For a place run by a couple of sound scientists, Nova Labs sure knows how to throw a party. At the end of Janurary, the label will be hosting two shows on the 30 and 31 at the Iowa Music Store and DG’s Taphouse in Ames to celebrate the release of a new batch of compact discs. I contacted Nova Labs’ Bryon Dudley and Matt Dake to discuss the past, present, future, etc. of the Nova Labs label.
When I interview young music labels, I’m always curious if the label’s creation stemmed more from the creator’s interest in releasing music or from an observed necessity, perhaps representing a trend within a local music scene which has otherwise been glanced over?
Matt Dake: It was honestly a bit of both. We definitely saw a slew of bands recording albums and not knowing what to do with them…I’d been running half-assed pseudo record labels since I was in high school, so it was always a dream of mine to put out records by not only myself, but by other people in the community.
Bryon Dudley: Matt and I both run studios, and one day we were talking about how we’d hand a band their final master disc, and sometimes they’d say “now what?” And we realized we knew how to do the next steps of releasing a disc, but not everyone does, so I guess we sort of took that for granted. And that very directly led to us wanting to help them out.
Matt Dake: The need was definitely there, and we decided to fill it…partially out of frustration for not releasing our own music, but mostly from recording albums for other people that had no outlet other than just doing it themselves, which requires a lot more time and effort to do effectively than most bands have between practicing, writing, and gigging.
With the Nova Labs Archive Series, classic central Iowa bands like The Flavor Basket and Yeti on a Budget have been given the re-release treatment, which is something not many other Iowa labels do. Tracing a scene’s musical history is obviously important for viewing trends and interpreting inspiration. How have some of these classic Iowa bands played a role in the shape of the Nova Labs label?
MD: Virtually all of the Archive Series artists have ties to artists still performing and releasing music in the scene today, so it’s really not all that far removed. A lot of people in the music scene are lifers, so it would be pretty unusual for there to be no influence in regards to what we’re doing now. We’ve taken some models from labels past and current, and have tried to learn from their mistakes while making a good deal of our own.
BD: The Archive series was one of the first things we talked about, actually – we planned to release new albums, of course, but almost immediately we thought of putting out either “lost” albums that we loved or fell between the cracks, or bona fide classics that haven’t been available for a while.
What are some of the other classic Iowa albums you would release if able?
MD: I’d really like to see some Of Insects get reissued, as well as the 7 Inch Wave stuff. It’s problematic, though, as a lot of that stuff barely exists. It’s an issue of tracking down usable copies/masters/artwork, really. From talking with people and trying to find older releases to put out, it’s been the primary issue…a lot of that stuff is most likely lurking in a landfill somewhere, it seems.
BD: I think our stretch goal right now would be to build up enough credibility to do something like re-release the House of Large Sizes albums, but that seems like it would be so unreal. It’s fun to dream about, though. It’d be cool to find a lost 60’s Iowa band who had a record or something, too.
The Nova Labs release list has been fairly eclectic through the first 44 releases, but both of you also experiment heavily in noise and electronics with your own musical projects. Are there plans to include music of a more experimental nature with Nova Labs?
MD: I’d say eclecticism is Nova Labs’ primary goal as a label. We try to release as diverse a selection as possible. We are certainly not opposed to including experimental music. We were considering starting a tape subsidiary called “Zeitgeist” that would focus exclusively on noise and experimental music, but circumstances have sort of forced us to rethink it for the moment. It’s definitely still something we talk about and actively want to pursue.
Nova Labs releases vary from cassette tapes to compact discs to vinyl records. Does format factor in for each individual release based on demand? Or do you just look to provide a variety of formats for all potential listeners?
MD: We are certainly a CD based label. Everything comes out on CD regardless of the demand. Vinyl is expensive, so we typically don’t do it unless we can get funding for it.
BD: It’s mostly dependent on the artist and their audience. Tapes and discs aren’t as risky as vinyl so we can sort of put out anything we like, and we use a “make on demand” model for those that’s been working out pretty well.
What is coming up in the new year for Nova Labs?
BD: I think kind of the main thing about the January releases, from my point of view, anyway, is that we’re kind of going back to the underground in a big way, and repping some artists and releases that are more around the edges a bit, which was kind of what we started out doing.
When Matt and I were talking about Stratum with our friend Tom a few years ago, that was a project that started out as talks, and we were eventually asked to do a soundtrack to a play, so we quit talking and started making music. That led to the first Stratum EP, and in the process of putting that together and getting it into a physical form, I think that was really the seeds of what ended up becoming Nova Labs. So it feels really fitting that we’re putting out the Stratum box in this group.
And, by the same token, during that time, Moultrigger put out the Birds tape, which blew us all away, so having an Archives series release of that also feels really appropriate. And the Cryogenic Strawberries box is very historically significant, too.
But it’s not just a nostalgia fest, either, we’re definitely looking ahead – the Jym Krow album has some strong techno ties, and the Grandchamp EP keeps us firmly planted in rock and roll. And just to keep thing interesting, we’re putting out a comedy album on January 20. dsmshows
January Nova Labs releases:
The Cryogenic Strawberries – 15 Years of Failure 4 CD box set
Grandchamp – Where The Raven EP CD
Jym Crow – A Murder Of… CD
Moultrigger – An double-disc archives series version of Birds, with new material
Stratum – 4 CD set Collected Works set, with unreleased material
Release celebration shows: