Dallas label Moon Sounds will celebrate its 5th year in 2017. With about 30 artists on its roster, Grave City decided to interview the shoegaze and postpunk imprint.
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In person, Jacques Urioste is quiet and unassuming — even reserved. But the label owner’s humble in-person demeanor belies the impressive years-long accomplishment of his Dallas imprint, Moon Sounds Records. Later this year the Texas shoegaze and dream-pop label will celebrate its 5th anniversary, and Jacques is well on his way to marking that achievement with a showcase next week (March 13) at Club Dada and a new EP by electronic dreamwave act Lunar Twin on March 17.
With about 30 artists on his roster — including acts from as far away as Sweden, Denmark, and Australia — and four previous label showcases behind him, I asked Jacques if anyone in Dallas had interviewed him before. “No one has officially. Or formally for that matter,” he responded. “Someone tried to once, but I had a feeling they did just to get free stuff. They never posted about it.” Well, Grave City to the rescue!
Below, I caught up with Jacques about Moon Sounds’ past, present, and where his noteworthy venture is headed in the future.
Jacques Urioste/Moon Sounds Records was interviewed by Oliver/Grave City in March, 2017.
When did Moon Sounds start? How long have you been around?
Moon Sounds Records started in December of 2012, on a whim. I needed a healthy outlet to cope with the stresses of all that I had going on at the time and one day, on my way home from a particularly bad day; I looked up and saw the moon. It was in its waning crescent position so it appeared as though smiling. I’ve always had a fondness for the moon. So when I got back to my place, I was sitting on the floor with a pen and napkin, doodled out the logo, thought of the name, and told myself that I would follow through with a passion project. Most of my friends were in bands or working on other cool things so the label was definitely something different. I had no idea where to start and then a band posted on FaceBook, “Who’s going to release our seven inch record?” I chimed in and almost four and a half years later , still here.
Who designed Moon Sounds’ logo? I think you mentioned to me that someone actually stole your logo and used it somewhere in Russia….. What’s the story behind this?
I designed the Moon Sounds logos! Both of them. The first one (as mentioned before) was thought up in a few minutes, drawn on a napkin, and then translated over to a digital medium. A promotion company out of the country of Georgia ripped off the first design and even the name but removed the ‘records’ portion. They wouldn’t respond to my messages and many people have confused them for me. Then a record label in Mexico also took the name and initially had the same logo but has since removed it. I must’ve been doing something right to have come up with a popular design and name. Last time I checked, a few more pages have popped up using some variation of the name. There’s also a German record label called ‘Moon Sound Records’ that was actually around before I started but we don’t release the same kind of music, and my logo is better. That’s why I’m a stickler for people getting the name right, “Moon Sounds, with an ‘S’”.
Now here’s the story behind the second logo: So after the confusion brought on with other pages taking the label name and/or logos, I used the frustration as an opportunity to give the label a facelift and took everything I learned since I started and revamped the label a bit. Along with that came the new logo. It’s a bit fun having people guess how I came up with the new design. Is it a rip off of the Sacred Bones Records logo? No. Is it a reference to the illuminati or AOL? No. Does it have anything to do with the all seeing eye necklace I always wear? No. The big secret… it’s just the logo for ‘Play’ turned sideways with the crescent moon added inside. Pretty Clever eh?
When you started, what was the mission you had in mind for the label — what sort of music did you want to put out, and why? What was your intent?
There was no real clear “mission” in the beginning. Just having a project that I could call my own seemed like satisfaction in itself, and then I discovered everything that a record label does and got a true appreciation for it and started taking it seriously fairly quickly.
I knew what kind of music I wanted for the label from the start although it may not sound that way given the early catalogue. Shoegaze (the genre that celebrates itself) was the primary focus for the label and that’s what I had in mind to release exclusively but I’m also Post-Punk at heart and just about all of my friends in the Dallas music were involved in that scene so I naturally found myself releasing artists with a similar fan base.
