I asked Wooden Shjips drummer Omar Ahsanuddin why the label is so beloved and he replied: "Because they know their shit, are music fans, and mostly because [Richards] is a straight-shooter. As Phil Manley once told me: if you like getting paid on time, you'll like Thrill Jockey."
Barn Owl's Jon Porras said, "It's great to work with a label that trusts an artistic vision...Thrill Jockey upholds a level of professionalism and is open to unconventional ideas."
"I think one of the main things, at least to me, is that these bands would be doing what they're doing whether anybody is paying attention or not," says Richards. "This is something they're compelled to do. And in the same sense, we're compelled to put it out, whether it makes sense or not."
And that's important in this current musical climate, a time when the mainstream labels are floundering, record sales have plummeted, and free music is a click away. "Trying to combat it would be like trying to swim against the tide. You'd exhaust yourself and get nowhere. Instead, we just try to adapt," Richards says. "We're small, so we're flexible and can adapt quickly. The people that work here are super music geeks, that keeps them really involved."
One shift has been the number of releases it puts out. It jumped a few years back from 10 releases a year, to three or four a month, including small print, specific collector releases, which appeal to the super music geek market.
In a nostalgic mood, given the anniversary shows, I ask Richards to look back and pick out what she'd want her legacy to be, after this thrill ride is over: "I hope people are as attached to some of the bands and the records that I am. I hope to, as an octogenarian, sit in my house and blast a Barn Owl record and really feel the same feeling I felt the first time I heard it. And I hope it's as treasured to them as it is to us."
Warm, fuzzy feelings abound.
REED FLUTE THERAPY
In these stressful last days of the year, we likely all need a modicum of relaxation, just a taste. Local reed flute master Eliyahu Sills, best known as part of the the Qadim Ensemble, has just released an acoustic solo tribute to the sacred music of Sufism; a haunting record meant to assist in meditation, yoga, and just some overall relaxation techniques. Song of the Reeds is 10 songs of original improvisations, created on a flute made from a reed; can't get more organic than that. www.qadimmusic.com.
That Vivian Girls-Woods collaboration just keeps getting cuter. It's fascinating how it really feels split between the two out-fronts: Cassie Ramone and Kevin Morby, one part jingly lo-fi girl-group, one part folky, acoustic forest-dweller. With all the fuzz and tender melodies on half of the songs, it gets inevitable comparisons to Best Coast, but that's only a shade of its output. Check the new karaoke-filled, warped VHS-style video for "Baby," off Our House on the Hill, released this month on Woodsist, then go back and try alternating tracks such as "On My Time" or "Get Lost." It makes for an engrossing, push me/pull you dynamic that will translate nicely to the stage. Plus, the Brooklyn band plays with our own headlining post-punk heroes, Grass Widow.
Thu/6, 9pm, $12
Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17 St., SF. www.bottomofthehill.com