It's a gray Tuesday evening, and Scott Reitherman is waiting for his housemates to arrive for band practice. Sitting on the couch in the open living room of the grand, old Central District house that is home to both his band, Throw Me the Statue, and his record label, Baskerville Hill, Reitherman absently picks at an acoustic guitar. He's wearing jeans, socks, no shoes, a T-shirt, and a gray cardigan with an alligator embroidered over the left breast. He has short, polite hair and what could be a few days of stubble or a thin beard. He's soft-spoken and thoughtful; he talks about theses and narratives when describing his music.
Reitherman is an unassuming figure at first glance, but the house is immediately impressive. Its three stories, nine rooms, and mother-in-law basement house six young men, five of whom play in Throw Me the Statue, Reitherman's one-time solo project, and a roomy, well-equipped practice/studio space. The record label is essentially a neat pile of padded manila envelopes in Reitherman's bedroom.
"The house came with this piano," Reitherman says, playing a few chords on the baby grand that occupies a nook next to the chandeliered dining room. "Some of its keys are really out of tune, so it has a swimmy quality. Our keyboardist, Aaron [Goldman], is a self-trained classical pianist, and sometimes he'll play old ragtime numbers or parlor songs, and, because there's so much old wood in the house, the sound just resonates."
Reitherman and his band have only filled this house with sound for a few months now. Previously, he's run the label out of other houses on Capitol Hill—"We kept moving into these houses that would get condemned"—but this is the first time the whole band is living together.
A sense of place, though—a feeling of home—has always been an integral part of Baskerville Hill.
Reitherman grew up in Half Moon Bay, a small coastal city south of San Francisco with a population of around 11,000. He went to high school with Goldman, and the two played in bands together. Reitherman recalls a fondness for the bands of Fat Wreck Chords and Epitaph. After high school, he attended Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. In his senior year, he met Sam Beebe (aka Black Bear) in an electronic music course, and the two began hatching plans for a label. While at school, Reitherman discovered the Microphones, and fell in love with Phil Elverum's layered lo-fi recordings and K Records' DIY aesthetic.
"The Microphones was really life changing for me," he says. "Just doing it all themselves, Phil recording himself and adding layer after layer after layer. When I first heard It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water, it was a revelation."
Inspired by a romantic idea of the Northwest, Reitherman and Beebe moved to Seattle after graduation in 2004 to start their label and make music together. Beebe has since expatriated, first to Germany and now England.
"Pretty much all of our friends from college moved down to New York," Reitherman says. "That was sort of the obvious, logical, easy thing to do. So coming out here, Baskerville Hill was sort of a statement that we'd started a new place for ourselves that wasn't just the kids we had graduated with. I don't know if we ever really approached it like that, but it ended up being this document of us going off on our own.
"We didn't know anybody here, but we quickly learned how small Capitol Hill is and started meeting people," he continues. "And the idea of Baskerville started to grow. But the name took a while. We liked the idea of making the identity of the label like a mythical or fictional place name, like part of a story. So we tied in the idea of a fictional place, a reference to the Sherlock Holmes story, and threw 'Hill' on the end because we lived on Capitol Hill and it had this sense of place. It was the house that we lived in. It was home."
The young label has released a compilation featuring eight unknown artists, the solo debut of Black Bear, and Throw Me the Statue's Moonbeams. Reitherman recorded that album himself as a solo project, and its multitracked depth and smart, bright pop suggests the homemade majesty of Of Montreal as much as the moon-gazing wonder of the Microphones. There are even hints of Very Emergency–era Promise Ring here, too, especially in the affably flat vocals of "Your Girlfriend's Car" or the cruising guitar riff of "A Mutinous Dream." Since releasing the album, Throw Me the Statue has grown into a full, five-piece band.
"It's really fun to make solo recordings, but I hate playing solo live," says Reitherman. "I could never really make my songs sound the way I wanted them to, so it's been awesome to really realize the songs live. We've only played like six shows, so it's still kind of broad strokes. Right now it's really almost a punk-rock version of the record."
Indeed, Throw Me the Statue's live show is wildly energetic. Live drums, electric guitars, and four-part harmonies replace Reitherman's multitracking, and the able, athletic band switch instruments, add extra percussion, and throw in melodica and glockenspiel with an abandon grounded by serious musicianship. These broad strokes, and the undeniable strength of Reitherman's solo recordings, have been enough to land the band with well-loved indie label Secretly Canadian (the label will rerelease Moonbeams in February) and on a string of West Coast dates opening for Jens Lekman in November. But while Throw Me the Statue are taking off, the home they've made with Baskerville Hill isn't going anywhere.
"We're going to be busy with Throw Me the Statue, but Baskerville Hill is not going to stop," Reitherman says. "We just have to figure out a way to shoulder the work load and divide the labor so that when we're out on tour the wheels don't fall off. I'd like to see Throw Me the Statue become a recognizable name through Secretly Canadian and kind of bring all our friends along for the ride."