In biology class, I learned that evolution was the passing of traits from parent to offspring between specific species. In music, evolution is just good business and might be the difference between success and failure.
There’s a reason Lawrence Welk records have the same cultural capital today as Massive Attack CDs, despite their obvious differences. We tire too easily of the present and crave the new commodities all the time. The better entrepreneurs understand this, the more successful they become.
Cincinnati isn’t typically known for having these kinds of intrepid masterminds, but they’re here and they want you to notice them. Matthew Cooper and Evan Sharfe seek your attention as RaceCarProductions, a Cincinnati record label that’s trying to put the city on the map using their sonic prowess.
“We have always been about music that we felt passionate about, not just normal (music), per se,” says Matthew Cooper, a.k.a. The Librarian. “We’ve had some conventional releases, but we’ve also had some very unconventional ones.”
Chances are that most young music-savvy locals have crossed paths with both Cooper and Sharfe or attended one of their events and observed one or both rapaciously twittering at a mixing board.
If not, you simply have to get out more. The duo was integral behind the deceased techno dance party 4/4, and they’ve been shattering eardrums at Clique Lounge since 2006 with the events Bonkers, The Fix and Schwarz.
“We’ve kept building (the label). As things got better, easier, bigger … we grew with it,” Cooper says. “It’s gone from a little project to kind of a big one.”
RaceCarProductions began in 2004 in a Cincinnati apartment with the aim of promoting unsigned Techno and Electronic artists and giving them avenues to release their music. Cooper and fellow DJ Ian Roland laid the foundation and quickly recruited Sharfe.
The story of their first release says a great deal about their energy and commitment to their craft: They were on a time crunch to release an EP in 2004.
An affiliate at another production company was leaving the business but agreed to sneak their release under the rug before leaving, ensuring that the company would have to work with them.
In less than 24 hours, they had produced and delivered their first release, RaceCar Presents: Volume 1.
After two years of being a production company, RaceCar transitioned into a full-fledged music label, producing their own music as well as providing the means for new talent — including them-selves — to find an audience.
Admittedly, RaceCar was “trying to get our names out there in the community so that we could play,” Cooper says.
Also, “we did it so we could book our own people,” says Sharfe, who operates under the pseudonyms Evan Scott and Galaxy Kid and also serves as RaceCar’s creative director.
It was far easier to promote themselves, as they found out, when they were doing the promoting.
“We’re very DIY, very Punk Rock,” Sharfe says.
RaceCar has since been a successful local enterprise. They boast 16 artists on their roster, including international artists such as Die Haustiere from Italy, bernstein from Japan and acts from Portugal and France. They plan to release several EPs in 2009 while also performing regularly.
Last year, for RaceCar and most Americans, was a struggle. Too many shows began to become a hassle. They were losing money from importing out-of-town talent and were stretching the audience thin with so many performances.
“It was taxing on us financially,” Sharfe says. “We haven’t really gotten any money from (playing out).”
RaceCar still managed to nail down the fort. They began a new regular night, Pris, a bi-monthly event at Clique that combines their sound’s nuanced and calculated cacophony with the inventiveness of a morbid prom coordinated by Michael Alig. They collaborate with several local DJs on Pris, including DJ Empirical and Love Between Equals.
“We’ve done it twice already, and it’s been awesome,” Sharfe says. “The vibe is really good, and we always have these cool concepts.”
The first event was hospital themed, replete with naughty nurses and draconian doctors on the dance floor. The second event was a robot party.
The transition to Pris has worked well.
“We don’t lose our ass every time we play,” Sharfe says.
In addition, they’ve begun to rely less on out-of-town performers, using all homegrown talent. They’re also concentrating more on getting out new releases.
Ideally, Cooper and Sharfe would like to nab an artist who has enough success to get them on the international radar, allowing both themselves and their other artists to gain further recognition.
Yet they’re in no rush. They hope that 2009 will be a kinder year and perhaps give them the change to explore more dulcet options.
But they’ll probably do that regardless.
The next RACECARPRODUCTIONS “Pris” event is Feb. 13 at Clique Lounge in Covington. Info: www.racecarproductions.com.