Interview with Ryan McCardle from Furious Hooves

Furious Hooves is a family fueled by their love for independent music and 90’s basketball, but to put it frankly they are a music & arts collective (label) that releases limited editions (many include handmade pressings) in an array of media formats.” – says description on web. Furious Hooves is amazing (not only) cassette label from Savannah, Georgia and is run by Ryan McCardle and his friends. I had chance to ask Ryan few questions revealing the beauty of their work.

McCardle_Ryan - EmilyEarl_web

I have been following your label a while and I really admire your work. How was Furious Hooves started?

My good friend TJ Hatcher and I started the label back in the summer of 2011 as a means to release the music and art of our super talented friends. We wanted to do limited edition releases all made by hand or with some element of the handmade. So we were cutting, folding, gluing together sleeves for CDs or Jcards for tapes… stamping artwork, hand-numbering etc etc. Oh and we wanted to make sure everything had some sort of tie in to 90s basketball, our other mutual love, haha.

What pair(s) of angry hooves inspired your name?

Haha! Hmmm… I would have to say that it was the furious 1990 playoff matchup between the Chicago Bulls and the Milwaukee Bucks.

You release music on CDs, Vinyl and cassettes. Why to choose cassettes at all?

Like I had mentioned before, we were making things by hand so we needed to release things on formats that were easily accessible and DIY. Cassettes were the automatic answer. Since 2011, we’ve grown a little (Furhoof: Sixth Man) and thus tend to do more “manufactured” releases, however, from time to time we still get down to our roots and hand-make some things. Nowadays, I like working with cassettes because they’re such an intimate artifact. Small enough to fit in your pocket at a show, yet huge when it comes to the amount of options you can do with packaging and design. You can collect a library of tapes in no time.

Are you a cassette collector?

I would say so, yes. I’ve always been a bit of a collector of things, ha! I like to collect music that my friends have released, so I definitely try to buy a copy of their cassette when I can. And what better thing to do than to support your friends by collecting their art?

Do you see a progress in cassette culture over past 5 years?

I definitely think so. I mean looking back to when TJ and I first started Furious Hooves even (not that long ago—5 years this summer actually) we were doing small-runs of CD-Rs and handmade cassette tapes of like 20. I don’t want to define Cassette Culture in any way—because really it’s ever evolving—but I think that a lot of the lure of cassettes is that they can still be DIY and extremely limited. You’re seeing a lot more giant record labels doing cassettes now (again) but I’m not really seeing cassette collectors running out to grab that reissue of Metallica on cassette… though, I could totally be wrong.

What’s your thought on cassette culture in America?

I love it mainly because of what I said previously: the lure of still being able to work DIY and with your hands to create a release. I think a lot folks in America buy cassettes at shows, or from friends, or when they go to the local record store and head straight for the local tapes section. You can find some gems that way and it’s an easy pick up for your buck.

Saint Corsair

Saint Corsair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why do you think small labels are important?

Small labels help keep the art of discovery alive. Small labels typically work with “lesser known” artists and musicians, which allows fans to find out about music they may not have heard about otherwise. For example, small labels occasionally work with musicians that may tour minimally (if at all) or solely “bedroom” projects. In releasing their music, small labels can assist in getting their music to a broader audience that may have never heard of them before or on their own. With Furious Hooves, I love being able to release tracks from one-off bands or short-lived side projects of friends. We’ve got quite a few on our Stay Rad compilations, Furhoof Halloween Singles Series, and even Furious Hoops.

Which labels are inspiring you?

Oof this is a hard one. There are so many labels out there that inspire me. I look at what they’ve done and continue doing and am constantly astounded. I would have to maybe say that Graveface Records was a bit of an inspiration to me though. Ryan (Graveface) started out doing small-run handmade releases and it just grew from there into larger and larger runs. Even today, with his numerous releases, Graveface still keeps a handmade touch in each one.

Do you enjoy working with other labels on releases?

