Shelton, Connecticut is the site of our latest foray into this ever-exciting phenomenon we call music. And today is particularly fun because A: I love a good interview, and B: I love getting to speak with artists doing things I’ve never had the privilege of highlighting on this blog before now. We’ve already featured the band The Inside Out a few posts ago in their superb show diary at Beeracks, but now we’re gonna focus on something else two of the members (Zach Stout and James Howard) are involved in along with Nick Howard.
The trio are owners of the Connecticut-based indie record label they’ve dubbed Black Barrel Records. I immediately jumped on the chance to ask these guys a couple of questions about owning/running a record label as the workings of one have always been fascinating to me. And while I’ve never viewed music as a sort of conveyor-ed factory floor process, it’s a curious thing to see how the sausage gets made at every stopping point. From the first notes at a band practice to how each melody gets out there to the masses.
Luckily, Zach, Nick and James were kind enough to answer some of my questions! Check out the interview and once you’re done head to the links below to find out more about Black Barrel and what they’re up to!
So how does a record label like Black Barrel get started, how do you make it come together?
James: We’ve put a lot of our mutual and different experiences in the music scene together, and we wanted to create something we can really stand behind that places the artists’ needs at the highest priority. We wanted a homebase for everything we were trying to accomplish. We hand designed and built our HQ and in-house recording studio. It all comes together with help from other peers of ours in the scene, friends and family, and most importantly the musicians we surround ourselves with.
As musicians first, what was the biggest adjustment about heading up a record label compared to focusing solely on the musical side?
Zach: Owning and operating a record label is a clearly completely different ball game than being solely a musician, but the latter greatly aids me in the former. Working in this new capacity has allowed me to further hone my communication skills with fellow artists and has allowed me to gain a deeper appreciation for different styles artists use for song development. Aside from the musical aspects of running a label, there’s always a lot of organization, innovation, and general upkeep involved to keep things running smoothly.
What’s the process like scouting/signing new talent and running your day to day? Especially with three of you and three different voices in the room?
James: We are really looking for professionalism and raw talent when we’re prospecting. Running our day to day has become a part of my full-time schedule here, especially with running our in-house studio.
Zach: We’ve started building our team with some interns, and hopefully in the future we’ll be bringing on some more and continue to keep on growing!
Now I’ve read that you have a recording studio rolled into this endeavor as well, what is a recording experience like for a band coming into Black Barrel? What is that space like to give our readers an idea?
Zach: I’m proud to have hand-built a thoughtfully designed recording studio utilizing years of theoretical and applied acoustical knowledge. It’s safe to say that we swing well above our weight in terms of sonic quality, equipment selection, and engineering expertise compared to many other local studios. The experience of recording at Black Barrel from an artist or band’s perspective has been described as a welcoming, custom-tailored, productive experience. Aesthetically, our four rooms have a unique feeling to them, each designed with an intended range of functionality. Our live room has woody tones with two shiplap walls, a custom SJC drum kit, and a high-end PA system. Our lounge sports a chesterfield couch, natural lighting from windows, and a large TV with a soundbar and sub perfect for playing music videos on. Our control room is the most modern looking room with its angled walls and ceiling, a beautiful desk filled with state-of-the-art outboard gear, and Focal monitors. Lastly, our acoustically-dead isolation booth provides an ideally articulate environment for vocalists. Of course, we have a couple full-sized barrels lying around in our lounge and live room.
Where do you see Black Barrel heading going forward, what projects are on the horizon?
Nick: I see the future of Black Barrel Records being focused on multiple endeavors that anyone artistically interactive can find personal vision in. In regards to music specifically, we intend to branch out into different locations down the line, but treat Shelton like our main objective area as it is growing in its current state. With other areas in the CT scene popping up, we want to be able to transport artists that work with us to concerts at the corners of our state and across tour-bound distances. That way, the music reaches an abundance of audiences. As BBR expands as a brand in the artistic space, people can surely look to it as a place to help them achieve their goals.
And what’s next for The Inside Out?
James: What’s next for the group is constantly changing with our schedules and how busy we can get, but I can definitely say we have new music and a tour lined up for this year. We’re looking forward to only getting busier!
Thanks again to James, Nick, and Zach for answering my questions for this interview! Check out our Beeracks post I linked to at the top of the page with The Inside Out, and check out the Black Barrel Instagram and website below!