Get To Know Your Local Label: P572 Records
January 10, 2018
For the third in our series of interviews with indie labels from across the country and beyond we spoke with Sam Murdock of Quebec City label P572. remember, support local music!
P572 is the work of two friends – Sam Murdock and Sébastien Leduc – how did you two meet and how did you come to form this label together?
We met through a mutual friend in the winter of 2003 after I came back from living in Halifax. Sébastien was managing a band called Purge from his apartment at 572 Horatio-Nelson Street. They were practicing in the basement while he lived there. There were parties all the time and I started sleeping on the couch in the winter. We instantly bonded over music, movies and strange art concepts. We started booking small shows and we would write ‘Productions 572’ at the bottom of posters for the address that was already somehow famous downtown. It got shortened as P572 pretty quick with a simple logo I made on a slow computer. As Purge broke up I recorded 30 songs about death in one month and released some under the name (swedish) Death Polka. That’s when it became a label. It was the first release in our catalogue.
When you stated this 14 years ago, did you think that you would both be at it today? There was no plan at all then, and there’s still no real plan now. Our short bio always says “P572 is two friends who have been releasing music and books since 2004” and that’s exactly what it is. I think the reason it’s still working is exactly that. We did not set business goals or have any expectations. We just improvise and try to make pretty objects.
P572 seems to be as much an ongoing art and culture project as it is a business- how do you strike a balance between these two often contradictory forces? I like songs and I like words and prints, and we put it all together. It’s only a business because we sell records. I might never really feel like a business person. I get really passionate about the aesthetic and the process of putting songs and albums together. When you persist, it’s bound to inspire some people to create something and share that back.
You’re based in Quebec City- as an Anglophone living in Toronto, we don’t hear much about what is going on the French indie scene in Quebec. Could you enlighten us a bit about how vibrant the scene is right now, what bands and labels we should check out? So, I lived in Anglo Canada for a while. Up in northern BC, in Terrace; south of Winnipeg in Steinbach, which is a Mennonite town; and then a couple of years in Halifax when I was 18. It’s where a lot of my inspiration for independent music, DIY and basement shows came from, with bands like The Plan, The Breakup and Sharp Like Knives. So, I think about this gap between provinces all the time. Every city has its own small scene, but surely the English provinces they connect more through the same media. Even Montréal and Québec City have different movements going on. I have deep admiration for all the bands coming out of Pantoum Records, and my head spins at all the side projects of the wonderful rap band Alaclair Ensemble.
You are members of a good chunk of the bands on your label. Outside of your musical projects, how do you know if a particular artist or release would fit in well with P572? Is it mainly stylistic or more relationship driven as friendships seem to be a big part of the P572? You start a label to release your own music because no one else will do it and because it’s fun to do so. These days I’m trying to manage four labels and play in eight bands. We’ve had three different houses for the label in the last 13 years. We always work with the bands jamming in the basement and other friends and bands that I think are fun and important. There’s never any contract between the label and the artists. It’s pure friendship and loyalty so I don’t always know how things start. It’s just sparks from a conversation in the kitchen and you end up working for two years on an album. If there’s a project coming up and both me and Seb love it, then we do everything we can to make it happen.
What is the most satisfying thing about running your own label? I get to listen to the music I want to hear and wear the t-shirts I print. I have so many friends with amazing talent and I get to play with them. It’s what I’ve been doing since I was 10 really. I had a small band then and a photocopied zine that I would sell to the neighbours back in 1993.
What’s the hardest thing about releasing your own records? I think there’s nothing easy really about running a label. The only reason why P572 is still going and that some people care, is because it’s all I think about every day since it started. But hard work is not a bad thing. It’s a fun game.
You’ve managed to release almost 75 albums and put on over 800 shows without any outside funding- how have you guys been so successful at this, when most labels fold after a few releases? Like I said there’s no plan. It’s always functioning in a very punk and experimental way. We improvise and as long as it’s fun we keep going. It’s almost self-sufficient. It’s my life’s art project and playground. The biggest releases, they help the smaller ones exist. Music over marketing, content over profit, ethic over strategy.
Along those line, do you have any advice for someone thinking of starting a label? I don’t know what I am doing really, so it’s hard to give real advice. It was all luck and hard work. I met someone who I still want to work with almost 15 years later. We are always passionate about the craft of it all and we never once fought. So maybe that’s the key. I feel like someone who has been playing guitar for a long time, but cannot give guitar lessons because I just learned it all by myself. But I am always available for a talk and to give advice. I do it for the right reasons and with passion.
