Need To Know is a new series spotlighting Brooklyn-based record labels. Today we meet Nancy Tovar, the one-woman show behind feel-good, no-wave boutique label Softspot Records.
Year Originated: 2009
Number of Releases So Far: Five. I’m working on my sixth now. (I take long breaks.)
Sound: My first release was a Belgian post-punk reissue. And so are my third and sixth. I guess most of my releases have been from underground Belgian bands, but really I just like to do whatever excites me.
Tell me about how you got started. Was there a specific release you stumbled upon that inspired you? Or had you always wanted to start your own record label?
I stumbled across this gut wrenching track called “Suicide Fever” by AA on an archived FMU radio show. I wanted to hear more so I did a little bit of digging and even contacted the DJ, but didn’t come up with much information. Eventually I traced the track back to a tiny imprint called Sexy Robot. The label had only released a handful of records in the ’80s, one of which was AA and another was the Cultural Decay. I learned that the local label Sacred Bones was planning to reissue the Cultural Decay, so I decided to cold call (actually I think I sent him a Myspace message) Caleb at SB and ask for some advice. He turned out to be extremely helpful and put me in touch with Eddy from the band. AA Essential Entertainment 7″ EP was softspot music’s first release.
What was one of your biggest challenges putting out that first record?
I’d never released a record. I didn’t know anything about transferring audio from vinyl to digital. I didn’t know where to have my records pressed, how much jackets should cost, how much I should sell 7″s for, how I should promote them. Fortunately I’m really good at asking questions, and I happen to live in a city where there is a solid community of record labels who were willing to give me advice.
How do you find these bands? Crate digging, word of mouth, maybe a little of both?
The one and only current band that Softspot has worked with is The Sediment Club. A good friend told me to go see them live. I was blown away by their set, and so I asked if I could help them put out a record.
Do you have a day job?
Yes. Definitely yes. I work for Mexican Summer. Pressing records is really expensive. It’s time consuming working full time and doing any sort of side gig. I work, then I go home and assemble/stamp/sleeve/pack/email email email until my hands crack, then I lug my mailers to the post office on my lunch break the next day.
But there is definitely something fulfilling about going home and working on something that’s just mine. At work, I collaborate with a team of great people, and sometimes my ideas are used and sometimes they are turned down. With Softspot, I make all the decisions for better or worse, and in the end it’s something I’ve made on my own, and that’s pretty neat.
How many people work at Softspot? Is it a solo endeavor?
Just me. Of course I call on friends and colleagues when I need help. I tend to need the most help when it comes to design and layout. I have abstract ideas about how I want a record to look, but I’m totally clueless when it comes to using design programs.
Favorite release so far?
You’re asking me to pick a favorite child?! Each of the records I’ve worked on have a special story for me. I suppose when I first saw and heard the Kebab Life It’s a Joke 7,” it felt like someone had shared Belgium’s best-kept secret with me alone. It made me giddy that I was the one who was going to get to share this with everyone. The guys from AA sent me an original copy. It was packaged in a pristine but old-school gatefold paper sleeve, with a folded lyric sheet enclosed in an envelope that was glued to the inside of the jacket. It was hand stamped and pretty much the coolest record I’d ever touched. And then I put the record on!
Upcoming releases we should be looking out for?
I’ve been working on a new reissue by a band called O Veux, which includes the last un-reissued title from the Sexy Robot catalog, Akinai 7″ EP. This is my first 2LP comprehensive catalog reissue, so I’ve had to cull artwork, photos and audio from a variety of sources (and in varying quality). It’s a bit daunting, but I’m hoping to have the record out by the end of the year.
Any must-listen music recs for this summer?
Mixes are my favorite way to learn about music. Last year I was invited to be a part of the blog Unpiano’s mixtrade. I learned about a bunch of cool new and old music from all of the contributors. It appears they recently called it quits, but all the mixes are still archived and available to check out. Also, Mexican Summer just relaunched a reissue imprint called Anthology Recordings. I’m really excited about the releases we have lined up for that. One of the first LPs we did was the Creation Rebel/New Age Steppers’ Threat to Creation, which is an excellent listen for hot summer days.