The Eyes Behind: Orchid Tapes Playlist & Interview
In his small living room in Brooklyn, Warren Hildebrand, founder of Orchid Tapes, hand addresses packages of records, cassettes, and shirts to be shipped. With a final touch to each order, Hildebrand adds a piece of Japanese candy and green tea packets stamped with the labels logo. It's this attention to detail that attracts Orchid Tapes constantly growing audience that feels more family than fan.
It's hard to imagine that this Hildebrand handles it all from the confines of his apartment (with the added support of his grey cat, Baba, and talented photographer boyfriend, Brian, who handles the labels creative direction).
Hildebrand understands and works both sides of the coin, having put out records from signees like R.L Kelly, Alex G, and Ricky Eat Acid, while taking his own project Foxes In Fiction on tour with Arcade Fire's Owen Pallett. We caught him in a rare still moment to talk about the labels history and where he sees it going.
What's a normal day like at the label?
Everything is done from our apartment in a room that I have set up for all the recording and label work, and most days usually go like this (at least when I can stick to the schedule I try and set for myself); I wake up and make coffee for Brian and I. Then I start on any kind of prep work that I might need to do (running a label is just like working in a kitchen!) and start assembling the gift envelopes or stamping the tea bags that we give away, or anything else repetitive and monotonous that might need to be done in high volume.
Afterwards I try and schedule any of the phone calls I might have for pretty early on so I don't get insane thinking about them all day, and because I can't carry a normal human conversation if I'm really tired. If it's a Packaging Day, I'll try and start before noon so I can become really focused on it; it's the kind of activity that gets a lot easier with the more time that you spend on it, and it's not uncommon that I'll lose myself in a trance for 12 hours and get through almost 200 record orders.
Throughout the day I usually have a bunch of different Facebook, iMessage or G Chat conversations going with people discussing releases or general stuff relating to upcoming releases, tours or anything Orchid Tapes. A lot of the people we're working with are my best friends so it's never anything really formal, which is nice.
The last things I do after I'm finished with shipping stuff is answer emails from the day and catalog any orders that came in so I can get started on them the next day.
A lot of the day-to-day success of the label runs on this routine, and I'm still changing and working things out to make it better. Since Brian and I travel a lot, I've been doing a good amount of touring lately, it's been hard to stick to it outright but we try and make it work as best we can whenever we can.
Your project, Foxes in Fiction has touched a lot of people—have there been any memorable experiences with fans?
I get a lot of really nice and emotionally intense messages from people, and it's the kind of stuff emotionally that validates what I'm doing really above all else. People have told me that my music has helped with a lot of suicidal ideation in the wake of really traumatic injuries, just while they're laying in hospital bed and listening to my music. A couple of people have told me that they've given birth to my music, which is so heavy but completely amazing.
Where do you want to see the label in 5 years? 10 years?
There have a been a lot of opportunities that have come up lately to take the label in either a more pro or anti-"industry" direction and we're getting to a point where a lot of decisions are going to have to be made about how we want those things to go. My experiences as both a label owner and a musician are probably going to influence those choices in different ways, but as it stands I honestly have no idea what's going to happen. I just want to do what feels best and doesn't result in things totally falling apart!
Why do you think tapes are still important in an age of digital downloads? What about them makes it special to you?
What makes them special to me is they stand as the direct antithesis to the idea of digital over-saturation and consumption with music. When purchasing and listening to cassettes, you're willingly putting yourself in a position where you have to exercise a level of patience that isn't required when torrenting albums or buying music from iTunes. It also gives us and the artists we work with to put a great deal of thought into the aesthetic side of physical releases and make things as beautiful as we want for a relatively small amount of money.
What have you learned from starting your own label? Is there anything you've learned about yourself?
I've learned that people want labels like Orchid Tapes that try and do things differently. People have really connected with the way that we do things and it's been the most amazing thing because we're just doing it from a place of loving what we do and trying to make and release beautiful things. There was never any major decision to do things a certain way, this is just us trying to do something cool.
How do you make Orchid Tape releases special?
The musicians that make the albums are the ones that really make them special, but on our side of things Brian and I are always discussing different ideas for ways that we can make the physical aspect of things really memorable. Brian's an amazing photographer / all around artist and I mostly have a history in visual art so I think that it's really easy for us to talk about these things of things and come up with ideas that fit the release we're working on.
What age did you first start recording? Have you always gone by Foxes In Fiction?
I started recording really unlistenable and weird noise collages and field recordings when I was about 11, but I didn't start using the name until I was 15, in high school. Things didn't really take much of a musical form until I was about 17 or so and started writing more melodic things for the first time.
What have been some of your pinch me moments?
Finishing my record. It took about three years to finish so there came points where I was fighting back a lot of sadness and anxiety over how things were turning out and I genuinely thought that it would never be finished. But a lot of good friends helped me out or encouraged me, and now it's done and I feel great! I also recently got to do a tour as a band for the first time which was really emotionally overwhelming to me in the best way.
You recently went on tour with violinist, and frequent Arcade Fire collaborator, ?Owen Pallett—what was that like? How did he come to play on the ?most recent Foxes In Fiction album, Ontario Gothic?
It was amazing actually, Owen played all the shows with Emily Reo and I, and it felt like a really perfect dynamic between the three of us, they were the best shows I've ever played. It was like all the ideas I'd ever had about doing more exciting live stuff were totally realized over the course of a few performances. We rode the whole distance in the Owen & Co. tour van and it was just the best experience. I've never felt like I've gotten that close with a set of people ever really. A lot of the time it felt like worrying about the show and music came second to the social experience of being around such a great and encouraging group of people that were really easy to relate and connect with emotionally. There are a lot of opportunities to go completely insane while on tour and the people I was with were helping to reduce that a lot.
What's next on the Orchid Tapes lineup that you're excited about releasing?
We're putting together a couple reissues of things that sold out super quickly this year which should be nice. Emily Reo, who plays with me live, is one of my favorite musicians and we're putting out a 7" by her sometime over the next while too. Lots of other good stuff that I can't talk about yet either!