After I finished typing my interview with Louis Posen, the head of Hopeless/Sub City Records, and also, the creator of the Take Action Tour/compilation record, I sat for a while trying to figure out how I could possibly write a short introduction to this interview. I found it very difficult to try to put into words how I could set this interview up, so that a reader would be enticed to read the interview. I consider Louis to be one of the best people involved in the music business. Looking back at the interview [associate editor] David conducted with Louis in 2003, the metaphor of a superhero that David used to describe Louis is the only word that would do justice to what Louis has and continues to do.
What made you decide to start Take Action, both the tour and the compilation cd?
Posen: Well, Hopeless Records launched Sub City, our imprint label, in 1999, when we realized how many people we were reaching, we wanted to do something positive with that and give back to the community, who had given us so much. So we launched Sub Citywhich donates 5% of the retail price of each record to a non-profit organization. We put literature in the records and all the mail outs we send. In that same year, we decided it would be a cool idea to take that concept to the road and that was the birth of Take Action.
When you started [Take Action] did you have bands approaching you for the tour/CD, or did you have to contact bands to get the ball rolling, per say?
Posen: The first year was primarily Hopeless/Sub City artists on the comp and tour: Fifteen, The Weakerthans, Dillinger Four. And then some other bands we were friends with, like F.Y.P, were on the tour and compilation. Later years, it has slowly become more known to the punk and hardcore world and we have more bands coming to us now, than us going out and finding them. This year we had, I think, 400 submissions for the compilation and over 100 submissions for the tour. It’s been growing and it’s been great to see how many bands are interested in supporting Take Action, and supporting suicide prevention and what this tour’s all about.
You said you had over 100 submissions, what’s the selection process like when you have that many bands wanting to do the tour?
Posen: It’s very difficult. We bring out a booking agent who is, sort of, the point person who corresponds with all the bands agents. But we go through the list, we look at it here in the office, and we ask some people outside the office and the main criteria we’re looking for are: bands who are going to fill out the room, so we can raise the most awareness; and also who really supports Take Action, and supports the cause. They are spokespeople for the tour and for the hopeline. That ends up being as important as anything else.
You have worked with the National Hopeline Network for several years now, what made you decide to stay with them and would you ever consider working with another charity?
Posen: Well, the first year benefited several organizations, and the hopeline wasn’t one of them. The second year we did the tour, we realized that we needed to make the message more focused. So that people leave and know what the tour was about. And we went on a search for an organization that fit what the fans were telling us was important to them. And that’s when we found the Hopeline Network, which was the only 24-hour, confidential hotline in the United States. It was a great fit and ever since then they have been very supportive of the tour. It’s something they work hard on as well. It’s not like they are just raking in the benefits of the awareness and the funds that come in. They are active participants in making the tour great. They organized, what’s now, our second annual press conference on Capitol Hill, to kick off the tour. It’s been a great partnership. We’d love to support lots of different organizations, and luckily we are able to through our various SubCity releases we put out. We’re working with over 30 different organizations.
Will Take Action ever support another organization?
Posen: I don’t know. I believe that this issue of mental health and suicide prevention are at epidemic proportions amongst young people. It’s the 3rd leading cause of death amongst 12-24 year olds; approximately 13 12-24 year olds die from suicide everyday. You never hear about any of those deaths, unless it’s a celebrity’s kid, and we need to do something about that and we can. It’s something that we can treat. It’s something we can do something about. So it seems to me at this point, it’s the right connection for the tour.
When is the press conference for the Take Action Tour?
Posen: It’s on March 1st at 10:30 am, in the Cannon House Building on Capitol Hill. Speaking will be Representative Patrick Kennedy from Rhode Island, who spoke at our press conference last year; he’s a very powerful speaker. Also speaking will be members of Silverstein and Matchbook Romance. Matchbook will also be doing an acoustic set at the end. It should be pretty cool; because, it’s going to be on the Hill and congress people are going to be there, [members of the] media are going to be there, fans can come as well. There’s a capacity of only about 100-150 people. So you gotta get there early.
Would you ever consider doing a Take Action Tour twice per year?
Posen: We’ve though about it. We’re open to it, it just takes up so much of our time and we don’t make any revenue from it, because we put everything back into the hopeline. So I don’t know if we could financially be able to do it. But we do the Take Action area at the Warped Tour. At every Warped Tour stop there’s a Take Action tent. And we’ve also thought about doing Take Action internationally. We’ve talked to people in Canada and the UK, and Japan. If we find the right partners, we’d love to do it. It’s just a major time and financial decision.
Does it disappoint you that, for some people, it’s just a tour of a lot of bands they like rather than a tour that’s benefiting suicide prevention?
