A Sunday Conversation with Parks and Records

First coming to our attention on the strength of their stunning, ShutEye Unison CD, Parks and Records is the little label that could, combining their love of the great outdoors and indy music. The label was started by young lovers Jon and Mimi Fee whose mission is to build a community of like-minded musicians and fans, release passionate indie-pop/ noise-rock albums, reduce waste through 100% recycled/reused packaging, and support organizations dedicated to making our planet greener.  With all that said, we couldn't wait to get John from Parks and Records to come on over to the Ripple Office and take his seat on the red leather interview couch.

How did you get started running an independent record label?

Mimi and I started Parks and Records about 3 years ago after coming to the realization that independent music would forever play an integral part in our lives. It’s our passion and brings us a lot of happiness.

What motivated you? Did you tap into a particular local scene or were you aiming to capture a sound?

We were motivated by our love of independent music, experience as artists, and a little business plan I pulled together for an “eco label” while attending business school at USF.

Which was your first release?

Our first release was Carcrashlander (S/T). At the time of its release Performer Magazine declared it “one of the most sustainable records of the year”. We are still proud to this day!

There's so much to learn about running a label, share with us some of the lessons you've learned along the way.

Like any business, organization and dedication is key! It’s also very important for you to be honest with yourself and everyone you interact with. Unfortunately the biggest lesson we learned was a total heartbreaker – your friends and family are not your customers. This was a tough lesson because we assumed all of our friends and family would be super fans of Parks and Records, buy all of our releases, and always wear our t-shirts.

What's been your label's high point? Low point?

The highest of high-points has certainly been to work with such amazing musicians (Grandchildren, Carcrashlander) and fall in love with their records. Not too far behind that has been to connect with so many great fans from around the world.

Who would you like to work with, but haven't yet?

Where do we begin? We would actually like to add a San Diego band to our roster. We also wouldn’t mind doing a four-way split 7” with The Cure, Radiohead, The Melvins, and Wilco.

What changes do you see ahead for the music industry?

Same changes you always see; new technology, new genres, new bullshit, a reversion to the mean and then for a brief period of time the underground surfaces and good original song writing prevails.

What are you doing to stay on top of new and emerging technology?

Not much.

What's the biggest challenge facing you today as an independent label?

Really the biggest challenge is finding new ways to promote our artists without a huge budget.

Seems that the sound of the bands you sign keeps evolving. What do you look for in your bands?

We have never aimed for a particular sound or scene, but we do migrate towards bands that possess ability to write great original songs. We basically look for artists that write traditional melodic songs while embracing experimentation to the point short of self-indulgence and at the same time are really intelligent about it. The sound might feel like an evolution, but beneath the surface everyone is basically working off the same fundamentals.

How do you find your artists?

Unsolicited demos (yes we do listen) and word-of-mouth.

Are you a club rat, constantly searching live venues for cool acts?

To be honest, when I’m at a club I’m either playing a show or there to enjoy the night’s line-up. In both instances I’m not thinking about signing a band or discovering someone.

What are you looking for now?

We are actually looking to connect with some old defunct indie-labels that want to part with supplies – vinyl bags, envelopes, etc. True to the ethos of Parks and Records, we are all about recycling, reusing, and repurposing.

What would you like to see happen for the future of the music industry and your label in particular?

In the short-term, I would love to see this interview spark some interest with a couple folks and maybe connect them with one of our releases. In the long-term, I would like to see more folks take a chance on independent music and buy it based on what you hear and not what you see.