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INTERVIEW: Paradise Daily Records
Kate Hennessy , December 14th, 2016 17:18

Kate Hennessy speaks to Paradise Daily owners Jaz Brooking, Ela Stiles and Del Lumanta about running a DIY record label in Sydney as the label celebrates its second birthday

While fossicking in a recycled garbage shop in late 2014, Sydney’s Jaz Brooking found a cassette duplicator. Brooking played in five or six bands and had a bit of money saved from trading second-hand goods. It was a logical next step to start dubbing tapes of her and her friends’ bands and thus, Paradise Daily Records was born.

The label has racked up nearly 40 releases since its formation, the early ones more spit than polish. From the bilious punk of Low Life to the Velvets-esque valium folk of The Garbage And The Flowers, all but two releases are on cassette, with Brooking dubbing each by hand. In September, the label forayed into vinyl with a 7” by The Rangoons followed by Ela Stiles' impressive solo LP Molten Metal.

Paradise Daily is celebrating its second birthday this Saturday (December 17) with a gig at the Portugal Madeira Club. This ethnic club in the western Sydney suburb of Marrickville is opposite Ming Seafood Wholesaler and wedged between a mechanic and a plant that makes nuts and bolts. Brown and squat, with overzealous fencing, it could be mistaken for a site of light industry itself. Yet three flags fly from its roof (Australian, Portuguese and the club’s own flag) and along its wall is a series of sun-bleached sketches of women in traditional Portuguese clothes. The art is peculiar, dated and weirdly endearing. Just like the club.

In a city at crisis levels of rental affordability, yet overrun by craft beer “tap takeovers”, the Portugal Madeira Club offers $5 tinnies of Portuguese favourites Super Bock and Sagres and - if you ask nicely - goblets of a strange and syrupy golden wine labelled The Ripper. Complimentary fish croquettes appear regularly on the counter - an agreeable sight at a six-hour showcase - and gig-goers can spill seamlessly into a carpark to smoke and drink without having fiddly legislation about where they can, and can’t, have a good time shoved up their nostrils by meathead security staff.

The club may be an unlikely venue in another city. But Sydney has a history of alliances between live music and ethnic clubs dating back to legendary venues such as The Phoenician Club, run by members of the Maltese community, where Nirvana played in 1992. With some exceptions, however, the inner city has gradually emptied of venues over the years and, citywide, opportunities for bands to play live have dwindled. It is not uncommon for tours to skip Sydney altogether for venues in small coastal towns nearby like Wollongong and Newcastle.

In 2013, I summarised the squeeze on live music in Sydney as such: “The undue weight given to residents’ noise complaints; building codes that lassoed venues into the same category as airports; poker machines’ tsunami of cash versus the tenuous trickle-down of live gigs; council regulations that required security at even the smallest of shows; and threats from developers hunting bigger profits.”

Live music’s most recent hobbling is also viewed as its most drastic: the 2014 lockout laws. After a run of alcohol-related crime and the violent death of two young men, the conservative state government enforced restrictions on inner city venues including a 1.30am lockout. The campaign to reverse the laws, Keep Sydney Open, claims: “crucial live music venues in Sydney have closed, several hundred jobs have been lost and the magic around our city is fading”.

Yet, Paradise Daily has thrived. Possibly because the well that has dried for inner city establishments was never one the label drank from. After years of poor state government decisions that contradicted the good work of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore to encourage late-night culture, the lockout laws shored up the battle lines between the ‘preservers’ and ‘destroyers’ of live music. But that picture is too simplistic. Things were both good and bad before the laws and remain so after. And baby DIY labels like Paradise Daily - conceived, gestated and born into conditions that only seem unfavourable if you’ve experienced anything else - just got on with it, in a way impervious to whatever recent round of prohibitions were raining down from police and policy-makers.