Oh I love it! I’ve always been fond of collaborating on releases, whether it be with the artwork or the music (compilations and splits) or co-releasing a record with another label… I find it just another way to meet people and explore new ways of doing things. You get different perspectives when you collaborate and that’s always insightful. When you work with other labels, you can bring in a whole new sector of fans, which is cool. Label A fans can discover a whole new roster of releases on Label B, and vice versa. I’ve discovered so many great labels (and their roster of bands) through co-releases.

Dear Tracks

Dear Tracks

Do you have many international customers?

Yeah, I think we have a fair amount actually. I know we have a few international customers in the Furhoof Alliance 😉 that try to buy every physical release we put out… it’s always rad seeing a name pop up you recognize.   

Do you have tapes outside USA?

As in, are our tapes available to buy from non-USA stores? At the moment, only a slim few. The rad folks at White Wabbit Records in Taiwan have a good amount of Furhoof in stock. We’re always looking to stock more stores with our Furhoof Catalog though… ATTENTION: DISTROS & STORES! Hit us up! 😉  

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Your design is astonishing. Do you do it by yourself?

Awe shucks thanks Fillip! I do all the design myself for the most part. Early on, when we were doing more handmade releases (pre-Furhoof: Sixth Man), TJ and I would work together a lot on the artwork… creating, making, stamping, etc. Today, I still reach out to my group of Furhoof Family & Friends for input though.

How long takes process of creating an artwork?

Oh my, this varies release to release. I’ve done something that will take about 5 minutes, but the majority will take weeks or months to complete. It’s all about the spare time I have to work on it. The most amount of work / time I’ve put into something of recent memory was the Furious Hoops Vol. 01 compilation (Vinyl, Cassette, and Zine). It took around 3 years, or something, to complete everything.

How do you choose music to release?

For the most part it’s been friends or friends of friends. Before we had even reached four releases, we got an email (or message or something) from Noah Kittinger aka Bedroom. We had no idea who he was, but it turned out he was this 17-year-old kid from Nashville that saw me say something about basketball to this other band on the internet somewhere and thought we were doing cool stuff. He was the first person outside of our friend group (though he quickly snuck right in, haha) that we released something for. The ‘Toys’ EP, on tape. We made 24 tapes, a Gugliotta-run as we liked to call it, by cutting up some green filing cabinet folders, collaging an old 1960s toy catalog, and typing out everything directly onto the Jcards via my typewriter. Anyway, I guess I didn’t really answer your question… overall we choose the music to release by what we both really enjoy, which is pretty endless genre-wise.

Do they have preference for Georgia bands?

I wouldn’t say it’s a preference, but me being in Savannah definitely allows me to be friendly with more Georgia-based bands and artists. And again, we’re all about releasing music amongst friends and people we know. A lot of the bands we’ve released music for do have Savannah roots, but a lot also have Virginia connections since that’s where we began.

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Do you like getting submissions?

I do like getting submissions it’s probably the toughest part of “my job” if you want to call it a job. Like I said before we do this for fun, so the majority of our Furhoof “work” is done in spare time. So, I don’t have a whole of time to answer emails with demos, which I feel bad about. I usually write them all back eventually, and have made some friends that way, but sometimes my reply is months later. I wanna work with everyone, but there’s just not enough time or backing to do that unfortunately…

What do you do for living?

I’m a graphic designer, mainly within the music industry. I work for a number of labels as their “in-house” designer (Graveface, Captured Tracks, Omnian Music Group, etc.) and a lot of other labels, bands, and musicians as well.

Is it hard to manage time between label work and your daily job?

It can be pretty hard to do it, yeah. I do this in my spare time, so there’s not a whole lot of free time outside of furhoof work and day job work. Because Furious Hooves is so small, I’m doing the emailing, the A&R, as much PR as I can muster, the design, the newsletters, the demo-checking, the mail-order, so on and so on… it’s a lot to handle, but I try my damnedest to get the word out for every single release, because I believe every single one is worthy of listen.

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Have you ever thought of quitting your label and focusing on something else?

