Label co-founder Josiah Barnett chats about Moncton music, the new label, and how they came to release new music from Ottawa’s The New Calling.
Superbob, Fucking Scam, Naked In The Marsh, Astral Plain – these are just a few of the many record labels that have helped fuel the edgier side Moncton’s vast music community over the years. In addition to helping bolster the record, CD and cassette collections of local music lovers and archivists alike, these small-run labels, especially those that predate the World Wide Web, have each played a pivotal role in exporting New Brunswick music to the rest of the country.
Today, more than 25 years after NIM Records’ now legendary 10” compilation introduced a generation to an eclectic mix of Moncton music makers including Eric’s Trip, Bad Luck #13, Idee Du Nord, Front Porch, Syntax Error and NB punk pioneers Purple Knight, the city remains home to a number of small record labels releasing music from home and away.
Subfiction Records is the most recent addition to the city’s indie label lineage. Founded by Josiah Barnett and Eric Daigle (one half of seminal Moncton punk rock outfit Fear Of Lipstick), the label made its introduction near the end of 2017 with the release of a new 12” EP by the Ottawa quintet The New Calling.
We caught up with Barnett to chat about Moncton music, the new label, and The New Calling.
Can you start by telling us a bit about your background in the Moncton music scene?
JB: I moved to Moncton in 1995 from Ontario with my family when I was 13. I met fellow local musician Dana Is Gone that year and we took a chance on going to see the last show of a local band that I had never heard of before. The band was Eric’s Trip. This show was a big moment in my creative development and the beginning of a long love affair with Moncton and it’s musical output. The scene is always alive in Moncton. There is a lot of creativity and passion in what people do here. My favourite will always be Elevator to Hell and most anything Rick ever did, but there are many current and active bands that deserve attention. A quick search of the Moncton tag in Bandcamp will really show you how hard it is to pick just one.
Why start a record label?
JB: It was a natural progression I think for us to team up and take a stab at the real deal. It’s something Eric and I were already doing on a smaller scale. Eric had previously started Fucking Scam Records and self-released 6 vinyl singles and EP’s under that label. I have been doing Astral Plain Records for 15 years and all those releases are available on Bandcamp. Aside from being close friends, Eric and I played together in Fear of Lipstick for many years. We both have always had strong DIY ethics and were familiar with releasing albums on our own dime. We have both always been very involved in the other parts that come with making/promoting your own music. Things like the gig posters and album art, cutting, folding and pasting together sleeves to booking shows and building relationships with like minded artists. We felt the time was right to come together professionally.
Why did you choose to launch your label with The New Calling?
JB: There’s been a love affair between us and Ottawa for some years now. Fear of Lipstick and other projects like Feral Trash and The Kamalas were acts that travelled every summer to take part in the excellent pop punk festival, Ottawa Explosion. Eric and his partner Ilisha recently spent a couple years living there, where they formed new bands and strengthened the friendships already built during previous trips. There’s a lot of great, likeminded musicians making very good music in that city. The New Calling has members of many Ottawa staples such as Bonnie Doon, M$M, Sedatives, and White Wires. Eric got to hear their demos and the band hadn’t set up to release anything yet, so he shared the idea with me, I was game and now we are here!
What do you see as the biggest challenges in getting this label off the ground?
JB: Right now with our first release, the biggest challenge is continuing to get our name out there on the internet and through word of mouth. Building a distro with likeminded labels and making sure we have our voice heard amongst the crowd as well as interesting music waiting for them when they do come. We aren’t thinking too far ahead of ourselves. We have one solid release and we want people to know about it. That’s our most important challenge right now.
Would you encourage other artists to start their own labels as a means of getting their music out there?
JB: Yes, it’s definitely easier to manufacture all kinds of media in your home these days. Why not take advantage of that? Burning cds, making cases and art, dubbing cassettes, silkscreening merch, it’s all attainable and easy if you learn how to do it. And with Bandcamp and other sites, having an online discography and store to sell from is easier than ever. The other side of this, is that you have more competition than ever, but if you love doing it and are proud of what you have made, don’t give up. I personally would encourage testing the waters first with some of these mediums before moving on to vinyl as the cost is drastically different.
Who are some of the bands in Moncton you feel more people need to be listening to?
JB: Ghostown Belle, Dana Is Gone, BIT LIP, Phone Jerks, Paranerd, Radium Doxy, The Virals. There’s so many bands you should give them all a chance. Moncton has always been a home to many styles of music. There are lots of bedroom musicians that you’d never know existed if it weren’t for sites like Bandcamp. Support them.