Thursday, March 27, 2008

Get to know your Midwest record label:
Cleveland's Exit Stencil Recording

While the Ohio indie music scene is pretty thriving right now. There really are a scant few regional record labels documenting things. But the ones that are, do a goddam good job of it.
My enjoyment for Columbus label All Hail Records has been mentioned in the past.
I'd like to talk about another label, with a richer history, that continues making strides forward every year.
Cleveland's Exit Stencil Recording label consistently makes great choices while continually expanding its stable of bands. What I appreciate about the label is it's knack for finding musicians who make unique twists into established genres. Whether it's Blake Miller's abstract harmonies, The Dreadful Yawns beautiful take on psychedelic folk, or recent signees Hot Cha Cha's take on a punkish french rock thing.
Exit Stencil's Ryan Weitzel helped out by answering a few question into the story behind the label:

PEOPLE WITH ANIMAL HEADS: What are some things you look for in bands? I guess this question sort of pertains to the "sound" you hope your label represents...
RYAN WEITZEL: I'm not sure there is one particular thing that goes into it. Usually there is someone that really gets behind it and sort of serves as a cheerleader for everyone else. But in general when we are deciding whether or not to work with a group or person we all make the call based on first and foremost liking the music. Beyond that we're interested in working with folks that are on the same page with us, as in we get along. We're a small label, so it's important to us that the artist understands what we can offer to them and that they in turn are ready to work at getting on the road and promoting with us! It's definitely a team effort with everyone involved on the label end and the group. I myself play in Mystery of Two with Nick and the current incarnation of Home and Garden.
PWAH: What are some things people can look forward to in 2008 that Exit Stencil has planned?
RW: We have a pretty healthy slate of things going on. We recently moved into an old corner store in the Waterloo Neighborhood of Cleveland. I've been pretty busy setting up a recording studio that ESR artists have access too. It will also be open to the public at $35 an hour. It's pretty exciting! On the release front, the new Spanish Prisoners is coming out April 8th. A group from Cleveland called Hot Cha Cha, who are an all girl group that are fantastic live! They have a CD EP and seven inch coming out soon after called "rifle, I knew you when you were only a pistol."
The lead singer was born in Bosnia, and picked up that line from an old Balkan folk song.
The Dreadful Yawns also have their next full length "Take Shape" on the way. They really put together a fantastic album. It's coming out on CD and LP, everything will be digital too... we have some special surprises with the digital end of things too.
PWAH: How did the label come about and why? Where do you hope to take it?
RW: Brandon started it several years ago, maybe like six … I joined up about four years ago. Then Paul Murphy joined up about three years ago. We also have some help from Nick Riley and Liz Finley. I think we're all excited to keep creating and promoting music we dig and think others might too. We're hoping to be able to be part of the puzzle for our artists to keep creating and be able to live a musicians life style … which with touring and everything else can be quite a challenge especially with trying to keep jobs, etc.
PWAH: I've often said that, out of Ohio indie record labels, the only one Pitchfork actually seems to acknowledge is Exit Stencil. Why do you think that is? Not that Pitchfork is the end all be all, but for indie rock these days if you get highlighted on Pitchfork it sure makes life a bit easier...
RW: I'm not sure, that's all their call. I didn't really think we got too much mention, but yeah we're down if they are . . . and definitely appreciate any mention.
PWAH: Where did you guys grow up and how do you think it has influenced your outlook on life - musically or otherwise?
RW: I grew up in Westlake, it's a burb outside of Cleveland. My dad grew up there too. Pretty midwestern hey … I started hanging out in the Cleveland punk scene and playing shows in a punk band when I was like a junior in high school. So that was a big part of my formative music, all the classic Cleveland punk was a big part of it too. It took me a long time to realize that all the obscure records folks in the cleveland scene dug on weren't really known by many folks outside of it. In a way and for better or worse the Cleveland scene, and perhaps the midwest in general, has traditionally been in a different place than most. By no means does that make it any better or worse, just something in the water or steaming from the many many contradictions and frustrations involved with living here! I actually met Brandon during that time, he was in bands too. After high-school I dipped out of the Cleveland scene for about 4 years and went to school in Athens, Ohio.
PWAH: How do you perceive the current indie rock scene of the Midwest? What are some bands/people/things you would tell people about?
RW: I would say there's a lot of great music happening. The Cleveland scene has been jumping. There's a big shake up right now with "Lotto League." Basically, 180 Cleveland musicians all got drafted pretty randomly into new bands, the new bands are writing songs and performing April 12th at the Beachland. It's like 35 bands or something. It should be a blast. It is just one of many things that are helping to bring people closer to each other and maybe tear down some of the artificial walls that have been built. It's a small city so everyone knows each other on some level in the scene. The Cleveland 1 degree of separation … I suppose it can be summed up by this dude that works the door at a cleveland club that recently move here from overseas and has lived in various other parts of the country. "This is the only place where the opening band often blows the touring band off the stage and no one cares …"
It's a musical place for the sake of music.

More information:
Exit Stencil Recordings
16101 Waterloo Rd.
Cleveland, Oh 44110

Coming soon:
Spanish Prisoners - CD/LP/ Digital
Hot Cha Cha - EP / 7" / Digital
Dreadful Yawns - CD / LP / Digital

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