interview – hush hush records

– featured image courtesy of the artist – 

Frequent patrons of this space already know that the dimestore has been enamored with the seattle-based label hush hush records since last summer.  the label’s aesthetic is fluid with seemingly endless permutations; a loose nocturnal regulation has yielded ambient projects, glitchy electronic experiments, and pristine dream-pop albums among other releases.

on friday, hush hush will release HH100, a centennial of sorts that highlights and celebrates its growth over the past six years.  the compilation features fourteen brand-new tracks that are all collaborations between hush hush artists past, present, and future, a compelling distillation of the label’s “night bus” ethos.

we recently touched base with the label’s founder, alex ruder, to chat about the history of hush hush, its hundredth release, and how ruder’s work at the iconic radio station KEXP informs his approach to the label.  streaming alongside the interview is the premiere of “wait too long,” the captivating collaboration between vivian fantasy and quiett that serves at the compilation’s penultimate track.  click the play button and digest the interview below.

hush hush began back in 2012 with kid smpl’s skylight.  what sustained you in the early days of cultivating the label, and has that driving force changed at all over the past six years?

when i launched the label, i honestly didn’t have any big-picture or long-term goals, the main thing was just to work with joey butler (aka kid smpl) to help present his debut album.  but a major motivation to cultivate the label beyond that release in those early years was bearing witness to the relative success of skylight.  it wasn’t necessarily the most successful release financially, but there was some nice momentum around it.  kid smpl was accepted into the red bull music academy just after the announcement of the album and months prior to its eventual release, his live shows were consistently memorable affairs and each performance showcased his quickly growing sonic evolution, and positive press coverage about the album all made it feel like the time and energy we collectively put into the album was a worthwhile effort.

during this early period of the label, i was also hosting a monthly hush hush DJ night in seattle, and those monthly events kept a complimentary aspect of the label moving forward and allowed the label to connect with more artists, as each monthly DJ night featured a special guest DJ to showcase their own “night bus” soundtrack.  thanks to the support we received for skylight, both local artists and non-local artists began reaching out with demos to consider for release on hush hush, and hearing exciting demos from new, unknown, or overlooked artists and wanting to help them share their sounds continues to be the driving force behind the label.  it’s still based in that desire to share quality sounds from artists that i feel deserve a bit more of a spotlight.

the hush hush catalogue feels like a curated playlist on an album-sized scale, if that clumsy analogy makes any sense: each release is complimentary to its predecessors but explores a fresh facet of the label’s aesthetic.  does your experience in radio at all inform how you sequence releases and approach hush hush as a whole?

aside from wishfully trying to align releases with a season that makes the most sense (ie: darker ambient/drone releases in winter, brighter sounds in summer), i’m not trying to be too intentional with the sequence of releases, but i’m super focused on the sequencing of songs on each release and frequently geek out when taking a collection of songs and figuring out the best sequence to paint the most captivating picture possible.

my experience in radio definitely comes into play in these situations.  with every radio show i put together, i try to play and transition songs in an order that feels natural and smooth, but also sneaks in challenging segues and allows the narrative to grow and expand with each new song, and that’s how i view each hush hush release.  i’ve never released a stand-alone single on hush hush; i’ve always been focused on fleshed-out EPs, mini-albums, or full-length albums, as i’m still a huge fan of LPs and EPs that showcase a clear vision from the artist.

HH100

HH100 is, as the name suggests, your 100th release.  congratulations!  it’s also a pretty unique release: fourteen brand-new tracks, all collaborations between artists that have called hush hush home at some point.  what gave you the initial idea for this kind of project?

thank you!  i thought it’d be a fun challenge to coordinate another hush hush compilation for the 100th release.  i’ve done a couple bandcamp-only compilations in the past, more as a thank-you to fans, featuring new unreleased songs from hush hush family and friends (presents vol. 1) or a combination of new unreleased songs as well as select songs from the past year’s catalog (presents vol. 2).

but this was the first time trying to do an “official” compilation, and i thought it’d be exciting to tap into the generous collaborative spirit that so many hush hush artists possess and try to do something unique for the compilation: pairing up artists, sometimes from different sides of the planet, to bounce ideas off each other and see what they could come up with.  i’ve always been amazed at the talent of the artists that have released music on hush hush, yet i was admittedly a bit shocked to hear how strong and seamless the collaborative tracks turned out, especially from two artists that had most likely never communicated with each other before.

were there any collaborative pairings that took you by surprise, or any memorable anecdotes about the various processes that made their way back to you?

honestly, i don’t think any of the collaborative pairings came as a “surprise” to me.  although their styles may vary widely, i feel there’s a common thread to every hush hush release and each artist tapped into that shared vibe for their track.

i was thrilled that cock & swan and TZECHAR were able to collaborate on a new track; they’ve both been strong admirers of each other’s work for years now.  they’ve previously remixed each other’s tracks, but to have them work together on something new felt really special.

hanssen and secret school teaming up on a track is another collaboration that has led to some wonderful results.  both of them live in seattle and are big fans of each other’s work.  working together on “felt” was quite pivotal, as it’s not only a stunning track that shows them creatively pushing each other, but it also planted the seed for them to continue to work together on new tracks, so there may likely be a bigger collaborative release from them down the road.

Vivian-Fantasy-Photo-1-Credit-Bee-Cardoso

– vivian fantasy (bee cardoso) –

today we’re premiering “wait too long,” the collaboration between vivian fantasy and quiett.  can you share the label’s history with these two artists?  how did this particular collaboration come to be?

yeah, i was stoked when vivian fantasy and quiett decided to work on a track together.  each of them bring a cool “live band” feel to their songs.

vivian fantasy is richmond, virginia-based musician danny bozella. he had been self-releasing music on bandcamp, but then last year he came across hush hush via asking/bearing, an album by seattle-based artist olive jun (aka lushloss) who previously lived in richmond, so danny was familiar with her music and was excited to see her music released on a label.  he reached out to me with a handful of demo tracks that turned into the dreamy psych-pop EP deep. honey. that came out late last year on hush hush.

quiett is actually a duo comprised of sam leffers and kevin hake.  sam reached out to me in early 2017 with some demos he had done with kevin as well as manchester, UK DJ/producer two tail, and i was immediately impressed with the set.  i ended up releasing their fountains EP during the summer last year.  both vivian fantasy and quiett create such magnetic, romantic, gauzy sounds, it was exciting to hear their styles mesh together so smoothly on “wait too long.”

what does the future hold in store for hush hush?

the future is still driven by the initial motivation to do what i can to work with new/underground artists, help share their music in the way that feels both good for the artist and the label, and be able to foster a family/community through it all.  there’s still lots of releases in queue, so the future holds many more hush hush sounds that will continue to explore the genre-less yet distinctive vibe that originally birthed the label.

HH100 arrives august 3rd on bandcamp and later this month on cassette.  you can pre-order the compilation now.

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