Posen: Not really. I believe that everyone’s and individual and has right to enjoy the show the way the want to enjoy it. Some are just there for entertainment and the music. But it’s great when the fans also embrace the cause and want to get behind it, and want to volunteer or donate money or give their support. Really, Take Action is a little more indirect about not just suicide prevention. For us, it’s about empowering young people to realize they can make a difference. Sometimes it doesn’t hit them when they’re at the show. But later they realize, “Wow. I could be doing something to help out something I’m passionate about.” I don’t know if that makes sense or not.
Oh no, I think it makes perfect sense. You touched on earlier that Sub City is an imprint of Hopeless. How do you select which bands release records on Sub City and which on Hopeless; or is that completely up to the bands?
Posen: Its up to the bands. When a band signs to Hopeless, they are signing to both labels. During the course of being on the label, they can decide “I want this album to come out on Hopeless. I want this album to come out on Sub City.” Some have done all on Hopeless and some have done all on Sub City. Some have done both. The difference being if they decide to put it our on Sub City, that royalty (5%) half is coming from the artist’s royalties, it’s a really big commitment from the bands. And its not always financially possible for them.
Is it the bands who decide what charities get benefited or is it up to the label?
Posen: It depends on the band. Certain bands have very specific organizations they want to give to, and others have said they want to benefit certain causes, but they don’t know organizations that work in that area, and we’ll go out and help them do the research and find an organization that fits those needs. On compilations the label picks. That’s our opportunity as a company to give our input.
What can we expect from Hopeless/Sub City and the Take Action Tour for the rest of the year?
Posen: We’ve got a big schedule this year: February 21st, Ever We Fall’s debut record starts it off. That same day, Take Action Vol. 5 comes out. It’s a 2-disc set that’s just $5.99. Then we’ve got a new band we just signed, Royden, their debut EP comes out in April. The full-length comes out in June. Against All Authority’s long anticipated full-length comes out May 9th. It actually hasn’t been publicized yet, but its definitely coming out May 9th. And Hopelessly Devoted, our label sampler, will be coming out in June. And we signed a progressive-metal band from LA called The Human Abstract, that’s coming out in July. Take Action, the tour, kicks off March 1st. We expect it to be raising more money and awareness than any previous Take Action tour. And we’ve got, though it’s not set yet, but it looks like we’ll have a Take Action Party at South by Southwest. We also own and operate, DownloadPunk.com, and that takes up a lot of our time too. We have over 400 labels on there now, so we’re going spend some time and money to make sure everyone knows they can get all their punk and hardcore and emo that they want digitally at DownloadPunk.com.
Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Posen: I actually didn’t mention the Youth American Hotline, which I probably should. Its number is 877-YOUTHLINE. It’s the only national peer-to-peer hotline. For someone who wants to talk to someone their own age. It was actually started by the Hopeline because of the Take Action tour. After doing the tour for 2 years, together we realized a lot of fans would feel more comfortable calling a peer-to-peer line. For more information on the Take Action Tour, please visit www.takeactiontour.com. And for more information about the National Hopeline Network, please visit www.hopeline.com.
Everything Will Be Alright: An interview with Ogikubo Station
There is great joy in simple chords and simple melodies. It is, after all, the feeling of comfort that these things often bring. Comfort from the day’s burdens, comfort from the issues that disappoint us, comfort when the sunsets bring us joy. Ogikubo Station, the music project of Maura Weaver (of Ohio punks Mixtapes) and Mike Park (of Asian Man Records), is that kind of comfort. It is music that makes us think of the week we’ve just had, music that makes us want to do better in our every day, and music that makes us laugh, cry, and sing-a-long.
Fresh off the release of a new 7” EP Okinawan Love Songs, we chat to Maura and Mike about the new songs, making music from distances, and how Ogikubo Station came to be. The chat was a reminder that music can be the result of many things and many reasons. Some simple, some more complicated. It was also a reminder that if we’ve got the music, then maybe, just maybe, everything will be alright in the end.
You released your full length We Can Pretend Like last year- was there a catalyst that sparked getting back into the writing and recording again so quickly?
Maura: I think Mike just called me and said do you want to come out to California and do some songwriting, and then while I was out there he booked two days in the studio and said “Guess what? We’re gonna record a 7 inch.”
Mike: Is that what happened? Haha. I can’t remember. I know we had “Would I Break My Heart Enough For You” written and we were playing it live, so I thought “let’s just add a couple more songs and release a fun 7 inch.”
Did you write these songs the same way you’ve written in the past; from a distance?
Mike: Not this time. Since it was only a few songs we just rehearsed for a day and then recorded.
Does that process ever get easier, being quite far apart?
Maura: Not really. I prefer being able to collaborate in person and I believe that’s the plan for the next record. We started writing 4 new songs aside from what’s on this 7 inch to go towards the next Ogikubo full length.
Mike: Yeah, it’s not the best case scenario, but I’ve been doing with a lot of different projects over the years. Sending mixes and vocal parts and asking various friends to guest on records, so it’s not that bad actually.
How was having Dan (Andriano) play bass on this EP? Will you be working with him again in the future?
