You probably own something from Topshelf Records. The prolific Boston-area label has been cranking out records lately, including recent releases from Frameworks, Wild Ones and Diamond Youth, and thereâs little sign of a slowdown. In July, Topshelf will release No Coast, Braidâs first full-length in 19 years.
Handling all of those releases keeps label founders Seth Decoteau and Kevin Duquette extremely busy, but Punknews editor Adam Eisenberg found a minute of Sethâs time to talk about the labelâs roots, how they juggle so many releases and where Topshelf Records goes from here.
Whatâs the origin story for Topshelf Records?
A long time ago, Kevin and I were playing in a band together and wanted to figure out a way to get our band out there more. So we had this idea to start a label to make it seem more legit. Like the Kids Table, and how they had Fork In Hand, how Brett from Bad Religion had Epitaph and so on, and how it could grow into something, maybe. If we had a label, that we were on, weâd be that much more legit of band. Eventually, actually, we never really did too much with the band, but having put enough work in we were like, "well, letâs start releasing music for our friends." Thatâs where it all started.
Do you work on the label full-time?
Kevin does Topshelf full-time, and I work for Bridge 9 full-time.
Whatâs it like splitting time between two labels?
Itâs insane. Iâm at work an hour to two hours before everyone else doing stuff and then Iâll work every single night to make sure stuff for Topshelf doesnât fall behind.
What are the biggest day-to-day challenges with running a label?
A difficult thing that a lot of people donât think about is making sure that from the point that a record gets made ??" finished recording -- to actually coming out, happens on time. Youâve got to get the record mastered and get it off to the pressing plant to make vinyl or CDs, and figuring out the the best time range to release it, getting the artwork madeâ¦ But last year we did 20-plus records so juggling that for us, with the amount of records weâre doing, is definitely difficult, added into any of the general day-to-day things.
Every label seems to have a different policy on accepting demos. Topshelf accepts them, right?
Yeah, totally. We prefer to get e-mails, not actual MP3s, but URLs. You never really know what youâre going to find in it. Itâs always interesting, sometimes weâll get a demo, then weâll find out a year or two later that band is doing really rad things, and we didnât really pay attention to it. Itâs always interesting to see those bands that end up going elsewhere but doing something.
How many demos have led to records on Topshelf?
I could be wrong but Iâm pretty sure none. We check âem out. Between Kevin and I, every demo will get listened to. We tend to work with bands that we have a relationship with or that our bands have a relationship with. That doesnât mean we never will. It doesnât mean that having gotten a demo from a band a year or two years ago, and then they release an EP or a record thatâs rad and they pick up some steam that we might not go back to that band and ask them about working together. That immediate "send a demo and get signed" is not really the biggest thing because most labels have their ear to the ground. If youâre doing something as a band thatâs making some waves and getting attention then chances are that a bunch of us already know about it.
Youâll be releasing Braidâs first full-length in a long, long time. Thatâs a pretty big deal. Howâd it come together?
Yeah, it is something that both of us are quite excited about. Iâm sure there are a few other people who run labels who can attest that when you start a label you donât really think anything about it, and then once youâve done ten releases you start to go, "Oh, hey, it would be awesome to release something from X band. Yeah, thatâll never work." For both Kevin and myself, Braid is one of those bands where itâs just like, holy shit, when we started this we never thought weâd be able to work with a band like them, and to work with a band that both of us have been such huge fans of for so, so long. I donât even care if this record is good bad, for us to do it is like, holy shit, but the record is fucking insane and weâre quite excited about it.
Obviously those dudes got back together and released Closer to Closed on Polyvinyl. From a lot of close friends we were in touch with them and their management and in their ear non-stop about everything. Weâve known Bob for quite some time, heâs played some SXSW showcases of ours. I think a lot of that, combined with what the label is doing right now and where weâre at, being a good home for them, really came together at the right time and made sense for all parties.
Obviously itâs a big deal to work with Braid. Are there other bands in that stratosphere that youâd like to work with?
Yeah, Iâm trying to think of something so I donât sound lame. I always think that my 16-year-old self would be really stoked to have done something with Midtown. Itâs crazy. A lot of bands that were seminal bands for us growing up, or even pre us growing up but that we got into really early, are reuniting now and working with the labels that originally released their stuff, like American Football. Mineralâs doing stuff, the Sunny Day Real Estate split, all of that is happening now and all of those are bands that would be insane to do something with, but all of them have relationships going back, which is a pretty cool thing.
[Note: Seth texted us after the interview to tell us heâd also like to work with Knapsack, Jimmy Eat World, Texas is the Reason and Mineral.] Where do you picture the label a few years from now?
Hopefully growing still. Weâve been doing this for eight years, but thereâs still stuff weâre learning every year, and even at times every release, and being able to work with more bands that are bigger and helping our bands to grow more. Itâs definitely important to not just be happy with where things are regardless, even with some of the success weâve had lately, weâre always trying to up the ante and do something bigger next time. With us thatâs always a goal, to never just settle for where things are at.
We mentioned Braid, but what other releases are in the pipeline for 2014?
Thereâs so much, we have ten releases in the next two months. We have a full-length from My Fictions called Stranger Songs, we have a You Blew It Weezer cover EP called You Blue It, which is really, really fun and cool. We have a full-length from Field Mouse which is absolutely killer, we have a full-length from Prawn, we have a full-length from Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate), thatâs all going to be out before the end of August. We have full-lengths coming out this year from Cut Teeth, from Jazz June and an EP from Sundials, so that should keep us busy.