Industry-Insider Interview with Jeff Bratton, founder of the New Music Label Cascine.
If I had to pick a song to describe sitting down over coffee with Jeff Bratton to discuss his love of music and the birth of his new record label it would have to be The Smiths "This Charming Man." Bratton, recently relocated from Los Angeles to Brooklyn, is an engaging conversationalist with a warm smile and an obvious passion for his pet project, which in a short period of time has generated a surprising amount of buzz in the global music community.
So can you tell me the back story of how Cascine came to be?
I took a sabbatical from my day job and was in Europe during the winter of 2010 and was looking at all the cities I could potentially spend my time in and Stockholm and Gothenberg, Sweden really stuck out in large part because there was just so much music coming out of that area that really resonates with me personally. So I reached out to a few labels before I went over there, and there was some preliminary back and forth with Ola at Service who answered back very kindly but I don't think was willing to engage me on anything deeper than a, "Thanks for your interest," kind of level. But I kept pushing and scheduled a meeting with him in the beginning of the month I was spending in Sweden and we hit it off. So a few hours over coffee turned into a lot of hang out time over the next 3 or 4 weeks. We did a lot of bumming around the city, he showed me around Stockholm, we talked music and music and music... He introduced me to some artists in Gothenberg and really just opened that music community in Sweden up for me. So I ended up leaving Sweden having worked out this arrangement where I would basically represent Service in the States.
So once back in LA how long was it before you started thinking about Cascine?
What happened to be perfectly honest was that Service has a publicist in London named Sandra and she was sent demos by a band called Shine 2009. Shine is from Finland and had approached Service about the possibility of representing them as an artist. I listened to the demos and I was nuts for them, just over the moon. They altered the course of my life for that week. I remember putting those four songs on my iPod in New York and riding the subway and I think between midtown and 14th Street I was seeing the world differently (laughs). So I obviously responded very favorably to them but Ola didn't think they were a great match for the label and the bottom line was Service was not going to work with them. I didn't want to let them pass because I knew it would only be a matter of time before another label picked them up. So I had the idea to self-publish them myself in the States but I knew if I started a label out of thin air it would go nowhere. But being on staff at Service it made sense for me to open a branch of the label in the States that would give me the flexibility to work with artists I love and the ability to curate a catalog and help shape the sound. So I approached Ola and the guys in Shine about letting me open Cascine with their EP. And the stars aligned around it, everybody said yes and then we had 5 weeks to get the vinyls produced and all the elements together to try to get it out.
After you had your first artist how did things progress from there?
The Shine release got a big response and it resonated with the right people. So with that release out and with Ola sanctioning Cascine as a brother in spirit to Service, those became my A&R tools to start approaching bands that I really wanted to work with. So we approached Chad Valley, we approached Evan Voytas and Selebrities and armed with that ammunition, I applied my professional experience with PR and marketing to what I know about music and came to the artists with really level-headed, business-minded plans that are somewhat rare in the world of independent music. Then I asked some close friends - J. Romanelli and Jason Kapiskosky - to get involved, Sandra Croft agreed to help, and we just started putting the work in.
I think that it helps that you are such a big fan of the music and have this genuine enthusiasm about the process and working with these particular artists.
That's the one thing I can absolutely say about Cascine is that the sound is so much an extension of me. I mean I'm self-funding this whole thing and I'm putting everything on the line for this little label but I'm proud to my teeth to stand behind every last one of those artists. So there's a different level of emotional investment and enthusiasm that I bring to it. To know the label is to know a big part of me.
One thing that I think people will probably notice right away is that there is an element of nostalgia in a lot of these records. Which made me wonder who it was for you growing up that really pushed you in this direction and gave you this love of music?
What I'm trying to do now is chase that feeling of when you discover a sound as a kid that feels so fresh that you feel your body literally responding to these sounds. I'd love Cascine to evoke those kinds of feelings in people. But for me personally, the band that really changed my life and made me fall in love with music was The Cure. Specifically the Disintegration album, was the first body of music I can remember having this deep, personal effect on me. Jesus & Mary Chain were huge for me. New Order were big for me, even more than Joy Division quite frankly. Chameleons, a lot of the Sarah records stuff - Another Sunny Day, The Wake were big for me.
There's also an intimacy to the stuff Cascine is putting out whether that's because you're dealing with a single artist shaping the sound or these younger bands that you can tell really care about the music they're making.
I think philosophically there are a lot of similarities between how we operate as a label and how these artists treat and perform their music. And I'm excited to work with artists who do take their music seriously and don't have a ton of history to stand on so we can try and develop something together.
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