Label Profile – Lovepump United

2100244By Taylor Burgess

While attending Vassar College in New York, Jake Friedman and Mookie Singerman used to play in the band Glitter Pals. They released their own record under the name Lovepump United, and then started releasing other artists. It became a balancing act between school and Lovepump: Friedman built a loft in his dorm room to hold inventory, they used the school’s copy machines for their records’ inserts, and they subverted the college’s money for shows. They were first noticed internationally for AIDS Wolf’s Lovvers LP, and then for the HEALTH and Crystal Castles split 7”. Despite their growing killer catalogue, they still laugh about how people consider them a real label, like when Stylus contacted them for an interview. We sent them some questions via email, but it took a couple weeks of badgering them to get them back. They’re busy guys, managing the label and a handful of bands each, so we were constantly met with “We’ll get it to you tomorrow!” Our print deadline loomed closer and closer until we gave them the good ol’ “Today-or-never” ultimatum and they coughed up this wonderful, extremely long response. We couldn’t possibly fit it all on a page, but on a webpage, it’s just the right length.

Stylus: Some of Lovepump United’s releases could be seen as troublesome or not easily accessible, like AIDS Wolf or Indian Jewelry. What do you see in your artists that other people might not?

JF: Music’s too boring. Everything’s too boring. We started the label when we were young enough to take risks. At a certain point it’s hard to take risks. There either isn’t enough support or it seems selfish and naive. But when you’re a selfish, naive, weird kid, it makes perfect sense that the strangest, most exciting, new shit would become your entire life. And that’s what happened for us.

MS: Not to sound immodest, but in most if not all of our bands (especially the weirder ones) we see the possibility of them pushing independent and underground music in new directions.

JF: We kinda started the label from the point of view that too many of our favorite bands never got heard by anyone and that all the shit that did get heard sounded like music for moms and not dangerous or edgy.

Stylus: Whenever you do put out a record, what kinds of personal requirements does it have to meet?

JF: We put out so few releases that we have an unspoken understanding of what makes a Lovepump band. Mookie and I are best friends so a new artist on the label will consume our professional lives and our personal lives. We’re spending all our energy and time and love and opinions. So if we had any doubts about the musical or personal integrity of the people we worked with–we wouldn’t be able to work with them and the label would fall apart. If we didn’t love and support everything about an artist like AIDS Wolf or HEALTH or Clipd Beaks, it would be hard to get people on board. Records don’t exactly sell themselves anymore. But we still need to take risks so we find an artist… and we obsess about them.

MS: We have to be 100% behind a band—both of us. We usually end up taking up a lot of the managerial duties for our bands, so before we sign a band, we have to be prepared to spread ourselves even thinner than we are now.

Stylus: Schoolmates often talk and have pipedreams together, but then they get distracted, get girlfriends or boyfriends or whatever, and then delude themselves by always talking about their ‘great’ ideas. What made you two actually start releasing records and keep releasing records?

JF: If we had sat down and said, “Let’s start something that will change our lives in every way (good and bad) for the next 15 years with no escape hatch and unbelievable time, resource and financial burdens,” I’m sure I would have spent a little more time thinking about everything. But we took a risk and this label has been the most exciting thing in my life… and the worst, the most frustrating, hateful, stressful, etc. I can’t leave town without thinking about it. I can’t move apartments without bumming out my housemates. I piss off the local post office and UPS center.

MS: We kept (and keep) going because we’re still putting out records we’re proud of. It’s not a moneymaking thing. That’s for sure.

Stylus: Was it an easy transition from being in a band together to working on a record label together? I don’t imagine they’d be very similar processes.

JF: We had ZERO idea what it meant to start a label. We had nowhere to turn to for questions or guidance or even a model; every record label bio reads like “By the time we released The Jesus Lizard’s 3rd album we moved to a larger office.” So from the beginning we assumed everything we were doing must have been wrong and our “label” status always a step below legitimate. It’s fair to say, even now, Mookie and I are surprised by how much everyone is fooled into thinking that we’re a real label and things are working… This interview for example! We’re broke. Shit sucks! But we love it… We’re (almost) a record label!

