Sniffling Indie Kids. Leaving a positive footprint through creativity and quality.

Just as fanzines and music blogs serve as the CNN of underground music. It’s the Independent Record Labels that provide the vehicle for which we enjoy much of the current music that comes out of our often thriving music scenes. For bands that cannot or do not wish to beg for crumbs from the all consuming music industry. Independent labels such as Sniffling Indie Kids serve as a home and comfort zone for many bands. In my years as co creator of United By Rocket Science and now with Document. I was happy to find that the D.I.Y. (Do it Yourself) ethos I grew up on was still alive and thriving. In a relatively short time. SIK has served up plenty of evidence and musical inspiration. I recently reached out to Frank and Eric to get an inside look at what makes this label such a integral part of New Jersey’s independent music scene. JD

Despite the musicality and quality of the labels releases. The name Sniffling Indie Kids as well as the labels logo have a very juvenile look and sound. What’s behind the term “Sniffling Indie Kids” and the logo?

1548103_475041302621830_2124325547_oFrank: I’m stealing a quote from Eric on this one…”The name Sniffling Indie Kids comes from the Hold Steady song “Positive Jam” and it very much signifies our perspective on life and music. Take the music very seriously but don’t take yourself too seriously.” Plus, being able to use the acronym “SIK” has been a lot of fun because we’re putting out the “SIK-est” indie records in NJ. Basically, the name sounded cool, funny and memorable so we just kind of went with it. As for the logo, we had one of our favorite cartoonists make it. His name is Steven Darden (http://www.stevendarden.com/) and he rules. We now however have a new logo that we are using that was based on the original text, but re-imagined by YJY’s Steve Sachs (http://cargocollective.com/stevesachs/).

You had attempted and somewhat succeeded to create something very inspiring with the Tiny Giants Collective. What became of that and do youn think there were any lessons to learn from the experience?

Frank: The Tiny Giant Artist Collective was more or less an experiment. It was an unbelievable learning experience. It was a friendship builder, a network expander, a musical opinion forum and a self destructing nightmare. Basically, we wanted to build a network to expand communication of great bands and people passionately involved in the music scenes throughout the tri-state area. We kind of achieved some of that, however in the process, the move towards attempting to be purely democratic somewhat destroyed it. When the original five people started it, it was very content driven, and held a high standard for quality as well as the people we would have involved. But as time passed and more people got involved, it was a standard “too many cooks in the kitchen” scenario which overall degraded the quality of the group. It also had become filled with too many people with a focus on “me” and not enough on “we.”

Sniffling Indie Kids is the direct punch back at what we initially tried at building. We now have jobs and some (not a lot) of money to work with, so we figured we could take the mistakes we learned from the TGAC and build something better with SIK as a record label instead of a collective. Not to sound like a pompous control freak, but I’ve always felt the three of us who run SIK have very good ears and more often than not are on the same page in regard to who we would like to work with.

2015 was a very busy year for SIK with a number of noteworthy releases. With all the urgency. Is there any fear or burnout?

Eric: No. Well maybe. Who knows? We are involved in a lot of musical projects ourselves, besides the bands that we work with, so there definitely is the possibility of burning out at some point. However, at the moment we are going to kick ass while there is ass to be kicked and let the future bring what it will.

You’ve been releasing material at a somewhat frantic pace. What is it about these bands, their music, or both that inspire you and makes you feel they need such immediate attention?

10556987_820880974704526_7296137088715908032_oEric: The majority of the bands are people that we have known in the scene for a long time in various other musical incarnations. Occasionally, we hear someone new that we want to work with, but it’s always organic as far as finding out about them.

Frank: Also, a lot of the bands we are working with are very prolific song writers. It makes it easy to continually put out new material when bands are putting out 1-2 full releases a year.

With the overwhelming amount of noteworthy acts in the current local scened. How do you maintain a quality over quantity?

Frank: Since we’ve known the people we work with for quite some time, we try to keep it a close knit family circle. The people currently in the circle have yet to disappoint our ears.

Eric: At the same time we won’t release anything that doesn’t align with our personal tastes.

Aside from yourselves, (Frank & Eric) Who else is involved, both creatively and monetarily?

Frank: So the label is run by Eric Goldberg, Joe Lanza and myself (Frank DeFranco). At the same time, the label somewhat operates in the collective way that TGAC did with people pitching in here and there to help further achieve our goals (like Steve with the logo).

