Ryan Potts on moving to Toronto, missing the Twin Cities, and the future of Rest + Noise


When we last caught up with Aquarelle's Ryan Potts, he was gearing up to release sophomore album Slow Circles on his fledgling Rest + Noise label. Since then, the minimalist electro-noise sculpter has issued records by Twin Cities fixtures Northern Howl, Zoo Animals, and Oriel - and, in August, Potts and his wife moved north to Toronto.

In an email interview, Potts discussed impetus for the move, the state of his music, a few of Toronto's charms, and what it's like to run a Twin Cities record label from a different country.

[jump] I understand you've relocated to Toronto. What brought you there?

My wife is attending a graduate school program for two years. It's a wonderful city, but, I have to say, I do miss the tight-knit music community in Minneapolis and St Paul. 

Will you and your wife return to the Twin Cities when her program concludes, or is that something you'll play by ear?

More than likely that's where we will return. Unfortunately, it might be dictated by where there is a job or two available.

Is Rest + Noise still a going concern? If so, what's forthcoming from the label?

Yes, absolutely. I'm still working with the past two releases, Oriel and Zoo Animal, quite a bit. I have a few potential releases that may happen in the future, but have no imminent albums to announce. Instead, I'm realigning the label a bit as I'm aiming to do pressings on vinyl. It's the format that I unquestionably listen to and appreciate most, so that prospect has me quite excited. Hopefully one of the first things I'll do when the time comes is repress a past Rest + Noise album as an LP.

Is the process of preparing to issue a record on vinyl - as opposed to CD - significantly more difficult or complicated?

Yes. Mastering, packaging, reproduction, sound quality, artwork - it's all much more sensitive and complex. 

Are there significant similarities - on cultural, social, musical, and any other level you care to name - between Toronto and the Minneapolis/St. Paul area? Differences?

There seem to be many more similarities than differences. I've only been here a short while, but the Twin Cities was very supportive of music and arts and I see that echoed here. I also enjoy that Toronto is also very community based, with many smaller groupings of specific neighborhoods making up the city versus one large, monolithic culture. But the city's size and population are more on par with Chicago, so there's a certain depth and level of activity that's exciting. Though my barometer can be a little bit odd in determining that.

One of the first things I did when I arrived in Toronto was track down all the record stores in the area, visit them, and proceed to spend a lot of money that I probably should've been saving.  It was great to find a lot of music from labels that I'm used to regularly ordering online - not picking up and holding it in my hands. That can be immensely satisfying. Though the Twin Cities' best music stores -- Treehouse, Electric Fetus, and Cheapo -- will always remain among my favorite. 

What has the experience of running what was/is an essentially Minnesotan label from another country been like, thus far? I always wonder what goes into making these kinds of moves for artists or artistic organizations, from a logistical standpoint - like when Liars were kind of hopping back and forth from Germany to Los Angeles.

Certainly you have to adapt. All four artists that are on Rest + Noise were located in the Twin Cities area, so there's an ease of communication that is lost. Also, since so much is done from an ordering and mailing focus, costs markedly go up - as well as paperwork - when nearly everything you ship/receive is considered international. And, for what it's worth, Liars should have stayed in Germany. Their music was much better there.

You've mentioned a forthcoming Aquarelle album that you're releasing outside of the Rest + Noise rubric next year. What can you tell us about it? Is it a departure from the sound of Slow Circles?

Well, I think every piece I work on is more of a continuation than a departure, but there are new elements I wanted to bring to the fore. I was interested in bringing more volume and intensity to my music, which led to use of many different layered distortions and feedback.  Perhaps the influence of two of my favorite bands -- shoegaze greats My Bloody Valentine and Medicine -- is a bit more apparent; I'm quite proud of it, and I can't wait for it to be heard.  The record is titled Sung In Broken Symmetry and will be out in the opening months of 2011 as an LP.

Are you able to keep up with local Twin Cities media in Toronto? Sometimes when acclimating to a new place it's easy to get sucked into whatever's going on there; personally, I have no idea what's happening in Pennsylvania government - it's sort of all Texas, all the time.

Somewhat, but you're absolutely right - it is very difficult. In light of the recent election, some of my friends kept me up to date as what was going on in Minnesota's government. Which, unfortunately, seems to be largely bad news. But at the same time, a couple weeks before the U.S. elections, there was one held Toronto. So it's both a struggle to get informed about a new governmental structure here as well as reading the news for places I've recently departed from. 

Have you had a chance to perform live yet in Canada?

No, not yet. After touring this fall, I wanted to shift my focus on getting my new record out.  Once that happens I'll hopefully work on a new set and start playing again. 

Is there any truth to the broad stereotypes Americans believe about Canadian linguistic tics?

Ha ha, yes, at least to some degree. There are many subtle differences in pronunciation, but by far the most obvious is the elongated vowels in 'out.' It still catches me by surprise.