By Samantha Cornwell
Leaving Records is a Los Angeles-based label run by musician Matthew David McQueen (aka matthewdavid) and Jesselissa Lisa Moretti. The operation is based out of their pyramid, which is tucked away in the green hills of Mt. Washington. Their releases float in that immaculate space where the electronic meets the organic. We could throw a number of adjectives at you right now-- beat-centric, ambient, hip-hop-inspired, sample-delic-- but let’s get the story in Matthew's own words, which he shared with us via email:
AZ: Why did you start Leaving Records?
Matthew: While I was working at dublab, a non-profit internet radio posse out of Los Angeles), there were daily encounters with untapped musicians from many scenes. I presented the label idea to my favorite artist, Jesselisa, and she agreed to head all visual direction. We had been entirely dialed-in to the Los Angeles music and art scene at Florida State University, [where we met,] head-on immersed in a wonderful art department and college radio station. It was something that we started in our living room, cutting and pasting away at our new homie dak’s debut release. The silk-screening, the tape-dubbing, it was all done as an art project. It wasn’t long until we realized the project was one we could let others see and hear through the pipelines of dublab, sort of re-injecting all the amazing music we had come across through that very same community of world-wide listenership and art.
Nothing would have happened without both of us. With me having complete confidence in Jesselisa’s craft and design as visual director of the label, and her having trust in my curation of unheard music, we began... It’s so valuable working closely with our artists to develop their first records, to develop the album art. It’s all an intensely personal experience for us, making everything together. We learned a lot from dublab, and they exposed us to a lot of the artists we have and are currently working with.
AZ: Would you say there is a specific sound that could be associated with your releases?
Matthew: The sound is a reflection of the Los Angeles music scene, and what’s happening here artistically as a whole. Jesse and I have similar interests but we're always challenging each another, dragging each other out to random venues, exposing and being inspired by the many scenes in LA. It’s amazing.
AZ: It seems like there are lots of smaller niche labels emerging these days. How has this impacted the way you get your music out there?
Matthew: Nowadays, all someone needs to start a label is some confidence and and wi-fi. Back in the early days of punk and experimental tape culture, accessibility was through obscure, small-scale media like ‘zines, weirdo label subscription series, and shows. We utilize the internet everyday, but we feel it is important to practice a certain distance from technology. Although the internet is becoming increasingly saturated, one of our main goals is to retain a human quality in our aesthetic. Whether it’s releasing the music on physical format, or directly involving organic sonic matter in the music, we’re always hoping to achieve an organic sensibility in some way. In many ways, we feel this effects how our output is received by the new music community of our generation.
AZ: What is something going on in music currently that really excites you?
Matthew: Tapes. Back to the above, we have always been totally inspired by DIY recording media. Tapes have always been the answer [to the distribution question], even before computers existed. Manufacturing, duplicating, and selling tapes is relatively easy given the cost, but the cassette is still a format that the average music-listener disregards. What excites us is how the new label can translate tape culture directly to the music. A lot of artists on LR record and experiment with cassettes, so we naturally thought of releasing their work on this format. In no way are we adverse to the vinyl format though; tapes were the easiest and most effective way to start our label with physical product. We’re currently working on the finishing touches for our first vinyl project, from a mysterious rap/producer combo called Usual: silk-screened, hand-packaged, one-sided 12″ vinyl at 45 rpm!
One of the most inspiring discoveries we have made over the course of our activity is some wild experimentation with recording audio: dak mastering “standthis” audio to VHS, for example, or Oscar McClure micro-recording with only an SP303, etc. Much influence has been passed back and forth between artists, and it's endlessly exciting to see where this will lead our roster creatively.
AZ: What is an older jam that you often revisit?
There are two!
Bootlegged at an Arthur Russel tribute show at Part Time Parks on a cassette recorder that I only had for the weekend, then lost. It was the best recorder I ever had. Julia finished her set with a beautiful ballad, never to be witnessed again.
Classic hip-hop instrumentals bent sideways in a lean toward future free-jazz, organic melodies, and cray-cray crunch.