Eric: Also, there have been multiple blogs (such as this one) that have been loyal to helping support our cause. Jim from CoolDad Music was gracious enough to go so far as co-hosting an Indie Pop Winter Formal with us in Asbury Park.

How hands on are you with the recordings and mastering? Who else, besides the bands themselves, are involved with the process?

Frank: So as far as recording, often Joe will lend out his hand in helping get music tracked for anyone on the label. There are others involved such as Max Rauch (LKFFCT & NGHTCRWLRS) and Erik Romero (Dollys) who are in bands on the label who record/mix/master a lot of other bands involved with the label. Additionally, our long time close friends Jeremy Cimino and Skylar Adler have played a behind the scenes role in making a lot of the records released on the label sound as good as they do. We ourselves tend to not get too involved in the making of the records (except if Joe is involved), however we do make sure that all of our releases are held to a certain standard of quality.

You recently celebrated your first vinyl release with Rocky Catanese’s “New Day Old Night”. Was there something special or unique that influenced you to go the extra mile by pressing it on to vinyl?

rcatc-digital-album-coverFrank: Obviously we dug the record, but besides that, there’s a few reasons why we did. One, he really wanted to do it, so much so that he offered to put up half the funds to help make it happen. Two, we wanted to put out something on vinyl in our first year of existence. Three, we’ve known Rocky for a long time and he was a reliable person to do this with. Four, we knew that when Rocky said he would be playing out a lot and touring to support the record, we could trust his word. If it were financially possible we’d put out everything on vinyl, but that just is not an option for us at this time.

Eric: We look forward to doing more vinyl releases via our upcoming limited edition Sniffling Indie Singles series. These will be 7″ lathe cut splits of two bands on the label.

You mentioned that while you’re not seeking out bands to sign. You definitely have plans in place for future releases. Care to fill us in? Or is it a deeply guarded industry secret?

Eric: Our next release is Delicate Flowers in April. The rest is a closely guarded secret.

To order or find more information about Sniffling Indie Kids. Click the link below.

http://www.snifflingindiekids.com/

 

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At Home in the Studio with Skylar Adler

Skylar Adler, perhaps best known as the drummer for celebrated acts The Nico Blues and The Sound is Fine. Has quickly, yet somewhat quietly been making a name for himself as one of the go to engineers in a thriving local indie music scene. While I’ve come to know him through his former and present acts, as well as his contributions to The Tiny Giants Collective (R.I.P.) It wasn’t until a chance run in at a local Home Depot last year that we really had the opportunity to engage one another in any substantial way. In co-creating Document Fanzine. I felt the need to not only reach out and support the bands, but to do the same for the ones recording, releasing, documenting and supporting them. For myself, as well as those he’s worked with, Skylar embodies just that. Thanks Buddy. J.D.

James: Most of the recording engineers I come across are older guys who were musicians long before ever making it to the other end of the console. I’m pretty sure you’re the youngest one I know to have the kind of experience you do. Can you give me a little background on your time as a musician and what originally inspired you to get behind the console?

Skylar: I started out on electric guitar when I was 10 years old. Playing in bands took up most of my free time for the next decade and a half. Reed Adler (my older brother/The Nico Blues/The Sound is Fine), Eric Goldberg (TNB/NGHTCRWLRS/All Sensory Void), Dan Goldberg (TNB/ASV), and I used to drive to elementary school together. Reed and Eric are the reason I became obsessed with rock ‘n roll. They used to play Nirvana and Green Day and Oasis on our way to school every day.

I switched over to drums when Reed picked up a guitar and was better than me after a month, even though I’d been playing for a couple years. My interest in recording grew naturally since I was about 13. My parents bought me a shitty digital 8 track. I messed with that for a while. In high school, I convinced myself that I could figure out how to record my current band at the time. I fell down that rabbit hole fast. A decade later, I’m still working every day to learn as much as I can.

James: Have you had any proper training or degree in the field? Or has it been a “learn as you go” baptism?

Skylar: I spent 4 years at SUNY Purchase in the Studio Production program. At the end of one year, I handed in The Nico Blues’ Blame the Boredom, Blame the Basements. At the end of my senior year, I handed in Die Happy. It’s hilarious when what you are doing anyway in your free time fulfills some big “end of semester project”. I think Die Happy was my thesis haha… It was fucking great. Met some good friends there.

