two years ago I setup an interview to Colby Houghton about his very
prominent localized record label, Exigent Records. He agreed to take
part in one, and then... nothing. And when I say nothing, I mean
not a thing, as indicated by this post from the archives. You
could've sworn he vanished off the face of the planet because not
only did he not respond to an interview, he apparently replied to hardly anyone. I
left the space blank until he could get back to us and moved onto other stuff.
Since that time not many people have been entirely sure what was to
become of the label itself. ...Five months ago we got our answer.
To some degree, Exigent had been a near afterthought entering 2010 with many of its musicians moving onto other projects and company, while the name itself looked destined to be more of a footnote in Utah music history. But this past summer former Loom drummer Jarom Bischoff took over the label and immediately went online to spread word it was back! Now in the middle of rebuilding and re-branding, Exigent as a whole is looking to make a comeback and reinforce the talent within our music scene again. I got a chance to chat with Jarom about his career and taking over, along with his thoughts on Utah music and more.
Exigent Records on Facebook
Gavin: Hey Jarom! First off, tell us a bit about yourself.
Jarom: Hey Gavin! Well... I'm Jarom. I like to rock. I grew up in several places on the west coast and eventually moved to Cache Valley where I finished high school. I've played the drums since I was eleven and guitar since I was fourteen. My parents are both gone so I'm really close with my two brothers, Paden and Anson... who also like to rock. I'm LDS which I know is s little strange for someone who likes to tour in bands, play in dirty bars, and be involved with an open minded, diverse, and expressive music scene. I support and appreciate all the different views of Exigent bands and I'm not looking to try and establish a Mormon ideal for the label... I hate Christian rock and metal. Also, I'm not homophobic and tend to lean towards the liberal side politically, though I'd rather not subscribe to a specific party or school of thought in that respect. I've got a music business certificate from Berklee College of Music in Boston and I'm currently at the University of Utah, going for economics. I was in Loom for the past three and a half years. We did a lot of touring and had a great time, but ultimately my goals were different from the band's, so now I'm back in school. They're still goin' at it and I hope to see them succeed in every way they want to. They are still some of my best friends.
Gavin: What first got you interested in music, and who were some of your favorite acts and musical influences growing up?
Jarom: My dad listened to a lot of The Police and Led Zeppelin so I got some of that as a tiny guy, then, when I lived near Seattle during middle school, my aunt used to let me borrow her CDs. I got into Silver Chair, Smashing Pumpkins, The Meat Puppets, Nirvana, and the like. Later, as dumb as it sounds, MXPX's Life In General had a huge influence on me. Granted I'm not a fan anymore, but that super-fast punk style really got to me. I got into Bad Religion, NOFX, Propagandhi, and just about everything else put out on Epitaph and Fat Wreck Chords around the turn of the century... That stuff I still like. By that time I was playing in lots of bands and figuring out what music really meant to me. Near the end of high school, through a lot of really awesome friends, I found what moves me. Bands like Planesmistakenforstars, Hot Water Music, The Casket Lottery, Hot Cross, Botch, Shai Hulud, and record labels like Level Plane and No Idea had a huge influence on me and still do.
Gavin: What was it like for you first breaking out onto the music scene and playing around town?
Jarom: Assuming you mean in Salt Lake, it was very natural because all my friends from Logan, Provo, and Salt Lake were all here and playing regularly by the time I moved here from Pittsburgh. I really got what I consider my start in the Provo glory days where Blake Donner and Parallax had formed a genuine hardcore movement. I was lucky to be a part of it. Playing shows then was a truly moving experience. Friends then and there were sincere and plentiful... and music was what held us all together. My experience first playing shows in Salt Lake was pretty regular in comparison. The scene here isn't what it should be considering the caliber of bands that hail here. At first (in Loom) we played a lot to try and build a fan base. It was a lot of work and we made progress, but it was slow.
Gavin: Most notably you were a part of the band HiFi Massacre and a founding member of Loom. How was it for you being a part of both bands and doing massive touring across the country?