The original plan was to join my contemporaries in releasing Dream-pop, and Noise-pop music. Other labels like Custom Made Music and Killer Pimp were big influences and some of their artists actually moved over to Moon Sounds at one point or another. Now, I plan on being a bit more selective with the artists I work with whereas most of the previous catalogue was taken on because of friends and friends of friends. I’ll still focus on Shoegaze (and genres of the like) but would like to start releasing Darkwave and Post-Punk.
What are some artists you’re proud to have had first on your label?
From the early catalogue, I’m really proud to have had: Ceremony, The Vandelles, and Dead Leaf Echo on board. They’re some of my favorite bands and friends. From there, Static Daydream and Kindling really stand out. I would definitely release something for them again given the chance.
I’m also stoked to have been to be the first to release music from Static Daydream and Baby Acid. Many of my favorite artists on the label revived the scene in the upper east coast. I’m very proud of all of the artists on the whole catalogue and owe a great deal of gratitude to their believing in what I do and help take that journey with me, from the beginning until now.
What are some releases you’re proudest of so far? What’s a release you feel like is overlooked on your label?
Static Daydream’s Self titled LP, My Gold Mask’s ‘Anxious Utopia’ LP, The Foreign Resort’s ‘New Frontiers’ LP and Dead Leaf Echo’s ‘True.Deep.Sleeper’ EP stand out to me most as those records came out best in matching aesthetics with the sounds of the music. I’m a huge fan of having the packaging and format color match the look and feel of the music as well as the bands. It gives a sense of completion upon release and satisfying closure when an album’s been out for a while and the record’s been put back on the shelf. It’s like reading a good book and those particular releases give me that satisfaction.
As far as a release that I feel’s been overlooked… I’d have to say Sansyou’s ‘The Glistening One’. The group is very talented and hard working but the album, like escargot, is an acquired gourmet taste and not for everyone. I wish the response would have been better on that record.
I’m assuming running Moon Sounds isn’t your main job/day job. How much time are you able to put into the label and do you have help? Is it able to sustain itself financially? Do you keep all the titles in print?
That’s right. I don’t have as much time to sit and focus on the label as I would like. Basically, whatever time I have on my days off and between a full time job and relationship is when I can get in time for the label. It works out as it keeps me just busy enough to not interfere with everything else I have going on.
Some of the ‘business’ aspects are discussed with my girlfriend over dinner and when out running errands, while I take care of artwork and order forms at home. I also have a friend in Seattle that designed and maintains the webpage. I update and run the separate site where all the music can be streamed and purchased.
Being mostly a ‘limited run’ label, Moon Sounds typically sees releases in small batches and we usually break even or make just a little to cover losses in other areas. We put a lot of faith in the artists we work with as they put into us so we do our best to gauge amount of copies that get released in every format. It’s a delicate balancing act but if the baby’s hungry, I feed it.
For someone wanting to start a label, what have you found out over time you wished you knew at the beginning? What advice would you give to someone starting a label, and what is the hardest part of it all?
There’s so much that I learned over the years of running a label, and much of it was self discovery and full of ‘Ah-ha!’ moments. I wish I knew how to set up proper distribution from the get-go and to have been more selective with artists and know what formats to release and how many of what to order. It would’ve saved me a lot of time and trouble.
So with that said, if someone is looking at starting a label, reach out to one first. Get any questions you may have answered before you start, and build a relationship with artists, bookies, press release outlets, venues, distributors, graphic designers, manufacturing facilities and fans.
Don’t be afraid to do it. If you have to start small as just a cassette label, do so. If you feel comfortable there, then stay there. There are so many niches in the music industry and plenty of room for everyone. The hardest part of it all is maintaining consistency, finding time to dedicate to the label, and not quitting, even under pressure. It’s very rewarding to see your vision come to life and to be able to share that with artists and friends.
