By Victoria King
Male Activity is a Winnipeg-based experimental music label. Run by Bret Parenteau, 24, the label represents Parenteau’s own projects (B.P., Bedroom Suite, Gashkadin), as well as several artists from Winnipeg and abroad – as far away as the UK and Birmingham, AL. Founded in the summer of 2012, Male Activity began with Parenteau and his good friend, Paul Kinasevych. Kinasevych was the labelhead of Male Activity until the summer of 2015, when he moved to Calgary, AB for university. It was then that he handed everything over to Bret. The self-described ‘Evan Goldberg’ of the two, Parenteau has been quietly working away at the label for the last year, putting his own spin on things. Welcoming new artists and listeners all the time, Stylus and Parenteau sat down together one Saturday afternoon at the Good Will Social Club.Stylus: If I was fresh to this whole idea of what you’re doing, how would you describe Male Activity to me?
Bret Parenteau: I would describe it as a place where you should come with an open mind if you want to get into the experimental realm of music. You can start anywhere [in the discography]. If you want to delve into experimental music, Male Activity is the place to be.
Stylus: How did you get started with this project?
BP: It started with two people – me and my friend Paul. We were in his basement in 2012, and he had a bunch of blank tapes. He was like, ‘Hey, why don’t we make a tape label?’ I was like ‘OK, let’s do it.’ We did our first two releases that following month, and we didn’t really think of it as a full time thing – just more of a hobby, something we would do in our spare time. As we went along, it just got more serious and eventually Paul moved to Calgary, so he gave it all to me so I’m doing it all myself now.
Stylus: Did you feel apprehensive to take things over when Paul left?
BP: I felt a little uneasy, like ‘Do I want to do this?’ It basically was his label, I was just helping contribute music, and helping with stock and stuff. I felt like I had these big shoes to fill when he left, and I was debating whether or not I would do it anymore. I took a five or six month break and decided that I would do it, but I would do it my way, which is at a laid back and slow pace. I don’t want it to frustrate me at all. And it’s good, because now I am putting out all these releases. When I took over, I released three tapes in eight months. He would do 10 in three months.
Stylus: Are you feeling comfortable with things right now?
BP: Ya, I feel extremely comfortable. I have no desire to stop anytime soon. I’m at the best spot with the label right now.
Stylus: In terms of different genres of experimental music, what would you say Male Activity focuses on?
BP: Just analog noise I would say, pedal noise. A lot of the releases I’ve been doing lately have been really ambient-based too, so I think it bounces between harsh noise and ambient . . . I really can’t stand the sound of anything made on a computer. I find it not really inspiring at all. I find it kinda lazy. But that’s no offense to great digital noise artists out there, it’s just not my type of thing. So whenever I look for an artist I make sure it’s the grittiest nastiest sounding stuff made on an analog pedal.
Stylus: You maintain a really open and accessible attitude about the label. Is that intentional?
BP: Yes. Even though I don’t put the label out there that much [promotionally], I still want to be open and invite people to come listen – there’s nothing to be scared of. [Laughs]
Stylus: I’ve noticed that Male Activity’s releases vary: some are quite abrasive and harsh, and others are mixed with more gentle sounds. It remains consistent and cohesive, but with varying tones.
BP: I like it that way because it’s exciting for the listener and they’re not just stuck listening to one thing. Abrasive and harsh is fine, but would you want to listen to that for five hours? I don’t think I would want to do that.
Stylus: How does this project fit into your life?
BP: I would never want to see it as a job, otherwise I wouldn’t want to do it anymore. It’s definitely my creative output. I have these ideas bouncing in my head all day, and it’s great to release them. It feels so good when you have an idea, and then you have a physical thing in front of you. Now I get to share it with other people too.
Stylus: It seems like this genre of music really thrives on the internet, in a way that other genres of music don’t. Would you say that’s a fair observation?
BP: Totally. If there was no internet, I would have a hard time putting out the releases that I do. The artists on my label are from all over – Hamilton ON, another is in the UK. There’s no way I can talk to these people without messaging them online. What are we going to do, send postcards back and forth to one another? [Laughs]
Stylus: Because you’re existing in a smaller city like Winnipeg, have you ever had the intention of representing Winnipeg artists?
Oh ya. I have a compilation called “Transmissions.” I wanted to document the unheard experimental artists here in Winnipeg, and I just did the second volume in the summer time. On that, there’s Freshwater Girls, Korea Undok Group, several others. There are so many artists you just don’t know because we don’t perform live, so there isn’t really a [live] scene at all. That was my main goal, to document the artists here in Winnipeg . . . I’m looking to do a third one in the summertime.
Listen to Male Activity online at male-activity.bandcamp.com. Stay tuned for new releases, and and a new Winnipeg “Transmissions” compilation this summer.