AD Exclusive :: Yer Bird Records Interview

Over the past five months, one label that has remained high on my radar is Yer Bird Records. Based out of Charlottesville, VA, Yer Bird busted out the gate this past year with it’s stellar debut release The Wolf Is At The Door by Sounds Like Fall. Yer Bird’s founder, owner, and operator, Morgan King, sat down with An Aquarium Drunkard to discuss the beginnings of the label, their success with Sounds Like Fall, and what’s in store for 2006.

AD: Morgan, thanks for taking some time to chat with us.

YB: Thank you, I’m honored.

AD: Yer Bird Records released one hell of a debut this past year with Sounds Like Fall. Are you surprised at the success of your label’s debut release?

YB: I’ve certainly been surprised at how warm a reaction the label, and the album, has received from the online music community. Right from the start there was a lot of support from my favorite music blogs and review sites. Considering how many great, small labels there are out there, it’s really thrilling to have gotten such backing from people both passionate and critical about music. Yer Bird was really lucky to get off the ground with such a great album, too. Joe Young, the man behind Sounds Like Fall, had recorded a plethora of good demo tracks, but when he brought the final recordings for ‘The Wolf is at the Door’ it was simply stunning. It’s been really thrilling to be a part of getting the album out in the world.

AD: Can you tell us a little about what brought you to starting Yer Bird?

YB: Throughout college I was getting a graphic design degree – I’d gotten pretty heavily into creating artwork for Americana bootlegs in trade for copies of the discs. I really enjoyed both making a distinctive visual package for the discs and delving into the unfiltered, lo-fi aesthetics of the bootlegged music. Later, when I’d moved to Wisconsin, I was running a used CD store and doing a lot of freelance design work for a wide range of independent musicians and it was really frustrating to see so many artists struggling to get shows, get a website up, and figure out how to get their discs out to people. At that point it just seemed like a natural shift to start planning out a label.

AD: Had you prior experience in the music industry?

YB: Not really. After I left Wisconsin I struggled for a while to find work in Chicago. I had been hanging out with some great musicians there and eventually found myself interviewing for a job at Carrot Top Records (they put out the Handsome Family and distribute myriad great artists). I didn’t get the job, but after seeing how it was all set up I felt like it was something I could do, on a smaller scale, on my own. So I ended up moving to Providence, RI, and living and working with both the guy who runs Last Visible Dog (a psych-folk label) and the guy who runs Truculent Recordings (a noise label). I don’t think I’d really call any of that ‘music industry,’ but it was certainly educational, and that’s where the label was set up. Since then, I’ve moved down to Charlottesville, VA, and have partnered with an old friend of mine, Ben, who has really helped get the ball rolling.

AD: What is Yer Bird’s vision or focus when it comes to the artists you hope to work with in the future? I know you are a big Songs:Ohia fan, will you stick to the folk/southern-gothic/country tinged side of things?

YB: To me, the purpose of Yer Bird, or any good independent label, is to track down and make available music that might not otherwise ever be made widely available. There is such an unbelievable amount of brilliant, relevant music being made in bedrooms and garages around the country that it’s a label’s obligation to find it and release it. It’s a thrill to search for it, too scouring for music on myspace, the multitude of music blogs and local warehouse shows, to me, feels like Alan Lomax wandering through the rural south with an acetate recorder just trying to record music that matters. It’s likely that Yer Bird will gravitate primarily towards the lo-fi folk end of the music spectrum, but if there’s something amazing that doesn’t fit into that, I’m still going to be giddy to release it.

AD: A couple of big things on Yer Bird’s horizon include the release of the Sounds Like Fall demos, as well as Nic Garcia‘s Yer Bird debut. Can you tell us a little about each?

YB: Nic Garcia’s new album, and his first professionally pressed, is entitled ‘The Desperate Ones’ and it should be available right at the beginning of January and (I say this in the most unbiased way possible) it is simply jaw-dropping. Also, it features a guest appearance by Secretly Canadian’s June Panic, who is also awesome. As far as the Sounds Like Fall demos go, we loved them so much that when we first heard them we were ready to release them as-is on the label. Joe Young wanted to record something more narrative and cohesive, so we waited for ‘The Wolf is at the Door’ which was most certainly worth it, but the demos were so good, and so few of the songs ended up on the album, that we really wanted to make them available. We’ve toyed with a couple of different ways of releasing them, but right now it looks like they are going to available as a free downloadable album, complete with artwork, from sometime in early 2006.

AD: Nic Garcia, while having released several albums prior to coming on board Yer Bird, may be relatively unknown to many of the folks reading. How would you describe his music, and how did you come about working together.

YB: Nic Garcia is one of those artists that’s been making and recording some of the best music out there for years with little fanfare. He’s released two full-lengths, one EP and a split 7 inch so far, and every bit of it has been stunning, dark and beautiful. I first came across him through a post on the music blog The Acousticwoodlands and was immediately enthralled. His sound is tough to pin down, it’s both warm and intimate and harrowingly bleak and desolate, like a indie fever-dream reaction to Springsteen’s Nebraska, or Sufjan Stevens in a drunken knife-fight with Songs: Ohia’s Impala.

AD: Other than your own label’s roster, what were some of your favorite releases of the past year?

YB: Man – 2005 has seen some of the best music of my lifetime. We’ve seen a lot of big acts put out some of their best work – Will Oldham, M. Ward, Damien Jurado, Iron & Wine, Sufjan Stevens, Magnolia Electric Co, etc. and I’ve stumbled across a handful of discs that I fiendishly fell in love with. Elephant Micah’s ‘Elephant Micah and the Agrarian Malaise’ blew my mind, and Brooklyn band O’Death’s self-titled album kicked my ass – their song ‘Spitfire’ is the best rock song I’ve heard in a long, long time.

AD: If you had 3 artists you could sign right now and work with, who would they be?

YB: Besides those two, O’Death and Elephant Micah, there’s a songwriter in Philadelphia, Raphael Cutrafello, who writes these amazing melodies and songs in this Leonard-Cohen-meets-M.-Ward style that is staggering. Beyond that, I’d love to work with two of my favorite lyricists, Nashville’s Matthew Ryan, who has done some good major-label stuff, but released a series of small-pressing Cdr home recordings that were really raw and visceral – I’d love to put out some stuff like that. I’d also love to do something with Songs: Ohia’s (and Magnolia Electric Co’s) Jason Molina – that man is so ridiculously prolific and consistently brilliant that I’d be honored to release anything of his.

AD: Thanks again Morgan, looking forward to great things from Yer Bird in 2006.

YB: Thank you! It was pleasure!