Along with writing novels, Amanda Brown is a mainstay in the Los Angeles indie music scene, having played in a number of bands. But that isn't all; she can also add being the brains behind the talked-about dance label 100% Silk to her resume. Resurrecting the art of the 12" dance single, Brown's releases have become most sought-after in every record aficionado's collection.
You've had quite a few projects up till now, both solo and collaborative. What's been the most satisfying path for you, as an artist or a business owner?
Being a label owner is always the most satisfying to be honest, and having the opportunity to release all of the releases on 100% Silk has changed my life. My husband Britt and I say it's a blessing always to support and finance underground music/musicians, and we've never changed our opinion on that. My least favourite thing is having to turn a demo down; I know how much soul and energy goes into the creative process. I'm also able to collaborate with the best artists out there—Zola Jesus, Ital, Octo Octa, Maria Minerva. There's nothing better.
As you're quite the champion of underground and independent artists, what's your take on commercially successful artists like Lady Gaga? Does it affect the music industry in a positive way?
Lady Gaga's cool—I just don't give her much thought. Her fashion sense is beyond rowdy; it was exactly what the mainstream model needed—in a word, a shake-up. But her music is just pop, and her voice is just professional, and there's not much else to hold on to. What's maybe working is her infusion of dance beats and Euro-aesthetics, which is probably seeping into mainstream listeners and reminding them to get on their feet and get down. I can always appreciate that.
If Lady Gaga is for the mainstream, what is your audience?
International, I'd say. Australia is incredibly open, as is Japan, and of course the UK, Western Europe, and, amazingly, Poland, Russia, and the Ukraine. Although there is major love coming from San Francisco and Chicago, I'd still say states-wide we've got more convincing to do.
Does the creative process differ as a solo artist then, for example, within your former band Pocahaunted? I am asking because I feel the musical disparity is so big between your early work and your current work with LA Vampires. Could you pinpoint why?
The process is wildly different—in every way. Creation is immediate, now. Britt, Nick Malkin (my bandmate), and I don't use vague terms or play social etiquette/people-pleasing games; we just emote through the music and get right down to playing. The disparity between the projects is big, you're right, but the intent is the same. I try to be soulful, open, bold, infectious, spirited, and sexy. But it's been a long musical journey to get here, to be this forthright and unapologetic, and I couldn't have done that when I was started out. I think the genre of the music fits the mood—I'm clearly ready to emote joyfully and exuberantly.
Pocahaunted has easily become one of the coolest band names I've ever come across.
That's funny. Most everyone hates the name Pocahaunted, and, in fact, we got taunted and teased about it for years. My father still calls us Pinocchio for some reason. The name came to me in a dream, and though it's ridiculous to listen to your dreams, I turned it into a four-year project. And 100% Silk is obvious—it's what I'd love to be bathed in daily.
So, as you are now working on living that luxurious lifestyle, what else inspires 100% Silk?
I love our artists. Maria Minerva always inspires me, as does Damon and Daniel (Magic Touch, Ital, Mi Ami). I recently saw a set by Kinuko of Sapphire Slows, and I melted. I'd say go through the Silk catalogue, and you'll see my greatest inspirations this year. Of course, I can't ever discount Björk, Lady Miss Kier, CeCe Peniston, Loleatta Holloway, and Sade.
What did you initially intend 100% Silk to be when you first started it? By all accounts, it was meant as a side project to release dance music, but how much do you devote to the label now?
I didn't initially intend for it to take over my time, but it certainly has. I thought I could keep it light, very much a side thing, but that increasingly became impossible. Now it's more than half my day, each day, and I'm ecstatic it's come this far, but admittedly overwhelmed.
Your mission statement proclaims that your releases are "45 RPM 12 inch singles of diamond-life dance & bliss-disco & basement luxury grooves by friends and lovers from all over the world." Is this an aesthetic decision, or is it to meet demand from people who want their vinyl records?
It's 100% aesthetic. I'm barely meeting anyone's demands! No, scratch that, I'm meeting no one's demands but my own.
How do you discover artists?
I don't search at all, actually. Artists come to me. It's beautiful, really. Through other artists, friends of friends, and the experimental dance community, I've found nearly every Silk artist through a demo or introductory email they've sent. They become part of the extended Silk family. I wouldn't have it any other way. The point is to ALWAYS listen to demos, to always give unknown artists a chance. There's no room anymore for pretension.
So, how is the year looking for you and your label?
2012 is nuts. We have a Silk tour through the United Kingdom and Europe—LA Vampires, Magic Touch, Ital, Maria Minerva—and so many releases in our queue. There will be LA Vampires 12"s aplenty—including collaborations with Octo Octa and Minerva—and, hopefully, a full-length of mine with my favorite DJs and producers. There's also videos in the works, a Silk documentary, and as many Silk showcases around the world that I can help book. Personally, I'm working on my second novel for HarperCollins, shopping around a screenplay, staying diligent about my book club, and trying maybe—hopefully—to take a short vacation somewhere in there.
Wow, sounds insane! With this workload, how do you maintain a solid business relationship with your husband, Britt? Is there ever have a clashing of musical minds, or do you generally do what you love with love?
This is an awesome question, and one I rarely get. Working with Britt is the most fabulous, most ridiculous thing in the world. But he's also my husband and always around, and always typing on a computer across from the computer I'm typing on, so sometimes I want to throw the scanner at him. We have different tastes, for sure, and different ways of doing business—from handling conflicts and triumphs—and more than that we work at different paces. We both love what we do, though, and find humour and levity in it even as we're consoling each other during hard times. Much love all around; I wouldn't want to tackle music (performance, business, or otherwise) without him.