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Label Spotlight: Life On An Island

By ; August 17, 2011 at 9:44 PM 

Label Spotlight is our new feature in which we take a look at an up-and-coming independent record label. For this premiere installment we sit down with Mike Naideau, cofounder of Long Island indie record label Life On An Island.

One Thirty BPM: Hey Mike, first off could you briefly describe your label? How many artists and releases are under its wing and what are its ‘sounds’?

Mike Naideau: Sure. “Life On an Island” has definitely always been more of a collective of close friends than a label. We began without any real intention of working on projects not involving people and bands and music that we all know and love! As a whole it has functioned accordingly, too. We all try to split costs and keep as many aspects of the whole process as local and personal as possible. Our friend Brian’s recording studio called “Blue Sunshine” has really been an indispensable resource for many of us.

So with that said we have somewhere around 20 artists under our wing, but it’s not so much a real wing, we’re all just friends. We’ve also released only single songs by a lot of artists on our summer compilations. At the end of this month we will have 30 physical releases (mostly cassettes and CDs but I see more vinyl in our future), which rules! Many are out of print and gone at this point, and a handful of others are just barely sticking around. Doing things in very limited editions has not only encouraged us to pay more attention to detail, but also to keep our attention present and focused on new projects and ideas.

As a whole, our stuff sits somewhere between some kinda guitar-heavy indie-rock and a post-punk influenced brand of pop-punk. Some of the Neato Fleets, Fuzzy Hell, Your Birthday, Brian Chaudhry and Screen House Music stuff dips a little deeper into the lo-fi realm, while the Giant Peach, For Serious This Time and Nude Beach stuff is a bit more rockin’ and the Haircut and Womyn Boiz stuff is just straight up crunch/crusty.

How did you start up the label? What prompted you to start it?

The label stemmed pretty naturally from a small group of friends from Northport, New York. It started some time in 2006. We had all been living near each other and working individually on home recordings for a few years at that point. It was a nice way to kind of bring everybody’s work together into a more dynamic, cohesive representation of what it meant to us to live and grow up in this pretty small town. Our first release was a cassette compilation of sorts that we called Story Of Man. It was a real tiny collaborative release that you can read a little more about thanks to the “Here On This Island” blog. We gave out a bunch of copies of this tape when we played our one and only show under this name that same year in a basement in Northport. It was a show with Wildebeest, Infinity Mirror and Brian Chaudhry. That’s kind of where it all began.

Summer tour 2010 by Brian Chaudhry

I think the primary motivation for many of us was to simply have an excuse that we felt was worthwhile to turn these intimate experiments into more tangible things, with artwork and explanations, that we could then literally hand to each other. We’ve all always valued when that kind of personal interaction exists alongside music. The whole scene was already thriving around here at that point, and we were all extremely lucky to be able to experience that era of musicians and house shows, much less participate in it. We were also definitely inspired by the ideologies behind some local labels such as Burn It Down/Rebuild and Rok Lok.

Our series of summer compilations is kind of our way of thanking a lot of these influential artists whom we respect a great deal, and whom have contributed so much over the years to the local music community. I don’t think this whole thing was ever actually intended to become a label, but it seems to have kind of naturally moved in that direction!

How have you seen the Long Island music scene change since you’ve got involved in it? Who are the prominent figures?

This whole thing began in 2006, when a lot of us were still in high school. But at that point there were a lot of super inspiring and accessible performances going on around Long Island. Many were in Huntington Station, various basements and garages in Northport and the short-lived Long Island Freespace in Ronkonkoma. Those shows were what instilled a lot of significant values in us with regards to our approach to music.

Allatoona by For Serious This Time

A raw and sincere intensity kept everybody coming back to these places. Some distinct bands were Bent Outta Shape, Latterman, Wildebeest, The Insurgent, Guadalupe, The Solidarity Pact, and Fellow Project. More often than not the music was all given out for free as burned CDs packaged in some kinda weird folded paper thing. Everything about it was personal and unintimidating.

Since then there has been an overall sort of migration from Long Island to other places in New York like Brooklyn and Queens. A lot of amazing bands have broken up, but a lot of new ones have formed!

How do you feel about technology such as Bandcamp as distribution methods?