Skylar Ross Recording Control Room New

Despite those 4 years, everything I currently know about being a recording engineer is from making mistakes at one time or another. That’s really the only way to learn what works and what doesn’t.

James: How does your experience as a musician help you, if at all, as a an engineer?

Skylar:I think having a bunch of experience playing music and being in bands for most of my life plays a very big role in who I am as an engineer.

I really connect with the passion and life of the bands trying to get their music out there. I’ve had some less than great experiences recording in studios where the engineer absolutely did not give a shit. It’s ridiculous. I just feel honored to have the chance to do this at all. Personal experiences like that have really helped shape the way I interact with the bands I record.

James: Correct me if I’m wrong. (And I often am.) Aren’t you working with           Jungle City Studios? If so, how did the opportunity come about?

Skylar: I worked at Jungle City Studios for a year after I graduated from SUNY Purchase. Prior to Jungle City, I’d just been running my own studio. So, it was a great experience entering the (often bizarre) world of the Top 40 hip-hop and pop game. After a year there, I decided to shift my full focus into my own studio. Jungle City was awesome though. There were a lot of characters there.

James: What made you think and… in the end, decide to build a home studio?     Can you tell me about the building process?

Skylar: The studio has gone through many phases. When I first decided to invest in recording equipment, I purchased a very basic setup. We used to just have band practice where the studio is now. This early recording setup was intended to capture some live practices and new song ideas. But then it developed into me recording and mixing my band’s full length Tall Tales of Tiny Giants (that’s where the name “Tiny Giant” in the Tiny Giant Artist Collective came from) and recording other bands on the cheap.

Skylar Ross Recording Live Room

Early on, I decided to put most of the money I made recording right back into the studio. There have been a bunch of people who have helped me put up walls and doors and acoustic treatment over the years. I’ve spent a crazy amount of time reading and learning as much as I could about recording studio acoustics and equipment. I’ve just taken it one step at a time. About a year ago, we built a second wall and door between my live room and control room to help isolate the noise between the two rooms. We also upgraded all of our acoustic treatment to help balance out the frequency response of those two rooms. All this stuff was done to simply help achieve better quality recordings.

James: While studio time can be expensive. Recording equipment IS quite expensive. What do think are some of the benefits of owning compared to renting?

Skylar: Yeah. Recording equipment is stupidly expensive. I occasionally used to rent some crazy vintage tube microphones and rack gear. Just for a day or two. It’s interesting to hear how a $12,000 microphone from the 60’s performs. We thought Evan Campbell broke one of them once while recording some loud vocal parts at the end of The Nico Blues’ track Sinking or Standing. He almost had to flee the country. But to answer your question, when in the studio nearly every day, renting equipment would cost way, way more than purchasing does.

James: I can’t say, exactly, what I was expecting. But I was really impressed with what you’ve done. The place is very clean and professional looking. 

Skylar Ross Recording Desk Close

Skylar: Thank you so much!

James: What bands / musicians have you worked with thus far?

Skylar: A few include Morning…, Lake Effect, Adam and the Plants, Bloody Your Hands (ex: I Am The Heat), Johanna Samuels, All Sensory Void, La La Lush, Blue Chip Village (now known as Gone Quite Mad), Delicate Flowers, Dad Brother, Tory Anne Daines …

All The Nico Blues albums and The Sound is Fine EP too like I talked about above. Apart from engineering the drums (I played drums for those two bands), the rest was recorded in my studio.

There’re a handful of others, but that’s a pretty good chunk off the top of my head.

James: Is there something special you bring to the table or offer that sets you apart?

Skylar: Hmm. I just really, seriously enjoy working closely with musicians to create the best recordings possible. It’s just totally worth it to me to work insane hours if it will result in an output that is special to people. Even if it’s just the bands themselves.

Skylar Ross Recording Organ

The space I’ve set up here is meant to be completely unintimidating. I use much of the same equipment as the gigantic recording complexes, but I try my best to keep things very relaxed. That’s when the best shit happens.

At the end of the day, I just love seeing bands that feel inspired by and completely excited about the record they’ve created out of thin air and are about to release. That means the world to me.