Briefly Touching | An Orchid Tapes compendium
by Tom Johnson
It’s not uncommon for a record label to appear familial to the outside world, it’s something much rarer, however, for us, as listeners/fans/consumers, to feel a part of the family as well. And yet – quietly but assuredly – Brooklyn-based label Orchid Tapes have managed to achieve just this. Created in 2010 by Warren Hildebrand the collective has, with the help of co-runner Brian Vu, become one of the most loved, and important, boutique labels currently in operation.
In a sea so easily drowned in they’re not simply staying afloat but are seemingly flourishing. Offering the perfect balance between beautiful aesthetics and killer music Orchid Tapes’ reputation is spreading further and higher with every release and the reasons for this are simple: they care. They care about what they release, they care about how it’s released and they care about the people who are listening. The music is carefully selected, no matter which genre they dip in to, and it’s always worth spending time with. They offer free downloads for every release and beautifully-packaged physical products for those still willing to exchange money for music.
We could write pages upon pages regarding our love for what they do, and the reasons behind their continued success, but we thought it would be far more interesting to speak to those on the other side of the fence; the artists whose music has provided the unshakable bedrock for the labels growth. Assembled over a number of weeks, we spoke with some of the labels brightest stars to find out why it all matters so much. We’ve also compiled some of our favourite tracks from the label in to one handy playlist which you can stream at the bottom of the page or by clicking here.
What Orchid Tapes represents…
John Klein (Euphoria Again): For me, Orchid Tapes is this beautiful group that I seemingly fell into with no work at all, I mean luck was involved but whatever everyone gets lucky. I guess that’s kinda how it goes though, right? If you like doing something – and that something for me is music – it’s gonna blossom and turn into something really fucking cool before you know it. And here I am kickin’ it on the best label in the world. So happy to be where I am. Not that I’m really anywhere, but I’m involved in one of the coolest things to be happening ever.
Rachel Levy (R L Kelly): Orchid Tapes represents a true family unit. 100% dedicated to the support, love, and growth of it’s members.
Alexander Giannascoli (Alex G): To me, Orchid Tapes is cool because the musicians involved are talented and versatile and make cool music. Its all really interesting stuff. On top of that, everyone involved is extremely kind and friendly. Its like a support group.
Mat Cothran (Coma Cinema/Elvis Depressedly): It represents the best of what a record label can be in 2014. It’s special because it is working when so many others are failing because they forget who helped them get to where they are in the first place. Too many small labels begin to find success then fuck up their whole business by getting into making industry connections and put that before the artists they are supposed to represent.
Sam Ray (Ricky Eat Acid): I don’t know if I can say what it represents, I’d leave that to Warren, but I know it means a lot to me and the attention to detail he puts into each release really belies how much the work and the music both matter to him. How much him and Brian both care about the label shines through in the artists they work with, the aesthetics, and quality of each release.
Caroline White (Infinity Crush): I think Orchid Tapes represents community. Obviously I think all the artists on the label and associated with it are fantastic, but it’s so much more than the music. It’s the attitude. It’s the idea that anything good enough, no matter how much publicity or fans the artist has gathered, deserves love and attention. Every release is so special and unique – it makes the listeners and customers feel like they are part of the community too. Warren and Brian are so friendly and approachable, just like the musicians on the label. It feels like a bunch of friends.
Thomas Mazurkiewicz: (Home Alone): It’s a bright light at the end of a tunnel. The music “Industry” is dead and Orchid Tapes is a perfect example of a label thinking ahead of the times. Free digital downloads of every release is huge. More people will be exposed to a release if its available for free and if they truly like what they’re listening to they will support the artist by seeing them live or purchasing some merch.
Aaron Powell (Fog Lake): There’s a sense of desperation and necessity on every Orchid Tapes release that I really like. The kind of people who make music because they have to, regardless of whatever money or equipment they might be lacking. Every release carries a similar aesthetic and warren’s got such a good ear for this type of stuff. I feel so blessed to be part of it all.
Daniel Abary (Four Visions): Orchid Tapes represents the simple joy of finding and releasing music on your own. I think it’s admirable that Warren and Brian do everything by themselves. The philosophy of the label has always been about being sincere and sharing great sounds to other music lovers. The artists involved and the community that follows Orchid Tapes is great, and I’m really proud of Warren and Brian for what they do.
Thomas: ‘Swung From The Branches‘ by Foxes In Fiction is a gem. A beautiful record that started this wonderful label. It’s also one of my favourite albums ever recorded in Toronto.
Aaron: I would have to go with Warren’s debut ‘Swung from The Branches‘. It started Orchid Tapes on a brilliant note, and throughout high school it was a very important and inspiring record for me. Warren continues to put out masterful work and from what I’ve heard of it his next record is gonna blow people’s minds.
Rachel: Foxes In Fiction’s ‘Swung From The Branches‘. Hearing this release was what connected me immediately with Warren and I knew that his music was so important it had changed me. Warren, both as a human being and a musician, is continually inspiring to me and I’m very lucky to have found him in this crazy existence.
Mat: ‘Life’s A Bummer‘ by R. L. Kelly because it’s just my favorite, I don’t know.
Daniel: ‘Holo Pleasures‘ by Elvis Depressedly. It was my first introduction to Mat Cothran’s music. The way it was recorded, the lyrics, the length of the EP is perfect to me. There are a bunch of reasons, but I definitely loved it the moment I heard it.