I notice you have a Moon Sounds showcase coming up on March 13. How many of these have you done so far? What bands are in the one coming up and are they all local?
Yes! I’m very excited about the showcase coming up. It will be at Club DaDa on Monday – March 13, 2017. This will be the fourth year that I host a showcase with bands that are coming through for SXSW in Austin. The first year was a joint effort between Moon Sounds Records, King Camel, and Wardance. The second year was another collaborative effort between Moon Sounds, King Camel, and Raccoon Eyez, and the third was just a Moon Sounds hosted event just like the one this year.
This year, I have five bands on the bill that have all played Dallas before so I’m hoping to see many familiar faces out at the show. Bloody Knives is from Austin, Dead Leaf Echo is from Brooklyn, Nightmare Air is from Los Angeles, and Paper Saints and Mercury Rocket are local, from Dallas. Two of the artists have releases on Moon Sounds but they’re all under my radar.
What are some of the positive things you see in the Dallas music scene that you think are overlooked by people and need more attention or support?
I’ve noticed a rise in bars and gastropubs inviting live music into their establishments. I feel that it opens up so much opportunity for artists to play in new places and for those establishments to advertise another reason for patrons to go visit. There are a few places I wouldn’t have discovered without knowing that a band was playing there. So I do support the places that have caught on to the trend and I hope more places become open to inviting more artists into their spaces. It can be overlooked because the first thing one may think about when it comes to a pub or bar is beer and food. Adding live music is the cherry on top.
What are some of the negative things in the Dallas music scene you think need improvement?
There are a few ‘negative’ things that I honestly could point out. One is cliques being so tightknit that it prevents collaboration and/or imposes on people trying to grow within the scenes. There’s so many people trying to do similar things but don’t work together sometimes to actually achieve something. It takes away from the ‘community’ that we try so hard to maintain within the music scenes in Dallas.
I wish that it didn’t have to feel like someone is submitting a resume to book a show or get signed. Management, promoters, and bookies change within venues all the time. Point people in the right direction and try to establish consistency and ethics. It’s a business, but it should also be fun!
Where did you personally grow up and what styles of music are your personal favorites?
I’m a Dallas native. Born and raised. My favorite styles of music are Shoegaze and subgenres that are under it (Dream-Pop / Noise-Pop) and Post-Punk / Darkwave. I’ve been a fan of those genres since high school. I never listened to the radio but instead took pride in discovering obscure bands that had that non-mainstream pop sensibility. Like, how can this band write a pop song with a detuned guitar and a broken fuzz pedal? When I started learning how to play guitar, those bands really helped me understand that there’s so much more to rock than tradition, scales, and tone. I also didn’t have to know how to ‘shred’ to be a decent guitarist.
The electronic and experimental artists that have had releases through Moon Sounds, I met through mutual friends. It all started after I met Mr.Kitty outside of a venue he played downtown. We started hanging out. I used to run his lights and fog. From there, I got introduced to the Post-Punk scene in Dallas and eventually met CAT — I booked his first show — then Mike Textbeak when he DJ’d Wardance. The Delay In The Universal Loop I met when he played at King Camel’s Playhouse and then Dino Felipe was a mutual friend of my friend Logan in Florida who Runs Tachyons+ (an analog visual effects company). I wanted to get my feet wet with those genres and get a feel for how they’d do. I took the chance even if they sound a bit out of place in the catalogue. Looking at everything as a whole, I think everything is in its right place.
Moon Sounds’ homepage on the web is here: http://www.moonsoundsrecords.com/
Moon Sounds’ label page on Bandcamp is here: https://moonsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com/
Moon Sounds’ Facebook page is here: https://www.facebook.com/MoonSoundsRecords/
Moon Sounds has a showcase coming up on Monday, March 13 at Club Dada. Bloody Knives, Dead Leaf Echo, Nightmare Air, Paper Saints, and Mercury Rocket are all on the bill. The Facebook event page is here.