Quit Your Day Job: Mice Parade
Before beginning this week’s installment, please offer a round of applause to Gregg Gillis, a.k.a Girl Talk, who recently gave notice at his job. In case you forgot or missed it, Gregg debuted Quit You Day Job back in February with a discussion about biomedical engineering. Always looking for a follow-up, I contacted him yesterday to see how he felt about ditching the 9-5:
I’m still working until the end of May, so I’m not completely out of the work force yet. Right now, it feels like the last month of school before summer vacation. I cannot wait to break out of here and have a total freedom summer. I’ve just been stressing out so much over the past few months, trying to get all of my work and music stuff completed. Without the job holding me down, I’m planning on having the best summer ever.
Members of certain bands I’ve spoken to wanted to keep their jobs, but just as often folks begrudgingly deal with work as a necessity or actively want to dump the thing entirely (right, Reine?). If you fit into the latter half of that sentence, let’s hope the post-QYDJ trend continues. In the meantime, this week’s edition focuses on someone who clearly enjoys what he’s doing.
Adam Pierce is about to release his seventh Mice Parade record, the self-titled follow-up to 2004’s Obrigado Saudade. The collection’s a sleepy, eclectic batch of sunny post-rock with a ’90s, pre-Pinback atmosphere and, trust me, Pedro The Lion feel (especially on the verses of “The Last Ten Homes”). Guests come from far and wide, including Stereolab’s Laetitia Sandier (on standout “The Tales Of Las Negras,” included below); Doug Scharin of Rex, Codeine, and June of 44; and Kría Brekkan from múm and collaborative Avery Tare fame (who contributes vocals to the Minutemen-referencing “Double Dolphins On The Nickel“).
While recording these nine songs and prepping for a tour, Pierce also heads FatCat USA. There’s an assumption that if a job relates to your chosen art form or hobby, it’s somehow an easier ride. Well, as bartenders, record store workers, porn shop owners, and members of the Borders family will tell you — it’s still time away from your own shit. That in mind, let’s learn a bit more about the juggling act of the cat behind the mouse … or, more fittingly, vice versa.
STEREOGUM: You’re the head of FatCat USA and also run Bubble Core. Can you describe your duties at both? How do they differ?
ADAM PIERCE: It’s like the difference between apples and apple seeds. Okay, maybe not really. My duties at Bubble Core are non-existent, as I have recently made every effort to put that company on indefinite hiatus. My duties at FatCat are numerous and challenging: Everything from mechanical royalties to finding a Fender Twin and a van. Basically dealing with bands, helping plan campaigns and tours, and managing cash flow. We’re a small company, so we all have our hands in multiple areas.
STEREOGUM: So you started Bubble Core first and then landed the FatCat job.
AP: I started Bubble Core with cassette tapes in 1988, not intending anything serious. When FatCat did a Mice Parade 12″ as one of their first few releases in 1997, I asked how it would be distributed in the USA, and they had no idea. Since then I’ve distributed all FatCat releases in North America. We opened the USA office officially two years ago.
STEREOGUM: Did FatCat hire you because of the cat and mouse connection?
AP: Okay, yes.
STEREOGUM: I know you record Mice Parade at your home studio. You have to go into an office. Do you miss your recording equipment?
AP: These days I record about twice a year if I’m lucky. It’s sad. What I miss more is time to practice drums.
STEREOGUM: Ever considered bringing drum pads to work?
AP: Gotta separate work and play to keep my sanity.
STEREOGUM: What does it take to run a successful label?
AP: I have no idea … Or, a good ear to get together a good roster, a prior knowledge of how the business works … and a big movie deal.
STEREOGUM: Historically, what are some labels you admire?
AP: Dischord, old Sub Pop, and Smithsonian Folkways.
STEREOGUM: What did you admire about those three in particular? Their positives are pretty obvious, but it’s nice to have it spelled out.
AP: “This record is $8 ppd from…. ” Or Smithsonian — man what an expansive catalog of consistent quality.
STEREOGUM: How has the web and digital downloading changed what you do for a living?
AP: It’s made me far more worried than I should be about what Stereogum is going to say about our records. For 3 out of 10, it’s made it easier to break new artists. For 7 out of 10, it’s made it harder to break new artists.
STEREOGUM: The Twilight Sad recently blew up. How does it feel working with a young band and seeing, first hand, the explosion?
AP: It was quicker and more widely anticipated with both múm and Sigur Rós. That was like a daily rush of excitement, motivation, and pride (incidentally, neither one had much to do with the Internet). The Twilight Sad are doing well, but they still have plenty more work to do. Animal Collective also took plenty of consistent work and touring, etc.
STEREOGUM: To what do you attribute the success of Sigur Rós and múm?
AP: Great albums, inspiring people, and the fact that nobody was thinking about Iceland at the time.
STEREOGUM: When you complete a new record, is it strange having to help promote other folks’ releases?
AP: Not at all, to the contrary, it’s more strange having to slide my own record into the same system.
STEREOGUM: Ever want to just drop it all and fixate a while on your own music?
AP: If the Twilight Sad don’t sell out Giants Stadium next year, I might move to Spain and do just that.
STEREOGUM: Since you’re in a band and have invariably received a bad or mediocre review at some point, are you able to council younger groups who might not be prepared for a slam in print/html?
AP: People need to be making music because human beings are music makers. Not for success, or hoping to get big. If this principle really thrives in someone then they won’t worry too much about the critics.
STEREOGUM: What are some non-music jobs you’ve worked?
AP: The (second) best job i ever had was delivering animal blood to the lab from various animal hospitals … paid well, in cash, to drive around upstate New York at night, basically whenever i wanted. My foray into the world of pizza delivery was much longer-lived, however, and paid for many a Bubble Core release…
STEREOGUM: Now you have a job related to what you do as an artist. Ever get sick of music?
AP: I get sick of the music industry, but never sick of music. There’s a surplus of interesting music out there. We all have to take steps to make sure that doesn’t happen, since music is one of the most healing things in this world.
Mice Parade is out 5/8 on FatCat.