Sam: Without a doubt the new Alex G record ‘DSU‘ that’s coming out this year. Nothing else comes close. It’s just such an important and cohesive record and statement.
Caroline: There are so many! But if I had to pick, my favorite release is ‘Three Love Songs‘ by Ricky Eat Acid (and not just because I helped with it!). I got to see the process Sam went through to create it and all the drafts of it and I had the privilege of watching it grow into the beautiful album it is. I think it’s truly a work of art and I’m honored I got to contribute. There’s a lot of depth behind every song, and they all work together to create an atmosphere. I can’t really say enough about that album.
John: My favorite Orchid release is a tie between ‘Die Young‘ by Happy Trendy and ‘Holo Pleasures‘ by the man himself Mickey Mouse. Die young, because one time I took acid and listened to that album all night long in my room and really scared myself. Holo Pleasures is up there because it’s a freakishly good pop album thats not shammed up or rehashing any old/new style of music. Wait, just kidding, I forgot Orchid released ‘Posthumous Release‘, I’m a goof. ‘Posthumous Release’ for obvious reasons. Some of the best songwriting this earth will ever see.
Aaron: ‘Lee (columbine high harmony)‘ by Coma Cinema. That one digs deep for me and I could play it on a continuous loop forever. A lot of people slept on ‘Posthumous Release’ but I think it’ll get the respect it deserves someday.
Sam: Also no doubt in my mind, the Happy Trendy song ‘~’. Nothing is so effortlessly replayable and evocative. I think everything Dylan’s done is pretty much genius but this song stands above it all.
Daniel: ‘Fifteen Ativan‘ by Foxes In Fiction. Fantastic track. Warren writes and records wonderful songs. The care in the production is superb and the feelings all his songs give are really sincere. I like them. I’m excited for everyone to hear his new record, it’s rad.
Thomas: It would have to be ‘Paranoid‘ by Kitteh Fur from the ‘Nothing Compares’ Compilation. It begins and ends perfectly. It breaks my heart and puts it back together in 3 minutes and 36 seconds.
Caroline: ‘Life’s A Bummer‘ by RL Kelly. It’s just a super nostalgic song for me. I commuted last spring to school so there were a lot of nights where I would be driving home at 3 or 4 in the morning after working, or hanging out, and I first started spending a lot of time with the person who is now my boyfriend. That song always reminds me of that period in my life. I was really sick and throwing up blood and pretty depressed but I also was falling in love and hanging out with a lot of really amazing friends. It was all bittersweet.
Mat: ‘Life’s a Bummer‘ by RL Kelly because I can still listen to it 100 times a day today and not get tired of it.
Rachel: The soon-to-be-back catalog… ‘Cards‘ by Alex G because it is the greatest fucking song ever written.
John: If I could only listen to one Orchid track for the rest of my life it would be the title track to ‘Posthumous Release‘ by Coma Cinema. It’s one of the best songs ever written and it nearly brings me to tears every single time I hear it. I can’t say that about many songs.
A personal reflection…
Aaron: This is the label I’ve always wanted to be a part of. Just seeing the quality of the work coming out of Orchid Tapes gets me focused and determined to keep up with it all. It truly means a lot.
Thomas: It means the world. Everyone involved with the label is rad and supports each other. It sounds very typical, but Orchid Tapes is like a family and that’s why it’s growing so fast as a label.
Sam: There just isn’t anything else like releasing music with friends – even if the friends run a huge label, major label, indie label, joke label, whatever. Knowing you’re working with people who care about what you do is inspiring and I think it’s a lot easier maybe to write off your output otherwise, and just phone things in. I would never send Warren or Brian anything I wasn’t proud of, and I like to think I wouldn’t send anyone anything I wasn’t proud of at this point, but if I do the best work I can and show them, I know that they’ll listen on a lot of levels and appreciate that. We can talk about it, we can release it, we can do whatever. I think the level of trust the artists have with the label on a professional and familiar level is really telling and rare.
Rachel: It means the world to me, honestly. To be able to do what I’m passionate about with beautiful people doing the same thing, it’s amazing. It’s been so awesome to watch the growth of the label and to see a community around it start to form. Music is cool and friends rule.
Daniel: I’ve made so many great pals through Orchid. I think that’s the best part. It’s hard making music alone when you don’t feel like you have a community of other artist to talk to about song-writing and recording. After I met Warren and got more involved with his label I finally had friends to share demos with or ask for suggestions and criticism. Orchid Tapes has a handful of great folks in the family. I’m glad to be a part of it.
John: Being involved with Orchid Tapes is just too fucking cool. First off, there aren’t a thousand bands on the label like some out there at the moment, so we get to keep a tight-knit vibe. It means more to me than words can make out. Much love to Warren and everyone on the label.
Caroline: It means being part of something a lot bigger than I am. It means finding acceptance within a community, and accepting the community back, and starting to accept myself.
The entire Orchid Tapes back-catalogue is currently available for free download
via Bandcamp: orchidtapes.bandcamp.com
Their new compilation ‘Boring Ecstasy’ is out now on ltd. edition vinyl
– and you can buy it here.
Playlist | The dull aching heart of everyone
Social: Orchid Tapes on Facebook