Words: with Mk (from Waaga records)

    We recently got a chance to sit down with MK from Sacramento based labels Waaga (Florene, Fur, Fizzy Dino Pop) and Lefse (Neon Indian).  He told us all about his label’s Denton connection, his thoughts on the music powerhouse Pitchfork, and even gave us some personal advice.

We Denton Do It: Why do you go by MK?

Mk: Basically, my bosses name is Matt, and he came up to me one day and said, “Hey, we can’t have two Matt’s at Lefse.” So it’s kind of evolved in the past year or so, but you know, I’m rockin it.

WDDI: So do you just go by MK for music stuff or…

MK: Haha, Yeah my friends think it’s hilarious when my people call me MK.

WDDI: So Waaga is an Offshoot of Lefse?   

MK:  Well, the way that we’ve set that up is that we run a company called Banter Media that does management and PR for bands. So that is basically the parent company of everything.  And under that falls Lefse and Waaga. So for the most part, I do a little bit of A and R for Lefse and then Waaga is my project.  I mean, ultimately it has to go through the other guys because they are the ones spending the money, or what little money we have, so they have to make the final call but it’s pretty much up to me.

….Break in the tape…..

MK: (continued) …it’s just kind of led into what it is now, which is namely electro, but we have groups like Power Animal and things like that.  So we like to dabble in everything, in all genres.  I don’t want the label to ever be one genre where we put out twelve electro-records a year.  We really just want to evolve with the climate in what’s going on in music and really try to stay a step ahead of everyone else.  So that’s kind of a rundown of how we do things with Banter and Waaga.

WDDI: So everyone around here (Denton) is excited that you have a several Denton bands, is that all through Paul? (Paul North of Sleep whale and Sunnybrook)

MK:  Yeah, well actually, sort of through all of those guys (Sleep Whale).  They came out to Sacramento and were like “hey, you should check out our friend’s bands.” And they brought a bunch of music for us.  
    So I just kind of checked out Florene first and then just kind of through Myspace noticed that FUR was on Florene’s top friends and Neon Indian’s top friends and really it seemed like Bryce (FUR) was on everyone’s top friends. So I thought, “Shit, I gotta check this stuff out.”  So I did and I was really really into it.  So that was going really well and we put out “Witches” and then Bryce was like, “hey dude, you should check out Avery’s project Fizzy Dino Pop. So I checked that stuff out. And I think Bryce posted it on his Facebook or something.  So I just dropped him (Avery) an email and was like “hey dude, wanna be on Waaga?” I mean that’s kind of the Denton connection
    It’s kind of weird because I’ve never been here before.  It’s a trip.  

WDDI: Haha, so what do you think of the real thing versus the image you had in your mind of it?
MK:  I had no idea.  Actually, shit’s been so busy prepping for the tour so like, this is the first time that I’ve actually been to the square. I’ve just been at Bryce’s house and Grey’s (FUR) house the whole time. I actually haven’t gotten out much. But from what I’ve seen it’s pretty cool. It’s got a small town feel but not quite a city, its like, where do you draw the line because I’m from Sacramento, do you know where Sacramento is?  It’s actually the capitol of California, but yeah it’s a pretty cool town. There are some really awesome bands there now.  There’s a pretty cool little underground scene.  
    It’s weird because I work in an office.  You know you go to work at 9, you go home at 5, you’re tired, so I don’t get to go out as much as I’d like, just because I’m working hard.  So you go home and all you want to do is crash.  I mean I do go out though, quite a bit.  There are some really really cool underground venues there.
     One of them is actually identical to The Majestic Dwelling of Doom, which was really cool.  It’s not in a basement but it’s in the warehouse district.  Dwelling of Doom is rad.  I mean, what they’re doing there is awesome.  They’re doing a great job.  I hope they keep booking cool bands there, no shitty hard core and that garbage.  I mean, I don’t know, are people into that here?

WDDI:  I suppose it’s more of a high school thing, like everyone anywhere I guess?

MK:  Haha, but yeah, I dig Dwelling of Doom.

WDDI: I actually saw Power Animal there recently.

MK: Oh no way.  Yeah they are amazing live, so good.  They actually played in my bathroom. We shoved out all the crap.

WDDI:  Yeah I saw that video on the website.

