With the profit-motivated, all or nothing point of view of most modern record labels, it’s nice to know that there are still some operated by actual down-to-earth fans of music. Take Green Witch Recordings, for instance, a New York City-based DIY operation that specializes in putting out cassette and vinyl releases from the best of current underground indie, lo-fi, psych, shoegaze, post-rock, bedroom pop, and other alternative artists. Located, where else, but in the heart of Greenwich Village, the label was created by independent musicians for independent musicians in the pursuit of cultivating the best underground artists in the world who may not otherwise find a home in the complex and, at times, crude record industry.
While many labels focus primarily on certain acts who present the most potential for profit, Green Witch looks to expose the music and talents of all of its artists. That’s why the label is set to release its second compilation mixtape today, titled Audio Spells Volume 2, the follow-up to the recently released Volume 1. Consisting of seventeen tracks from seventeen different artists, Volume 2 brings you the best of what Green Witch has to offer, with groups from Canada, the United States, Britain, and Germany.
It’s truly an impressive compilation, spearheaded by Green Witch founder Marc LeFebvre who started the Audio Spells Compilation Series in an effort to assert that rock music is still pure at heart and not just about gaining social media followers. We spoke to LeFebvre more extensively about Audio Spells Volume 2, how the compilation came together, what some of its most notable highlights are, and whether we can expect a Volume 3 on the way soon.
This is quite the extensive compilation cassette with a total of seventeen tracks from seventeen different artists. When did you begin working on bringing this project together?
Marc LeFebvre: “We started working on the project immediately after the release of Audio Spells Volume 1. It was pretty obvious from the reaction we got to the original release that we had found a niche, and were going to sell out of the first volume. Once that became clear to us, we knew we had to get to work on the second compilation. The idea was never to do a second run of the first volume. There are digital playlists for that sort of thing. Part of what makes these cassettes so cool, is that they are limited edition collector’s items. So we knew that we needed to get to work on a second cassette.
In the meantime, we had begun developing relationships with psych, acid pop, shoegaze, dream pop, indie, and alternative artists all over the world. There was a lot of interest from artists who wanted to be on our roster and on our compilations. So the combination of our budding relationships with talented artists, and the success of the first compilation meant we needed to get to work quickly.”
With compilation albums, various issues can come up with regards to artists’ preferences or just convincing some of them to get on board with it. What would you say was your most significant challenge in bringing this project together?
“Dealing with rock artists is like herding cats. But fortunately, we’ve got some really down to earth artists on our roster. We haven’t had too many issues with divas or artists who demand special treatment, but anytime you put a project together with seventeen artists there’s a lot of coordinating. So collecting the masters and approving final tracks was challenging. And again, when you’re working with seventeen artists not everyone is going to agree about the track list, the artwork, the marketing, or other ancillary details. We just sort of ride the wave and try to keep everyone happy, without losing too much momentum when addressing the various issues that may arise.”
This is, of course, the follow up to Volume 1 which was released a couple of months ago. What do you think is the most significant difference between Volume 1 and Volume 2?
“Audio Spells Volume 1 was our introduction to the world. We were showcasing some of our artists and friends and trying to build our name. It’s only been four months since we released that compilation, but we’ve grown significantly since then. I think the main difference is the sheer size of this compilation. Seventeen songs from seventeen artists is a pretty jam-packed cassette. And they’re all really solid songs. There is some overlap from the original ten artists on this cassette, but there are also quite a few new artists. This cassette features shoegaze, noise, drone, trash bop, and everything in between, and it all feels like one piece of music. I’m really excited for people to hear this cassette as a work unto itself.”
Speaking of Volume 1, what would you say was the collective reaction towards it?
“We were really unsure of how that record would be received, but it sold out very quickly… which is a lot to ask of a cassette in the year 2020. That cassette was our launching point for this label. We’ve since signed a bunch of really great artists, put out a few more records, more than a few singles, and have plenty left in store just for the summer of 2020 alone! I love that cassette because of what it embodies for our label. I love that people were picking it off of the shelf in record stores. I love that it signifies the first chapter for Green Witch Recordings. I personally have serial number one of Audio Spells Volume 1 in my cassette collection in Greenwich Village, and I just couldn’t be prouder of our artists and our team.”
