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Mexican Summer A&R Boss + Signees No Joy Discuss Label’s Fifth Anniversary

No Joy
Saad Al-Hakkak and Shaun Durkan

Over the last few years, whether because of the sound quality or the packaging — or just the bragging rights of owning that rare Beatles record — there’s been a huge resurgence of vinyl. In 2008, the owners of Brooklyn’s Kemado Records announced the launch of Mexican Summer, an alternative imprint label whose name comes from a Marissa Nadler song. The label satiated the increased demand for nostalgia by focusing largely on specially packaged, limited-edition vinyl releases, though they’ve since added MP3s and CDs to the mix.

At the time, the founders had no expectations. “We didn’t even view it as a label when it first started,” says Keith Abrahamsson, head of A&R for both Mexican Summer and Kemado. “We just wanted to put out records that we love, and work with people that we really like, too.”

Given all the pessimism regarding the future of the music industry, it’s encouraging to see an independent label flourish. But why has Mexican Summer — which has released music by the likes of Best Coast, Washed Out and Kurt Vile — been so successful?

“I’d have to credit it all to the music,” says Abrahamsson. “I think we’ve just put out some good stuff, and the bands that we’ve been lucky enough to work with are really great. We put a lot of care and time into packaging and into curating a roster that we believe in.”

And the artists certainly agree. For Canadian “doomgaze” band No Joy, signing to Mexican Summer was truly meant to be.

“They actually reached out to us via MySpace, which I understand they were doing a lot of at that time,” says No Joy singer-guitarist Jasamine White-Gluz. “We had put two songs online, and they messaged us and said, ‘Do you wanna do a record with us?’ We had been looking around, trying to think [which label] we’d fit best with. It was really weird because we had written an email to Mexican Summer the same day to say, ‘Hey, check out our songs,’ but I guess it bounced and they never got the email. So it kinda worked out that way, we already knew that they would be a label that we’d like to work with.”

“All the bands on Mexican Summer basically know each other and always play shows together, which is nice,” adds White-Gluz, whose band has supported Dungen and Best Coast. “I guess you could say it’s got a family vibe.”

Abrahamsson and his team are rightfully going all out to commemorate the five years of success they’ve seen so far. Via their recently launched publishing company, they’ve released ‘Mexican Summer: Five Years,’ a 250-page hardcover book with a limited print run of 1,000 copies. The book features never-before-seen pictures (unique photos and alternative artwork) and written contributions from every artist ever signed to the label. Designed by longtime collaborator Dan Schechter, it also features an embossed cloth cover, screen-printed craft-paper wrap, three interior paper stocks and an integrated sleeve for an included 10-inch record, featuring unique collaborations.

“When we came up with the idea for the book, we felt like it needed to have some kind of audio component, and it should be something that is really special and limited to the book,” says Abrahamsson. “So the idea was that we would bring roster artists together with bands that we love or already know and have worked with in some capacity in before.”

Plus, they’re treating locally based fans to a two-day music festival (Oct. 11-12) at Brooklyn’s Pioneer Works Center for Art and Innovation, which will showcasing some of their finest musical signings. In addition to performances from such bands as Ariel Pink, Spiritualized, Tamaryn and Connan Mockasin (click here for set times), a pop-up shop curated by the label’s record store, Co-Op 87, will sell used vinyl and merchandise.

Watch a Trailer for Mexican Summer’s Five Years Festival

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