Despite an economy that’s partially recovered from the disastrous George W. Bush era, it’s still a risky venture to start a record label in 2016. (Actually, it’s ever been thus, but in this time of streaming, the gradual, agonizing death of the CD, and a pervasive aversion toward physical media, it does seem like a foolhardy business decision.) Nevertheless, Ben Jenkins (who runs Killroom Studio) and Troy Nelson (the Young Evils, KEXP) threw caution to the wind and started Killroom Records anyway. Their first release, the self-titled album by Seattle trio Acapulco Lips, comes out April 15 on vinyl, compact disc, and download. It’s a vibrant attention-grabber of surf-sprayed garage rock, topped by bassist Maria-Elena Juarez’s dulcet, brash vocals. Acapulco Lips peaks on “Hangover Blues,” whose surfeit of crashing cymbals, rampaging rhythms, and slashing guitars push it into instant anthem status. Composed of Austin transplant Juarez, Seattle guitarist/vocalist Christopher Garland, and French drummer Davy Berruyer, Acapulco Lips are one of the city’s most engaging live acts. Besides releasing the Lips’ debut album, Killroom will be issuing savvy local rock traditionalists Bread & Butter’s debut full-length this summer. After the jump, I talk to Nelson about Killroom’s goals, its aesthetics, the enduring appeal of vinyl, and more.
The Stranger: What inspired you guys to start this get-poor-slow scheme and what are your goals with Killroom?
Troy Nelson: We were just so sick of having good ideas, so we figured we'd start a label! Ben and I have been friends for over a decade and we've both had many jobs in this strange world of music. We've toyed with the idea for years, but now we both feel ready to do this. There are so many bands that want and need help, and they deserve to be heard. So that's one of our goals—to give more exposure to bands we feel should be heard by more than a handful of people.
Which labels, if any, would you consider to be your models for operating and for aesthetics?
Of course we love the obvious ones like Merge, Rough Trade, Sub Pop, etc... and we also love Burger, Captured Tracks, Mexican Summer. Suicide Squeeze, Barsuk, and other local labels are great, too. We're just starting out, so we're operating as a small label, but thinking of the the bigger picture.
What do you think will set Killroom apart from other labels in Seattle?
That's a good question, and the answer to that will probably develop over time. I suppose one thing that's different is Ben has a recording studio called The Killroom. We're recording and co-producing records from some of the bands we sign, like we're doing right now with the Bread & Butter record.
What convinced you it’s a good idea to release music on physical formats? (I think it’s great, but I may be in the minority.)
People still love vinyl, as do we. It just makes the album so much more real when you're holding it in your hands. The Acapulco Lips vinyl is colored and limited to 500. It was so much fun to put together and see it through from start to finish.
Why did you choose Acapulco Lips and Bread & Butter for your first two releases?
My band [the Young Evils] has played shows with both of those bands and I was surprised to find out that nobody was putting their music out. When we started this label, my wife [Mackenzie Mercer] suggested Acapulco Lips immediately. Then we heard some Bread & Butter recordings and thought, "Man, there's some serious songwriting going on here!" So they were a clear next choice. I guess It's as simple as that: They're two of our favorite Seattle bands.
What other releases do you have planned for the near future?
We've got lots of ideas and we're talking with some artists, but nothing etched in stone. We're not going to have a specific "sound" or stick to one genre. We just want to find amazing artists and get their music out there.