An In-Depth Interview with Dan Goldin from Exploding In Sound Records

EIS

If you’ve explored the Boston or New York City music scenes in the last five years, you may have heard about “a guy” from something called Exploding In Sound, a name that began as an Internet blog to support up and coming bands in the local scenes and beyond. The “guy” is Dan Goldin, a Northeastern University graduate who loves music and firmly believes in the D.I.Y. community.

Over the last couple years, Exploding In Sound has taken off to be more than a site of written critiques and encouragement; it is now a name that also represents a record label. In March 2011, Goldin moved from Beantown to Brooklyn, and in March 2012 Exploding In Sound Records had its first release, a 12-track album from the Boston band Grass is Green.

EIS Records is now on its tenth release that is due out in August. The label’s been churning out one promising band after another (Speedy Ortiz, Pile, Bad History Month, Geronimo!, Ovlov…) and they’ve received consistent reassuring press from major national media outlets. The most obvious reasons for the label’s success thus far are what some would consider to be regular good behavior–EIS works hard, releases music they care about, and they treat people with respect–three simple things that stand out on EIS social media pages whenever Goldin or EIS co-founder Dave Spak talk about their bands’ albums, shows, or press.

THE BOMBER JACKET interviewed Goldin to learn more about EIS and what keeps the label going.

EIS Records

TBJ: So you are now on the tenth release of Exploding In Sound Records, right? How is everything going? Does it feel like ten?

Dan Goldin: Our tenth release will be out by the end of August (Porches. on August 27)! It’s pretty crazy to think we’ve already hit double digits since we only had four our first year, but things have been moving fast and we’ve definitely been working hard. We’ve had the pleasure of working together with some other labels (Sophomore Lounge, Midnight Werewolf, Broken World, RANCH) on some of our releases which is nice and gives the music a wider reach. By the end of the year it’s possible that we hit EIS014…giving us ten releases just in 2013…pretty crazy.

Can you explain how you fit the label into your life when you have a full-time job? What are some of the major things you’ve learned since starting the label?

Well, that’s pretty easy…I have no social life. [Laughs] It takes a great deal of time, but ultimately the more time put into it, the better the results. Between running the label, doing press, promoting shows, et cetera, it becomes a lot of work, but when you’re doing it for your favorite bands in the world, it hardly feels like work. Though some days… [laughs] just kidding.

I’m constantly learning new things. Every day is something different. As the label continues to grow, new opportunities are presenting themselves and it’s been a new experience figuring out who truly wants to help and who just wants to look involved. Things I’ve definitely learned however…when you walk into a post office an hour before they close with 130 records, they will be pissed, and you will get yelled at.

What was the first label that you really paid attention to as a whole, listening to and enjoying every artist?

The first? I don’t know…I grew up listening to the radio as a kid, so it was probably some faceless major label. Forgive me, I didn’t have a cool older brother or anything like that to guide my way. There are a lot of labels I really love though. Dischord, Touch & Go, AmRep, Kill Rock Stars, and the early days of Matador and Sub Pop are all big influences. I love a label with an aesthetic, but one that also isn’t afraid to take a chance on something they love that doesn’t necessarily fit the mold. To me, a great label is one you can trust. I can pick up a record with the Touch & Go logo on it without knowing the band and there’s a great chance I’m going to really love it. We hope to build that same kind of loyalty with Exploding In Sound Records.

Who helps you run Exploding In Sound?

I work on the label with my friend and associate Dave Spak. We met in college at Northeastern through mutual friends, which quickly resulted in us tuning out the rest of the conversation to nerd out about obscure bands that we both loved. Many of our conversations to this day are pretty much the same. We’ve also been fortunate to work with Talia and Sean at Brixton Agency who have been a great deal of help. We’ve developed a really great working relationship and while they don’t technically work for EIS, we like to consider them part of the team. There are a few others who have helped “keep the lights on,” and we really couldn’t do this without them. Thanks Brett and Tim.

What is your favorite thing about pressing a record?

Hmm… I suppose when I get the email from the plant saying that the records have shipped. The actual process of pressing records isn’t all that thrilling and in our case has almost always been on an impossible-to-meet deadline, but once they arrive, the first spin is always worth the wait. I love the way records sound, I love the big 12×12 artwork, I love the inserts. I’m a big fan of vinyl and buy more records than I should, but you could have probably guessed that.

How many records do you own approximately and what is your favorite record in your collection?

I’ve never counted my records but I’d guess there are between 250 and 300. I bought six this past weekend (in all fairness it had been a long time). My favorite record in my collection?? Like I could ever answer that…I couldn’t choose between the EIS Records releases! I can tell you that my favorite record I bought last weekend is Hookworms “Pearl Mystic.”  [Laughs] Is that good enough?

