We kicked off our Label Talk feature over a year ago with Jeff Casazza, founder of Run For Cover Records, and we’re stoked to be featuring Jeff and the label once again on PropertyOfZack. Jeff went above and beyond in the fantastic Label Talk to discuss how the label has grown over the past two years, dealing with an ever-changing roster, the popular subscription series and Mixed Signals compilation, what releases we should expect to see in 2012, and so much more. This is by far one of the best we’ve ever had on the site, so be sure to take your time and read what Jeff had to say!
Run For Cover had a healthy 2011 with full-lengths from Basement, Seahaven, and Young Statues, multiple 7”s/EPs, and a large compilation project that went over incredibly well. Can you just discuss the year for the label?
2011 was cool. Lots of things changed and improved which I guess is all you can ask for. Our sales doubled from 2010, which is awesome. We got an office, and a staff, and a publicist which was obviously a huge change from working out of my bedroom, which at that point was so far gone. It just wasn’t possible anymore and hadn’t been for a long time, but I didn’t really have a choice until I graduated. I still can’t believe I graduated, I think about it every day. It still feels too good to be true after going part time for 7 years pretty much.
The three full-lengths you did put out were all debut releases for those bands. Are you happy with the amount of exposure they’ve gotten to this point?
Yeah totally. The Basement record surprised both them and us with how well it did. It makes sense because the record is truly awesome, but for our first real international signing, it went really well. Seahaven and Young Statues have only been out a few months but the reception has been great. Those three records are my favorite three records that came out last year, so all I can do is hope other people like them as well.
I believe Run For Cover moved into its first official office as well and expanded its staff. I’m sure that’s something you ideally would have liked to do a long time ago, but how has that helped with the daily work flow and more at the label?
I can’t even really explain in words the extent it helped. I was putting out records for Title Fight, Man Overboard, Fireworks, Tigers Jaw, The Wonder Years, Transit, etc, all out of my bedroom, with just me doing the label by myself with occasional help from a few nice people. Thousands and thousands of records and hundreds of boxes would move through my apartment on a monthly basis. I don’t know what I was thinking. Someone who works for my building actually saw our hallway and my bedroom once, with a whole wall covered in shelving dedicated to hundreds of folded shirts and our 30 foot hallway completely lined with boxes of records. They were very weirded out. They told me I had to stop what I was doing, although I don’t think they really had any idea what was going on.
A lot has changed in the past year for Run For Cover Records since we did our first Label Talk. Something that I found particularly interesting was that you mentioned the label couldn’t actually finance an LP prior to 2010, but that’s obviously changed greatly over the past two years. Can you just discuss the label’s continuous growth?
In 2009 we released the Fireworks - All I Have to Offer Is My Own Confusion LP on vinyl as a licensed release from Triple Crown, but we had never funded a full length release ourselves. I think I had put full lengths in general on some sort of pedestal because I was scared of the initial financial undertaking and was pretty terrified if we attempted to do one, that it would get fucked up and ruin the company or something. I think doing the Fireworks LP sort of eased us into doing more expensive releases. Obviously not having to pay for the recording made that situation a lot easier. In 2010 we put out 7 or 8 full length releases, Transit - Keep This to Yourself, Man Overboard - Real Talk, Tigers Jaw - Self Titled, Tigers Jaw / Balance and Composure Split, Hostage Calm - Self Titled, The Wonder Years - The Upsides, Tigers Jaw - Two Worlds. That was a really crazy and scary time. I honestly didn’t know if it would work out because we were spending so much money. Even having that amount of money was so new to me, but almost two years later and pretty much every one of those records has had a part in defining who we are as a label. Luckily all of those releases ended up doing pretty well and are still doing well to this day. We’ve been really lucky.
Mixed Signals and the subscription series were two other large undertakings in 2011. How far in advance were you planning both of those?
Mixed Signals was very, very far in advance. The early planning stage started sometime in 2010. I had a list of bands I wanted to ask taped to my wall in my bedoom, some circled, some underlined, some not. Nearly everyone who entered my bedroom in the past two years saw it and asked what it was. When I first came up with the idea I knew how I wanted to do it, but hadn’t decided on how to approach it musically. I think it could have gone in a poppier direction or a darker/heavier direction, and it ended up being a pretty dark release I think. I at least hope it wasn’t exactly what someone would expect in a RFC compilation.
