Industry insiders will tell you that the music industry is as good as dead. Physical media: Dead. Record labels: Bordering on obsolete. It’s in this climate that Midwives vocalist Shaun Stacey decided to start his own record label, Holy Family Players Theatre. Doubletruck bassist Zach Lewis came on board shortly thereafter. The label will christen itself with the release of Midwives’ second LP, No, followed by Doubletruck’s first foray into vinyl, and Sufferhead’s debut tape. Milwaukee Record spoke with Stacey in advance of the release show for No at High Dive on Friday, July 14 with Slow Walker, Doubletruck, and Sundial Mottos.
Milwaukee Record: How did the label start? Was it that you wanted to put out the Midwives record and then it just snowballed?
Shaun Stacey: I put a substantial portion of the money into the record and [Midwives bassist and guitarist] Ben [Wright] and Graham [Hunt] gave money too. I just figured, why not release it with a label name. Whether or not that was going to continue to do other things, I wasn’t sure. If I was going to do something else, I liked the idea of having something connecting it all. And that’s what lead me to talking to Zach about the Doubletruck record. He basically said I could put my name on it without putting money into it, so I asked if he wanted to be a part of [the label].
MR: It’s an easy way to get another release under your belt.
SS: It’s unbelievably nice that he would do that, but that’s just how Zach works. He is a very nice man, but I think he’s just open to anything. He was interested in doing the label also, and it just kind of took off, I guess. I was adamant about putting out a Sufferhead release of some kind, because I knew it was going to be weird and I was going to like it. Graham recorded it and I heard it and was like I’ll put this out immediately.
MR: One thing I thought about starting a record label now is that there’s stories about how it’s the worst time to start a record label, and that physical media is dying. Does that ever enter into the equation?
SS: It hadn’t until just now [laughs]. It was purely based out of selfish desire because I didn’t want the last Midwives release to be a cassette. I wanted it to be a record. Gotta Groove have a deal where you can get 100 records, blank sleeves, just a bare bones deal for a little under $1,000. I figured if we don’t get rid of all of them, it’s not the end of the world. And if you have the ability to make a limited run, I don’t think the idea of the physical format dying comes into play. If there’s only 100 records, chances are you can get rid of them.
MR: Do you just have the three releases planned?
SS: Yeah, as of right now. I just wanted something that connected stuff that I did and stuff that my friends are doing. If [Sufferhead guitarist] Taylor [Campbell] came to me with some insane jazz solo album where he’s just noodling around on the guitar, I’d put that out too.
MR: Are there any formats you’re more partial to, or any formats that you wouldn’t want to deal with?
SS: CDs probably. I only have a CD player in my car. I see the merit in it. I just don’t like them. If Doubletruck and Sufferhead feel differently, all the power to them. Everything is available online for free.
MR: When I wrote that question all I could think of was 10-inches.
SS: I love 10-inches. Especially for a hardcore band, it’s almost the perfect format. The only problem is they’re more expensive to make. It’s not worth it. I think Ty Segall did a double 10-inch. My first thought when that was announced is, ‘That’s so fucking expensive. Just put it on one record.’ They look really cool, but it’s not financially viable.
MR: How do you feel about downloads?
SS: There isn’t a download code with the Midwives record and I think that was because it cost extra. I was probably being stubborn, especially since it’s all free on Bandcamp anyway. The Sufferhead tapes, I had them made and I actively refused download codes. I didn’t want another thing in it. I wanted it to be compact. It’ll probably be free online.
MR: Any backup plan if the releases tank? Does the label just stop being or is it not that high risk of a proposition?
SS: It’s really not. I have enough money to put out a tape for friends if they’re fine with me not really doing much. I’ll distribute it locally. It’s not a very high risk operation. I don’t have money invested in it aside from our own record. And I’m not really worried about that either. It’s such a limited release, so even if the release show isn’t that great, or we’re not getting rid of them as quickly as we want, we still don’t have that many of them.
No real backup plan, but I don’t think one is necessary. I haven’t really thought about it, because it’s a label in the broadest terms. It’s also really new and you never know what will happen. It’s not like I’m taking a stance against promotion. I don’t really know where to start with it and I don’t really care to find out. I’ll send it to Maximum Rocknroll and that kind of thing.
MR: It’s better to start out modestly.
SS: Right. It’s kind of the failings of some other local labels. They try to do so much immediately. It sounds incredibly stressful. And you crash after a while or people get sick of you. If your first handful of releases are local, who gives a shit? The only people who are going to care are the people that are around you and have access to your band. Also, I may be cynical on trying to branch out of the city you live in when you can’t really leave. Midwives couldn’t go on big tours or anything. You just kind of have to build your own thing and hope that it sticks around or people like doing it.