Meredith Graves is hurting from the jet-lag left over from her most recent tour through Australia with her band, Perfect Pussy, and she’s still getting acclimated to her new home in Brooklyn. Plus, she’s got quite enough on her plate, with band practice, songwriting, her own independent creative pursuits (photography, a forthcoming solo record, baking), and getting to know the shortcuts and subway stops of her new neighborhood. She’s successful, driven, and very, very busy, but Graves just threw another beast into the whirling mix of her endeavors: She’s just launched her own label, Honor Press, and she’s not wasting any time getting its music out there.
“The idea sort of came about really fast!” she recalls. A lunch with Mike Sniper — founder and owner of Captured Tracks, Perfect Pussy’s label, and Omnian Music Group, the conglomerate that includes Captured Tracks and Honor Press under its umbrella — was what led to Graves packing her bags and putting the plans in motion to start an imprint of her own. “[He said,] ‘If you move to Brooklyn, you will start this label and we can do this cool stuff together. Why don’t you try? Life is short. Move to Brooklyn. Let’s do this.’ We started talking about this at the beginning of last summer, in one of the two-week periods when Perfect Pussy was home from tour. It always lingered in the back of my mind, and then in September, opportunities started popping up, and I moved here, and the first thing I said was, ‘Do you still want to do this with me? Yeah? OK! Let’s go!’ It came about in this natural, organic way through mutual weirdness and excitement.”
“Weird” is the adjective — the compliment — at the heart of Honor Press’s musical identity, as Graves is quite clear about the kind of musicians she’s interested in working with. She’s not looking for genre mates or someone to match Perfect Pussy’s demolishing punk leanings, and she’s mentioned that she’s hoping to bring young jazz musicians into the fray. A commitment to sticking to your creative guns is clutch, and she couldn’t care less about pressure from the industry or those who subscribe to its norms, as far as cultivating Honor Press’s roster is concerned.
“I prefer weirdos,” she says. “If you’re a nice, sweet weirdo, I want to hear your band. If you’re just doing what you do because it makes you happy and you don’t really care, that’s the band I want to hear. I want to hear the band you’d be in anyway even if no one cared. That’s what we were. We were dicking around for a year and a half doing nothing, being in a weird movie and making a bunch of floppy disks with an 8-bit version of our demo on them. All of a sudden, people liked us. If there are other bands out there like me, making freaky, weird art and Rice Krispies treats for band practice one minute, and then all of a sudden we’re talking to someone about going to Europe — oh my God. If I can do that for someone else that wants it, my life is made.”
The first of these weirdo acts to score an Honor Press deal is So Stressed, Sacramento noise outfit and one of the guests of honor at Perfect Pussy’s Perfect Weekend. Perfect Pussy and Honor Press will be taking over Baby’s All Right on April 3 and 4, and Graves is thrilled not only to have Honor Press’s first signee in New York but to be sharing the stage with them. Graves came to know So Stressed through the singer’s blog, and was a huge fan of Morgan Fox’s “excruciatingly funny” experimental writing. “It was written from this perspective of absolute nothingness, of someone screaming into the void,” she says of Fox’s Tumblr (which, sadly, has been scrubbed from the internet). Graves would go on to strike up an email correspondence with Fox and eventually invite him to a Perfect Pussy show, and from there the two became friends, with Graves eventually listening to the “violent, abrasive”–sounding record Fox spent two years recording and was about to discard for good. That’s when she signed him, and that record, The Unlawful Trade of Greco-Roman Art, will see its release via Honor Press on May 26.
“Within ten minutes of listening to it, I said, ‘Let me put this out. I’m moving to Brooklyn to start this label.’ He said, ‘You don’t want to do that.’ ‘The fuck I don’t!’ ”
On the next page: How Honor Press got its motto and Perfect Pussy’s Perfect Weekend details.[
But that’s really the heart of Honest Press, for Graves: If she wanted to run a label that churned out sanitized releases everyone would listen to, that no one would feel passionately enough about to chuck in the bin or play on repeat, she…well, she wouldn’t be Meredith Graves. She and Perfect Pussy were supported when they were making the music they believed in and enjoyed solely on their own, and she wants to do the same for those who sign with Honor Press.
“If you say to yourself, ‘I’m going to start and maintain a record label!’ that sounds like ‘I’m going to wage war with my next-door neighbors and make a water balloon cannon!’ ” she laughs. “That’s a commitment. If I look at myself and say, ‘I’m helping my friends put out a record,’ that’s a language I speak. Really, it’s about realizing how unimportant you are. It’s about coming at it from an angle of servitude rather than an angle of music industry ego inflation.”
The only criterion Graves is treating as gospel is the label’s motto, which she jokes about translating into Latin and running along the bottom of the label’s site: No Snobs, No Phonies, No Shitheads. She’s the first person to tell you that she’s figuring all things Honor Press out as she goes, but that’s not only part of the fun — it’s part of the point.
“The thing about this label that I think will become more transparent in the months to come, and something I’m willing to go through publicly, is this: I don’t know what I’m doing,” she says. “It’s like [Perfect Pussy]: We’d only played three shows when we were offered a record deal. We wrote our record not ever having played those songs live. I’ve been becoming a musician and writer in front of the world. Sometimes, playing shows feels like band practice. We’ve only been a band for a year, so for me to jump in and say that I want to start a record label with almost no previous experience, I’m hoping it will make other people — younger people — realize that they can do it too. What I do is learn. I’m studying, and people are watching me do it.”
Perfect Pussy and Honor Press will take over Baby’s All Right April 3 and April 4 alongside So Stressed, Sick Feeling, Meat Wave, and more. Tickets are still available for April 4’s show; April 3 has sold out, but tickets are available on the secondary market.
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