Brent Rademaker is the co-founder of Los Angeles’ Curation Records, as well as a principal in GospelbeacH and Beachwood Sparks. The following is an interview between Jon Siembieda of Tahoe Onstage and Rademaker as part of a series catching up with artists during the COVID-19 pandemic, to see what they are doing for creative output in these times.
You wear many hats … being the principal in GospelbeacH (which released a new album last fall), being a principal in Beachwood Sparks, as well as being a principal in a new indie label, Curation Records. How has the pandemic influenced your projects?
Brent Rademaker: GospelbeacH got lucky and finished a tour of four countries in Europe on March 1 and all came home healthy and safe. We have a live digital release from the final show of the tour coming out next month.
Beachwood Sparks was set to go in the studio with Chris Robinson producing in March as well as a Neal Casal tribute with Jim Scott and Dave Schools and it was all canceled. With Curation Records, we were also very lucky to get our first release back from the pressing plant in time to make our release date and it’s been really nice being able to share the Pacific Range album (our first release) with everyone around the world while they are quarantined. … although we are nearly sold out of the first pressing and no word on getting more due to the shutdown. The influence felt is just how blessed we are to be alive and not to bitch about it too much.
What’s your vision with Curation Records? A lot of labels have soured reputations with musicians — not enough attention given to the artists, lack of promotion, lack of understanding of the music. How is Curation different?
As a dude in a band myself, the first thing I think of is, “What would I want from a label?” So my vision for Curation Records is basically my dream label. Believe it or not it’s not all about money. I’ve done this for so long I’ve learned the hard way that “the band has to be the band and the label has to be the label.” These days labels basically make the band be the promotion department. Man, that’s so cheap! Take a band like Pacific Range, they are certainly intelligent and talented enough to promote themselves but that’s not what people line up to see. They wanna see the band onstage in those moments of pure expression just taking us all on a journey out of our heads and to the place we escape to when we listen to music. Not talking to the drummer about Spotify numbers or Pollstar ticket counts. Those guys jam five nights a week in their space when they aren’t out on the road or playing a club. They need the time to do that, to be a band! Like fucking Nirvana or The Band!
Curation is different mainly in the respect that we are operating in a new era with a broken “business model” that was once called the “music business,” but what remains the same is the great relationships between artists and labels or managers from the past for us to study and be inspired by. It takes a tremendous amount of trust but I believe it will work if that trust exists.
Pacific Range is your debut release on Curation. How has that gone for you? What other upcoming releases are you working on?
So far, the Pacific Range album seems to be striking the same chord with listeners as it did with me, actually exceeding any modest expectations I initially had. It’s been so FUN on top of everything to watch them get discovered and see all of their hard work pay off. Curation has a bunch of stuff in the works, most of it on hold due to the lockdown. Curating a release schedule isn’t easy because not every release comes ready-made like Pacific Range. We have groups and artists currently writing, recording, mixing and working on artwork. I’m super picky because if I’ve learned one thing it’s that you only get one chance to releases a record, so it better be great. If not now then 25 years from now! It’s not called Curation for nothing. My brother Darren has a new Tyde record ready to record. That’s probably what I’m most excited for … (and) other surprises!
You were great friends with Neal Casal, who is a featured guitar player on GospelbeacH’s latest album “Let It Burn,” and is sorely missed after his passing last August. Can you share with us a classic Neal story that will make everyone smile?
Neal did a wicked impression of a coked-up Richard Pryor saying “I’m happy!” I think about that every day.
Where’s the first place you’re going after quarantine is lifted?
The recording studio and Chi Dynasty on Hillhurst.
What record did you recently get that everybody needs to go and check out right now?
Mapache – “From Liberty Street” – duh?
Ethan Miller (Howlin Rain, Heron Oblivion) has been curating a lengthy and deep quarantine playlist. What at-home listening are you vibing on nowadays?
Podcast finally got their hooks in me, mostly rock and roll themed. I must have played “Wildflowers” (New colored vinyl bootleg) and an old scratchy copy of “Late For the Sky” every morning since March 14.
Do you have a message for musicians and artists on the search for creative inspiration? In your opinion, what’s the best thing people can do to support the arts during these times?
If you’re a songwriter I suggest you pick up your guitar or get behind the piano about five minutes before you’re supposed to walk out the door or do something else. That pressure always seems to help me create, although it makes me late a lot.
Where can people keep up with your bands and the label?
www.curationrecords.com is where I am trying to move it all to. If you friend me on Instagram, you’ll probably know everything about me and the music in about a day.
— Jon Siembieda