Mike: I’ve known Dan since he was a teenager, so I just called him and said “Dan, I’m gonna send you a couple of songs for you to play bass on” and he was like “okay”. He has his own home studio and he’s kind of a gear head, so I knew it would be easy for him to do. I’d love to do more stuff with him, but I guess we’ll see.
Maura: Heck yes! I’ve been an Alkaline Trio fan since I was 14, so this is all kind of geeking out excitement for me.
For those who are new to Ogikubo Station – tell us how you ended up collaborating together?
Mike: Maura, you want to tell it?
Maura: Sure. So I was visiting the San Francisco/Oakland area where my sister lives and we were hanging out with my friend Danielle Bailey who is also friends with Mike. Danny had posted some photos of us hanging and Mike called Danny and said: “ask Maura if she would record a song with me”. So we drove to San Jose and we recorded a song called “Weak Souls Walk Around Here” and that was it. Just a one-time thing.
Mike: And at that time I believe I told Maura I’d like to put out her solo album and so for the next 2 years I would bug her every couple months to see how it was going and she would say “oh, I’m still working on it”. And then I finally said “hey, let’s start a project together” and thus Ogikubo Station was born.
How many bands are you in now Mike?
Mike: Kitty Kat Fan Club, Ogikubo Station, Bruce Lee Band …are the only ones that play, but I’m working on a couple of new projects. Always doing music.
Maura, how different has it been with Ogikubo Station than say, writing and recording with Mixtapes? Do the different processes give you new ways to write and approach songwriting?
Maura: I guess the biggest difference is the distance factor and that Ogikubo is not a full-time band. Mixtapes was my first real band and it was at a time in my life when everything was a first. First tour, first record, first van, the first van breaking down. I was still in my teens with Mixtapes and we all lived in Cincinnati. So it’s very different with Ogikubo. It’s hard to explain fully, but both bands have definitely been influential in different ways. But the basic idea of writing a melody over a strummed guitar chord is the same no matter the situation.
I love the TMBG cover on the new EP, and the fact that you chose to keep it lo-fi—what are some of the other bands you say would have directly led to the music and songwriting of Ogikubo Station?
Mike: I guess I’ve been listening to a lot of 80’s bands as of late and just kind of falling in love again with bands like Hoodoo Gurus, the Replacements, REM, and then newer bands like ALVVAYS, PUP, and Laura Stevenson. I’m always just looking for a good melody and some lyrics that aren’t filler bullshit.
Maura: I listen to so much music. From Kate Bush, TMBG, Desmond Dekker, Operation Ivy, to Beyonce and Taylor Swift. It’s hard to say what influences Ogikubo Station, but those are some bands I’ve been listening to lately.
Mike, I know on Twitter recently you’ve expressed your frustration and anger at a lot of the political things that are happening in the US (hopefully that’s not the cause of those grey hairs!) – but as songwriters, do you feel that it’s more important than ever to provide listeners with fuel to fight for equality and kindness, or do you feel that its just as important to provide an escape through music?
Mike: I’ve always felt music is political even when you aren’t trying to make it political. The sounds fuel the soul, creates the body to move and puts you in moods that you may not even realise are happening. Music has been my solace when it comes to expression and emotion. An outlet to get my ideas across in an artistic and productive manner. I don’t feel it’s imperative to be overtly political. I try not to shove politics down your throat, but if something comes to mind and I write about it and it happens to be classified as political, so be it.
Maura, you did the artwork for the new EP, an illustration of your Okinawan grandmother. The art is beautiful, can you tell us a little bit about your art and how you came into illustrating?
Maura: I’ve always enjoyed illustrating and painting. Creating art: With a guitar or a brush or a pen/ pencil. I wanted to draw my grandmother and give it to her as a present. When Mike saw the drawing he asked if we could use it for the 7-inch cover. It wasn’t meant to be the cover, but after mike brought it up I said of course.
What are some of the things you’re looking forward to on this UK tour? You guys are going all over England, and then to Wales, and then Scotland.
Mike: Sadly I’m not going on the tour this time due to some hearing damage I have sustained, but I’m still going to Brighton for a wedding, so I will be there for 3 days. And I’ll try to do every stereotypical British thing. TEA/MILK/FISH/CHIPS/MUSHY PEAS.
Maura: Getting to travel with my best friend Megan is the most exciting part of this UK tour. She’s never been before and that makes it that much more special being able to share this experience together. We are both Vegan/Vegetarian and one of our favorite things to do is eat, so we’ll checking out the different vegan spots in every city. And just meeting new friends, seeing old friends, and Edinburgh. I can’t wait to go to Edinburgh.
Is there a new full length on the horizon?
Mike: I’d like to work on one next year. I’m tapped out for this year. I’m gonna work on some new Bruce Lee Band stuff next and then I have a couple of other collaborations, but hopefully sometime next year we can start the process for the next full length.
Maura: That sounds good to me. It will give me a chance to keep writing songs.