By Samantha Cornwell
Last week I sat down with Britt and Amanda Brown of the Los Angeles imprint Not Not Fun. Their Eagle Rock home, which doubles as the label’s headquarters, is located behind a questionable medical establishment that specializes in boil removal and botox. We discussed a wide range of issues, including the changing landscape of music distribution, how Amanda bounces back when Sade wont return her calls, and whether there is really such a thing as an "LA sound".
AZ: How did Not Not Fun get started?
Britt: It started in 2004. I had known Amanda about a year at that point, and she had talked about doing a label. We had started making music together, and I was in another band, and we had some other friends who were in bands. She decided that it would be fun if we made a two-song-per-band compilation cassette, and sell them for $3 to people we knew. We decided that as long as we were making a mixtape, we might as well act like we were a record label and call it something. The way we operate the label has changed tremendously since then. Now it's our full-time job that we both do 6 or 7 days a week, and we ship records all over the planet
AZ: What qualities do you look for as "curators" of music?
Amanda: Britt and I have really different tastes, so it's more where we overlap, and what we come together to like. If it were just me curating a record label, it would probably be just hip-hop and dance records. And if it was just Britt, it would probably be more esoteric music. I think when we come together, it's about looking for hardworking, soulful, creatively talented people. We care more about relationships.
Britt: Like with anything else, our tastes change from year to year and what we put out varies. Sometimes a genre that we did like will become a little uninspiring. Something like Garage Rock is something that Amanda and I have never been particularly into, but I would never rule it out if some band came along and seemed like they were doing it in some strange, unusual way.
Amanda: When we got sent a Ducktails album to put out in 2008, we had our minds blown, but after two years of Ducktails rip-off albums? You gotta be blowing my mind way harder than he was in 2008 if you want us to put out the music.
AZ: It seems that a number of the artists on Not Not Fun are collaborators. How do these collaborations come about?
Amanda: We like to work with our own friends and we like to work with friends of friends. There’s more of an impetus to reach out and work together when you hear other people’s music and it thrills you. I like to look up to everyone we work with. I think of them as my musical heroes. I can’t get Sade to return my calls, so reaching out to Cameron Stallones of Sun Araw and reaching out to friends we have in this city has been amazing. But when that doesn’t work, reaching out to people across the country and across the world is what really excites me. I think we’re also leaving a phase where people have stopped being obsessed with “the band” and have started becoming obsessed with themselves, which is not a bad thing. I know that a lot of our friends who have good and healthy solo careers-- like Matt [Mondanile] from Ducktails, and even Cameron Stallones-- are in bands, or were in bands, but they put a lot of love and energy into their solo careers. When you have a bunch of solo artists roaming around, it does get a little bit lonely. You don’t want to go back to the band space, because it is a lot of BS, but it does feel good to set up a nice collaboration that makes your music better.
AZ: How important are the non-musical components of your releases, ie. packaging and album art?
Amanda: When we first started out, we were absolutely insistent that everything have a sort of handmade feel to it. As we got a little more popular, and as the bands got a little more popular, we had to start manufacturing, which is fine. We’re absolutely happy with it now, but we still insist that artists really think about the way they’re coming across.
Britt: Amanda’s really good at designing covers. That’s always enjoyable for us, but at the same time we by no means make all the covers. A lot of the time the band’s like, "Here’s the deal: I’ve got it completely laid out, I’ve already scanned it, here’s the hi-res PDF file, it’s ready.” And sometimes you look at it and you’re like, “Let’s do it.” And other times there is some back-and-forth. I think that’s why Amanda said we like to work with bands we have a good relationship with.
AZ: Last year you released the compilation My Estrogeneration, a showcase of female artists. Why make your first vinyl comp all-female?
Amanda: The truth is, doesn’t it seem like every compilation is just an all-male compilation? It’s like, “why don’t we just call this the all-male compilation of hypnagogic pop?” It is hard to find more than one woman on compilations, or even on record labels.
Britt: The bulk of demos are from men...
Amanda: ...and to make sure that we stand apart from that, and go and seek out women purposefully, is really important to me.
AZ: Do you think that Los Angeles has had a strong influence on your work, both as musicians and as label people?
Britt: I always felt like there was a very non-competitive aspect to Los Angeles underground music. Sometimes people ask if there’s an LA sound, but I don’t think that’s something that we would fully claim exists.
Amanda: I mean, we have the Sunset Strip, and we have Spaceland, and we have The Smell; we really have every order of business going on as far as music is concerned. Me and Nick from Queen Victoria and Sun Araw always talk about this. He’s from Jersey and is like, “I’m repping Jersey! I do like the Vivian Girls, I do laugh at Jersey Shore, but I’m from the REAL Jersey.” I feel the same way about Los Angeles. I see a palm tree on someone’s record and I’m like, “Fuck you! I look at palm trees every day, and I’m from here.” I think the fantasy and the imagery of Los Angeles is coming from outside of Los Angeles. I mean, my solo project is called "LA Vampires", so obviously I think about LA. When Los Angeles got really popular, it would just make me look up and be like, “I don’t live that life.” I definitely don’t see that fantasy as the real inspiration for making music in LA… I’m NEVER going to write a song about the beach. I would rather write a song about the mall. I’d rather write about the Glendale Galleria.