“We are defined in life by how we respond to defeat.” Truer words were never spoken, and these words say a lot about the latest record label on the musical scene, Easy Killer Records, featuring acts such as Night Verses, The Company We Keep, and Brian Marquis. With owners Mike Judy and Kevin Gales behind the wheel, this music-making vehicle is bound to break some speed limits (and top charts.) Both owners have an extensive background in the music industry, but it’s their personable and dedicated approach to the label that makes their experience all about the music. According to a press release, The Company We Keep stated, “We’re very excited to have Easy Killer in our corner as we finally release an LP. It’s comforting to actually know the people in charge, and we trust that we will be able to do big things together.”
Big things are bound to come their way. We got the chance to chat with Mike and Kevin about their new venture, and Kevin shares some deeply personal events that have helped to mold the way he sees life. Read on if you’re curious about the inner workings and the story behind how much of your favorite music comes to life!
TheIndieSD: Tell me about the “mantra” of Easy Killer. What kind of artists are you looking to share with the world? What kind of themes do you want your label to be about? What do you want “Easy Killer” to be synonymous with?
Mike Judy: Honesty. Diversity. Musicianship. We want to bring in artists that are genuine about honing their craft, regardless of the genre they choose to perform.
Kevin Gales: Damn. That’s an outstanding question. When you’re committed to resourcing artists to bring their message to the world, some of those messages are gonna conflict with one another. Resourcing good musicians to do good work, no matter the style of genre….that’s what we’re about.
TISD: Has starting a record label always been in the plans for your music careers?
MJ: Kevin has run a few labels in the past, so this isn’t his first time doing something like this. Me, I’ve just always known that I want to do something in this industry. Booking shows for the past decade or so has certainly aided me in gathering the sort of knowledge ya need to pull off something like this.
KG: This is my third label released through a major, so yes, I think there is definitely a place for a company to help and resource good musicians. I enjoy that role, definitely.
TISD: Mike, since you’ve worked as a concert promoter, you must have some awesome event ideas in store for EK. Any upcoming features and/or events that we can look forward to seeing (and hearing) from EK Records?
MJ: We’ve spoken about a few EK tours, since we’re lucky to have a roster of talented artists that respect one another. It’s really developed into a family atmosphere, especially over these past few months. You’ll also be seeing some rad stuff going on from the four artists of ours who are on Warped Tour this year.
TISD: Tell me about your “process” with a new or potential artist. How did you go about choosing your current, diverse roster? Once signed, what kind of elements do you focus on with the artists on your label?
KG: Almost everyone we look at signing, we try and figure out what it is they’re needing help with. (“Everything!”). So ok, but really. Is it touring? Is it recording? Are you set on every front, but you just don’t have a van? That’s first and then we see how [we] could help, and see if our level of commitment lines up with what they’re thinking and needing. After signing, it’s all about getting that music out there..however we can.
MJ: Like I mentioned earlier, we seek out honest, talented musicians and really focus there. Once we have someone onboard, we just want to make sure they’re active and doing the same sort of things that turned us on to them in the first place.
TISD: Tell me about the best show you’ve attended — any musical experience that really stood out to you and helped shape the way you see music and the music industry.
MJ: Oh geez…So many to choose from. This may not be something that helped shape the way I saw things, but I’d say my favorite show that I’ve attended was in October of ’11 with Thrice, O’Brother, La Dispute, and Moving Mountains. On one hand, there was Thrice, (who I had considered my favorite band for over a decade at that point), O’Brother, who are close friends of mine, and La Dispute/Moving Mountains, who were two bands that I had really been getting into at the time. Just a stellar tour. On the other hand, it was the night of Game 7 of the World Series, in which my beloved Cardinals were involved. Long story short, the Cards won the World Series that night (I lifted a confused/terrified Michael from O’Brother about 4 feet in the air after the last out) and I got to watch them hoist the trophy during the set of my favorite band. Great times.
Side Note: The tour manager that night was Brian Southall, who I didn’t know personally at the time but is now part of the EK family as a member of The Company We Keep. Small world indeed.
KG: Your readers may not know these bands because they’re all from Canada; this is when I was living there. But I managed and signed a band called Means, back in the day. They had left for their first US tour, and came home just in time for their CD release show in their hometown in Regina Saskatchewan. Not sure how many people were there, but it was for sure a 500 cap venue, and we quit selling tickets after 2000 people. That show was Means, Far From Ruin, The Holly Springs Disaster, and The Fortunate. And it was complete hardcore insanity. Really enjoyed that night. I was there with my daughter who was about 13 at the time. She was scared to death, but she also LOVED the energy and all the crazy fun.
TISD: Can you divulge in, or at least hint to, any new artists that we may see added to the roster in the upcoming months?
MJ: Sure! All I can say is we’re absolutely keeping with the theme of diversity. Extremely excited to have these guys aboard.
KG: Keep in mind…diversity!
TISD: “We are defined in life by how we respond to defeat.” That’s a beautiful quote featured on your Facebook page! Can you tell me if there is a story or specific meaning for the both of you behind that quote?
KG: It takes very little to be a good person or good man when things are going well. But whether we like it or not, we are all measured by our dialogue with failure and loss. Not many people know this, but I have daughter with Downs Syndrome, and I also had a son who died when he was 9 months old. These weren’t failures, but when Joseph died, it was surely a loss. After his death, Hannah was born, and when we realized she’d be challenged, we couldn’t help but feel a certain type of defeat. If I’m being totally honest, I failed Hannah miserably in that very first day or two. But Hannah is an amazing person, God, just love her to death, and she’s key member of our family, and a huge person in my life. There’s no real story attached to that quote, only that Mike and I believe it whole heartedly.
MJ: It was Kevin’s quote, and while it doesn’t apply to one specific event, it can apply to many different times in life. It’s something to remind you that it’s when times are the worst that you can show your true colors, and come out for the better because of it. The origin of the name “Easy Killer” is relevant here as well. It of course means to take it easy, don’t get too bummed when things are going rough. “Take it easy, killer. Things will get better.”
TISD: Was starting the label a difficult or easy process? Were there any major hurdles that threatened to get in the way of creating your business?
MJ: I think the largest hurdle was really pulling everything off the way we wanted to initially, and that was to make an instant splash. In order to do this, we needed to establish a full, diverse roster right away. This was a bit tricky since we were trying to sign everyone before we were a publicly launched entity, and they had to aboard with the concept of initially signing to an invisible label. Luckily, we were able to garner heavy trust with all of our artists in the early going, mainly due to past experiences (me booking them, Kevin recording them as a producer, etc). Now that we’ve gotten over that hump, the fun part has started. We’re thrilled with where we’re at right now.
KG: I don’t think there’s anything particularly tough about starting a label. Keeping it running and such is much more difficult. I think our launch was unique in that we wanted to come out of the gate with a fully established roster. Doing that took a ton a resources up front, lots of work, lots of planning [and] coordinating. And it’s still hard, but it’s great and we believe in our artists, our company, and each other for sure.
For more information about Easy Killer Records (and Apparel!), definitely check out their official website.