POZ Label Talk: Triple Crown Records

by Zack Zarrillo - Sep 19, 2012

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oTriple Crown Records is one of PropertyOfZack’s favorite labels, and how could they not be with a fantastic back-catalog and a current roster filled with bands like Bad Books, Moving Mountains, and O’Brother. It’s because of that that we are so happy to be bringing Fred Feldman back for a brand new Label Talk feature. Fred and I spoke in-depth about the label’s slight switch of sound, three big new signings, the important of development and touring, what Triple Crown offers compared to other indies, and a possible reissue of Deja Entendu on vinyl. Check out the whole feature below!

It’s been about a year and a half since our first Label Talk, and Triple Crown’s identity in terms of the bands on its roster has certainly begun to shift. Can you talk about moving from bands like The Secret Handshake, Fight Fair, and Hit The Lights to Moving Mountains and O’Brother?
It wasn’t a conscious shift. Keep in mind, we had Plug In Stereo until the beginning of the year and we made a deal with Atlantic to take over because we were doing a great job with pop radio, but we needed help. There was nothing in that world at that time that piqued my interested. It just happens that this is where we’re at right now. It’s not to say that we wouldn’t go back. We look to sign things that we can offer value to and try to make things happen for. It just happens right now, for the first time in the long time, that there’s a more identifiable sound for us. They’re all in that sweet-spot of post-rock, and they compliment each other really well. You look at Bad Books too, and they’re not like those bands, but it’s something that we offer value to and can grow the audience. I think it comes down to that nothing was piquing my interest that I wanted to get involved with. 

I’d say younger bands, in the poppier world, are also having a harder time creating something that’s special and different.
It feels like it’s a major label game. The pop stuff is so poppy that it’s harder to start it off. Even the poppier stuff that we got involved in was still slightly quirky, whether it was Secret Handshake or Plug In Stereo. When we get involved with those bands, we always look for something a little left of center.

The two bigger releases within the last year or so were from Moving Mountains and O’Brother. Have you been content with those?
We’re definitely really happy. Those types of bands are about longterm building. Touring is instrumental for them, and both of those bands got amazing opportunities. I really believe that their next records is when we’ll see the payoff. As hard as it is for me to say as a record label, sales are not indicative of where a band is at. Moving Mountains did headline dates in the spring, and the ticket counts were great. O’Brother keeps getting great opportunities as well. It’s a slow, methodical push. The one thing I like about these bands as well is that there’s definitely royalty. The crowds stay with them. I’m a big fan of that. If you go back to The Receiving End Of Sirens/As Tall As Lions days, there was always loyalty there. It’s not common these days.
POZ: Regardless of what it is, a lot of fans seem to grow out of more pop-oriented bands, versus someone like Moving Mountains.
Fred: When you lean towards the poppy side, it comes down to whether you have the song at that time or not and whether it’s a pop hit or just that song that resonates. You live and die by that, but these bands its about the collective works and touring. It’s about the live experience. O’Brother is one of the best live bands out there right now, and they win people over. They did a second tour with Thrice, and they won over many more people that walk away saying, “Holy shit, that was amazing.”

O’Brother’s touring schedule has been incredible.
Keep in mind, Moving Mountains had great chances as well and they’ve been busy with their new record. Over the last eighteen months they did Warped, Thrice, Coheed, and Biffy. They’ve had great opportunities as well.

In terms of releases, The Dear Hunter’s Color Spectrum has been out for a while now, but we keep seeing reissues. Has that been a surprise?
It was ambitious to take it on because he had this vision of releasing it all at once and for it to be cool. The public’s appetite for something that big can be fickle, but he has a loyal fan base and they got what he was trying to do. We came in and supported Casey’s vision. We came up with interesting ideas and it was very much a collaborative effort. It was great. We pressed another batch of box sets because there was a demand. They were selling for $500 on eBay, so people still wanted them. We put it out there.

Triple Crown has had these three big signings in the last few months, but it has been a somewhat slow year otherwise. Was that due to just figuring out the signings? Or have duties for the label shifted as well?
Every day is an adventure. We had a quiet first half, and we knew that’d be the case. We were digging in on O’Brother and Moving Mountains. And it’s about balancing your release schedule and being able to focus on the records that are out. No day is the same as the one before. Each day is different. You set out your goals and go for them. I try to work closely with the management and artist to complete their vision. That’s important to me. 