How do you see the industry changing over the next few years? I mostly like the creative process. I will always be writing songs and putting them out and imagining images as album art. I don’t feel like I am part of the so-called industry. I do vinyl because I think they are pretty. I write songs because they slowly emerge out of me, and I like the odour of prints. What we do is all micro editions, hand-numbered and in small runs. The impact of it all is outside of a business. The only thing I know is that people will always sing and dance.
You are currently on release 75- can you pick 5 songs/releases that would help introduce readers to P572 and give them a sense of what the label is about?
(swedish) Death Polka – Beginning : https://swedishdeathpolka.bandcamp.com/track/beginning-2
This was the start of a burlesque musical I was working on. It later became Judith Judith, and it’s when (swedish) Death Polka found its sound I believe.
Lesbo Vrouven – Crossfire : https://lesbovrouven.bandcamp.com/track/crossfire-2
The only indie radio hit Lesbo Vrouven’s had was this track from the first album called Crossfire. This is the cover version by Sweat Like an Ape, our friends from Bordeaux.
Headache24 – X-girlfriend : https://headache24.bandcamp.com/track/x-girlfriend
Headache24 was the first band after (swedish) Death Polka on the label. They are like the Sonic Youth of town, a couple living and breathing art together. We put out 9 of their recordings. After one album on their own in 2011, they came back with their best to date. This track is a standout.
Les Goules – Crabe : https://lesgoules.bandcamp.com/track/crabe
One of my favourite songs ever, by any band ever. We did not release it when it came out on CD in 2002. But it’s on the 10th anniversary vinyl. The first song of their first album. As classic and cult-like as can be.
Arthur Comeau – Allergic à la Jinxx : https://arthurcomeau.bandcamp.com/album/allergic-la-jinxx
I was an early fan of Radio Radio. I saw them live countless times and I became friends with the band. When Arthur Comeau went on to pursue his solo career he asked me to get involved. We went to his house in Nova Scotia for the shooting of the video. Great summer memories.
Do you remember what the first record you bought was? The first one that really inspired you? I think the first tape that I bought in a store was Def Leppard – High and Dry. I don’t know about the first one that inspired me. But of the top of my head these gave me a lasting impression: The Plan – Only These Movements Remain, Converge – You Fail Me, Hefner – Breaking God’s Heart, Los Prisioneros – La voz de los ’80, Drame – Drame, IAM – L’École du Micro d’Argent, Tori Amos – Boys for Pele, Pulp – This is Hardcore, Zoobombs – Let It Bomb, Alaclair Ensemble – Les Frères Cueilleurs, Thisquietarmy – Hex Mountains and Les Goules – Coma.
Is there a release/band that got away that you regret? No.
If you could put out an ultimate release of any band past and present, what would it be? I feel really lucky. There are four bands that I’ve always wanted to release on vinyl. Alaclair Ensemble, Les Goules, L’Orchestre d’hommes-orchestre and Death From Above. I’ve worked with three of these bands, so I am happy. Maybe a Canadian pressing of Los Prisioneros or a solo project by Jorge Gonzales. I also talked to the Australian band Custard at one point about putting out their comeback album. But it did not happen.
Are you an avid vinyl collector? Do you have any finds you’re especially proud of? I do love a pretty release. Most of the albums I have in my house are for sale on Discogs because I like to share music. But there are a couple of special items that I keep in my collection. Mostly local bands, friends’ bands and records with amazing artwork and packaging.
Have you discovered any hidden treasure troves to buy vinyl that you’ve come across on your travels around the country and globe? There are so many amazing stores. Le Knock Out in Québec City, it’s rather new and it’s already very important in town. The other one I love dearly is Total Heaven in Bordeaux, France. The shop is small and fun and the two owners are lovely and not sarcastic or bitter about anything. With Oromocto Diamond I hold the record for the most instore plays in there ever. I feel grateful.
To wrap up, what’s in store for P572 in 2018? Anything else you’d like to add? I have never worked so hard in my life as I have for the releases this fall. There are 4 intense vinyl projects that I have been working on for years now. Amongst them is the co-release with Label Obscura of Judith Judith by (swedish) Death Polka that I am very excited about. I concentrate on those and then there’s always a dozen releases behind on Punkest Tardo, the P572 sub-label. New albums by Lesbo Vrouven, Oromocto Diamond, (swedish) Death Polka, Arthur Comeau, Fourche and Recyclage.
Copies of our Judith Judith by (swedish) Death Polka are still available over here: https://www.labelobscura.com/swedish-death-polka-judith-judith/
Tim Lidster started Label Obscura to help rationalize and justify his ever growing collection of records. When he’s not listening, thinking, or writing about music, he enjoys getting out and exploring the city with his family.