This month’s label spotlight features Jim Harper, Partner/ECD of Boxing Clever Records.
Boxing Clever Records is a St. Louis-based record label that began as a passion project from the creative marketing agency of the same name, Boxing Clever. It became a full-fledged record label in 2013, and released a series of limited 7-inch vinyl earlier this year.
Check out our recent post about their limited 7-inch releases here.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Jim Harper of Boxing Clever Records, and got to pick his brain about Boxing Clever Records, packaging design, their recent 7-inch releases, and more!
Read our Q&A below:
Q: So you’re an advertising agency AND a record label. How did that come about?
We’ve designed merch, visuals, packaging for the music industry, so the transition came easy, because it’s our passion. We design all of the in-store posters for appearance and events at Vintage Vinyl, a 30-plus year old record store. We do all the designs for store credit. We started collecting the craziest, coolest vinyl, and it got to be an obsession. Then we decided to make our own designer 7’s. Next we’ll be signing bands.
Q: Does the advertising team play a role in any of the releases or is it a separate entity from the record label?
Everyone at the agency also works for the label. We assemble records and packaging together. We work the merch booth at shows. It’s a very DIY label and it’s the cultural center of the agency these days.
Q: Your first series of releases are on limited 7-inch vinyl. Why did you decide on vinyl and what’s your outlook on its future?
For us, vinyl was never gone. It’s resurgence has just made it better, because records not available on vinyl are even coming back. Quality’s better again, packaging is insane, and we want to be a part of it! Vinyl is the first thing we think about in all of our releases. We design for digital and CD’s because we have to. If it were up to us, we’d just make cool records.
Q: It states on your website that you’re “music snobs and proud of it”. How do you think your releases are shaping the future “music snobs” of the world?
Really, it’s just a statement about music people being such important influencers. We wanted there to be different genres on the label, but also make sure we were delivering bands that weren’t exactly “pop.” But many still have more mainstream qualities. It’s also important at Boxing Clever we educate our younger members of the staff about some of the trends of today’s music and how they came from certain places. We’re snobs because music is one of the most important cultural entities in the world, and generations are defined by it. Therefore, if you’re helping us out with a record label you better be knowledgeable about music and it’s origins.
Q: You’ve got a few releases under your belt from a lot of great artists such as Vanilla Beans, Mohicans, Tone Rodent and more. How do you decide which artists get the “Boxing Clever” treatment? Do they come to you or do you actively search for new artists?
The first batch we did a combination of approaching bands we knew, but then having them inviting their “farthest away friend”. So The Great Crusades from Chicago knew Planeausters from Germany. So we had a cool combo of friends from faraway places. Same with A*Star from there, and Blindness from London. Superfun and Vanilla Beans shared members, as did Mohicans and Suborbital. So the bands are sort of related on each release.
Q: What do you think sets Boxing Clever Records apart from other record labels in the business?
At the least, high-end, letterpress or hand printed covers (we know we’re not the only ones), high-design, and then our skate decks got some attention on record store day. As far as setting us apart, I guess the music, but we don’t want to stand apart as much as be a part of the music scene. It’s an obsession and we will keep finding ways to be a part of it.
Q: Your packaging design is some of the best we’ve seen. Why do you think it’s important to place extra emphasis on the packaging and design of a release?
Number one, thank you. At the end of the day, we just want people to think they’re pretty, so we appreciate that.
The design is so important. Vinyl is so important because it is a tangible thing. The only thing digital downloads are lacking besides THAT SOUND. THAT BEAUTIFUL SOUND OF THE NEEDLE ON THAT RECORD, is that amazing tangible thing in your hand you stare at as you listen. When I was a kid, I held KISS Alive, Isaac Hayes Black Moses, Uriah Heep Demons and Wizards and albums like that in my hand for hours and stared at them, and imagined the sound coming from that picture. There’s no other experience like it. Never will be.
Q: Are there any plans to release a full-length album or do you plan to stick to 7-inch releases exclusively?
We just signed our first few bands. Two St. Louis acts we’re really excited about. Bruiser Queen and Cave of Swords. We want to sign several more St. Louis acts and also some amazing acts in England, and a few other parts of the country. We’re just starting and what we’ve found out is starting a record label is REALLY HARD. It’s so much work. You can’t even imagine. Props to so many of my favorite labels. Touch and Go, Matador, 4AD, I.R.S., Joyful Noise, Merge, Dischord, SST. Third Man Records Geebus I love record labels. Now you see why I’m doing this. Too many to name.
Honestly, it’s a lot of work, but every time you get something accomplished, you’re helping your friends in bands, your helping your friends at the label, and hopefully, someone out there is enjoying your work.
Q: What can we expect from Boxing Clever Records in the future?
The big thing, besides more records, is we’re working with a new format that blends the digital and the tangible. More unique ways to deliver music, in cool, tangible formats. And more beautiful stuff from our awesome team here. The artists who deigned the first round of records really outdid themselves. I’m in love with every release so far.