The funniest part about Mixed Signals is that we didn’t have a name for it until seriously. we just…had to come up with a name. We had posters and fliers in hand and all the art done, and we just didn’t have a name for it. We had all these posters at Krazyfest hung up on every stage advertising the release as “RFC 50”. Wayne from Man Overboard had suggested the name “Mixed Singles” for our 7” series a few months prior, as a play on the phrase “Mixed Signals”. I didn’t really think we needed a name for the 7” series, but “Mixed Signals” sounded cool to me, especially with the cover art which I had decided on from the beginning, and we ended up going with it. I really like the name in retrospect. It definitely works in more ways than one.
The compilation in general was one of the biggest undertakings we’ve taken on as a label. We spent so much time planning it, and choosing the photos, and laying out the book, and deciding on the packaging, and sequencing the tracks. It is also easily the most expensive thing we’ve ever done. It originally was going to be vinyl only, but I had the idea of doing a CD version, and seeing if Hot Topic would be interested in taking on the distribution side of it. I had always seen $5 compilations in Hot Topic growing up, like the ones from Vagrant, EVR and Drive Thru. I thought it would be sort of cool to bring that back and update it a little bit. Having the release in every Hot Topic store in the country is a really cool thing, and people seemed pretty into it the release in general. It was obvious that we spent a lot of time on it. You can’t really argue with a $5 release with 12 exclusive songs on it from bands that people like, but I will say in complete honesty that it seems people in general are not super interested in compilations. I think I can speak for both Hot Topic and RFC when I say the sales were slightly disappointing. Don’t get me wron, we sold a lot of copies, but ten years ago there’s no doubt in my mind we could have sold 10,000 +, but thats just not happening these days. You live and you learn and in no way will that stop us from doing a similar release down the road.
The 7”s series was a whole ‘nother beast. This wasn’t as much of a big undertaking as much as it was a complete shot in the dark with whether it would be succesful or not. A bunch of other labels around us were doing full label subscriptions, where you pay a sum of money and receive all of their releases throughout the year. That seemed very confusing, hard to manage and risky, but I really liked the idea of having customers invest in something that they can receive in installments and be excited about over a period of time. Releasing a series of 7”s that you could subscribe to seemed like a cool idea. Sub Pop did it, but you never knew what you were going to get, which is fine for them because Sub Pop fans want anything Sub Pop related, but we took a different route and announced the 6 bands we’d be doing 7”s for up front. There were small issues here and there, but the series went surprisingly smoothly. Shook Ones had some band issues and had to delay their recording a few months. Their 7” was supposed to come out in December and will end up coming out in late February / early March, which sucks, but to do something like this and expect no setbacks would be really un-realisitic. We kept people updated and had virtually no one complain about anything regarding our subscription series which is awesome. Shook Ones, Mockingbird Wish Me Luck, Bridge and Tunnel and End of a Year are all bands we wish were on our label, so to be able to release 7”s for them has been very gratifying, and obviously we couldn’t be happier to release new music from Tigers Jaw and Hostage Calm along with them. We’re planning a second series now, which will appeal to more people I think.
Subscription series seem to be getting more popular, but once again, there can be an issue of quality. How do you go about making sure your special releases are the best they can be?
I discussed this a bit in the last question, but as far as quality goes, for our subscription series I just wanted to put 6 bands together that I felt any person who liked one of the bands would be into and I think we succeeded with that. I am still ecstatic about releasing 7”s for Shook Ones and Bridge and Tunnel. I definitely didn’t ever see that happening before this series.
Could we see a second edition of the compilation and subscription series coming year?
Yes, definitely. Whether Mixed Signals part 2 will be this year is hard to say, but I would love for it to happen. Same with the 7” series, although it will work differently.
That being said, should we expect follow-up releases by Basement, Seahaven, or Young Statues in 2012?
Maybe not from Seahaven (although anything is possible), but we’ll definitely be seeing new Young Statues and Basement music in the near future.
Daylight released a new EP in early-January with you guys, but when will we be seeing their new LP?