I’m sure you had certain goals when you were preparing Volume 1 which differ from the goals you had with producing Volume 2. What would you say were your primary goals when you started pulling together the songs for Volume 2?
“The goal is always to move the ball forward. So our objective with Volume 2, was first and foremost to include as many of our favourite songs from our favourite bands as possible. We want to keep growing as a label. So, while we always want to feature the bands on our roster, we also use the compilation as a way to scout and showcase new talent. I think we have some really great bands on this compilation. There is also this strange marriage between our goal of showcasing the talent on our roster and putting together a cohesive piece of music. It’s a challenge, but it’s extremely rewarding when it’s done.”
As a complement to the music, I really like the artwork for Volume 2. It reminds me a lot of the style and colour scheme of a psychedelic-era rock album. Who came up with the artwork and why did you feel like this was the right cover?
“Our friend Toxin Figure did the artwork. He does some really cool 1970s blacklight poster-style art. We thought his aesthetic fit what we wanted to do. He typically works with stoner, doom, and metal artists, so we asked him to use more bright colors for our psychedelic summer compilation. I think it was a really nice combination of his aesthetic and style, and our desire to depict a tropical, psychedelic, Shangri la.
One of our goals with the Audio Spells series is to have something that is collectible and interesting, and our head of operations and design, Patrick Barrow, works closely with our cover artists to create unique and desirable physical records. On Volume 1, we had the amazingly talented Audrey Herbertson do the art. We love having new artists create their depiction of the Green Witch, and we think that having a different artist for each series adds to the collectability of the cassettes.”
With seventeen different artists, obviously not all of them are going to be as well known as each other. Who is one of the lesser-known artists on this compilation that you think really stands out or may find some new fans with their contribution?
“We have artists on this compilation that have been in the scene forever, have had major label deals, have toured nationally and internationally, done television, radio, festivals, and everything else you could imagine an artist doing. We also have artists on the compilation that run their own studio, are recording engineers, make tapes and vinyl, and produce, mix, and master other artists.
Conversely, we have some pretty fresh indie artists, as well. Some that I would mention by name are The Black Cheetahs, Teen Idle, H E A V Y C O A S T*, Bad Spy, and Alexx Magic. Each of these artists with limited catalogs has huge potential and has provided some of my favourite songs on the compilation. But that’s not to say the seasoned vets aren’t pulling their weight. I think there is a really great balance of indie lifers and new blood on our roster, and I can’t wait for fans to discover any number of artists that they may not have heard before.”
Were there any songs or artists that you had to cut out when finalizing the track listing? Or was the compilation always going to feature these seventeen artists?
“The short answer is yes. We have artists on our roster who didn’t necessarily have a new track or record ready in time for the compilation, so while we had many of them pencilled in, we were unable to feature them on this cassette. On the other hand, we had hundreds of artists reach out with tracks they wanted included on the cassette. Our head of Artist Services/A&R, Chase Matkin, listened to every single submission we received and worked tirelessly to find songs that fit the theme of the record, from artists we wanted to work with. While there is an ocean of talent out there, there is only so much data a cassette can hold, so, unfortunately, we had to leave songs from many qualified artists on the cutting room floor.”
With Volume 2 now arriving, what do you see as the future for these Green Witch Recordings compilations? Is Volume 3 already in the works?
“We have many more singles, cassettes, and 7-inch vinyl records coming out, just this summer. We have up-and-coming artists putting out their debut records, and we have our seasoned vets working towards perfecting their masterpiece. At the varied points in their journeys that our artists find themselves, one thing is certain, there will be a steady flow of new content. From that flow of content, I think it’s safe to assume that there will be enough gems to comprise Audio Spells Volume 3. We’ve also signed a few new artists, so we’d love to include them on the next installation, as its sort of a rite of passage for Green Witch artists. But right now, our focus is on the releases and artist services campaigns we have coming up over the next few months, so stay tuned!”