Ian Howell of Gull Lake, MI band Inflatable Best Friend has started a project called Demo Day. This event, held October 1st, will see the release of (by then) hundreds of demos, 7″ records and other pieces of music by a multitude of Michigan bands. In this Q and A, Howell explained to me the ideas behind Demo Day and discussed his record label, Obvious Records.
Can you give some background on yourself? Where are you from? Where do you currently live? What band (or bands) are you in? What other projects have you been involved in in the past (if any)?
I am from Kalamazoo, Michigan. We moved here when I was just a little kid. We’ve moved around the county a lot, but I’ve always been really close to Kalamazoo. I’m getting ready to move into a house in West Michigan University’s student ghetto. I’m really hoping to open up a house venue and host some really cool bands.
Right now, my main focus is with Inflatable Best Friend. Tanner Boerman and Austin Mcquater have such a kinship. That really seems to come in handy when you’re making music with each other. It’s like we can communicate without really talking. We’re coming up to Lansing (Grand Ledge, to be exact) to play at a benefit show for a skate park. The day before we’re going to be playing at Skatopia in Rutland, OH. I’m going to be driving a mini-van all across the Midwest that weekend for skate park related events.
I don’t want to say that I have been in lots of bands, but I do play music with lots of people. I think it’s good to shake it up by playing music with some other people. I mean, we don’t go out playing shows. A lot of times I am just playing music for fun. We try not to take ourselves to seriously in anything we do, music included.
I have organized several compilations. That started everything with obvious records/obvious mail order. I want to foster a music community that is more inclusive than exclusive.
What led you to start Obvious Records? What kind of label is it? (ie Online downloads, phsysical product, both? etc)
Inflatable Best Friend went to go put out some Cds and I was really frustrated how we could just distribute them to my friends. I want to give other people the opportunity to hear this music as well. The question is….how do I get it out to these people? It was around the same time that I had the idea to put together my first compilation called “Everyone’s A Critic”. I had just been laid off and I didn’t have enough money (or patience) to burn 200 Cds, so I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea just to throw the tracks up on bandcamp for free. All of the ingredients kind of came together at the right time. I decided that I wanted to organize more compilations and everything just really took off from there.
It was around this time that I partnered up with Jake Kalmink. Jake is the guitarist/singer from The Overheaters and one my best friends. I pitched the idea for starting a label to Jake and he said it seemed like a really good idea! We both run everything together. I’m the only one being interviewed, but Jake is such a crucial part of this as well, I can’t stress this enough. Jake has a great taste in music and is always quick to suggest bands for compilations that I have looked over. He also has a recording studio and we are working on getting Brown Cow in the Studio. We’re going to have them record and we’re going to put it out as one of the label’s first releases.
I have a lot of connections from putting myself out there on dodiy.org and booking a mini-tour for Inflatable Best Friend. I usually do most of the organizing of compilations since I just know more bands. Jake has more of the technical expertise and keeps me organized. We really make a great team. Obvious Records/mail order would not be here without Jake Kalmink.
As a label at the moment we are sticking mainly to .MP3s and handmade CD-Rs of artists that are signed to the label. Obvious Records is looking to eventually put out a 7″ or two, and some legitimate Cds. That’s a little ways down the road though.
As a Mail Order Distributor we are looking to put out Cds, Vinyl, T-shirts, Patches, Books. No tapes though…Those are to hip for us!
What are the goals of Obvious Records? What do you see it becoming in the next year? How about 5 years?
Well that’s a great question. I’m not setting my sights to high, but I wold like the label to distribute as many bands as we possibly can. I was really inspired by No Idea Mail order. The entire idea of having a mail order distribution seemed like the Do-it-Yourself / Punk rock thing to do.
Who are some of the bands you are working with to release records?
Currently outside of Jakes bands (The Overheaters and The Scare Seasons) and my band (Inflatable Best Friend) we have signed our friends Brown Cow. We love those guys and we want to help them out. As I mentioned earlier we are working to get them into Jakes studio so they can work on recording their album. We have been checking out bands that are on the compilations. Right now we have our hearts set on this band from Lowell, MA called “The Sinbusters”. They have this crazy noisy garage rock. I asked them to sign to our label, they’re still mulling it over. We would love to put out some of their albums.
We would definitely be interested in putting out music by The Stockyards from Dekalb, IL, Sonic J from Milwaukee, WI, Tye Dye Massacre from Holland, MI.
What’s your philosophy/mission statement on running Obvious Records?
We don’t want to take anything to seriously as a record label. We also want to help create more of a positive culture in music. If someone sends the label music that I don’t think people will like…I encourage them to just go out and start their own label instead. Who am I to judge weather your music is good or not? I’ve always said…if they don’t like it…FUCK ‘EM!
You started Demo Day. This event, which will be held October 1st, will see the release of (by then) hundreds of demos and other material by a multitude of bands. What led you to come up with the idea?
I work at a restaurant where on tuesday nights I spend at least 3 and a half hours just cutting up chicken wings. The task is so monotonous my mind often wanders from what I’m supposed to be doing. As I was rhythmically cutting up chicken I began to think about the label. I wanted to start thinking as an innovator. What has no one ever done before? What could really make this label take off? I began to think of all of those compilations. I thought of divorce partys demo that they are trying to get out there. It hit me.
As a musician you want other people to hear your demos. As a music lover you want to hear new music. I feel like a lot of music people don’t know where to go hunting for demos. I’m hoping to have them all in one place and let people go crazy and discover lots of new bands that they enjoy.
What do you hope the event will accomplish?
I’m hoping to have a massive impact. I want this to spur interest not only in Obvious Records, but in Independent music in general. So much of it is so great! I want bands that are involved to have a good experience and maybe (just maybe) send obvious mail order some stuff to distribute!
It is my sincerest hope that people who check out these bands start coming out to shows. I want to get people thinking outside of mainstream music, we all need to open up our minds to all of the possibilities.
Why do you think an event like Demo Day is appealing to not only bands, but fans of music (especially local, regional music)?
I think that Demo Day is appealing to bands because it give them an opportunity to get their music out into the general public.
On the other hand….I think that the concept of demo day is appealing to fans in general. Lets take ,for example, Nirvana’s Box set with all of those crazy Demos. Mrs. Butterworth, Even in his youth, Mexican Seafood, Spank Thru (Pre-Bleach Version). I love seeing bands that are just starting out…these demos/early recordings just showcase all of this fresh emotion and something that isn’t super polished. I don’t want to go as far as to say that every demo is spectacular, but I’m sure there will be some diamonds in the rough here. I really hope that curiosity will spur people to come check out this event, they’ll find something they like and they’ll start coming to check these bands out live!