This week on 20kUnderDC we’re joined by Sean Peoples, DC resident, Fatback DJ, and founder of Sockets Records. If you’ve spent time around any local venues you’re probably familiar with at least a few of the bands his label has worked with: From Hume, to Deleted Scenes, to The Cornel West Theory, Sockets has released music from some of the best artists the District has to offer. While in the studio Sean played a few cuts from his catalog while talking a little bit about what it’s like making music in DC. Track list and cleaned up excerpts below:
Everything is Possible – Buildings – Everyhing in Parallel [“Just one of the better bands that I’ve come in contact with in the last ten years.”]
Seas of Bees (Rifle Recoil Cover) – Macaw – Celadon
[unnamed track] – Eyes of the Killer Robot – [unreleased]
No – Skeletons – People [“One of the most beautiful recods we’ve put out. It’s just fully realized.”]
Injera – Hume – Penumbra EP
In a House in a Head – Imperial China – How We Connect
Can you tell us a little about he history and motivations behind Sockets?
Sure. In 2003, 2004 I was going to a ton of shows. I went to school here in DC at American University. There were just so many great bands in 2002, 2003, 2004—Q and not U, Black Eyes—all those sort of younger bands on Dischord Records at the time. There was this energy in the city. And then all of a sudden all those bands broke up. It was kinda really sad.
But I made a ton of friends who were making really interesting sounds, mainly like noise stuff. I wanted to document that, because no one was. So we started doing a CD-R label. Actually started doing stuff here in CPR studios. We brought some friends in and did some just sessions where you brought whatever instrument you had and hooked it up and just had some free form stuff. We started giving those out to people. It sorta grew into something a little bit more formal, but it started off with really humble, informal beginnings.
Was there a point where it crossed over from this DIY-type of thing into something like you said, more formal?
Yeah, we’re going on seven years. In the last three or four years it became a lot more formal where I wasn’t necessarily just burning CD-Rs on my laptop, I was actually sending off band’s music to get manufactured. You know a thousand copies, or you know in vinyl the units are little smaller, so like 300 vinyl copies of LPs or a thousand CDs. I even do tapes. It’s kinda all over the place.
You obvious exercise some degree of curatorial restraint. You only put out good stuff. But even just these two tracks: pretty diverse. What makes a Sockets Records band?
Yeah, that’s a good question. First and foremost, I try to curate it—it’s my taste. It’s definitely not necessary anything goes. I’ve put out stuff ranging from pretty highly political hip-hop to really experimental sax skronk. It just runs the gambit. I think in the last year it’s kinda honed in on maybe an experimental pop sound so a little bit more focused. But throughout the last six or seven years it’s been kinda a free for all. I kinda like it that way; I would get bored otherwise.
For DC in general seems that a lot the music coming out is more toward that experimental pop.
Yeah, I think in a lot of ways it’s been a long time coming for a voice or at least a discernible sound from DC. It seems like there’s a bunch of bands that are really hoping to shape that. Again it’s not necessary homogeneous, but it’s definitely the active bands are making a concerted effort to make that pop music, but to do it on their own terms. Not do it by how BMG tells you to sound like, or Epic, or whatever record label still stands.
Would you say the amount of support for local music has grown the last couple years as well?
I think so. Yeah definitely. Its funny; I think one thing about Washington, DC is that it’s always had a really vibrant house show scene. It think that’s one of the things that I really hold dear about my time going to shows right out of college, or even in college and up until now. You have these houses that pop open then just as quickly just go away, but you can count on there being another house show that does a couple things for six months to a year. And that’s what the city really needs; to have that undercurrent to foster some grow of some of these bands that don’t necessary have access to practice space or are just starting out. That’s just been a really important part of the DC scene for the last ten years.
I’ve heard DC bands complain before that they had to kind of live in the shadow of Dischord. One band in particular told a story about how whenever they go on tour people assume they’re straight edge because they’re from DC. Is there trouble asserting an independent identity from that monolithic past DC has?
I think so. Its not something people from DC or bands from DC think about at all. You know probably a lot of folks like me were really into that stuff in the 80s, 90s, early 2000s. But I think it is a narrative put on DC outside of DC. You’re inevitably going to face that no matter what until something else equally as big comes along. Who’s to say that’s ever going to happen, and who’s to say that’s a good or bad thing. But its definitely a perception people have to deal with. It’s to bad but at the same time, recognizing the legacy that Dischord has, some of things it’s allowed this city to be,and lay claim to is something id never want to change.
Even the history of strong house shows is probably connected to Dischord. And thing like St. Stephen’s still having them.
And affordable shows. I mean, five dollar shows, still in 2012? You’ve got to be kidding me.
Speaking of excellent shows: Check out the Sockets Records Acoustic Showcase on May 24 at the Gibson Guitar Showroom for acoustic performances by Deleted Scenes, Cigarette, and more.
Source: SoundCloud / 20kUnderDC