From 2005 to the present, DINE ALONE RECORDS has become one of the few core staples in Canadian music, interweaving reckless punk with indie rock newborns to present listeners with something new. Built on a love for music, the Toronto label emerged by introducing an act called City And Colour, which saw growth and records by Alexisonfire being slided right next to the likes of Tokyo Police Club and Bedouin Soundclash. But as music communities change, so does everything around it. Cassettes and vintage thrift shops are now more of a rage than banging your head around to a copy of Crisis, which created a need for the group to evaluate and balance personal taste v.s. a family aspect. Now as Dine Alone stares towards the future – with a roster etched with americana folk (The Civil Wars), classic rock (The Sheepdogs) and chilled out synthpop (Neon Indian) – we spoke to the label’s founder JOEL CARRIERE about their pencil case of styles and how their latest acts will pick up where they left off.
What inspired you to first start the label?
I run a management company as well called Bedlam Music Management who were responsible for Alexisonfire which then led into City And Colour. At the time Dallas Green and I were speaking about releasing some of his solo material, so I set up the business and he made a record. The idea of the label was to release my management clients, and I found, as management, we were doing a lot of the work a label should be doing so it just made sense for us create a record label and do it ourselves. This way we – the artist and management – would have more control over our career, artistically and financially. Our first release was City and Colour’s Sometimes and here we are at a point where we’ve just reached step one as a group last year.
Why do you think it was only last year that you felt like you finally got to the first step?
Well, don’t get me wrong; I don’t want to take away from the fact that we’ve put out a few platinum records with City And Colour, Bedouin Soundclash and Alexisonfire when they ended up coming over to our label – it was great – but it just always felt mildly… uncomfortable. Any company that is moving forward will go through growing pains. We had a string of growing pains over the course of the last six years. This is not by any means negative as they were all valuable lessons to learn, such as getting to know a band before signing them and doing the same when hiring employees. Last year we grasped all of those lessons and it proved to be very successful for us.
Besides the music, is the artist’s attitude and personality clearly part of the criteria you look for when in the process of signing a musician?
Well, it always starts off with the music of course because I’m a professional music nerd. I love listening to new music. But I’d say yes in regards to domestic artists because we work super closely with them and manage a lot of them. Like any relationship it takes hard work, commitment and mutual reciprocity of respect, and all those same principles in personal relationships can be transferred over to professional relationships. With our international roster, we have less of those relationships with the artist but the same principles get transferred over to the team they have in place. A band usually surrounds themselves with like-minded people and most of the international artist teams share the same fundamentals we do, so usually it will be a smooth ride. I shouldn’t talk about the management though because this is about the label, right?
You can talk about whatever you want.
Okay (laughs). On the label side, it’s obviously all about the music and that’s something my employees have to love. There have definitely been times where not all of them are feeling a certain artist, and I don’t think it would be fair for me to sign a band that I just love. If they don’t like the bands they work with on a day-to-day basis, then it will seem like I’m putting them into that major label kind of world. I don’t want them to have to work on stuff they don’t like, at least not at this point (laughs).
Do you think there’s a recipe for success in the music industry?
I think every company has a different recipe that works for them. Our recipe has always to learn from our mistakes and grow as a company each year. We started with one artist and two staff members and did a great job and continued to develop from there. Every time we saw an honest opportunity to further our collective careers, we went for it. I think we are pretty fearless, ethical and honest. We are a group of people who are massive music nerds and get to live out our dream job, but we’re also aware of the business side of it all – making sure we notice which musicians are actually focused on music and are willing to put their head down, hustle and work really hard. Not taking any of this for granted is very key. The quick ego inflation in this industry is something we see and we don’t want to be a part of. Some bands or peers like how we roll and some don’t.
Is there a certain type of music you think the Canadian scene wants to see more of?
Each person has their own flavor but the public also seems to be fickle with liking a certain type. Music comes in waves and some people want to be on the wave while others want to create the next wave. I’ve made a career out of creating – out of working with artists who are not popular at the moment and helping them become popular. For example, our first artist was Alexisonfire. At that time, they shouldn’t have been a mainstream band but then they went to the top on music charts and started getting radio play and we really filled a gap where, at that time, the big Canadian bands were kind of coming to their peak and there was a movement happening.
The group came out as this hardcore indie band and really, it changed a lot of stuff because this predated the Metrics and the Broken Social Scenes and the whole “indie band” aspect became popular. The way we consume music now has really knocked down the “genre doors”. We still have our mainstream media and the limitations of what they can and can’t do, but with the Internet we now have the opportunity at our finger tips to explore new styles of music. That’s why I love our record label. It isn’t genre specific, its quality specific and I think it’s important as it keeps things fresh for the staff as well.
Did you have that goal when you first started the label?
My goal has continued to change each year and before this all started, I just wanted to work with bands I liked. Back when I was 14-years-old, I was listening to old records and looking at record labels and finding new bands through them because it provided the excitement of finding something new. I always wanted to create something along those lines but I also wanted to make sure I didn’t become genre-focused or just a part of some kind of niche. One goal is also not to fail (laughs). I just want to develop a brand that bands are proud to be apart of and fans can trust. I’m very proud of what we have accomplished as a company over the years and I’m excited to keep pushing the limits of what people expect out of us, even if it makes things fun and uncomfortable (laughs).