Catch and Release

Catch and Release
While the story is as old as indie labels are — a group of people in a basement decide to start releasing their own bands' records — Catch and Release has managed to stay vital over the past eight years, becoming a veritable institution in Calgary. Now operated primarily by Cam Hayden, we also caught up with one of the founding members of the collective, Ian Russell. He moved on to form his own label, Flemish Eye, in 2003. His small roster includes Chad Van Gaalen and the Cape May.

A collective, a scene, a community, a collective?
Ian Russell: Catch and Release came out of the need for us to release records, and in this city there was really only one label working at the time. We had some recording gear and found there was a community that wanted to start getting out records. It was kind of a tool and less of an enterprise — that's the collective idea. Just a way for us to get all this material together under some sort of umbrella and help to develop a scene or a community in some sense. We made it all up as we went along, and I think we did a really good job of it — we picked up on things fast. We had this idea early on of really breaking out into other markets and now I think it's just exciting getting to know our own market.

Cam Hayden: It's [still] a collective in the sense that I'm willing to work with people who have ideas about putting together releases. Otherwise it's typically a skeleton crew of myself and one other person.

Rock'n'roll and Stompin' Tom tributes and compilations including an electronic band… huh?
Hayden: We don't really have [a philosophy], we just like to associate with music we think is good by lending a hand in whatever way we can. We're like the guy that hands a bottle of Gatorade to the marathon runner.
Russell: Catch and Release is great because it can release anyone — it's not a melting pot, it's an expression of so much different music coming out of Calgary.

Hayden: Maybe I'm misguided, but I don't look at it as putting hot new music into your hands so much as serving an archival purpose. It's not that I don't think our bands make music worth buying, it's just that a lot of other people tend to get more attention. Most of our bands are pretty low-key and are content to quietly go about their business writing songs and playing shows.

Realism, expressionism and money
Hayden: [With Catch and Release] we just look for interesting bands made up of good people. We don't have lofty expectations, like "OK, we're gonna make each other rich." We're pretty realistic. Can we help bring a great CD into existence, or make one a little more available? If yes, let's see what we can do then. Originally we focused on four- or five-band EP collections. Each band would pay for their percentage of the release. It would keep the costs down for everyone and fostered some good working relationships between acts. As time went on we put a few things out ourselves or did split releases with other local labels like Sloth or Saved by Radio. There are a lot of ways to go about getting albums out.

Russell: I'd always wanted to release a few things that were expressions of the way I felt about music — it was just more personal. While Flemish Eye operates independently from Catch and Release, it kind of sprang from it — I think it was a natural progression.

So you want to be an industry executive?
Hayden: If you're in a band and you're starting a label, be prepared for compounded frustration. It's really hard to split your attention between your day job, your own band and then a bunch of other people's bands on top of everything else. It'll suck all your money with the intensity of a black hole. Don't waste your time dealing with assholes — it's not worth it, especially at this level.

Russell: I think it's pretty insane to do a label by yourself — I think you need at least one person to bounce things off of. I'm lucky enough to have a lot of help from the people around me, and we have an intern who really helps, but it gets overwhelming. It's hard to have things working smoothly if you don't have someone who is really personally committed to waking up each day, answering emails, answering the phone and that type of administration, while having a day job they are constantly on the verge of getting fired from because of the label.