MS: I mean, first and foremost Jake and I were friends. I think a more appropriate question would be: “Was it easy to go from being friends to running a business?” Yes, and no. Whenever we hang out talk alwayyyys turns to the business side of things and that can sometimes be unfortunate any friends/girlfriends that are hanging out with us.

Stylus: Your catalogue’s focus has shifted from noise-rock like aforementioned bands AIDS Wolf, Glitter Pals, and Indian Jewelry to electronic-based rock like HEALTH, Pictureplane and Deradoorian. Has that change been a conscious one?

JF: I listen to Mayyors, I listen to Emeralds, I listen to Eat Skull, I like Julianna Barwick, Phoenix, Converge… My tastes are always pretty broad but finding bands for Lovepump is a different kind of process. I think there are artists and bands we work with really well simply because no one else would be able to work with them the way we do. For example, next year we’ll be doing new records with both Child Abuse and Dynasty Handbag… I don’t know how those two fit together ‘musically’ but their attitude, to me, is totally on the same level so in putting out release the vibe is on a consistent Lovepump-wavelength that I don’t understand except that it makes complete sense and I know it when I see and hear it.

MS: I wouldn’t say that LPU broadening our sound was a conscious thing. We’ve never really pinned ourselves with a genre, and the records we release are a reflection of what we’re listening to at any given time. Both of us are constantly seeking out new and different sounding stuff, so some less noisy music is bound to get released on LPU.

Stylus: What kinds of releases can we expect from LPU in the near future? More electronic-based rock? A return to noise rock?

JF: Probably my favorite band ever is Throbbing Gristle… We’ve met this guy who has an unreleased Throbbing Gristle master tape. It’s an instrumental score for a shitty student-horror-film recorded in the early ’70s. You can see clips online of the film and the music but the complete score exists on this master tape and I want it so bad. I want it to come out on Lovepump. I’m working on that. But in 2010 we’ve got new release from Small Black, Washed Out, Clipd Beaks, Child Abuse, Dynasty Handbag, HEALTH and maybe more!

Stylus: Although you’re based in New York City, you don’t release many records by bands from there. How would you define your connection to the city?

MS: I grew up here and I find that born-and-raised in New York types like myself are a very rare breed here. It seems everyone is a transplant; so to define ourselves by a place that’s constantly changing seems kind of silly. It’s just never really interested us really…

Stylus: Although LPU’s output is great, it’s pretty infrequent. When do you decide to (and when do you decide not to) approach an artist for a release?

JF: If we could put out four records a month we would. We don’t have the money or time. But I think that makes for better release. We only have so many variables to work with–we can only put out so many records per year and work with so many bands. It sucks. I get tons of shitty demos. But sometimes you get something that rules. 15 piece teenage-rock band from the UK or a band punk band from Chicago who can’t stay together long enough to play one show… one day.

Stylus: How old are you guys?

JF: In my 20s.

MS: Apparently Jake is very sensitive about his age, but I have no shame in getting specific and saying I’m 52. [Really, Mookie? –Eds.]

Stylus: What were you in college together for?

JF: Who knows. I wrote a thesis about a faux-chess playing automaton and their role in the 18th vs 17th century.

MS: I majored in Film.

Stylus: Did you finish college, or did the record label take priority?

JF: The record label certainly took priority but I still finished college. I built a loft in my dorm room to hold inventory. We used the school copy machines and printers for inserts, found ways to subvert school money to put on shows and festivals. No one really cared at the time.

MS: My parents would have killllllled me if I hadn’t finished college. Had no choice.

Stylus: How would you describe Glitter Pals?

JF: The best years of my life.

MS: Undersold.

Stylus: Why did Glitter Pals break up?

JF: Genghis Tron? Girlfriends? Other bands?

MS: All of the above plus my awful guitar playing.

Stylus: I know Mookie is in Genghis Tron, but what do you do outside of Lovepump, if anything?

JF: I was a kid magician and after college I worked in music promotion, which really wasn’t for me at all. But thanks to my job, I was able to move to NYC. I’ve also worked for a bunch of movie theaters. I manage the label now. I also manage a couple of rock bands both on and off the label.

MS: I edit TV and manage a couple bands.