I’m not going to lie, it’s difficult sometimes when a band has put so much effort into a release and you’re like “Holy smokes! This is the best thing I’ve ever heard!” and then you release it to the world, and there’s just a giant sigh in your face. It’s rough. I’ve definitely thought about it, even for such a small label, but then you remember why you keep doing what you’re doing.

What keeps you doing your label?

The love of Furhoof. It’s fun! Whenever I cease having fun, will be the day I take a step away from Furhoof. Not quit, but step away. I’d probably reevaluate what made me get to the point where I was no longer having fun, adjust it, and hop right back into it again.   

Do you have a support in family, friends?

Oh yeah! Friends and family are heart and soul of Furious Hooves. We would not exist without them actually. There are a few close friends that are collectors and make sure they have every releases, which is cool! There aren’t many, but the ones that are are the Furhoof Lifers. 😉 One of them, Tim Hawks, actually has a Furhoof tattoo! (There are two Furhoof tats in the world at the moment, haha).   

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What are your plans for the future? Any goal with label?

Just stay rad. (And if we aren’t already, become radder.)

Where do you see your label in 5 years?

Stay Rad Vol. 67 and Furious Hoops Vol. 23 — maybe a few more publications (zines, art items, etc). Hopefully we’ll have our tapes available in more stores across the world. Would love that!

Did you like cassette as a boy?

You mean as a child growing up? Yeah I had a few cassettes growing up. Definitely more CDs than cassettes, but I had a portable tape player and CD player I took with me on adventures around my home. I had the Space Jam soundtrack on tape (obviously, haha) and I kept that in my alarm clock tape player, that would wake me up in the morning before school and I’d let it play as I got ready. Or I’d let it play out while I would reenact basketball games in my room with a little hoop above my door.

What were you listening to in childhood?

When I was growing up, music was always playing in my house. I grew up in the 90s but I was definitely listening to a lot of music of my parents’ generation. The Beatles, Van Morrison, BB King, Taj Mahal, Dylan & The Band, The Grateful Dead… you know, all over the place genre wise — even bluegrass like Butch Robins and Bill Monroe. I remember running around as a little kid, there would always be some kind of music playing. I don’t think I ever quit listening to any of the music from my childhood. I’ve only explored more and I definitely have my parents to thank for that. In middle & high school I got more into punk and indie / alternative stuff, mainly thanks to friends and my cousin Emmakate, who got me into Fruit Bats, Modest Mouse, Her Space Holiday… stuff like that. I also have a huge love of post-rock and ambient music.

What would be the most important advice you would give to someone running (not only) cassette label?

Do it because you want to—because you love it—not to try to make a buck. Cos that’s not going to happen haha! When you’re doing it for the love / fun of it, that also allows you to be creative with your friends. Who doesn’t want that!?

Name your 3 current favorite cassette releases.

Ooof! That’s hard. Let me see here….

  1. Mt. Home Arts — I’m grouping in all their things, because they’re all equally incredible. Not really a label, but an all out arts collective. Such attention to detail in every release making it all very much a piece of art you’re holding and experiencing. My faves from them would be the packaging for Eskimeaux’s O.K. and Real Life Buildings’ It Snowed. I love having a package in my hand that makes me fold apart and dig into to see what all is hidden inside and those two definitely do that.
  2. Soft Science Records — Another grouping here. These folks do all their releases with screen-printed Jcards/Inserts. I love all of their art, their design, and their music. It’s all pretty cohesive as a brand, but not over the top, which I love even more.
  3. HOST’s debut album on cassette via Aloe Music is a real beaut! The packaging includes risograph-printed Jcards and the music is the perfect ambient “desk metal” you’ll find. I feel like I get so much work done while listening to this album. 5 Stars. 😉

What’s your highest score on Wii Sports Resort: Basketball three-point contest?

Haven’t actually played this. I’m not much of a video game player, though when I was a kid I played NBA Jam and NBA Live ’95 on the Sega Genesis a ton.

Questions by Filip Zemčík

Answers by Ryan McCardle

Photos by Furious Hooves & Emily Earl

Written by:

A small cassette label run by Filip Zemčík based in Bratislava, Slovakia // ztapesrecords.com