Published on August 23rd, 2017 | by Brittain Thompson0
Muscle Beach Records: Independent Oxford Label on the Rise
Muscle Beach Records is a small label run by Adam Porter, Graham Hamaker, and Kieran Danielson. Primarily the label releases albums on cassette tape, though they put out Casey Golden’s self-titled album on vinyl and are planning another vinyl release in 2017.
Prior to living in Oxford, Hamaker lived in New Orleans and ran a small tape label called Grace King that put out the first release from Bonus, Danielson’s band.
“I met [Hamaker] at a show my band was playing in New Orleans that he helped put together,” said Danielson.
When Danielson heard about a job opening in Oxford he sent Hamaker a Facebook message.
“I didn’t really have anything going on in New Orleans and I went to school for music industries,” said Hamaker. “I came up to meet everyone and a week later I moved up here.”
The inspiration for the label came from just hanging around Danielson, Porter, and all the other local musicians.
“Everyone around me up here is making music and it made sense to put it all out under one imprint instead of self-releasing or finding other small labels,” said Hamaker.
Muscle Beach’s initial releases were the in-house projects of Danielson’s Bonus and Porter’s Starman Jr., but the trend was broken with Slow Loris.
“Slow Loris, who we don’t know very well and I think still lives in Oxford,” laughs Danielson. “Every time we’re asked about him or it’s brought up in an interview we’re just like, ‘If you’re reading this, don’t be afraid to reach back out to us. We miss you and admire you and would love to set up a show or another album release.’”
The entirety of their business communications were done over the span a handful of emails across a few months.
“He’s this dude that moved down here from Wisconsin. He does coding or something for somewhere,” said Hamaker. “He interviewed Kieran for his blog but Kieran basically ended up interviewing him and hasn’t seen him since, and I’ve never met him.”
After the Slow Loris release, the guys decided to branch out further and start finding artists that they simply enjoyed and wanted to have on their roster. The lists of releases now includes regional acts such as Swear Tapes, Him Horrison, and Miss, who is now based out of New York, as well as Jeff Lownsbury and Casey Golden of Arizona. The independant label has even managed to grab the attention of a few international artists like Molly Drag of Montreal, Quebec, and Harry Permezel of Melbourne, Australia.
“With Molly Drag, he kind of reached out to us,” said Porter. “It was like a chain reaction through Facebook.”
Shelf Life, a Pennsylvania based band, made a Facebook post seeking out small labels. A friend tagged Muscle Beach Records and Molly Drag saw it.
“Harry we just heard on Bandcamp and reached out to him,” said Porter.
They worked with Permezel closely on his first record, keeping in close contact with him. The second album is underway and is expected to release on vinyl.
“We’ve been working with him on his second album which is just about finished,” said Danielson. “We’re expecting that out early 2018, late 2017.”
One of the biggest releases, that they describe as the most studio-sounding album on the label, is Golden’s self-titled release.
“He kept sharing snippets but the more I heard the more we all started getting interested in it and realized it’s worth the investment,” said Danielson. “It didn’t really deserve to be on a cassette. It deserved the vinyl format.”
The cost of cassette runs are much, much more affordable than vinyl, so while they all were behind Golden as an artist, the decision came down to if they felt the vinyl release would sell.
“With tapes, we don’t really push them,” said Hamaker. “We’ve mostly just been laying low and building a back catalogue of really cool music. With vinyl it doesn’t make sense to do that so we have to be certain we’re going to sell enough of this to recoup some of the expenses.”
As the label has grown, the financial aspects move more towards the forefront. None of them are getting rich off the venture, but managing the investments in new releases is important to keep things moving forward.
“We really don’t want to make too few [tapes] because it doesn’t make sense money wise,” said Hamaker. “A run of a 100 tapes feels like a good number and that’s what we usually do.”
There’s a long list of releases on the horizon for Muscle Beach Records. Swear Tapes will drop the yet to be named release October 13, Kell Kellum is in talks to release an ambient project, Bonus III is nearly finished according to Danielson, and Memphis-based Melinda is slated for an upcoming release as well.
Check out musclebeachrecords.com for up-to-date news on releases, upcoming shows, and links to all their socials.