Label Profile: Moon Glyph
Moon Glyph is the Minneapolis-based cassette and vinyl label of former design student Steve Rosborough. After launching in February 2009 with a cassette from Olives, his own band, Steve turned to local psychedelic acts like Velvet DavenportMagic CastlesBuffalo Moon, andDaughters of the Sun. Since then, Moon Glyph has been home to artists of all stripe and swagger, from all over this wide land. Steve has managed to rally a substantial online following to support the label's projects, despite an eclectic roster, ranging from the krauty space-rock of Chicago's Deep Earth to the prismatic psych-folk of Velvet Davenport. Thanks to a successful year, the wax to tape ratio for the label is beginning to favor vinyl. Steve even snagged a booth at this year's Pitchfork Music Festival, where he handed out download codes for a mixtape of some new and unreleased tunes. Over the phone, he told me about the origins of Moon Glyph, the Minneapolis psych scene, and maintaining a balance between specificity and eclecticism.
AZ: How did you get involved in the Minneapolis psych scene?
Steve: I moved up to Minneapolis pretty shortly after I graduated from Drake, where I studied design. I grew up in a fairly small town, Peoria Illinois, and I went to school in Des Moines. So, I was trying to get out to a place where there was a community and some sort of substantive local culture that I could tap into. Ultimately, I ended up moving here to Minneapolis and managed to get a job working at a record store here, The Electric Fetus. I was doing that for a while and decided it was time to synthesize my interests in art and music and try to make a little record label out of it. I started checking out the local scene, even just blindly going to local showcases. This is how I stumbled across Velvet Davenport, a local group that hadn’t released much at the time, and I was simply blown away. It was a moment where I was at the right place at the right time. After Velvet Davenport, I continued my investigation into the modern Minneapolis sound.
AZ: Before you moved to Minneapolis, did you have any awareness of the burgeoning international cassette community?
Steve: Yeah, I did. I started getting into a lot of free music and noise stuff as far back as high school, and that was when I really became aware of cassettes being used as a modern medium. I bought a lot of Sunburned Hand of the Man cassettes actually. I'm not sure how that came to be, but I was definitely interested in the "out" and the psychedelic.
AZ: Was Minneapolis receptive to your first tape releases?
Steve: I definitely got some weird looks, like, "Why are you doing this?" And I had to answer many questions, just regarding the tape issue alone. There are a lot of people who think it's just a cheap nostalgia trip or whatever, and I understand that, but to be honest, the people who were the most excited about it were the bands and musicians. They were all especially receptive, and that's really what made it worthwhile to me. It's funny to hear cassettes dismissed as a low-fidelity medium while most of the music-listening base only hears compressed MP3s through laptop speakers and plastic inner-ear buds. I think it's safe to say the lossless sound and warmth of cassettes is night and day compared to that horrible compression. My concern as a label is also to maintain the physical medium. I'm someone who came to music from a visual understanding, so the ability to hone and artistically present each piece of music is my favorite part of the process. The presentation shapes the experience, and with Moon Glyph, my hope is to give as much care to a musician's artwork as they have done for their craft.
AZ: Did your first releases have any serious, extra-regional traction?
Steve: Since I've done a lot of this online and tried to reach people that way, it always seemed like it had the potential to become something more, and I always had the intention of expanding beyond just Minneapolis. However, the first people I worked with-- the people I knew were really engaged and really interested in doing this-- were local folks. It was particularly easy to establish because of the breadth and variety in the Minneapolis scene right now. It's always been really impressive to me. This is something I never would have been aware of, even though I've been living in the Midwest my whole life. It was a shock to me how many bands in town were trying totally different things, but really weren’t getting exposure out of the city much at all. So, I felt like I could try and fill that gap, give them a little bit more of a voice, maybe reach a bigger scale and help develop enough interest to support touring and things like that. We live in fly-over country here in the Midwest, so generating any outside interest is always exciting.
AZ: When you transplanted to Minneapolis, did you feel like you were inheriting any kind of native music culture?
Steve: I mean, obviously, there are [legacies ] like Prince and '80s punk, ya know, and people like Hüsker Dü, The Replacements, and the Cows. But when I came here, I was almost totally unaware of what was happening. Initially, I was just trying to find little niches where they existed in town, checking out all the local DIY spaces, and I was actually finding all of these great people who were making stuff in a real underground. Looking back, it’s unfortunate that I knew so little before moving to the area, because I was missing so much. It's fertile territory up here.
AZ: What led you to start doing vinyl releases in addition to tapes?
Steve: The first vinyl release, Regolith Vol.1, actually started out as a cassette compilation, and there are a few copies of that still circulating around on tape. I definitely felt like there was a solid community developing, and that it was an appropriate time to bring that together and start showing folks. So, although Regolith was going to be a tape, it was actually the suggestion of my boss at Electric Fetus. His name is Bob. He really pushed me to think about doing it on vinyl. I started getting some of the songs together, and since the tunes were so strong across the board, it simply made sense to make the leap to vinyl. That said, I'd always been interested in expanding, particularly after I'd established the label a bit more, become more involved with a group of people I trusted and could work with. I like Regolith a lot, because it's very much the culmination of these past few years; it's with the artists I spent that time getting to know, and a good way to mark moving into a new phase.
AZ: Is the label’s aesthetic purview something you want to keep broad?
Steve: I definitely incline towards eclecticism. I know a lot of indie labels really try to find their niche, but keeping style loose and finding broader aesthetic similarities seems natural for me. With the Internet, people have acquired this ability to hear any style or sound they can imagine, and that has changed expectations of what can sound meaningful.
AZ: What are your plans for Moon Glyph this year? Are there any more vinyl releases imminent?
Yes, definitely. A lot of vinyl actually. A lot of bands are recording right now, and some are even in the mastering stages. The next vinyl release we’ll be doing is a Dead Luke record:Meanwhile… In The Midwest.  After a slew of tapes and a killer LP last year, he really brought it all together on this one. It's a subtle, acid-tinged burner of a record, highlighting Luke's brilliant songwriting. Completely psyched to be able to share this one with the world. We had the audio mastered by Cole from Daughters of the Sun.
Shortly after that there will be a split 7" from Food Pyramid and Deep Earth. I'm excited for this release, because of the connection between the bands-- so much mutual respect, touring together through the East Coast this past Spring. Sonically, they seem to complement each other and really speak with one another. Beyond that, our next cassette is with a local band called Radical Cemetery. It's called N.N.E, and it sounds like straight electronic dystopia. You can expect a Dylan Ettinger/Xander Harris split 7" later this year, and there are tons more tapes on the horizon as well: home-spun post-punk from Burning Palms, Minneapolis minimal synth band Claps, a tape reissue of Cutters by Dylan Ettinger, and plenty more that I probably shouldn’t mention just yet. It's going to be an exciting year, for sure.
Posted by alteredzones on 07/22/2011 at 12:30 p.m

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