They seem to be moving pretty quickly with things which is awesome. I don’t know when to say you should be expecting an LP but they have started writing it and have at least a few songs completely written. The 7” was received insanely well. One of the fastest selling records we’ve put out, maybe ever.
The Tower And The Fool is another band fans are looking forward to. Should we expect a larger body of work from them this year?
They have finished recording their full length and it will be coming out in April. It’s so good. People are going to be really impressed. Just got the masters the other day.
Tigers Jaw will be releasing a split with Black Clouds sometime in 2012. When will we be seeing more details on that?
We’re just waiting on artwork from the band, the vinyl is being pressed now.
Fans are anxiously awaiting new full-lengths from Tigers Jaw and Koji. Will we see those as well?
Yup! Koji has started recording. Most of it is done actually. The drums and bass and were tracked by Brad from La Dispute and Matt from Balance and Composure, respectively. There’s a lot of other crazy people on it too. Recording will be finished in March I believe.
I believe Tigers Jaw hope to have a new full length recorded before the end of the first half of 2012. Ben told me last night they were about 5 songs deep into the writing process. Although I wouldn’t be completely surprised if there was another release after the Black Clouds split and before their next full length.
One issue that the label had for a while seemed to be the ability to physically send out releases on time. Can you just discuss the difficulties labels deal with on that level due to manufacturers and plants?
Our past problems with mailorder being completely disorganized can’t really be blamed on issues with manufacturers. I was simply way over my head for a few years and I didn’t know how to fix the problem at the time. We’ve definitely had issues with things going wrong with pressing plants and such just like everyone else, but what most labels won’t tell you is that 99% of the time it’s not the manufacturer’s fault. I am happy to to say that since hiring Tom who handles our day to day and production stuff, and Taylor who does our mailorder, we have had pretty much no issues with releases missing street date, or mailorder and pre-orders not being sent out on time. Pretty much every non “pre-order” order is shipped the same day its ordered. Efficiency feels good.
There have been a lot of concerned comments from fans of the label over the past year who have reacted to having most of your roster being swooped up by bigger labels like Rise Records. You’re obviously one of the best in the current landscape at finding young and great bands, but has that been a set back?
I don’t think I am the best at anything in this industry. I just work with bands I like whether I think its commercially or financially viable or not. It’s been that way from the start and always will be that way. The problem with some of the bigger indie labels these days is that they don’t stand for anything, not even quality music. Earlier this year Epitaph, a label run by a member of one of the most politically outspoken punk bands in history released one of the most misogynistic pieces of shit (not including hip hop or european beatdown bands) I’ve been aware of in a long time. How is that the same label that signed the Menzingers? I understand the power of the dollar is strong, but I could never sleep at night putting my name behind things that I know are complete bullshit.
Rise…is a funny thing. They just sign so many bands. It’s very clear to me what they’re trying to do, and if people don’t care about their motives or are willing to overlook that, that’s fine. It’s not like they are stealing these bands from under our noses. The bands either weren’t under contractual obligation to us or had completed their contractual obligations, although they did contact Daytrader the day we announced working with them. At that point its just like…really? I the guys at Rise are cool, Sean is a friend of mine, I just don’t see RFC ever being a similar to something like that or Epitaph, which is fine. There’s room out there for a lot of different shit.
Regarding some of our bands moving on to bigger labels in the past, I don’t think it’s set us back much. With bands like Title Fight and Transit moving on, it’s allowed us to spend a lot less money than if we had done their next records, and of course the exposure they gain from joining a label like Rise or Sideonedummy helps sell our releases without having to spend any more. I think we’ve had a pretty strong roster consistently for the past 4 years or so, and all I can really do is hope others think so too.
Will there be more signings or releases in 2012 that we’ll be hearing about soon or that you can go ahead and reveal now?
In 2012 we will be releasing new stuff by the following bands - Tigers Jaw, Black Clouds, Weekend Nachos, Young Statues, Basement, Man Overboard, Shook Ones, The Tower and the Fool, Daylight, Koji, Hostage Calm, CSTVT and probably a ton more that haven’t come to fruition yet, or that I am not thinking of. We’re in the midst of signing a few bands right now too.
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