[Laughs] Yes. How do you choose the bands you work with and the albums you release?

There are a lot of factors that go into that decision and none of the bands we work with were overnight decisions. We’ve loved all these bands for many years before the label existed and have been lucky they’ve wanted to work with us. It’s important that a band wants to work hard, sounds great live (seriously, go see any of these bands in concert), plays shows often, and ugh…makes incredible music. That last bit is pretty important and ultimately is what has drawn me to all of our releases.

How would you explain Exploding In Sound’s “sound”?

We’re not aiming to have one sound, but we love bands with dynamics, music that is as intelligent as it is loud, and records that keep you guessing as to what will come next. Our sound is built on albums that unfold with repeat listens, expanding what the listener is hearing from the first time to the 100th listen. Sure, there are lots of heavy guitars and an underlying presence of early ’90s indie influence, but there is far more to it than that. The records we’ve released are centered in great songwriting, amazing musicianship, and the ability to blur the lines between post-punk, indie rock, post-hardcore, noise, grunge, art rock, psych, folk, and shoegaze into something new and exciting.

At what point when you were running the EIS music blog/site did you realize, “Okay, I have to start a label”?

Five years ago when the site began, I felt there weren’t enough sites out there covering the music I was interested in (seems like a crazy notion these days) and I was working a crappy job in the music industry that I wasn’t really interested in. Starting my own site to help promote the music I was passionate about just seemed right. The hope was I could spread the word about good music, where people with similar tastes could discover their next favorite band. The label was always the ultimate goal, with the intention of creating a built-in audience developed by those who trust EIS as a source for finding great new bands.

My unrelenting obsession with Pile and Grass Is Green pushed me to finally start the label after realizing that the local bands I had grown to love in Boston weren’t merely my favorite local bands but rather my favorite bands in the world. There were no other records I’d rather listen to, there were no other bands I’d rather see live.  If I was ever going to start a label, these were the bands I wanted to start it with…there’s no time like now (or whatever that expression is).

You were in Boston. Now you’re in New York. What’s your favorite Boston venue, and what is your favorite New York venue?

My favorite Boston venue is a weird toss up between grimy house show basements (Wadzilla was like a second home for a while thanks to Grass Is Green and Dirty Dishes), Great Scott, and a very unpopular choice, The Paradise.  I can’t help but love that place, I’ve seen too many great shows there (Dinosaur Jr., Melvins, Autolux, Dismemberment Plan, Ghostface Killah). The sound is usually great and despite the enormous pillars holding the place up, the layout is pretty sweet too.

EISshowAs far as New York goes, my favorite venue without a doubt is Big Snow Buffalo Lodge. [Editor’s note: This interview was conducted previous to Big Snow’s recent unexpected closing, in which EIS expressed its sympathies.] It’s not the biggest venue in the city but the sound is absolutely amazing night after night and all the dudes who make Big Snow happen are truly great people. I’m pretty sure the entire label (bands included) loves this place. We have two upcoming “Exploding In Sound Presents” shows coming up at Big Snow on August 4 and August 23! Hope to see you there. [The former show was moved to Shea Stadium on the same day and the latter show has not yet been relocated.]

I also really love Death By Audio, Shea Stadium, and Silent Barn. Brooklyn is a great place for D.I.Y. venues and a supportive city for local and national touring bands, thanks to the hard work of the people involved with these places.

How do you see EIS Records developing over the next few years?

We’re going to keep working hard for our bands and hopefully keep releasing new music that people will dig. I don’t really set specific goals for the growth of the label, my focus is on the bands involved and getting them to where they want to be as much I possibly can. We’d love to become one of those trustworthy and beloved indie labels, but all I can really ask is that people check out our releases and support the bands making the music. Trends change, the industry changes, but we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing, and we look forward to picking up a few new fans a long the way…oh yeah, and to stop other labels from stealing our bands. Hah, just kidding…

[Laughs] The label’s D.I.Y. ethics seem to be an important part of how you guys operate. How does a label remain D.I.Y. but grow at the same time?

We do as much as we can to remain D.I.Y. but honestly it’s nearly impossible to be truly and utterly D.I.Y. these days. We send out our records to a printing press and we work collaboratively with a P.R. company, but our ideals come from the D.I.Y. method of thinking. EIS is hands on in all aspects of how we are presented and distributed. There is nothing fancy going on here, we’re entirely an “artist first” label with very little interjection on anything related to the creative process. Our bands are all self sufficient in booking tours, creating artwork, and planning for every aspect of the recording process. We’re there to help when needed and we couldn’t be happier with the way things have gone so far and all that is to come.

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