Caspian, Bad Books, and North Korea have all joined the Triple Crown family. How long were you working on some of those for? 
They take a little time. It’s hard to say. Sometimes when the lawyers get involved, things get done in a snap or it takes a little longer. We knew when we signed North Korea that we were hoping to get a record out this winter. I’ve happened to know those guys for a long time, and you start with a conversation and see where it goes. Bad Books, I have a long-standing relationship with Kevin and I’ve known the Manchester guys for years. I knew they were working on it and we just wanted to do it. Once it was done, we started working on it. It’s such a great record. It was definitely conscious to make the second half busier than the first half. We’re not a tremendous label staff wise, so it’s about making sure everything we put out gets the attention it deserves. 

Is Caspian a band that you’ve seen growing excitement for since it’s announcement?
I definitely think so. They’ve been around for a little bit and have released things on smaller labels. With a real effort and focus, I think this band can grow into something. It’s a fantastic record and things are falling into place with the Minus The Bear tour. They’re a band that’s been under the radar, but they work hard. They’ve toured a lot these past few years. When I saw them in New York City, it was almost sold out. We’ve never released a post-rock record like this. It’s exciting.

Bad Books is out in October. The band brings excitement because that’s what happens with “supergroups,” but rarely do bands pull it off in a way that meets fan’s expectations. That started to happen with the first record. Do you think this record shows them in their stride?
I definitely do. This is more of a cohesive record. I love the first record, but I felt like some were Andy’s songs and some were Kevin’s songs. This feels more like a band. Obviously Kevin and Manchester have grown, but this record wasn’t done in a few days. This one took longer and it’s a great record. I’m thrilled to be part of it. Jeremiah runs Favorite Gentlemen, and it’s just become this great team.

This is a record that fans are very excited for.
I agree. I think it’s cool and the artwork is beautiful. It’s a complete package. Take a song like “Forest Whitaker,” and it’s their voices, but it’s a really accessible song. So we’ll take a shot at radio with it. The reaction has been solid and we’re not even there yet. That’s one thing about Triple Crown: We’re not afraid to take chances in certain spaces that independent labels don’t always get into. That’s the difference between being a cool indie or trying to further an audience.

Do you think there will be more touring for this record as well?
That is a question I can’t answer. I hope so. This October tour is longer than the last one. Will there be more touring later? There’s talk. I hope so because everyone is in between records. The opportunity is there. 

North Korea are in the studio with Mike Sapone, and fans are excited. Are we aiming for early-2013?
Yes. I think that’s realistic. I think we’ll have music out before the year is over, but the full record will be early next year just based on how it’s coming together. What I’ve heard, it’s ridiculous. Getting in with Mike Sapone raises a level for a band. The stuff was there, but those extra set of ears tweak things in a great way.

Do you know whether or not they plan on truly supporting the record with touring? Or is this just a release.
Nothing is set in stone. We’re realistic enough to know that we may not get three or four months of touring. The Northeast shows have all been great though. We’ll work with what we work with. They have history and excitement, and we hope the response to the record is as good as we know it can be. And maybe that’ll help their decision. 

Are there any new signings or releases?
Nothing we can talk about right now. We’re having conversations. O’Brother has an EP coming out that is to hold people over. It compliments the Circa tour and it’s different. It’s reworked versions of their last album, but it’s done in this way that is great. Tanner had done this acoustic video at The Rave swimming pool, and it’s like that. They did acoustic songs in Atlanta, and it was so good. I wanted to show their versatility. I didn’t want to go so long in between records. They’re great. Tanner’s voice is great on them. I think people will be into it. Those guys will probably go to the studio by the end of the year for a spring release.

This Moving Mountains record. Will that be Triple Crown?
Yes. We don’t have a date yet. This is the first time they’ve recorded with an outside producer. 

One thing about Triple Crown in general compared to other labels is that you have history and connections and you can take bigger chances. Is that something, when you go to talk with a new band, that you can use to your advantage?
I would like to think it’s our selling point. We’re not the label that puts out 20 or 30 releases a year. Our new releases are limited because I want to pay attention to everything. The market place is flooded because we all can put a record out. It’s not about the first two week sales either. It’s about longterm. When we make a commitment, we want it to be past the first record for development. It’s important to me. 

To finish things up, there’s hope of a Deja reissue. Is that possible?
[Laughs] If I don’t get ten requests for that in a week, I think something is wrong. Yeah, we’re really close to everyone in Brand New. I’m a fan first, and they’re all friends of mine. They’re very concerned with how this stuff comes out. It’s not something that I just want to ship out. Jesse has a definitive idea of how he wants stuff to look. Aesthetically, if you look at the Your Favorite Weapon reissue, it fits in where they started to go with Devil And God and Daisy, aesthetically speaking. There have been conversations. It’s on Brand New time, which I get. They’re great records, so it’ll be worth the wait. When it’s going to come, I don’t have the answer. 

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