Published Apr 01, 2005Brian Borcherdt started D-Pression Records in 1994 so his Yarmouth band, Burnt Black, could put a logo on its debut cassette Happy. He smartly changed the melodramatic name to the more legitimate-sounding Dependent Music and put out albums by Burnt Black and Christopher Robin Device, two seminal Nova Scotia bands noteworthy for their emotional, hard-driving sound, the polar opposite of the peppy indie-rock of contemporaries like Thrush Hermit or Sloan. Yarmouth rock outfit Kary joined the fold in 2000, and by 2004 Dependent had released records by Halifax acoustic rock upstarts Wintersleep, folk quartet Heavy Meadows, hardcore unit Contrived and jazz-tinged siren Jill Barber, along with Toronto side projects Junior Blue, Extra Virgin (aka Jose Contreras of By Divine Right, in which Borcherdt played guitar) and Holy Fuck,
plus Borcherdt's lush, terrific solo debut.
Dependent (DP for short) considers itself a collective, not a label; its bands are family, not signees. Artists' specific skills web designer, graphic artist, Rolodex stuffed with bookers' numbers from across the country are utilised to help any Dependent band that needs it: I'll make your website if you design my record cover; I'll donate part of my take from this sold-out show so you can get your album pressed; I'll take your band across the country with mine.
For Borcherdt, who's just returned to Yarmouth after a few years as Dependent's satellite Toronto office, the model makes common sense, artistically and financially. "It's allowed us to grow slowly with the fan base and with our growing knowledge of music and how we make music," he says. "It's allowed us to grow without official rules."
Slow and Steady
In 2003, Dependent secured a deal with Canadian distributor Outside Music, where Borcherdt worked, as many musicians do, through the first chunk of his Toronto stint.
"I used to work in the warehouse but I never once solicited their help or approached them," he says. "But you get to be that guy who unpacks all those returns, and cut your fingers ripping the stickers off. You see a very realistic view of the retail side of things. And I knew DP wasn't in a stage to deal with that. You don't wanna get distro too early because you have to ask yourself, Who the fuck's going to buy my record?'"
The collective is comprised of close friends and band-mates: Wintersleep, Kary, Contrived and Borcherdt's backing band all share or have shared members. They add new artists rarely, and only after much discussion and consideration. "It has to be something we're involved with or close to in our own lives," says Borcherdt. "It wouldn't seem honest to work with some band in New York just because we think they're going to be the next big thing."
But keep sending those demos; at its root, Dependent is about community, and Borcherdt is always eager to extend it as far as it can go. "I love new music that's free and arrives in my mailbox," he says. "But I usually just let them know that there's an opportunity to help them by maybe getting them shows. And then they can help us get shows. We're really just trying as well, we're starving like everybody else. The more packages that end up in my mailbox, the better. I can learn about what other people are doing. It's just about building a community outside of your immediate area."