A lot of labels are kicking things off by putting out tapes and then slowly easing their way into releasing vinyl. Massachusettes-based Counter Intuitive Records has shown themselves true to their name by plunging directly into the deep end and releasing vinyl from the start. With bands like Bay Faction and Motel TV causing a bit of a stir in the indie rock scene (and a very intelligent response to some controversy surrounding Motel TV) Counter Intuitive has gotten off to a great start. Below is an interview I was able to have with label head Jake via email.
Rob 1340 (RF): Can you please tell me the story of how Counter Intuitive Records came to be?
Jake Sulzer (JS): In January 2015 I was browsing the subreddit /r/emo when I came across a post that was titled “Hey guys I'm in a small band out of Boston that like to think that we have a lot of both R&B and emo influences. Anyway if you care to, check this new demo out.” I listened to it through the speakers of my iPhone 4 in bed at 2 AM and thought it was the coolest thing I had heard in awhile. I was just about to start my last semester of college and felt all the standard things that come with that; lack of direction, mostly. The band was called Bay Faction. I immediately sent them a message asking if they had any interest in getting the demo pressed on 7”. I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to do it or not, I had only thought about pressing a friends band once before but never thought about it seriously, but I figured I’d at least see what they would say. They responded the next day saying they were writing a full length and that might be better to work on. 8 months later I put out 500 copies of Bay Faction’s self-titled 12” LP as my first release and found a small amount of direction.
RF: Where did the name Counter Intuitive Records come from?
JS: I had committed to Bay Faction for a few months and was running out of time to decide on a name before I had to put in the artwork for the vinyl with my logo. I was gonna go with Underwater Ally Records for a while after watching the Napolean Dynamite Loch Ness Monster scene. I was stressing over it and basically said to myself that wanting a clever name to catch people’s attention is counterintuitive to just getting their attention by putting out good music.
RF: What are some of the things you learned putting out your first release?
JS: There are a lot more expenses than what you expect when you look at the first quote you get for vinyl and think “that’s not that much”. I try to budget hundreds more than I need for every release for the stuff I overlook and don’t realize I need until a week before the albums are gonna start shipping.
RF: What is your current roster and where did you find these bands?
JS: I currently have 4 bands on the roster. Bay Faction, Plainclothes, Motel TV, and Weakened Friends.
Bay Faction were the first release, followed by Plainclothes which I put out shortly after Bay Faction. They had already put out their album digitally when I saw a tweet from Washed Up Emo that said they were a new band to look out for. Turns out they were mostly based out of Worcester which is less than 30 minutes from me, and their album was amazing so I got in touch and convinced them to let me press it on 10”. They have been really great to work with and have become friends of mine. They are the first band I went on the road with after I booked them a 3 day weekend in mid May.
Motel TV came about because I wanted to try to broaden my horizons a bit within the umbrella of indie rock. Although Bay Faction are pretty indie, they are still pretty fast paced. And Plainclothes is more of an emo/punk band, so when I heard Motel TV’s relaxed vibes I really was able to get into them quickly and imagine it being the type of EP I would have gotten stoned while listening to every day when I was 19. They really have the ability to take you away. This new EP they wrote has some really epic songs for a short little 4-song release and I’m very excited for it to come out this summer and for people to hear what they are capable of.
Weakened Friends came about when I saw that they were playing a show in Lowell with a friends band. One listen to their sound live and you can tell that not only are they all tight/talented musicians but Sonia’s voice is ridiculous. I chatted with her at that show and wanted to see if they were interested in working together and then after 6-7 months of back and forth online we came to a solid agreement to not only put out their new EP, but their debut EP, and another single all on one 12” vinyl. We just put out their first single from the new EP at the start of May!
RF: You’ve released vinyl for every band on the label. A lot of other labels that would fit the same mold as you choose to do a lot of tapes/cds before plunging into vinyl. What made you decide to stick with wax?
JS: I wanted to set myself a part when I first decided to put bands out because I didn’t think many labels my size were doing vinyl (turns out a lot more than I thought are). I also love vinyl and have been collecting for years now. I understand wanting to do tapes/cds to begin with, and some labels I’m friends with are killing the tape/cd game right now. It’s just all about where you are at financially when you decide to start and I was lucky to have been saving for awhile before I found Bay Faction. I stuck with wax because I felt it was the format I would want to buy the most, and I figure other people feel the same way.
RF: What is your dream for the label? When would you feel like you ‘made it’?
JS: I used to sit and listen to albums in my room at college, read the lyrics along to the songs on the vinyl insert and try to immerse myself in the experience. I distinctly remember listening to Hoffman Manor by State Lines and looking at the Meadowbrook Records logo on the back and thinking, “man, it is so cool that they got to be a part of this album.” So I guess my dream is that somebody out there is listening to one of these records, finding the same merit in it that I did, and thinking that same thing to themselves when they see my logo. Maybe that could inspire them the way it did for me. That would mean the world to me.
In terms of feeling like I made it, obviously the ability to pay my bills from this would be satisfying, but I think the most validating things would be selling out a record much faster than expected, or having one of my bands get picked up by a bigger label that has put out the bands that I’ve been following for years.
RF: Do you fear getting burned like some labels do when an artist takes a release to a larger label? Do you have contracts with your artists at all?
JS: I really wish the best for all my artists and want them to get as much exposure and opportunity as possible. I’m not too worried cause I trust them all to at least not screw me over. I have simple 1-page contracts with a few of them just to get rights to the vinyl pressing.
RF: What is the thing about your label that makes it important to you?
JS: It’s important to me because it is allowing me to actively participate in a community I believe in. Especially in my area (MA/New England) but also the online community. It’s ridiculously lucky to be in an area where I’m surrounded by so many good bands and so many friends that are incredibly talented musicians... it’s just something you can’t find as easily in like 80% of the country.
I can book a show and have some of my favorite current bands play it. I can save a few thousand dollars and press some of my favorite current bands on vinyl. I can go to a show every weekend and see people my age that feel the exact same way I do about music and watch them support each other and create friendships based on this mutual feeling. And I can post bands online to communities where people can connect to the ideas and feelings in these songs from around the globe. Even on a small scale it feels nice to contribute.
I met a fellow label owner when I was out in Cali recently and he was putting on a show that I was able to attend and I got to see an amazing band play and it was a highlight of my trip. I’ve spoken to people around the world that have reached out just to talk to me about what I’m doing and what they are doing. I only started like 8 months ago and I’ve already met a lot of great people because of it and it’s created opportunities for me to really enjoy music on a more personal level.
So I guess to sum it up, the community it allows me to participate it is the most important part.
RF: If you could sign any band out there, who would you sign?
JS: This is tough but I would have loved to be a part of Donovan Wolfington’s latest album How to Treat the Ones You Love. Best band name also.
RF: How can people find out more about Counter Intuitive?
JS: I only post more important “press release” type stuff on the facebook page but I’m always on the label twitter talking music stuff so please interact with me. Also, I post all the cool pics on insta...I’ve got a lot of free time. Anyone should hit me up on any social media/email and I’m happy to talk about everything and anything music/label related.
Fb link: http://facebook.com/counterintuitiverecords
RF: Thank you very much!