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Mike Sniper on 10 Years of Captured Tracks

Photo by James Hartley

In celebration of the label’s 10th anniversary, Captured Tracks and friends are taking over Zone One at Elsewhere for a night of music courtesy of the label’s up-and-coming stars. Over the years, the brooklyn-based institution has fostered some of indie music’s most celebrated acts. To help commemorate their 10th birthday, Zone One will play host to performances from Captured Tracks signees Drahla (making their US debut), Wax Chattels and Lina Tullgren. the show will also feature limited edition merch goodies and a demo drop off box!

ahead of the show on 10/18, label founder Mike Sniper took the time to answer a few of our questions.

First of all, happy 10th birthday! When you reflect back on the label’s beginnings, did you have any idea of what the label would look like 10 years on, or even if it would still be around?

I had absolutely no idea it’d be what it is or that it would be around in 10 years. I mean, I’d always wanted to have a successful label but it wasn’t something I had any kind of vision for, that all happened
as it was happening, like a live slime or mold.

In the early years of Captured Tracks, was there a particular sound or aesthetic you were trying to maintain? How has the label’s curation evolved over the years?

If you look at the earliest releases, you can see that I definitely was not trying to do that. Repairs, Soft Healer, Cosmetics, The Beets… those all sound pretty different. Obviously we became known for Wild Nothing, Beach Fossils, Craft Spells, DIIV, etc. Even during that time we were also signing Soft Moon, Naomi Punk and stuff like that, and later Perfect Pussy was an important band for us. So, no, I can’t say I had any sort of conscious idea for a sound, the more popular bands just happened to be somewhat similar, and that is cool, it was a scene within itself or something. Visually I wanted the look to be open, so that the artist can work within whatever paramaters they want. I think it’s important for an artist to already have a vision for that when you start working with them and you help them along, as opposed to having that vision already there.

What were the artists and labels most important to you growing up as a musician and music fan. How did they inform the beginnings of Captured Tracks?

Well, I was always a music nut and collector. I mean, when I was a kid in the suburbs it was all about the cut-out bin, it always had the most interesting stuff. Eventually you find these labels that you trust and just try out everything if it’s affordable. For me, that would have been labels like 4AD, Wax Trax!, SST, etc. Factory and Creation and all that fun stuff were always imports and therefore not in the cut-out bin, but I was always looking for those records and Flying Nun. Homestead would get licenses for all this stuff so I’d be looking for that. Later on you could add Sub Pop, Warp, Matador…. I don’t think I’m breaking any new ground here!

Within the context of A&R, what does your music discovery process look like? How do new signings come about for the label?

I gape into my enchanted bejeweled stone, like the one from Lord of the Rings. I wish it was exciting like that, but, we are pretty traditional, going to shows, word of mouth from artists we already work with or. like. Actually, a lot of our artists were already connected in some way to the label and we heard their new project and liked it. We also listen to new singles and EPs whenever we can, try to keep up with that… We also actually do listen to our demos, we get inundated with those but we do our best to stay up with them. We’re going to have our “Demo Drop” for the Elsewhere show for anyone who enters, we’ll definitely listen to your demo though we can’t respond to all of them. It’s an important part of this show and tour, as these are bands we found in different ways. Lina we signed via her demo, Wax Chattels I signed after seeing live and Drahla I found via Wichita and grabbed their 7inches so these shows are really about showing the label fans’ what we’re all about right now.

What’s next for Captured Tracks? Any releases you’re particularly excited to get out into the world?

We’re always 4-8 months ahead in our plans, so we’re already deep into it by the time it is out for the rest of the world. Recently we’ve had the new Wild Nothing, which is a great record, plus the new Molly Burch is imminent and I’m very excited to see what Drahla deliver for their first LP. There’s some stuff that’s a ways away, some really cool reissues we’re working on and some stuff that I can’t quite talk about as we haven’t settled on release dates, so I’ll just say: THERE’S ALWAYS SOMETHING!

Interview by Claire Gilb

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