By paul

PAUL: Please introduce yourself!
ROB: Hey, It’s Rob from the band Midtown and I Surrender Records.

PAUL: For those yet to encounter I Surrender, is there any chance you could give us a brief history of the label please? Why did you decide to start a record label?
ROB: Absolutely, I was home with a little break from tour with Midtown about 3 years ago and my friend Lora sent me the song “Pretend You Don’t Know” from the band Time and Distance. I wanted to start a record label since I was a kid but never felt I had the experience and didn’t want to just release “comps.” I wanted to make sure that if I ever did start a label I would truly be able to help out bands and not let them down. Midtown has been through a lot in our 7 years (I can’t believe it’s that long already) and I felt that I could finally help guide bands in a positive direction and to help them to hopefully not make the same mistakes that I made along the way. I felt that after I heard that song from Time and Distance that this would be the opportunity to start the record label. I called up Greg (Time and Distance) and told him I’m starting from day one with the label and since he was also that we can work together and grow together.

PAUL: You currently have five bands on your roster, all of whom sound a little different. What do you look for in a band?
ROB: I think the best part of all the bands on the label sounding quite different is that it represents my musical tastes and diversity. For me there are a few big keys for me to signing a band. First and foremost the music has to be there and be amazing. I have to be passionate about the music. If I don’t absolutely love the music then I can’t do a good job promoting it. I can’t ever sign a band just because they’re the “next big thing.” If I did and my heart wasn’t in it then I know I wouldn’t be able to do a good job helping out that band. Obviously the advantage to owning a record label is that you have full control over the bands on the label and don’t have to sacrifice what you love, ever! The other important thing for me when looking into signing a band is that the band will be working as hard as I will be. The bands responsibility is to tour, tour, and tour more when not writing. As a small label my responsibility is not to get the band on the radio or on TRL (MTV’s big Video show) but to develop the band and help them find the REAL music fans and REAL music lovers. I grew up a punk rock kid and still hold the morals and ideals. The same kind of fans I want for my bands is the same kind of supporter that I was and still am.

PAUL: How difficult is it to know which band to give more of a push to and dedicate more label time/resources to, what are the factors which decide which band that is, and are you happy having to make those decisions?
ROB: To date I’ve actually spread out my releases so they don’t coincide all around the same time which has alleviated any issue of having to worry about pushing one band over another. As I said before if a band is doing their part and touring then of course I’d be more inclined to put in the extra mile.

PAUL: The first time I came across your label was with the Stars Hide Fire record – when did you first come across those guys and can we expect any further releases from them and you in the future?
ROB: My friend Ken that I grew up with knew one of the guys in the band and passed along a song to me. I heard the song and knew it was a band I wanted to work with; I was pretty excited and ready to release my 2nd band on the label. I believe SHF are working on writing new songs right now and I am excited to hear what the new stuff will sound like. I don’t know of any release dates or any specifics yet.

PAUL: Your latest release is the record from Valencia. What do you think to the reception the album has received from the press?
ROB: It makes me so happy that people feel the same way about the album as I do. I think it’s funny because people will say to me, “Rob, you’re doing such a great job with Valencia” but at the end of the day it’s not me doing the great job, they made it easy for me. The band delivered a great album and Vince their Producer did an amazing job with it. They’re also on tour, they’ve made my job the easy one, they did all the hard work by making such a rad album.

PAUL: With the success of Valencia‘s album, do you think that more people will take notice of the label, and therefore the other bands that are on the label?
ROB: I hope Valencia’s success… I feel the word success is relative actually. I mean if you asked Valencia they’d probably ask you “If success is driving all night from show to show and sleeping on people’s hard wood floors and living off a $5 / day per diem is success, then yes we’re successful.” Ha! But to answer your question I really do hope that with Valencia getting their music heard by more and more people I do hope people will take note of the other bands on the label because I feel they are great and deserve to be heard.

PAUL: While on the subject of Valencia, any plans to bring them over to the UK?
ROB: Not exactly sure yet but as of recently we’ve been trying to figure something out. I hope it will work out and work out soon! Obviously the more interest they get from you guys the easier it will make it for us to send them to the UK. I hope it happens soon because I know how much fun I’ve had and what a great experience it was for me when Midtown has traveled to the U.K.