Jarom: Well being part of the HiFi Massacre was too much fun. Writing songs with Jeff Wells is, to this day, one of the best experiences I've ever had in a band. We had great chemistry. Josh Devenport and I had always talked about being in a Botch style band and it was fun to actually do it. However, I never toured with them. I decided to take off on a two year vacation and Adam Loucks was awesome enough to replace me and they did some tours. With Loom, on the other hand, I spent close to a year total on the road. Most of the best memories of my life took place there. It's an incredible feeling to know you have real friends all over the nation, and it's inspiring to meet the individuals that perpetuate scenes across the country. It was heinous though and being gone that much reeks havoc on pretty much every other aspect of your life. Being in a touring, independent band is not for the faint of heart.
Gavin: How did the opportunity come about to take over Exigent Records from Colby Houghton?
Jarom: I've always had a good relationship with Colby and worked closely with him. Running a label can be extremely expensive and that's pretty damn hard when you have a house, three little girls, and a wife to think about. He didn't want to see the label disappear when he decided he needed to drop it and attend to the rest of his life and neither did I. We worked out a deal that was good for both of us and I was happy to take over and hope to keep it alive and growing.
Gavin: Considering all the work it would entail, did you have to do much thinking over the situation or was everything instant without second guessing?
Jarom: The thing about running your own label, is it can take as much or as little work as you choose to put into it. I knew I'd have a couple years of finishing school and wouldn't be able to dedicate myself full-time to a record label. My only goal is to stay out of debt, release two to three albums a year, and build the Exigent name until I can put more resources into it. The choice took a little bit of thought, but I had to jump on the opportunity to run a label that already had a few releases out and a bit of a name locally.
Gavin: When you officially took over, what was the first thing you did to re-establish the label locally?
Jarom: I officially took over in June and to be honest, haven't had a lot of time to re-establish or promote the label, being in school full time this past summer and now in the fall. You will see a substantial effort in conjunction to the next couple of albums I release to establish the label. The biggest of which will be this spring when I release my own album, Slippery Slopes, under the name Harmon's Heart.
Gavin: Back in 2008 the label had roughly sixteen bands on board. Prior to you taking over some have left, some were frustrated, others were doing nothing, others are very active. What have your conversations been like with all the bands since taking over?
Jarom: The label has never really had sixteen bands "on board," -if by that you mean active. In 2008 there were perhaps five or six bands who were playing regularly and trying to tour. A lot of the releases Colby put out were more like temporary projects put out by Salt Lake's finest in gritty musicianship. I see this as a bad move financially, but a good move as far as establishing the name of Exigent as being synonymous with great music. My experience with Colby was different from a lot of other bands on the label. I think, in part, it's because after Gaza went to the Metal Blade subsidiary, Black Market Activities, Loom was his main focus. Colby had a lot of ideas about running a label, a lot of which involved playing like the big boys, which is financially risky. Much too risky for me. Trying to balance finances and everything else that goes into a label, I think a few bands were neglected because the resources just weren't there, and Colby didn't really have the time to run a label effectively. I've had a lot of great conversations with the bands on Exigent and bands who may one day be. The general consensus seems to be that everyone is stoked that the new owner of Exigent knows exactly what it's like to be in a band and give your all. I'm planning to run the label accordingly.
Gavin: How has it been for you rebuilding Exigent as a name both online and in the music scene?
Jarom: ...Ask me in a year.
Gavin: What have you got in mind for the label moving forward from here, both on a musical and promotional scale?
Jarom: I need to get the basics established and approach music promotion and releasing records from a DIY limited budget angle. In the next six months I'll have a new Exigent website up and the goal is for it to be more than a label that says how great its bands are. I'll do that too, but I'd like to be a resource for out of town bands on tour and to help spread the ideas of Salt Lake-ians. Releases will have a stronger digital emphasis than before. It's just cheaper and more effective. I'm thinking of allowing people to download the whole Exigent library online for free, just at the website, as an incentive to get them there. I'll get a mailing list going that offers more than advertisement to people. Press and publicity will have a heavier local focus as I've found it ineffective to spread yourself thin over the whole nation. People here will pay more attention than those afar because the bands are more familiar and play locally so the opportunity to see them is there. I'll still do regional, national, and overseas promoting, depending on the goals of each band. Musically, I'm open. I want to continue to put out the wild, loud rock that Colby's primarily put out, but also anything I think is worth the effort. To be honest, I'll be releasing a lot of solo material to build up the press connections and get more releases under my belt... it's practice.