By 2016, Brooking needed help so Ela Stiles and Del Lumanta came on board. Together, the three women have been, or are currently in, the following 18 bands: Video Ezy, Gas, Skyline, Heartbreak, Drum Drum, Dry Finish, Family, Destiny 3000, Housewives, The Rangoons, J.E.M., Community Service, Liquid Diet, Delivery Boys, Bushwalking, Songs, The Roamin' Catholics and Lakes. The afternoon we meet in the beer garden of a pub near the Portugal Madeira Club, thousands were gathering at a Keep Sydney Open rally.

So we’re here, not at the rally. I feel pretty conflicted about the campaign – how about you?

Ela Stiles: Keep Sydney Open is important but also I think it doesn't affect us. I think it’s going to benefit the Justin Hemmes of Sydney. Do we need those people to get another venue and turn it into another Ivy and make millions of dollars? I feel like it's going to help them push more people out. It's already happened, pushed everyone to the fringes.

Del Lumanta: I think [the campaign] is necessary because there's a problem with venues and it's unfair and as a city that's supposed to be cultural, why is this happening? It’s stupid but we exist outside that world. Sometimes we use those spaces but we don’t rely on them to exist.

Jaz Brooking: It’s true that we don't use those venues in the city but it does affect us in a way because since the lockout laws we've had flocks of absolute dickheads heading out West and crabbing our vibe.

DL: The people barking the loudest are the ones I never see at gigs I care about. They’re kind of annoying because they're making all this noise about culture in Sydney dying which undermines people who do great work here and don't rely on the regular pubs and venues these people want to protect. It’s pretty obvious they want to keep their cushy jobs more than they want to contribute to the culture of Sydney because I never see them at any gigs besides the ones they put on.

Stuff came before the lockout laws that they didn’t protest. Though has it not affected you because you're out of the lockout zone too?

ES: It’s because the people who come to our shows live out this way anyway. I feel like people don't bother going to the city anymore because they’ll get either beaten up or arrested for some stupid reason or kicked out.

DL: There are instances where people do put on gigs outside this area and it’s really stress-y because the culture of the venues that still exist is negative and unsafe and also has this pressure to get numbers in. The people we work with don't care if they play to five people or 100. They just want to play. Going to the city feels weird.

How did the Portugal Madeira Club gigs begin?

JB: My band Housewives played at a gig [writer and musician] Max Easton organised. The vice-president of the Club came up and said, "Did you play in that last band?" I thought we were in trouble. He said, "What have I got to do to get you guys back here?" And we just started texting.

ES: He was a fan of how many people were drinking.

JB: He hated Housewives. He disliked them.

I wonder why he came up to you.

JB: Maybe because every other person in Housewives is a white, short-haired guy. I don't know, but we're good friends now, me and Rinalto. We hug and kiss when we see each other, it's great. The [club owners] love that everyone gets along and doesn't punch up. They say most engagement parties have police and ambulances out the front because there's punch ups every time.

The gigs are less violent than the engagement parties. Interesting.

ES: Yeah, Keep Sydney Open.

DL: Idiots.

So, gigs upstairs and downstairs, is that going to be continued?

JB: Yeah, upstairs is almost like a ball room and they have that big garage downstairs that's used for karate lessons or something and they can have stuff there too. They had that Heaps Gay, carpark party.

I love this partnership between inner West labels like you and inner West ethnic clubs. It’s very Sydney.

JB: I was thinking after this interview of going down to the Cyprus Club and asking what they thought. They have a room there.

ES: There's also the German Club.

Why are you approaching these venues instead of regular venues?

JB: It's a pain in the arse dealing with other venues. The fee or the person you've got to deal with is a total arsehole who doesn't get anything about what you're doing. With the Portugal Madeira Club or Marrickville Bowling Club, I can send someone a text message being like, "It's Jaz, can I book this date?" and they're like, "Yeah, mad" and then you send a beer emoji back. You don't have to send through age group, target, expected numbers. They don't care. They trust you. It's no bullshit.

