Interview by Paul D Houston
Roolette Records is an Australian based record label, featuring a roster full of largely Australian based bands. And why not? Australia is a country, surprisingly full of jarringly interesting indie-rock bands. Simply preview the Roolette Records website (https://www.rooletterecords.com) or Bandcamp site (https://rooletterecords.bandcamp.com) and prepare to be pleasantly surprised. I could praise, Roolette Records for days over the quality of music they’ve compiled under the label masthead, but as the head of a small record label myself, I am wondering how they make things work day in and day out? How do they attract good bands, how do they help these bands careers and is anyone making any money!?
So, Carsten Bruhn from Roolette Records volunteered to answer a few questions from me about Roolette Records, the state of indie-rock in Australia and the music industry as a whole.
Carsten, how did Roolette Records come to be?
Roolette Records came about in mid-2017 after an old band of mine was getting it's submissions overlooked by a bunch of labels. I sort of figured, how hard can it be? Came up with a name, got a friend (Sarah Cardamone) to do the first ever logo and that's it, Roolette Records was born! I had no idea what I was doing and certainly didn't intend to go any further with it after the first release. It was only when a local band (Private Function) who were doing quite well asked me to do their tape release when I thought, well I guess I better do this!
Sounds, almost exactly like the reasoning I used when creating Rock Hand Records, possibly a story a hundred indie labels have in common. What’s the general “scene” like for indie-rock or the kind of music Roolette Records works with, in Australia?
In terms of the music, it's exploding with some incredible stuff. It's like a big bang of music at the moment. We have exports like Amyl & The Sniffers or King Gizz who are selling out international tours which is wild, rock bands in this day and age doing that well... I think it really gives people hope that they can do it too and maybe that's why there's so much of it right now.
I know of several really cool record/music shops in the Melbourne area, how is their reaction to your label? And how about the rest of the country? Any problem getting your bands stuff into these record shops? Any shout-outs for one or two in particular that you love?
Great question. Almost every record store in Melbourne is super welcoming and supportive of it's local artists. Nine times out of ten they will take your tape, vinyl or cd and chuck it on their shelves on consignment. So in that sense, it didn't really feel intimidating or anything going around to stores in the beginning to see if we could stock our stuff. Over time you start to form a bit of a relationship with stores and if your music sells, they might even begin to pay you upfront. We have a great relationship with Polyester Records & Poison City Records. In our minds they're Melbourne's two top stores and they've been extremely helpful. Andrew Hayden of Poison City and his story is super inspiring to me and he is a top bloke, Simon Karis from Polyester has also been great, we'll come to him with questions every once in a while and he's always there for us.
Do you work with a distributor there in Australia?
We actually don't. We do all the distribution ourselves. I don't think we've had a big enough of a release to head to a distributor as we don't often deal with large quantities so our stuff tends to go pretty quickly. We've had a store say they wouldn't take our stock because they only deal with larger distributors, we eventually convinced them to take our stock but I think it'd be a bit sad if one day you couldn't do your own distribution. Hopefully that never happens!
Hmm, from what I read, learned, was told, it was important for a label to find distribution. Rock Hand Records found distribution, and it's helped, but I do dream of doing our own distribution. Expect a private follow up email about how you do your own distribution, I want to learn!
When it comes to releasing a bands latest work, whether it’s an album, ep or single, do you always consider digital and physical releases for every band? Do you do the whole Apple Music/Spotify/Google/Online thing and automatically do cassettes, CD’s and records for them? Or what is the process for you as far as a label and what you put out for every band?
It changes from artist to artist. To this day we have never put out a solely digital release. We like to focus on the physical stuff and have been releasing music on cassette tape predominately. In terms of digital streaming platforms like the ones you mentioned, we like to leave that up to the band. Basically, unless we're doing a big release we try to stray from obtaining any of the artists rights for digital distribution. We're always there for all our artists to help assist with how they can go about getting their music out there digitally though, and we love to promote their streaming links. So yeah, I think it's a little too complicated when you're dealing with such low amounts of money due to services like Spotify paying artists fuck all so we like to leave it to the artist.
As far as format, what is the most successful for you, singles, eps or albums?
It's tough to say as we're only at 15 releases as a label. So far most of our releases have been EP's which seem to be the most common type of release within the Melbourne music community. Bands tend to release singles digitally, EP's on cassette tape, and then albums on vinyl (if they can afford it or if they have the backing).
A lot of bands want to just sign to a label and sit back and wait for the rewards to come in, what is your opinion on this?
Well, most of the artists we work with are self managed and have a pretty clear idea of where they're at and where they're going. This makes for the most efficient collaboration because I feel like that's where we're at as a label. Pinch Points for example are just on their shit like no other band in Melbourne, and you can see they're reaping the rewards of that. I don't think we'd work with a band that wasn't willing to treat things professionally so we haven't dealt with an artist not doing much, ya know?
You've got an impressive roster, Pinch Points, whom I adore and others. Who are some of the more successful bands on the label? And why are they the successful ones?
In November of last year we had the opportunity to release Surfbort's debut album 'Friendship Music'. They're from New York City and the release was a collaboration between ourselves and Cult Records, founded and run by Julian Casablancas of The Strokes. They're absolutely killing it right now. They've received praise from Blondie and John Doe, they're freakin' Gucci models, they're touring internationally all the time with bands like Interpol and IDLES.
Aside from them I'd say Pinch Points are the most successful. They're doing all the right things as I previously mentioned and it's starting to pay off for them. They have a super solid schedule ahead of them as the main support act for a tour with Tropical Fuck Storm as well as plans to head overseas in 2020. Both of those bands really inspire us and we love everything they do.
That's the joy of running an indie label, to see the bands have success, grow and kill it. Especially, these days when rock music in general, the industry, the market for it, is fierce and highly competitive. Just being in a rock band and playing shows, finding fans, that sort of thing is not easy these days, let alone figure out how to make some money out of it. If there’s anything you would recommend to the indie musician/band out there from your particular perspective, what is it?
Sure, yeah as I said before even just in Australia there is a billion artists doing well right now, new ones pop up all the time too so it can definitely be hard getting involved. It's difficult for me to answer this question because I'm also a musician and have two perspectives on this so I'm gonna give you two answers!
Answer A (from the record label giving advice to bands who want to achieve things perspective): I think the best thing you can do is try and take everything pretty seriously. Don't go bumming around being drunk all the time etc... Try to make some money, save all that money, do cool and beneficial shit with that money. Work hard on your craft and strive to be better as an artist. People might critique that approach because it doesn't sound too 'fun' but if you do all of that and then you achieve some of your goals, perhaps make a little more money well then you'll find that it's really fun doing it that way.
Answer B (from the musician giving advice to to other musicians perspective): Do whatever the fuck you want! Try and release as much music as possible because you don't know when you're gonna die you know? Releasing music IS success, and expressing your self is a privilege so do whatever. Have fun and take it easy, it's art.
I feel like a combination of both of those answers is a good approach? I'll also add it's all about support and NOT competition, so be sure to focus on achieving your goals rather than focusing on others achieving theirs.
So much good stuff in this little interview, thank you Carsten for doing this interview. Would you preview what Roolette Records has coming down the pipeline?
More releases! More collabs! More love, music, friendship, and community! We have five or so releases due to come out by the end of this year, we'll have Roofest 2 which is our annual day festival, and we'd like to do a pop up shop in 2020.
Roolette Records website: https://www.rooletterecords.com/