Need To Know is a series spotlighting Brooklyn-based record labels. Today we meet Mexican Summer.
When Mexican Summer records first started, it’s founders modestly expected it to be a boutique imprint specializing in small-batch, hand-numbered records. Easy, right? Then they started releasing singles by the likes of soon-to-be-greats Kurt Vile and Best Coast, and the rest is indie rock history. Mexican Summer now dominates a field crowded with wannabe tastemakers, releasing consistently great and consistently forward-looking tunes.
We recently Q&Aed the label on their upward trajectory, A&R, and which bands to keep an eye out for. After the jump.
Year Originated: 2008
Number of Releases So Far: 200+
Mexican Summer started as a vinyl-only subscription service — when/how did this vision begin to evolve? This evolved quickly. Handling logistics for subscribers at the rate we were releasing records was daunting. That, coupled with the demand and profile the releases were receiving, made us feel like we should take the plunge and run Mexican Summer as a traditional label.
Mexican Summer put out first releases for a lot of bands that went on to become staples of the era — Kurt Vile, Washed Out, Best Coast, etc — where/how were you finding music at the time? What makes you stop and go “Yes!” to a band?
That was a good time for us and no doubt those bands really helped us to make an initial impression as a young label. We came to those bands the same way we come to music today — as fans, through friends/people we trust, digging around online, etc.
Re: saying “yes,” the foundation of that partnership is obviously the music and love of what the artist is doing. Outside of that, it comes down to connecting on a human level. As cliche as it sounds, we spend enough time with each other for it to feel like a family — so you really need to enjoy each other’s company!
Mexican Summer came to attention around the same time as other Brooklyn-based labels (Captured Tracks, Sacred Bones). In fact, you guys share bands quite a bit. Is it ever a challenge to maintain the all-in-the-family vibe or does it come natural?
I think we did that more often in the early days when we were establishing our label identities. It was never challenging, we’re all buds.
You guys don’t just make records, you also record them. When did the in-house recording studio happen? Was that always part of the plan/dream?
That’s been part of our label culture since the inception of Kemado in 2002 — and was always part of the plan. It’s kinda like Stax without the house band (though we kinda have that now as well). We’d prefer not to have a record dropped on our lap to market and release. We take a lot of pride in working closely with artists when ever we can — making the record together — being truly involved in that process. It brings everyone closer and I think makes you more invested in the release process.
You guys just re-started your Anthology Recordings imprint. What was the original impetus to re-issue records? Rediscovering old records is obviously great (and important), but I’d love to know more about why this particular project is meaningful to you.
Anthology was a project that I initially launched in 2005/6 and during that first incarnation, we only reissued albums digitally. By the time I closed shop in 2010, we had a solid catalog and following, but reissuing albums without the physical component just proved to be a limiting model. I’ve never really stopped reissuing records (we’ve done several through Mexican Summer) and relaunching Anthology Recordings as the physical reissue arm of Mexican Summer seemed pretty natural. I spend most of my time listening to old bands — I think that’s a commonality we share in the office. I was definitely born too late.
Upcoming Mexican Summer releases we should look out for?