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August 2, 2010 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Label: Mole Music


Age: 4 (ish)
Salient Picks: Sharpie Crows, DHDFDs, Rifles, Nevernudes, Deer Park… fuck, all of them

After a brief hiatus, the series of pieces on New Zealand record labels has returned. This week I talked to Sam Walsh, of Auckland-based Mole Music, who are responsible for bands such as Nevernudes, ex-Wellingtonians Sharpie Crows, Deer Park, and Wellington residents The Body Lyre.

It all began about four years ago, with Walsh working with bands such as The Vacants, and moving from there: “There have been some pretty big gaps in regards to the label’s output, as it’s always been run on a part-time basis, which is why our releases are a bit muddily. I was overseas for a while but moved back to New Zealand earlier in the year to study, so Deer Park, Rifles, Nevernudes, Sharpie Crows, Mild America and Body Lyre are all fairly new projects.”

Mole’s approach to the label-artist relationship shares a similar ethos to those that we have covered before: they don’t have binding agreements (Walsh quips “I’m not sure what I would actually offer them if I did.”), rather it is a mutually beneficial partnership between the two parties: “In the past, we would create weird mini-partnerships with bands, and depending on what the project is, provide organisational and financial support. This year I’m trying to do it a little bit differently though, and have been working much more collaboratively with bands to create something more like a family or small gang, which has been way cooler, and I think (hope) the bands feel like they are part of something communal rather than a strict, creatively subdued business arrangement.”

While the relationship between Mole and their bands echoes that of previously mentioned labels, the point of difference with Mole would have to be production quality. Across the board, their roster appears to have a definite onus on quality of recordings, something which Walsh admits is a factor in who they collaborate with, even if not the defining quality: “In regards to production, we are pretty strict about quality (within a releases context), but the production varies from band to band with each release. We do have a studio we have started working with, and a few of our upcoming projects were recorded there, but by no means will every future Mole release be taken there. Believing what you hear when you watch a performance or hear a song is super important to us and would definitely be the main factor in choosing bands. Also what type of people are in the bands—their work ethic, personality, ideas and stuff can sometimes be just as important as the music they are making, so that also helps shape our overall aesthetic.”

Thus, with this framework in mind, Mole has set about working with the aforementioned bands, promoting, funding, recording and assisting their groups where possible. It will always be difficult to get your bands’ material out into a wider audience, but that’s not Walsh’s short-term target: he understands the limitations of what Mole is doing, and embraces it, pushing his bands towards audiences that he knows will enjoy the output, rather than incessant promotion of bands everywhere he can: “Promoting our stuff is definitely something we have have started getting better at, but also an area we still need to improve on. There are so many avenues available with Facebook and Bandcamp and MySpace and Twitter and blah blah blah, which are amazing resources, but it can sometimes get really overwhelming. With Mole we have platforms for letting people know about what we are doing and we have relationships with media and radio etc, which is helpful for our bands and something I really want to continue to develop this year; we are also trying to figure out who actually listens to what we put out, and focus our promotional efforts on them. We are just a tiny label so angling what resources we do have towards the smaller but evangelic group of supporters makes more sense for us than a watered-down attempt at preaching to a larger group of the uninterested.”

It’s a method that has resulted in good exposure for Mole music over recent months, particularly with the release of their band sampler, The Burrow, Pt 1. Walsh not only works with his bands, but also together with other labels and people around Auckland and Australia. “Everyone seems to want to work together rather than compete with one another, which is pretty special… There has been an increase in the number of worthwhile bands coming out in New Zealand over the last year or so and lots of younger kids are starting to get involved in making and presenting music, which is super rad.”

Effectively, everyone seems to be working towards a situation where everyone can help one another out, between bands, and between labels. It’s this appreciation of mutual benefit that has helped so many bands across the country (mostly in Auckland though) get started, and get the recognition that they deserve. Mole Music has planned six releases, in addition to tours and shows on the back of these, just in the next few months. It’s the busiest they’ve ever been, and is probably a reflection of the burgeoning quality in the work that they are releasing. Walsh is contemplating a move to China next year, so will either “take Mole with me, or put it to bed. I’m not quite sure yet”. Either way, Walsh and Mole are yet another label reinforcing the quality of current music around New Zealand, and leading from the front too: they’re not just another independent New Zealand label, they’re one with the best roster of current bands around. Look it up.


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