PAUL: How much time do you spend on the label when Midtown are in mid-tour? How much a part of your life is your own label now and do you see owning a label taking over from being in a band?
ROB: When Midtown is on tour I have my laptop and cell phone so in the past I was still able to give the label it’s fair time. Although, since the Valencia release the label is growing and expanding and needs more time devoted to it so next time I’m on tour at the very least I’ll have my best friend Alex at home working hard on the record label with me. My goal will always be to at the very least grow the label with the bands because if we don’t grow at the same rate then we will have let the bands down and I never want to do that.

PAUL: Would you recommend running a label and what thre tips would you give potential label owners?
ROB: I have to be honest and say a label is much much more than I ever expected. I didn’t realize the work that would go on and realize everything that is involved with starting a record label and continuing one. If you want to start a record label make sure you are doing it for the right reasons, make sure you’re passionate, and make sure you care about the bands you sign. If you don’t you will fail because you need that fire inside of you to help you succeed when your back is up against the wall. Just like being in a band, there are a million labels out there that all want to succeed like you do so you have to make sure your dedication is there to get yourself noticed from the rest. The music industry is not an easy one and there are a lot of scummy assholes that are only out to make money and don’t give a shit about the bands careers and futures. If you start a label make sure you have the dedication to follow though and expect tough times.

PAUL: You must get so many demos, how do you listen to them all? Does production and sound quality make a difference in a demo?
ROB: We actually do listen to every demo we receive in the mail. If someone is going to take the time and energy to burn or produce their CD, pay for shipping, and get it out to us we will always listen to the CD’s. Whenever we have our interns over we listen one by one and believe it or not give every CD a fair chance. Although my best suggestion to a band would be to only send a CD once you feel it is a quality recording with quality songs. If you send something sub-par then the label, band, manager, lawyer, booking agent, etc., will have a bad taste in their mouths and probably won’t want to deal with you in the future even if you get a quality good recording of songs. It’s not necessarily the “production” is amazing although what a good quality recording does is show how serious you are about your band. If you’ve taken the time to put the time in and/or risk paying the money to get that quality recording what you’ve in turn is proved that you’re serious about your band and want to put in the hard work to make it something special. I understand that when sending a Demo it’s not a final recording but unfortunately a first impression goes a long way so make sure you have your shit together before sending out your music.

PAUL: Are there any labels that you admire and look for inspiration from, be it ethically or the way they do their business?
ROB: I think every label has their positives and negatives. I can admire one labels work ethic but hate their business dealings of how they screw bands over. It’s a little different the way I run my label because I’m in a band so my first and main concern is making sure the band is getting treated in a fair manner.

PAUL: What is the plan for 2006?
ROB: I’ve got some things up my sleeve that I’m really hoping work out and I think will surprise a lot of people musically. If everything works out we may be working with a band unlike any we’ve signed so far, very very exciting.

PAUL: What’s your take on the internet and the MP3? Do you feel downloading does more harm than good or are you in favour of new technology to help spread the word?
ROB: In all honesty I’m not sure how it effects sales but what I do know and can say for myself is that because of downloading there are so many bands I would have never heard of and been excited about. There are so many times heard a band from downloading a song, then went and bought their album, then went to the show and paid for a ticket, and then bought a t-shirt. If you do like a band, do go out and buy their album, do support them. Bands put their lives into those songs and put their lives on hold to do what their doing by being the band and the way music is going today, they can use all your help.

PAUL: A couple of Midtown related questions if that’s ok…have you ever been tempted to release anything by Midtown? Is that something we could see in the future?
ROB: It’s something I’ve thought about for a second or two but it isn’t my main concern at the moment, I love helping out deserving bands and that is my focus. Another thing if I decided to release something Midtown is I’d really have to look at the legality between Drive Thru, MCA, and Columbia to see if I’m even “legally” at liberty to release anything Midtown related.

PAUL: The latest Midtown record saw a slight shift in sound – is this something that will be reflected in any new material or will there be a shift again?
ROB: I like to think that the most recent Midtown album saw a shift in Mood if anything. All I know is that we’re all much happier today then we were when writing that album so I can be pretty confident to say that it will be less dark, although we’re writing so who knows exactly what will come out of the song writing process. I would be pretty confident that it will be different from “Forget What You Know”.

PAUL: Have you been writing any new songs? Can we expect a new record (and a UK tour) at any point?
ROB: I hope so, I really miss the UK, I gotta get there soon somehow! Any offers, thanks!

Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]