ES: Easier.

JB: Costs less.

DL: Nicer spaces.

JB: Nicer security. The Portugal Madeira Club let us move the tables and decorate, whereas another place, if you wanted to move a bench someone would be like: "What the?”

DL: And sound people, oh my God. Dealing with sound people for regular venues versus bringing your own.

Jaz, you know most of the bands on the label personally right?

JB: Most of the bands I put out are bands I've seen live and get to know.

Because something can sound amazing on record and shit live, or vice versa?

JB: Yeah, I don't think I've ever put out a band I haven't seen live a bunch of times already and gotten to know.

Why?

JB: I don't know. It's nicer that way.

ES: You can understand their music a bit more when you get to know people. You have a deeper appreciation.

DL: You understand more about their perspective and their process. You look at labels that put people out after they hear something hot on Soundcloud, those people have luxury to throw around money. That kind of role is kind of weird. I don't know what a musician might expect from some stranger wanting to put out their stuff.

ES: We get weird press releases now saying like, “These boys are up and coming. They've burst onto the scene."

DL: Emerging!

JB: Their records might sound good but they don't play live. Though I'm putting out a Four Door 12" and they will probably never play ever again and I'm fine with that. I know them and love them and used to see them live before. I leave everything up to the band.

DL: If they want to play or don't want to play. If they want to launch it or don't want to launch it. We don't force them, like “you have to say yes to three Paradise Daily shows a year.”

So, you all pitch in?

DL: Yeah, we all bounce ideas off each other. Like who should play this next show?

JB: Even just like, “What should I write for this Facebook post?”

DL: Captions. “What's the caption for this picture?”

JB: I'm so paranoid about that stuff.

Do you ever totally disagree with each other?

JB: Not often.

DL: Sometimes. And then it's like, “it's already posted”.

JB: I'm like, “well, I've already fucked it”.

There's no one model of what a label does these days. Do you get involved with any aspects of production or recording?

JB: I pretty much leave it up to them. Some of the bands, like Videoezy and The Rangoons, have recorded at the studio in my backyard but that's as involved as I've gotten in the recording side of things. We don't charge anyone. They can use the space.

ES: It's just a shed in Jaz's backyard.

JB: Bit bigger than this room.

Good acoustics?

JB: Yeah.

ES: It's the Paradise Daily studios. Rangoon Island.

Rangoon Island is the shed?

ES: Yeah, in the backyard.

So, now you're all working together, what do you want?

ES: We want to be able to release good records continuously.

DL: Yeah, release records and put on shows. Go on some fun trips.

ES: We just did two grants. One was to buy gear and be self-sustainable and the other one was a project putting on shows for six months to get funding to be able to pay people. We're thinking a regional Australian tour and we'd like to take a few bands to New Zealand. Jaz just bought a 12-seater van.

JB: It's a bus.

ES: A bus, sorry. We're all going to Melbourne in February. It's the first Paradise Daily roadtrip.

Who's 'we'?

JB: Videoezy, Red Red Krovvy, Aloha Units, Sex Tourists, Sex Havers DJs and a heap of Sydney bands all in one band. We wanted to be able to hopefully pay for the whole thing. I hate taking a band somewhere and they come back broke. When Aloha Units and The Rangoons went to Brisbane, after paying the sound guy each band got $20, so like $4 per member. It was an expensive trip.

How big of an issue is money?

JB: I've been putting out tapes because I couldn't afford to put out records. I'm a massive hoarder, so I've been selling a lot of my guitars and cars recently.

ES: Jaz is really good at buying and selling.

In Sydney. the scene is quite corporate. Nothing is ever in your hands. Shaun Prescott did that amazing piece this year about that old metal band, Sadistik Exekution, and how full of rage they were. And his main point was how strange it was that in this climate Sydney bands aren’t making music anywhere near that angry. Have you read it?

