Need To Know is a series spotlighting Brooklyn-based record labels. Today we meet Singles Club, a Brooklyn-based digital music journal run out of an apartment by buddies Chris Muccioli and Jeffery Silverstein.
“Singles Clubs” are not doing anything new. For decades, record labels (Sub Pop) and bands (The Beatles!) have mailed their music direct to fans in exchange for a monthly subscription fee, offering part of their catalogs to fans who are excited to forgo the certainty of direct purchase for the serendipity of discovery. These days, though the fundamentals of the model have been shaken — “direct mail” has a distinctly more digital implication, for one — the lust for Cool New Stuff remains unabated. Thus, at the forefront of a rapidly evolving record industry, new iterations of the beloved, old-fashioned singles club have delightfully continued to thrive.
Enter Singles Club, the creation of musicians and long-time buddies Chris Muccioli and Jeffery Silverstein. Run out of an apartment in southern Williamsburg, the quarterly digital music journal combines original writing, new music, and a knack for quietly beautiful design to create a thoroughly immersive, one-of-a-kind musical experience.
We recently stopped by the Club’s HQ to talk crate-digging, musical influences, and the bourgeoning boutique record industry. After the jump!
How did you guys meet?
Jeff: Chris and I met while attending Towson University right outside of Baltimore. He was a year behind me and we were both looking to start a new music project. We jammed once in my apartment and I was like damn, this dude is pretty legit. Friends ever since.
Chris: We had a few mutual friends and knew of each others existence for a while. I was looking to get out of a heavier music project for something a little more musical and chill. Friends pushed the two of us to get together and sure enough…
What are your backgrounds?
Jeff: For the most part, I think we have fairly similar musical arches. We both came from families that always had on music growing up. Chris with a lot of soul/funk and me perhaps with more folk, jazz and classic rock. Having both grew up in suburbia, we found ourselves playing in various punk and hardcore bands in high-school and early into college. Going to a lot of shows at VFWs, firehouses, etc. I’m sure there were points where we were having super similar experiences, just a few states apart. Both our tastes have certainly expanded since then, but I think we learn a lot from showing each other new bands and albums all the time. We’ll always agree on music that’s honest.
Chris: Yeah, exactly like Jeff mentioned. After we both graduated we moved into our current professional roles, myself in design and Jeff in PR and Journalism. I think aside from our differing yet compatible musical tastes, those two skills are what drove us to this project.
What inspired you to start a subscription record label service?
Jeff: Going into it, I think we both realized if we were going to enter an already super crowded music environment, we’d have to create something that we thought filled a void. Something we felt had purpose. This project really gives us the freedom to flex almost all of our creative muscles. Whether it be design, journalism, photography, etc. I don’t know if we would have got that from just going for the standard label model.
Chris: Exactly, there are A TON of small labels out there releasing amazing music and creating beautiful artifacts of that music. We wanted to put our own spin on it and take more of a second hand personal approach to releases and see what sticks.
What are your go-to places for finding new music?
Jeff: I’m super lucky to live in Greenpoint where there are so many incredible musicians, labels, and record shops all within a few blocks of each other. I like popping into the Captured Tracks Shop, Co-Op 87 and Academy Records to see what’s happening. Still, a lot of new music just comes from friends recommendations and the music they are making. Consistently impressed and inspired by what so many of them have going on.
Chris: I have a few labels I follow that consistently put out solid stuff so I’ll be sure to take a listen to anything they post or re-post on Twitter or Soundcloud. I’ve really been digging into some older catalogs recently so the radio/similar artist feature on Rdio has been my go-to. Just to flip on while I’m working and add records I dig. As Jeff mentioned the Greenpoint shops are the best in the city, I’ve found some real gems at both Academy and Record Grouch.
The music you select ranges from purely instrumental to grungy psych folk — is there a continuity in sound you are going for? Or is there something else you look for in musicians you decide to include?
Jeff: I think for the first Issue we weren’t focused so much on continuity of genre as much as we were looking for stories to tell. That’s not to say that couldn’t change, however when brainstorming, the artists we chose happened not only to be friends, but musicians we thought were fascinating people even beyond their musical output. I think that’s what we’re looking for.
Your format is interesting — each issue is immersive, thoughtfully designed — can you talk a little bit about how you hope the reader will experience the music/musician as a result? Why is that important?
Chris: Totally, I’ve always loved talking to people who play music. Talking not only about music, but life in general, swapping stories. Everyone comes from such different backgrounds, has different reasons why they picked up an instrument in the first place, and yet you all end up at the same point in a sense. Playing at a bar, venue, basement, whatever. When you play music in a band you realize this first hand and I think its something not every listener gets to fully understand. We’ve gotten to know the first batch of artists by playing shows along side them and getting to know them as people. We’re trying to do the same for the listeners of the series, to provide that context and well-rounded view of the artist.
Online we have our digital issues that direct the viewer to click “listen & begin” and be dropped into our main feature while the A-Side plays in the background. This is interesting because we never write the feature to go along perfectly with the track but somehow because you’re talking about the person who is producing the music playing, it just works. You almost hear it differently than you might if you listened to it in isolation. Since we’re releasing true 45’s we’ve only got about 4 ½ minutes per side to work with so the audio portion is not asking for that much of your attention. That being said though, the physical component, the record itself, asks you to take a moment to deliberately listen to the A-Side, once it finishes, flip it over and the B-Side is the artist talking about the song, sharing process, and more. Something about hearing someones voice after hearing them perform something personal just grabs you.
Music subscription services used to be kinda a big deal. Any particular ones inspire/influence this series?
Chris: I think the general existence and popular ones of the past are what first sparked the idea, or the nucleus of the vinyl portion of the club. Then it was a matter of how could we put our own spin on it. We knew there were a few still going on but they didn’t seem very structured or well organized. You can’t really google Singles Club without coming across the Sub Pop Singles Club from the early 2000’s, but I think more than that the idea came more from wanting to publish really thoughtful content, like a journal and combine that with records.
Jeff: More recently I’ve been digging what the fine folks over at Polyvinyl Records, a label we’ve both looked up to for a while are doing with their 7” club. Our buddy Mike from Beyond Beyond is Beyond Records does something called the jamscription which I think is really neat as well.More psychedelic stuff. A little bit more off-kilter is Turntable Kitchen, which pairs vinyl with three seasonal recipes with ingredients to match.
You guys have come up with some creative ways to promote each issue. Wanna share some of them?
Chris: When we first started discussing the project we created this phone number that we passed out on business cards. Said nothing but “Stay Single” and a number. If you called it we had a quick message about the club and it played the first single to be released. It was super grainy but people dug it. We hid the number in the footer of the site for a while and would just get a handful of calls every week. Was just one of those things I knew you could do and wanted to just make for the hell of it.
Chris: A friend of mine who used to write and play in a Chattanooga, TN band called Hazes just moved up here to start releasing new music so I’d keep tabs on that in the coming months. If you’re hip to the #emorevival, Prawn is about as prime as it comes in BK (though I think they might live in NJ now?).
Anything exciting planned for the future?
Jeff: I’m really looking forward to our last issue of the year featuring Wisdom Tooth. It’s the project of John Andrews who also plays in the bands Quilt and Woods. I’ve known John for years and have always just been such a huge fan of his music and art. Getting to work with him on this level is super exciting for me. We’re also talking about potentially migrating some of our digital features over to a print medium. Not sure how this will manifest, but it could be really interesting. Also really looking forwarded to being able to get the entire box-set of year one into some shops.
Chris: Yeah, next years incarnation of the project is looking good. We’ve learned a lot from year one and hope to build on what we’ve already got going.