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Eggy Records, a local cassette-only D.I.Y. label, is releasing some of the best sounds around, including materiel by artists like Mattress, Orca Team, and the Woolen Men. After going through a package of cassettes that was sent here to the Mercury I immediately was struck by the quality of the releases on Eggy and also the simple fact that I didn't know much about who was behind it. So I decided to ask label head Rafael a few questions:
MERCURY: So how and when did Eggy start?
RAFAEL: I started Eggy a little over a year ago, initially as an umbrella for all the music me and my friends were doing. There was also the long term goal of being a respectable home for some of the more interesting bands in Portland who always seem to be working with labels in other cities or countries.
The other important aspect of the label is the distribution side. The Half and Half (coffee shop) gave me some space to sell my tapes and I realized there was an opportunity there to bring in the exciting stuff other labels were doing as well.
What about the current musical landscape in Portland made you want to start another tape label
On the one hand, there are a ton of tape labels. On the other hand, there are a ton of tape labels that release five tapes in editions of, like, eight, then fizzle. So I wasn't too concerned about the scene being saturated. The more the merrier.
In terms of doing the label in Portland, as active as the scene is here, it can get really insular. It's good to be bringing different ideas from different scenes in, and also to hold Portland bands up to the standards of other cities, and those are things I can be doing with Eggy. It's important for me that the label has an equal, if not greater, presence outside of the city as within it. To keep the scene vital and interesting we need to be in dialog with the greater underground music world, instead of picking up on trends from LA, New York, or wherever two years too late.
Why the cassette format?
The decision to do tapes felt pretty natural—my bands had mostly worked with tape labels in the past and the amount of creative energy coming out of the tape scene was really incredible. In terms of aspects of the medium itself, I like that skipping tracks on a tape is a pain, so you just listen to the thing straight through. And it's nice that a person is more likely to listen to a tape while driving around than while reading blogs or checking email.
What have you released so far?
Some highlights are tapes by Mattress and Orca Team. [I've] done stuff with buddies in San Francisco and Brooklyn. There are some skater kids in Kentucky doing awesome stuff that I've been working with a bunch. My own projects are the Woolen Men, the Golden Hours and the Polyps, and there have been tapes from all those as well.
Any of your releases stick out as a favorite?
The Honeys were a Portland band that existed for less than a year, probably, I really love that tape as a snapshot of a specific time and place.
Who does the artwork for your releases?
For the most part I do the art for the tapes, which is silk-screened and usually very colorful.
What other tape labels do you think are doing good work? Shoutouts?
Night-People is really the big tape label in my mind. The scope and quality of music that Shawn releases is incredible, and it all feels very personal, which is important to me. You really get a sense of the kind of music he's into with each batch of tapes, which is a great thing about tape labels. And the design is perfect. I'm a big fan of Goaty, in a large part because of the art and design. The austerity and focus of Tone Filth is impressive, also a very personal label.
Any local labels, tape or DIY, that we should look out for?
A really incredible label called Stunned just moved to Portland from Long Beach. Totally flipped out sounds from all over the world. There's a brand new label called Meandering that I think is going to do some interesting stuff, seems like they know what's up. Karamazov is picking up steam and does a lot of fringe local stuff, I'm really glad someone is on top of that.
I've noticed a lot of small labels starting to do lathe or hand-cut records—a process of physically carving the groove that a record player "reads" into a material—be it plastic, acetate, copper or chocolate that can then be played like a record. So that could be a direction Eggy goes in. I'm looking into it.
Tape hiss: Good or bad?
I just got a bunch of tapes from Arbor—lots of really beautiful drone music—and it's all stuff that would be hard to imagine without the tape hiss. The attention to detail put into those releases has got me convinced it's a considered part of the music. Sometimes I'll get tapes from a label where the tape they've been dubbing from has obviously worn out and it sounds like you're listening to a live bootleg recorded from about half a mile away. That's a bad thing.