Yes, a new cassette label has surfaced on Bandcamp. Anyone who’s privy to the frequency of cassette label start-ups knows that this is not necessarily newsworthy. Saying there’s a new cassette label on Bandcamp isn’t much different than saying there’s a new series on Netflix. However, you might abandon this train of thought when you consider whose label it is.
Chances are, if you’re someone who prefers cassettes over Spotify, you’re a fan of (or have at least heard of) Larry Wish. Adam Werven, the Minneapolis-based songwriter/composer who has been steadily releasing music as Larry Wish for the past decade or so, has 49 albums available on his personal Bandcamp page. Two and half (one being a compilation album) of which were initially released via the legendary Orange Milk Records, while his latest How More Can You Need? was recently released via the underground Midwestern gem Field Hymn Records. So why has Werven, whose monolithic catalogue is relatively close to rivaling The Residents’ or Frank Zappa’s in number (and quite possibly strangeness), waited this long to start his own label?
“Bumpy is actually the second chapter of a previous endeavor. Back in 2010, I started a cassette label with a friend called Soothing Almonds Collective. It was all home-produced, small-run stuff. Usually only 50-100 copies of each release. I’ve learned a lot since then about representing myself and other artists, and want to give it another try. The first three releases are all old albums of mine that mean a lot to me and have never gotten a proper physical release. This way they can get the care they deserve and also act as guinea pigs to help me figure out how I want to go about pushing foward with Bumpy.”
Though two of these three releases are listed under alternative monikers (mangoSleeves and Used Condo), it’s beyond obvious when listening to them that they are Werven’s musical concoctions—comprised of artful chromatic steps, key/tempo changes that are both disorienting and charming, and Werven’s occasional signature baritone croon that pours over the wonky compositions like exotic melted chocolate.
Despite extensive touring and intermittently living in other states, such as Vermont and Wyoming, Werven has always and continues to call Minneapolis his home base. Thanks to the blossoming experimental scene there, his bizarre audio bonanzas don’t need to travel far to find hungry ears.
“The scene in Minneapolis is flourishing right now. Numerous bars have ‘electronic’ nights—which never used to happen. It’s becoming easier and easier to book shows. More bars and venues in general have become more invested in the artists they bring in. They actually want them to be there. It’s not just about making money for them anynmore. So many DIY spaces are popping up as well. Everyone’s inspiring each other.”
With that positive growth in mind, it’s hard not to wonder which artists Werven will choose to help define the Bumpy catalogue. Even harder not to wonder is how the label will fair when it comes to selling cassettes and increasing its overall presence in the underground community. However, in the end, Werven calmy looks past the superficial constructs of DIY success:
“Cassettes and vinyl are outselling all other forms of physical audio media right now—which is fantastic. Really though, with Bumpy, I just want to do things right and advocate for other artists. It’s an honor when someone sends you their music and trusts you to fight for them and help them get their stuff out there. You have to believe in their art. That’s what it’s all about to me. It’s not as simple as just selling a bunch of copies.”
So, the next time you’re laying down with your eyes closed and listening to a small-run album that no more than 50 to 100 people know about, consider something more than just the simple miracle that you’re listening to something so precious and rare. Consider something more than how the music came from an artist who wanted nothing other than someone to just listen to their album all the way through instead of previewing 2 of 12 tracks and clicking onward into Reddit oblivion. Yes, in addition, consider the fact that this sincerity stretches beyond the relationship between the artist and the listener—all the way back to the people like Adam Werven who make the connection possible in the first place.