“The picture supplied is myself with my MUSCLE,” We Are Free captain Jason Foster says of the fantastic photo above, the one that made our day all last week. As he describes below, WAF is mostly around because of Yeasayer, the Brooklyn-based quartet whose recent full-length All Hour Cymbals still totally owns. While Foster has mad plans for the future of We Are Free, his immediate plans for the imprint include a new Yeasayer single. We say “Yay” to that. (Yow.) Below, check out Foster’s spot-on dismissal of the “dudez with guitars” phase indie rock has been in for, like, three years now. Priceless. — Thomas Rooker White
Who runs the label?
I do, along with my alter ego Sir James Winnie.
Where is the label located? Describe your digs…
I am located in the neighborhood of Hampden which is nestled in Baltimore, USA. If I blindfolded you and dropped you off in the middle of Hampden, you’d think you were in Hick-town, Appalachia. If you’ve seen the John Waters film Pecker, you get the idea. I have a new office that has some freshly-exposed brick and white walls. I was scolded today for not having anything on the walls. All in due time.
How did the label get its start? Its name?
We Are Free got its start after I completely crashed and burned out on the music business. Last year while living in LA, I completely broke down and couldn’t listen to independent music. The haircuts, disco high hats, dudez with guitars, bad bands getting good press — I couldn’t deal with it anymore. I remember purchasing a lot of African field recordings and Asian folk records and giving my ears a break from anything remotely new and biz related.
I’m condensing time here, but after a while I realized I wanted to start fresh with a new company that could form into anything it wanted, whether releasing records, managing, merchandising, or any other project. I wanted to tackle less bands, do more for them, and work only with folks I loved. The idea really came to fruition after hearing the first Yeasayer demos in the spring of 2006. It was truly the breath of fresh air I was looking for.
I started in the music business eight years ago with a partner, so it was slightly nerve wracking to finally go off on my own. But it also felt very freeing. Making all the decisions, choosing the bands, and being way more mobile in many ways. You could say the label name was born here, but there is more to it than that. I’m really into the word “free” and the many feelings and ideas it represents. I’m really obsessed with the thought of being free, and if most of us truly are free. Seriously, I could go on and on.
How many releases do you issue a year, on average?
We Are Free is going to have a very minimal release schedule so it can focus on its artists, management, and tackling interesting projects. Last year I released the debut single by Yeasayer along with their debut full-length All Hour Cymbals. This year, in 2008, I’m going to release another Yeasayer single, and follow-up albums from Ponytail (Ice Cream Social) and Indian Jewelry (Free Gold). I have heard the mixes for all of these releases, and they are heavy! Other projects are in the works.
5. True or false: Digital downloads are okay, but 7″‘s are cooler…
Honestly, I love both. I downloaded “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears today because I really wanted the instant gratification. (What a great pop song). I actually download a lot of music. I move a lot so it cuts out boxes to carry, and it really eliminates a lot of waste in regards to the plastic and paper it takes to make records. I do love spinning 7″s as well. I get a lot of enjoyment sitting at home and having some libations while playing singles. We used to have a great vinyl shop in Baltimore called Joe’s Record Paradise, and on Sundays we’d have a few bloody marys and head over and browse through the giant 7″ section for hours. I pulled some seriously amazing finds out of that shop.
Favorite label besides your own…
Monitor Records. (Ha ha.) I don’t pay attention to label names as much as I used to, but if I had to answer I would say that Up Records was a big influence. Then there are the stalwarts: Touch and Go, Drag City, and Thrill Jockey; the fresh faces: Graveface, Lovepump; and the packaging on the albums released by Hand Held Heart.
Favorite record ever…
Hmm. Probably anything that includes Peter Gabriel. I am obsessed with his solo career and Genesis days. His music was such an important part of my youth and relationships while growing up. He has created some amazing music, but unfortunately most people associate him with “Big Time” and “Sledgehammer.” (Though that album, So, does have some stellar tracks.) Check out all of the rad Genesis footage on YouTube.
Favorite movie ever…
Can we say TV show? “The Wire.”
Vegetarian or carnivore?
I am from Baltimore….carnivore.
Your guiltiest pleasure. The thing no one would believe you watch, read, or listen to…
Listen to Genesis.
[tags]We Are Free Records, Jason Foster, Baltimore, The Wire, Peter Gabriel, Yeasayer[/tags]