance by the Owls in two years. Gimme Noise chatted with LaBonne, Schelzel, and Tighe about the challenges and joys that comes with running your own record label, what they have in store for their fans at the showcase, and their plans for Korda in the future.
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The unreleased material on the second Korda Kompilation is an appetizer for more new material throughout the label's roster. Their cooperative spirit has gone into figuring out production, distribution and promotion, especially on this latest release. "A lot of the Korda 2 Komp tracks were recorded with help from each other in the studio," Schelzel says. "Jim Ruiz Set's cover of 'Fever' was done in my studio on Saturday last month."
Featured on the comp, "No Money in That" is an Ocean Blue track the group started working on while finishing up Ultramarine. "It's a tune that's perhaps a little more peppy and jazzy than most of our album too, though the lyrics certainly aren't so peppy," Schelzel says. He adds that the band plans to get started in earnest this winter on recordings for a new Ocean Blue record.
Similarly, the Owls contribution to the compilation, "Refrain," is from a batch of songs the group started recording last year in Cannon Falls. "We have seven songs from that session in various stages of completion, and hope to release an album on Korda in 2014," says LaBonne. The deadline of Korda 2 Komp also lit a fire under LaBonne's other group, Typsy Panthre. They tied up two brand-new songs, and a 7-inch EP could be next.
"We sort of halfway know what we're doing now," says LaBonne of the label. "It's more than just a cool idea. We have gone through the steps of releasing records several times including four new albums, one re-release, a label compilation; and we formed a partnership with Shelflife in Portland to co-release Ultramarine and Mount Curve Avenue on vinyl. We also formed a relationship with Tell All Your Friends PR in NYC, and Burnside distribution in Portland to bring national distribution to our last three releases: Ultramarine, The Starfolk, and The Hang Ups."
For its re-release, the Hang Ups' classic 2003 self-titled album came out on CD and digitally for the very first time, something that Tighe is justifiably quite proud of.
"It felt really good to take ownership of the record again by re-releasing it," Tighe explains. "We had a special agreement with Trampoline (the label of the original release), where the rights to the master would revert back to us after three years. So it was like hey, let's make this a Korda thing! I think it stands as one of the best Hang Ups albums so it feels good to include it with the other wonderful Korda releases and get it out there again."
In the months ahead, he and Jeff Kearns are planning to go through a bunch of the old recordings on quarter-inch tape from their days at MCAD in search of more nuggets. "I know there are plenty of interesting Hang Ups gems ready to see the light of day on Korda," he adds.
While justifiably looking forward to Saturday's show, everyone in the Korda camp still thinks back fondly to the first showcase in the intimate Entry last year. "The first showcase was kind of the launch party for the label, so a lot of the music that we played was not released and there was a pioneer thing going on in that we weren't sure about the landscape we were in and where we were headed," explains Schelzel. "We love the Entry, but it's definitely a tight, rock club. The Cedar has more breathing space, and a small theater kinda vibe."
Adding to their communal appreciation within the Korda camp is a dedication to the worldly community at large, as well. LaBonne is encouraging everyone to bring their own pint glass to the Cedar on Saturday to save on waste. "As an environmentalist, I'm always looking for little ways to reduce waste, so we are going the extra mile and hand packaging Korda 2 Komp in recycled jewel cases," she says. "Anyone who brings their own glass, I will give you a big hug, and maybe even enter you in a raffle for something cool."
As for what direction they are planning on taking Korda in the future, everyone remains open to ideas and potential additions to the roster. Schelzel admits, "We are not operating according to any master plan, so we will just have to see how things unfold. Getting through this year was our first mission. And we are just about there."
Both Schelzel and LaBonne are confident but cautious over their success with the label so far. "I think we've hit 'a' stride, maybe not the stride we'll be in ultimately," he says. "The label was started as a very natural, organic thing. An experiment too. So there's still a lot of unpredictable growing, testing, observation, experimentation, etc. going on."
LaBonne adds, "I totally agree with David. We've learned a lot, and tested our wings; but the music business is in such a state of flux that we're going to have to keep adapting."
The Korda Records Showcase is Saturday, November 30 at the Cedar Cultural Center. Doors to the all-ages show are at 7 p.m. with music (featuring performances from the Ocean Blue, the Starfollk, the Jim Ruiz Set, the Owls, and DJ Jake Rudh) starting at 8 p.m.
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