Everybody likes music, which is why it should be illegal to call listening to it a hobby. It’s not a hobby if everyone on Earth does it, but I digress. Everybody likes music, and most of us probably have something to say about the music business. Maybe that it will chew you up and spit you out; maybe you just know some amusing anecdotes about Phil Spector. Whatever we say about the music business, we almost always see it from the perspective of the music and not the business.
With the rise of indie music and the labels that go with it, though, the line between the businessmen and the musicians is becoming blurred. Artists are increasingly acting as their own labels. Within Winnipeg, one of the most prominent examples is Head In the Sand Records (HITS), run by musician Mike Petkau of Les Jupes. But HITS is far from alone in town. One of the newest additions to the indie label scene is I’m Trying Records, the brainchild of Kevin Mozdzen, Ben Figler and Corey Hykawy.
Unlike many indie labels, I’m Trying wasn’t created by artists hoping to act as their own label. Mozdzen in particular, who does not play in any bands now, is in it as an organizer. “I’ve seen a lot of bands that I knew were really good and I really enjoyed them,” he explained, “but they needed a little bit of a boost.”
Figler had a similar outlook on the label’s function. “We also noticed that a lot of the bands we really liked weren’t taking control to push themselves the way they could be,” he said. “They weren’t working to their full potential. We just really want to help as much as we can to get those bands to do what they want to do and eliminate the business aspect of it — promotion and that sort of thing.”
But Mozdzen and company are also out to make sure that what happened to him doesn’t happen to their bands. “I used to be in another band, a long time ago,” he said, “and we had a bad run in with a label out of Saskatchewan. We ended up paying money and not getting anything back. I guess we wanted to run it a little more honestly.”
Currently, I’m Trying represents four bands with intensely different sounds. The Hoots are mellow but noisy quartet with a Jesus and Mary Chain level of distortion; Little House swings wildly between tempos and genres, wistful one moment and recalling Dropkick Murphys the next; Zoppa is a four-piece with a singer-songwriter sound and whimsical vocals, and A Waste Odyssey is straight punky indie rock with Strokes-like vocals but more traditional-sounding punk melodies. These four are just some of a number of bands in whom the label has an interest, but they’re the only ones to be picked up officially so far. “We don’t want to add too many bands right on to the label immediately,” Figler noted, “because it’s already a lot of work booking the shows, getting the posters together and going to the show to run the show.”
“Right now,” explained Mozdzen, “just because this has very recently started, we’ve just been booking a number of shows for our bands.” The label is also hard at work on an important milestone for the new company: “We’re working on doing our first release as a label,” he said, “putting out a CD for our band, A Waste Odyssey.”
Little House, A Waste Odyssey, the Hoots and Zoppa play a triple EP release party at The Academy on Mar. 22 at 8 p.m..