MK:  Yeah the video was filmed by one of my buddies in Sacramento.  They (Power Animal) have the some connections here.  I mean they’re friends with all the Sleep Whale guys. So Yeah.  Hey you guys wanna go back inside.  They have air condition inside, haha.

…..Back inside…..

Mk (speaking of the Dallas Observer Music Award showcase in Deep Ellum)  : It was nuts.  It was like a mini version of 6th street in Austin or South By.  I mean I’ve been to South By before and it’s just like bam, music all over the place.  Yeah it was cool there.
It seems like everyone in Denton hates just hates Dallas with a passion though.

WDDI: So I wanted to ask about the Florene review on Pitchfork, and Pitchfork in general in relation to how you guys do what you do?

MK:  Well, so the way that I feel about Pitchfork is that they, when it comes down to it, they are good writers for the majority of it.  A lot of thought goes into those reviews and there needs to be an outlet in music for criticism.  Not harsh harsh criticism, but there needs to be an outlet for that.  If not, you’ve just got people only toasting what they like.  So I think that Pitchfork does a really good job of that. It’s kind of a love hate thing to be honest because they are really good writers, but it does hurt when you see something like that definitely. (Florene got a 5.4 on Pitchfork. Quote “it sounds terrible.”) .
     But I do think it’s important for music in general to have something like that,  I don’t know, I do think that too much criticism can be kind of bad, obviously, but you know the only thing for Florene is that they’ll just keep rolling.  I love them, I love their music, so they’re just going got keep rolling on and keep doing what they’re doing.
     I know so many people that there bands have gotten a bad review on pitchfork and the bands stop.  I think that’s the worst thing they can possibly do because it means a lot to even be on that website and they just have to keep pushing and keep making music and keep doing what they love.  If Pitchfork reviews it again, great, but if not, whatever. I mean a Pitchfork review is a Pitchfork review.  Most bands want one until they get one.

WDDI:  Pitchfork just seems like the most obvious way to go for bands these days.

MK:  Oh totally, I mean I’m a Pitchfork addict, I check it hourly, but I think that everybody, when they work in the music industry, they’re job directly correlates to what’s going on with Pitchfork. I mean you have to constantly be up on that and even ahead of that.  I mean I can’t tell you how many times we’ve started working with bands or talking to bands and the next day without even signing a contract with them they’re shit gets on Pitchfork and we’re like, “no no no it’s too soon for that.”
     You know, like you guys, want to be the first ones to post something, everyone wants to be the first one to post something and discover this new cool band.   So yeah, I do like Pitchfork, I think they do a good job for the most part.

WDDI:  How did you start your background in music?

MK:  You know, I’ve always grown up around music, it was always in my house. My dad was always listening to jazz and stuff like that.  I very early got really involved in music. I started playing trumpet really young. I am a classically trained jazz trumpet player so I guess this other kind of music is kind of my outlet to that.
     I was always really into classic rock, so all my friends were like dude you gotta check out these bands.  I was always under the impression that there was no good music coming out right now.  And my friend told me, “dude you gotta hear this record,” and It was like Radiohead’s “Kid A” or something like that.  It was probably around the time “Kid A” came out so ever since then it was like, “Radiohead is amazing” buts that’s very very surface level still.  So I just started listening to that and digging deeper and deeper.  I would spend hours on Myspace, even before I started working in music, just listening to music, And my friends were like, “what do you do all day,” and I was always like, “listening to music.” So now I can do it professionally.  
    Every morning I wake up and I read blogs for like an hour.  I grab my computer and read the first blog posts of the morning.  That’s how I start the day.  Some people go and make coffee.  Well I read blogs.  
     It’s like, the only way to keep up with what’s going on.  I mean I’m definitely a fan of Pitchfork, Gorilla versus Bear, Sterogum, all the big ones, but I definitely read a lot of smaller blogs.  They’re posting shit that pitchfork will post in another month or so.  
    Also, if I have any advice to you, I’d say think if something that nobody else is doing for your blog.  A good example is somebody like Daytrotter.  Those guys started doing really cool sessions.  When they started not too many people were doing that, I mean people were doing that, people have always been doing that, but not to the extent that they were.  I mean, they put where they are from in Illinois on the map for bands to come through and do a Daytrotter session.  
      So I’d say that I’d just think of something really unique, I mean, I know something is out there.