Gavin: Are there any plans to bring new bands on board or expand beyond what you're doing now?
Jarom: Of course, that's what it's all about. Time frame-wise I want to focus now on the few bands left on Exigent that are still active. This may never be a label where I hear a cool band and say, "Hey you guys are good, wanna put out a record?" And proceed to watch my bank account dwindle and get into debt. I'd rather not have a label than owe my life, or any portion of it, to the man. Basically, I'll take it one step at a time, put out what makes sense, most of which will be music my friends want to put out, and see what happens. I've got some talented friends I tell you what.
Gavin: Going state-wide, what are your thoughts on the local music scene, both good and bad?
Jarom: As far as Salt Lake goes, I think things are okay. It could be better, but I've seen it worse and things seem to be in an upswing. I guess I'm a little close minded to what is now called "indie-rock," which seems to be doing well here as of most places. It just bores me and seems to be overly image oriented. But if you want crowds, that's the music you should make. I'd like to see a bigger and a younger following in the rock scene. With the exception of Kilby Court (and they don't support metal or screamy music for their own reasons), there are really only bars to play at and that's a huge problem when you're trying to recruit a younger crowd. But then the all ages venues that try to go into business fail quickly and miserably. House shows and DIY spaces are the answer for now. Go see a show at the Shred Shed for hell's sake. Good bands every time, good times every time. Other than that, it's kind of out of our hands. All we can do is make music, promote it, and hope for the best. Whether or not kids in high school want to pull their heads out of their butts is up to them. It's a little depressing to see how much the music scene depends on young kids, but only because old kids aren't active and would basically never go to show where they can't drink. If only there was a way for old and young to come together... As far as the rest of Utah, I think it's a lot more of the same. There were periods where Logan, Ogden, and Provo have all had thriving scenes, but there is a ton of flux. I think the youth in Ogden roll the right way and know how to go to shows, but I know nothing of an older crowd there. Logan seems to be mostly tweeners (20-23 year-olds) that are trying to get the scene going. And who even knows about Provo. It was sad to see Starry Night go, that's for sure. I don't know what the current status of Muse Music is, but I hope kids are showing support. Then there's BYU and Club Velour... a universe I'm not at all familiar with, but like I said, I'm not generally a fan of indie-rock.
Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?
Jarom: KRCL and X96 could both do a better job in promoting local music by playing it at better times, though KRCL tries. I recently found out that X96 no longer has their "Live & Local" show. That's a pile of crap. If you ever listen to X96 you need to stop until they start supporting local music. Radio, in general, is a huge sham. We should be grateful we have City Weekly and SLUG and go to the events they sponsor. Shows could be cheaper and more effort could be done to promote each one. Good high school bands should be sought after and supported by the older crowd when they pop up... problem is it's infrequent at best that they do. We need to get more people into the scene and one thing that would help is if everyone was a little bit more outgoing and nicer to unfamiliar faces. It can be very intimidating to go to a show where you don't know people. Getting a bunch of sour faces and egos, one is not likely to ever come back. I'm definitely not exempting myself from this. I, like all of us, could do a better job at making friends. Also, personally invite non-regulars to come to shows. I guess this is sounding a little evangelical, but if it's for a good cause... and if a band is good, buy their freaking merch. Buy all of it. Make a small sacrifice out of your pocket to support growth in the scene. In summary: Be more active. The more people there are, and the more we are all friends, the more fun it is for everyone.
Gavin: Without simply listing bands on your label, who are your favorite acts in the scene right now?