DL: I agree with Shaun about a lot of this. His call for urgency to rupture the systems that make it hard to exist in Sydney is good but there is way more at stake now. Acts of rebellion today versus the 90s have more repercussions because authorities are abusing power more than ever.

And I think ugliness and heaviness is still present in the current underground, it just takes a different shape. Like Dispossessed, Lucy Cliche, M.O.B. and even Ela's latest album. It's interesting to think how this music might be heard by that past underground. I guess there's always going to be generational resistance plus people getting old and having lives but I hope that we aren't so far gone that those before us would be unwilling to engage. That would make me sad. Momentarily.

How would you describe the music that you're releasing or want to release?

ES: It's very diverse.

DL: I think everyone on the label is kind of coming into a consciousness of their style or how to project that. That's really vague, sorry.

No, that fits with how it's often their first release or first solo release. But what music or bands are you attracted to?

DL: There's not really a criteria.

Why would you turn something down then?

JB: If I wasn't familiar with it.

ES: Well, we do listen to stuff people send, and it's just like -

JB: It doesn't do anything.

ES: It doesn't resonate with you or make you feel anything.

JB: For sure and I'm really sensitive. Half the time, I'm crying during sets. I can't explain it. I need this connection.

Are you all on the same page?

DL: Yeah, especially when you're talking about Sydney bands. It’s like, “so and so was fucking awesome on the weekend”.

Like who?

DL: LA Suffocated.

Yes, they are great. What does awesome feel like?

JB: I just feel really sad or happy. I need to feel something, either the performance or the record.

ES: When you see Garbage And The Flowers play, it's somehow so amazing. But for an outsider to be at that show, they wouldn't get it as much.

JB: People often criticise the way they play their instruments.

ES: Yeah, like “what the hell is this?” But when I was watching them the other night, I was almost in tears.

DL: There is a rich history in Sydney that has informed our perspectives, before Paradise Daily existed. The discovery of how dense and varied the scene was in Sydney feels good. It's definitely something you feel when you go to a show of The Garbage And The Flowers and see all the people who have been connected to them for decades. How they organised shows is not dissimilar to how we're operating now.

Your releases would have an audience in Europe, places like that.

JB: I've got a place in France, Born Bad Music, they're taking some tapes, which is cool.

ES: 38:45 is taking some in Berlin. We’re slowly building up. One day we might do a distro thing.

JB: It just costs a lot to send stuff. For someone to buy an LP in the U.S. or wherever costs about $27, $28 shipping to get it there. Paying more for the shipping than the actual record. People still buy though.

Tapes must be cheaper though?

JB: Some places it can cost about $7 and some places, like $20. Sometimes you can get away with posting it as a large letter.

This is an Australian predicament, right? Knowing there's a big audience elsewhere because we hear stuff that comes out in Europe and the U.S. and think "That's OK, but fuck, there's heaps better things happening here." That's what I think anyway. To be clear, I'm not setting up that paradigm of “you only mean something if you're big overseas”. This is about quality and audiences and seeing some sort of barrier between the two.

DL: It takes decades and we're just babies. I guess having Bandcamp with MP3s is one way for people to access it. It's not physical but it's instant.

Do you consider yourself a tape label? Some labels, or imprints, define themselves as tape labels as the whole aesthetic package but for you it was necessity?

JB: I was using tapes because that's what I could afford. I was doing what I could with what I had. I do love tapes. They sound really good, really warm. But some people seem to think it’s strictly a cassette tape label but that's not the case. I would have loved to put out some tapes as 7"s or 12"s but it wasn't possible at the time. Over the years I've been saving up money towards releasing vinyl by opening short term lease second-hand shops and picking stuff up off the side of the road and selling it.

DL: Other labels put out some artists and say “we're only going to do an edition of 50” so it's collectible. We don't care about that stuff. If people want it, it can be made available if it's run out again.

ES: If someone was like, "Can I have this tape that's sold out?" Like, of course, we'd just make you one.

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