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Interview

Trouble In Mind Records Curate Garage, Post Punk, Psych and Folk With Love

The Chicago label's musical palette has broadened but an ear for quality and DIY spirit remain.

by VICE Staff
07 August 2017, 8:51pm

Lucy Hewitt

In 2009, Bill and Lisa Roe's band CoCoComa was on hiatus. Lisa was pregnant with the couple's first child, Veronica "Ronnie" Moon, and the two were looking for a way to stay involved in music. Trouble In Mind records was born. The label's first release, a CoCoComa seven-inch was to be the band's last, but the Chicago label has since produced over 126 releases from a roster that includes acts from across the US, Australia, the UK, France and Japan.

Growing up in Texas, Bill was inspired by labels such as Dischord "for dispelling the mystery" and Wax Trax for "hipping me to electronic and weirder music from the bands that referenced Einsturzende Neubauten, Birthday Party and Kraftwerk". After moving to Chicago in 1992, he worked at one of the city's best record stores Permanent Records, and has been involved in music from playing in bands, putting on shows, driving touring acts around and designing album covers.

Like Dischord and Wax Trax, Trouble in Mind has built a dedicated fan base that trusts Bill and Lisa's tastes and new directions that has seen a shift label move from the indie rock and pop of earlier releases such as The Fresh And Onlys, Ty Segall and Mikal Cronin, to the Baroque pop multi-instrumentalist Jacco Gardner and the well as reissuing albums by 80s UK legends, The Dentists.

"The label has morphed as our tastes have, explains Bill. "It's all in the same wheelhouse but it's a better reflection of what you'd see if you looked at our personal record collection. We figured out more what we want to release and plus our ears also get tired of hearing the same thing over and over. We release what catches our ear, so chaining ourselves to a certain genre or style of music seems pretty limiting - we've put out garage-punk, psych, experimental music, electronic music and spiritual jazz records. Perhaps it makes our label harder to pin down or categorize, but fuck that, who cares?"

Since the 2012 release of Woollen Kits' "Shelley", the label has had a strong relationship with Australian acts and their roster includes, Krakatau, Dick Diver, Beef Jerk, and Chook Race. Bill says that he's impressed with the non-bullshit way many Australians approach music. "Throughout the gamut of styles (indie to punk to experimental and everything in between) I've found it to be a simultaneously very hardworking, serious and considered attitude, but also very casual and untroubled. I can't point to any other group of people with the same attitude, and I find that very appealing. Many modern Australian acts pull from the same well I also draw from - I can hear their influences and it excites me."

Roe's relationship with Australian music will be strengthened with an appearance at this year's Big Sound, an annual music conference that takes place in Brisbane where he will no doubt be asked about the secrets of how to run a successful indie record label.

Roe's main advice is to stay true to oneself. "Put out what YOU think is great, no matter what. Be prepared to be broke and feel like no one cares. Ask a lot of questions, even stupid ones. When we were starting out I asked a lot of friends and acquaintances (what were probably) REALLY stupid questions. Brian from Douchemaster and Eric and Zac from Goner in particular were very helpful and they answered them all without being condescending or dismissive."

Roe is an active music listener and though he says fining new music was was made easier when he was working at Permanent, he sees the internet as a blessing and a curse. "In many undeniable ways it's contributing to the devaluation of music and artists, but at the same time it's been an invaluable resource for discovering new music. I check out Bandcamp and posts on Terminal Boredom and other music sites/blogs all the time. There's a Facebook group (I know, I know) I belong to called "Now Playing" where I have to admit I've discovered tons of music both old & new that I had never heard of before. People who claim there's no good music being made these days need to keep their ears open."

Roe says that he and Lisa feel lucky to have been able to release music by many of their favourite artists but it still doesn't stop them from dreaming. "Releasing a Brian Eno or a Feelies album would be the end-all dream. I do love me some David Nance, Honey Radar, 75 Dollar Bill, Writhing Squares, Marineville and Hank Wood & The Hammerheads, though too."

With music seemingly running in Bill and Lisa's blood I ask what his kids favourite Trouble in Mind releases are. "Ronnie says, "I really like Ultimate Painting. I think the songs are awesome!" Arthur says he likes Rays. He made fast friends with them when they were here. He calls Troy from the band "De-troit"."

Bill Roe is a speaker at Big Sound 2017.

Photograph: Lucy Hewitt