In our newest edition of Meet & Greet, we spoke with Dan Marter, who runs In The Clouds Records. Along with featuring artists like Happy Body Slow Brain, Athletics and The Gay Blades, the label is also renowned for its elaborate and impressive vinyl packaging. You can pick up all of In The Clouds’ releases over at their webstore.
How did In The Clouds initially begin?
As my vinyl collection started growing, I’d start looking around for some of my favorite records and realized they weren’t released. So, instead of waiting around for someone else to do it, I took it on myself. I had already started my own design company called SWOSO Studios as a side gig a few years earlier making websites, printing up t-shirts and whatever else for some extra cash. So I just started saving up whatever I made from that to start putting out the records I wanted. SWOSO is an abbreviation for “Sleeping With Our Socks On” which came from a Penfold lyric out of their song, “The Sound of Jazz.” Re-releasing their album was one of the main reasons I started putting out vinyl.
What makes you guys different from the majority of labels is the heavy focus on the artistic aspects of a vinyl pressing. From pop-up art; to touch sensitive jackets; to most recently, a plantable vinyl package; it’s some of the more unique ideas within the world of records. What is your background in the arts?
Music and Art go hand in hand and I was always into both. Back in high school, I started playing in a few bands and was too stubborn to pay someone else to design our merch, so I’d mess around in Photoshop until I got things the way I wanted them. I also use to cut class to go fuck around in the art room, but I never really considered anything I did to be “art”… it was just me messing around not going to class. But it did give me a chance to work with a bunch of different mediums. Now, it’s like 10+ years later, all of that stuff just ended up coming in handy.
Were there specific labels or releases, which inspired you to put this amount of effort into the packaging of your releases?
I don’t think there was a specific label that inspired me, but a few years back I got a copy of those Glassjaw 7″s with the GJ logo cut out the center hole. Thought that was cool, so that was probably the first one that got me thinking about different ways vinyl could be packaged.
Let’s hit on a couple of the record packages you’ve done, beginning with the touch sensitive jacket for Athletics’ “Why Aren’t I Home”? What was the thought process behind the idea?
Honestly, I don’t really remember where that one came from haha, the idea kinda happened on the fly. I had been listening to their record a lot on the way to work and randomly ran into some of the guys from Athletics in the crowd at a show in New Brunswick. I found the touch sensitive ink online and I thought the idea of a “ghost” handprint that vanished seemed to match the music. I hit them up a couple days later with the idea and everything came together pretty smoothly. They’re really great guys.
Sticking with the same question, how did you devise the idea for Happy Body Slow Brain’s “Dreams Of Water,” which is a jacket actually filled with liquid?
I originally had a completely different idea for the Happy Body stuff… Matt and I had emailed each other back and forth for a few months with ideas and we eventually agreed on something, but I don’t think either of us were super excited with it. We had made plans to meet up for the first time and grab lunch to finalize stuff and I just threw the idea out there like “What if we could put water in the jacket” not even knowing how to make it happen. Afterwards, I spent a couple hours on online research and sent a few emails to China, which allowed it to become a much cooler idea that everyone was happy with.
On to your most recent release. How did you develop the plantable vinyl package for Annuals’ “Be He Me”?
I had reached out about pressing the album and really had nothing in mind for the packaging, just loved the music. I kept thinking how the coloring and everything about the original artwork had this earthy element to it. I’d listen to the record on repeat trying to get some inspiration and I think the lyrics to “Ida, My” helped make the plantable idea click. After we had the idea, I found out the band didn’t have the original hi-res art files, so I just sketched out the whole thing.
Do you have specific packaging ideas that you’re actively developing, as in something you’re just waiting for the right release to use them on? Or do you not think about it until you have a set album in mind?
I’ve always got a couple ideas rolling around in my head; I mean there’s a ton of crazy shit I can think of, but I don’t try to make them all happen just to say I did it. I think it’s a lot better when you have a particular album in mind and the music, or artwork, or whatever, inspires what you’re doing. The packaging shouldn’t try to outshine the music. It should simply enhance it.
Can you give out any hints regarding a possible Record Store Day release? It seems like you’ve got something in the works.
I don’t think I can “officially” call them Record Store Day releases since we aren’t selling them to retail accounts or anything. Right now everything is only available through our website. But April 20th just also happens to be our 2 Year Anniversary, and I wanted to do something big around that. So every 2 weeks we will be giving away 2 records leading up the 2 year anniversary. Without giving away the artists just yet… yea, I said artist(s)… we’re putting out 2 new releases. As you can see I’m really driving that whole “2” thing home… I’m also working on a special anniversary show.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline so far for 2013?
Aside from the 2 releases coming out in April, I’ve got maybe 3 or 4 other records I’m hoping to do. I’ve already thrown some ideas out to a couple bands to start the groundwork. I also print up all the t-shirts and stuff for our deluxe bundles myself, so I’m thinking about branching out to do a full spring line of clothing, but we’ll see what happens.
Moving onto some final questions about your own record collection, what would someone find if they were digging through your vinyl?
A lot of random stuff, I use to pick up lot of old records with beat up jackets from garage sales or flea markets when I first started collecting because they were dirt cheap. Probably run across a bunch of Foo Fighters and Deftones too.
What are some of your prized possessions?
Everything I own has a price tag, but I’d never part with the last copy of our Penfold vinyl…haha.
Do you have any “white whales,” which you’re still looking to pick up?
I’m always keeping an eye out for MuteMath’s S/T and Queens of The Stone Age’s Songs for the Deaf … Maybe Hopesfall’s Satellite Years… Actually I’d put out the entire Hopesfall catalogue if I knew the right people to talk to. Those albums are fucking amazing, if anyone out there wants to help me bridge the gaps… just sayin.
What is some of your favorite vinyl packaging that you’ve picked up from other labels?
I love Rx Bandit’s Mandala packaging. It’s a simple gatefold, but the artwork is beautiful and the jacket was printed with a slick looking matte finish. The coloring of the Irepress Sol Eye Sea vinyl is one of my favs too. I just recently started taking more pictures of this stuff and putting in on our Instagram page, if people are so inclined to check it out: Instagram.com/inthecloudsnj
How do you prefer to do your record shopping? Are there any notable brick + mortar stores in your neck of the woods?
Most of my collection comes from Amazon or somewhere online. It’s just super easy to point, click and have it show up at your door. But Vintage Vinyl in Fords, NJ and even thought it’s kinda a hike for me, Looney Tunes in Long Island are both great places to check out if you’re in the area. They both expanded their vinyl sections recently and I always walk out with something new.
Where do you see your record collecting going in the future?
As long as there are records being made people will be collecting. Vinyl sales have been up the past few years and record companies see this, so they’re going to keep pushing it out to try and hopefully make a couple bucks. But it ain’t cheap to make, so as long as people don’t try to cut corners and put out a shitty product, I think it’s in the right direction. Music is fun to have around.
A big thanks to Dan over at In The Clouds for participating. Once again, make sure to check out their webstore. If you’re a label owner who’d like to participate, please send an email over to firstname.lastname@example.org.