Mint Records

Date of Birth: 1991
Number of Releases: 104
Biggest Seller: The New Pornographers'Twin Cinema
Current Releases: Immaculate Machine's Les Uns Mais Pas Les Aures

Over 15 years, Vancouver’s Mint Records has grown into Canada’s most renowned and successful independent label. From its early days exporting pop-punk by the likes of Cub, Pansy Division, and all things Nardwuar to nurturing country stars like Neko Case and Carolyn Mark and literate indie-rockers such as the New Pornographers and Immaculate Machine, Mint may dabble in genres but they are committed to quality first. In his current role at Mint as "mouthpiece and historian,” co-founder Bill Baker suggests that the path to Mint’s success is paved with instinctual decisions and lessons learned.

Career Opportunities
"Our primary goal was to find something to do. [Mint co-founder] Randy [Iwata] and I worked at CITR, the Vancouver college radio station. When we first got there, there were always those creepy old guys that you’d think, ‘Wait a minute, these guys don’t go to university; what are they doing here?’ Randy and I had a conversation one day where we realised we’d graduated three years ago and wondered, ‘Are we those creepy old guys now?’ We went out one night and brainstormed ways for us to do something that kept us connected to new music. We felt very strongly that there was a blossoming independent music scene in Vancouver and that it’d be a half-decent goal to document it for the future.”

Sweat to Sawdust
"In the first five years or so, there was very high energy, fun music but that doesn’t really apply to stuff we’ve put out in our later years. It wasn’t a conscious decision to spread things out this way. We were quite content to go with that pop-punk label, and if it hadn’t been for Neko [Case], I don’t know what we would’ve done. We had gotten to a point with that style of music where everything operated like a well-oiled machine; we knew all the people to mail review copies to and the papers to advertise in. When Neko’s record came out, we were like, ‘Wait a minute, our database is totally irrelevant.’ That was so stimulating and it breathed new life into things.”

Think Locally, Act… Locally
"As we’ve grown, our circle has gotten wider. Calgary and Winnipeg are about as far out as any of our artists have lived. That’s not intentional but how it’s worked out. Part of how we select who we’re going to work with is that we like the music but we also have to be able to get along with the people. It’s a lot easier to know that and see a band live if you can meet them without having to fly someone somewhere.”

Payola Schmayola
"We learned a lot of things very quickly and figured out what was wasting money and what wasn’t. We spent a lot of money on early releases trying to increase chart positions, for example. We found that charting on campus radio is a great feeling, but we’ve also had the occasional release that’s charted really high on American college radio and we’ve seen zero increase in any actual sales. So, we stopped chasing those numbers quite early on because it wasn’t doing anything and cost us money.”

Do Androids Dream of Electric Version?
"We want to continue what we’re doing, but if you’re in the business of manufacturing a physical product containing someone’s music, I really wonder how realistic it is to think you’ll be doing that in another 15 years. I can’t see us putting out little plastic boxes of CDs anymore but what’s it going to be instead, Blade Runner? I’m a huge science-fiction fan so I wonder about these things. Maybe it’ll be a different format, maybe no format, but if there is such a thing as a record company, I’d still like to be doing this. I can’t imagine not doing this any more.”

Fifteen Candles
"It’s funny because we had a fair bit of debate about whether we wanted to make this an event because we did that with our tenth anniversary. What’s been surprising to me is the number of people who’ve acknowledged it as a milestone and that’s been amazing. We also realised that it’s been an amazing period of growth for us. Five years ago, Neko was just on the way to where she’s headed and the New Pornographers were a relatively new band and everything kind of felt like ‘year nine’ or ‘year eight’ or something. So, the kinds of things that have happened in the past five years have been exponentially exciting than what’s you’d think would be possible in five years. How many times have we seen Neko or the New Pornographers on late-night talk shows? It’s just mind-blowing!”