Bandcamp is a useful page to host a lot of MP3s for people to hear and download for free. It’s the only site of that kind that we really use, and we primarily started using it as a simple way to make a bunch of our out-of-print releases more widely available. Not so much into the idea of selling things directly through Bandcamp though because they take some, but also because we’d rather handle that aspect of the process ourselves anyway.

We prefer to stay away from digital releases, yet they do help in making it easier and cheaper to reach a large audience. It’s just important to us to use these methods properly, like still putting a lot into the physical artwork of whatever you’re working on even if you’re offering a digital version too.

How has this year been for you as a label?

This has been our biggest year yet! We focused on putting out a bunch of limited edition cassettes early in the year, each with lots of personal attention, care and real nice hand-printed artwork, and then moved forward.

You can read more about these cassettes on our website, but here’s a quick summary: The first is Toxicology Songs, a 60-minute, magical full-length from NY-native Fuzzy Hell. She lives in Ireland most of the year but is also deeply supportive of and involved in the scene over here. There’s nothing else out there like this and we’re unbelievably grateful to be involved in the output of this music. The second is a collection of mostly acoustic, older songs from 2006-2008 by Long Island-based artist and musician Brian Chaudhry. This one personally meant a lot to us, and we think it will mean a lot to anyone who hears it. The third was a reissue of sorts, though we like to think of it as its first proper release. It is a record from Northport-based, hardcore grunge rockers Haircut. Though a couple years old it still shreds so hard, and it sounds pretty amazing blasting on cassette. We then also did a limited edition cassette version of upstate NY-based Summer People’s most recent full-length called Teamwork.

So that was the beginning of the year, but that was just the beginning of the year. Giant Peach and For Serious This Time both put out new EPs just a couple of months ago. Giant Peach’s People Don’t Believe Me EP was the next step forward for these dudes in their own brand of crunchy, melodic grunge-rock. Four songs, 20 minutes, pretty solid! For Serious This Time’s Weird Life EP is six songs of crisp, fluid pop-punk. This one was released on 12” as a split with Dead Broke Rekerds, which we were really psyched about! These two bands also went on a brief two-week US tour in June in support of their respective releases. For the tour we released a limited edition cassette, a split with each record on a side!

The Moon is the Eye of a T-Rex cloud by Giant Peach

Giant Peach

And now just recently we were able to be a part of two great digital releases: Small Plants, a sweet electro-lo-fi venture from Screen House Music, Nicky of For Serious This Time’s solo project, as well as Stay In The Sunlight, a real intricate, new EP from Northport’s Nightwalks.

What can we expect from you in the next couple months? The future?

We have a bunch of exciting things lined up for the fall. Very soon we’ll have CD versions of the new People Don’t Believe Me EP from Giant Peach. This digital edition will be pro-printed with all new artwork, and limited to 100! We are also really psyched to be putting out a limited edition cassette by Nude Beach called Live at Gunther’s. These both should be finished and available early-September at the latest!

Also in the works are a cassette of brand new material by Punks On Mars (this will be a split with Ratgum Records) and an amazing full-length CD by Fuzzy Hell. Come fall-time we will be working on the third in our series of cassette comps, with a lot of sweet unreleased stuff by a bunch of our favorite artists, as well as a new Giant Peach record joint-released with Rok Lok Records! That’s what we’re working on now, but there will no doubt be more to come.

What new artists (whether it be on your label or just in general) are you most looking forward to hearing new music from?

We are super excited for the Nude Beach, Punks On Mars and Fuzzy Hell releases! Aside from those, always looking forward to new stuff from The Fish, Iron Chic, Metacomet, and all the other Dead Broke bands, as well as our good friends in Fellow Project, Delay, Ink Mouth, and our buddy CH-ROM!

Blyngwie malmsteen by Palmkite

More info:

To hear a lot of the bands mentioned in this interview download Life On An Island’s Summer Compilation #2 for free.

See Giant Peach at the Rok Lok Records Showcase @ Mr. Beery’s in Bethpage, NY on 8/20/2011 w/ Deep Pockets, Brick Mower, Make It Plain, Vehicle Blues and Famous Laughs — Facebook Event

See For Serious This Time @ 2579 Montauk Hwy, Brookhaven NY on 8/21/2011 w/ Wax Phantom, Fat Shadow, Make It Plain and Warm Needles — Facebook Event

Life On An Island website

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