Signal Path Podcast: International Anthem
Listen to the latest SIGNAL PATH podcast with Chicago record label INTERNATIONAL ANTHEM, which is known for its holistic approach to jazz and other experimental genres.
Hear the stories behind the sounds: Signal Path by Shure meets sonic innovators to explore how they're shaping the world of audio.
Episode 066: International Anthem
In this episode of Signal Path, Thomas Banks speaks with International Anthem co-founder Dave Allen and recording engineer David Vettraino. Focusing on jazz and other experimental genres, the Chicago-based labelhas put out more than 60 albums over the last 10 years and are famous for creating tactile products that look as good as they sound.
Thomas also asked the two Daves about how they recorded an entire album by Brandee Younger and Dezron Douglas remotely using just a single mic (the first generation of the MV88+) at the height of the Covid pandemic.
Thomas Banks: How did you find a space to create a new company dedicated to making physical objects of such great beauty?
Dave Allen: We started just by doing shows and were enamored with the music that was happening in Chicago, particularly in the like improvised experimental music space.
And pretty quickly the shows felt special, so we started recording them. We were really happy with them, and we thought “let's start a record label”. We also felt really strongly about using the physical object as a way to help the art reach more people, and so we put a lot of thought into how we would package them.
Thomas Banks: One of your releases Force Majeure was recorded during lockdown by Dezron Douglas and Brandee Younger. How did you go about making that with them when you were living in different cities?
Dave Allen: They're both such incredible musicians and, and during the lock early days of the lockdown, they were doing these brunch live streams. The performances they were doing livestream were so beautiful. So we were like, “how could we capture this?”I did some research, and I found the Shure MV88. It really improved the sound.
Thomas Banks: You guys have started this thing and now all of a sudden it grew for being something to your friends to a fantastic record label. What’s that been like?
David Vettraino: It's a lot of work. Just the, the logistics side of it, records, shipping them all around the world, takes up a lot of our time. It's great because we believe in the cause and we're down with it to make it happen. But sometimes that leaves less time to engineer.
Dave Allen: It’s definitely been a journey. I think we've already surpassed our initial vision for what was would ever be possible with the label and what we would be able to accomplish for the artists, and what kind of audience we would be able to reach.
But then, you know, it opens up a whole new chapter of “what is the life of this going to be and how do we continue to serve the artists? How do we really help them with what they need in their careers and how do we continue to reach people and broaden our audience? How do we continue to deal with all the logistical details while also having the time to do the parts of the label that we really enjoy?”
David Vettraino: I've played in a lot of bands that have put out records, and I’ve worked for other record labels too. And you'll submit a record to a label and they'll just be like, “oh, sounds great.” And they give you no further comments.
And I sometimes I'm like, “just tell me to turn the vocals up!” Anything just to prove that you like, have more, like some substantial feedback.
So that’s what I love about our label: it's really refreshing to know that we're all really committed to the music that's coming out. All this great art has been happening in Chicago and other places, and we just happen to be able to tap into it and document it and curate it a little bit. We’re able to package it in a way that can be more accessible to a lot of different people.
Thomas Banks: How did you get this unified design? There's a very coherent look to the catalog and it's very distinctive.
Dave Allen: I think in the beginning we had the idea that we needed to have a recognizable brand aesthetic and packaging that both looked cool and felt special and was unique and that people would recognize. That way, a person who was unfamiliar with them may be intrigued enough to at least look.
But we also wanted to do it in a way where it didn't impede on the artist's vision for the artwork. So they can still be free to have whatever art feels appropriate to them. And I do think it's proven over time to be a real asset.
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