Jarom: Well... I won't leave some of my favorite bands off the list just because they once released something on Exigent. But, here you go, the list of local faves: Accidente, Eagle Twin, IATO, Reviver, Palace Of Buddies, Laserfang, Muscle Hawk, Subrosa, Gaza, Cache Tolman, God's Revolver, St. Boheim, Danger Hailstorm, Mike The Dork, Boots To The Moon, and JP Haynie. I said I usually don't like indie-rock, not always.
Gavin: What's your opinion on the current airplay on community radio these days and how its affects local musicians?
Jarom: Prrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrt... that was the sound of a big, juicy fart. I think it affects local musicians the way it always has. It directs the focus of the masses to total BS music with no heart (in general, not always) and it gives locals something near-impossible to compete with. It's mass media, it's all the same. I can give KRCL some credit, they have a variety of shows and no sponsors to answer to. And as previously mentioned, X96 is a joke. Luckily for us, pop-music is on its way out. As of May, total album sales were lower than they've been in forty years. I can only assume they've continued to drop. Please keep stealing music everyone!!! On the flip side, I think that if radio stations played local music during prime times and in the regular mix, that would be a huge step in the right direction. They're not trying hard enough, if at all.
Gavin: What do you think of file sharing these days, both as musicians and a music lovers?
Jarom: I think it's good. For small bands, it's value in promotion far outweighs the supposed loss in sales. For Nickleback, it hopefully takes a few sales away... but it still promotes them as much as I wish it didn't. Frankly I'm tired of the controversy and it's time to accept it as a permanent change in the music industry. Even if I had a problem with it, it wouldn't matter one bit. I say go nuts, under the condition that you share awesome finds, go see the band when they're in town, and buy merch from them, which happens naturally. All you have to do is add some content you can't steal to online albums and you have a marketable product. The future of music is about access more than product, but that'll play itself out. Personally, I don't file share, but I do share! A lot! People have always shared music. My younger brother just burned me a copy of the new Middle Class Rut amongst other albums, but I'll be damned if I don't go see them next time they roll through. Remember mix-tapes? File sharing is the same thing, just on overdrive.
Gavin: What are your thoughts on local music shops and how they help out Utah bands?
Jarom: I think Graywhale is awesome at helping local bands and all the other record stores blow at it. Now I may be biased because Graywhale carries Exigent releases and other stores won't, but that's really all the evidence I need to see whether or not there is effort to support local music. Record stores that don't consign should go out of business. I'd understand qualifying what they will and won't consign, but just saying no completely... that's the opposite of what a record store should be about. They're really missing the mark. Graywhale also sponsors local shows and helps to promote. At the same time, I wouldn't be offended if they'd make a bigger deal of local new-releases, but hey, it's a work in progress. As an individual you need ask where the local section is when you go into a record store. If they don't have one, or if they can't point out a few local releases, you need to walk right back out.
Gavin: On the same token, what's your take on other record labels in the city and the work they do for the music scene?
Jarom: I think they're all pretty cool. I really don't have a personal relationship with any of them save Lucky, of Sound vs. Silence/Gator records. He's a super guy and he does a great job releasing cool music and promoting it. But there are a few other labels around that I think release good music and are trying hard to extend their circle of influence. I like material that's been released on Kilby, 8ctopus, and Running Records. Admittedly, I don't follow or work with other local labels as much as I'd like to.
Gavin: What can we expect from you the rest of this year and going into next?
Jarom: You can expect me to finish this semester of school without becoming too distracted trying to pimp the label. There is a possible second release from an Exigent band that could be out in the next couple of months, but regardless of that, Harmon's Heart will be out this Spring and you can expect to see a lot of promotional work going on then. Expect a functional and innovative website up around that same time.
Gavin: Aside the obvious, is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
Jarom: Nah man, nah. Just the obvious. Harmon's Heart coming out this spring and check out Exigent Records on Facebook. I'll be sure you all know what's going on as times approach. Besides that, please become more active: Ask record stores where their local section is, call radio stations and ask them to play local music, file share it up, and bring people to shows.
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