Overland Shark is a relatively new music label operating out of -- you guessed it -- Overland Park. The roster of releases -- only on tape cassette and digital download -- includes Minden frontman Casey Burge and local smooth groovers Parts of Speech. The Pitch recently caught up with founder Andrew Hueback by e-mail to discuss the joys of tape, the sorrows of CDs, and the balance of balance.
The Pitch: What was the genesis for Overland Shark?
Andrew Hueback: Honestly, I moved into a house in Overland Park and started a personal blog to post photos of my cat and the occasional jazz/funk cassette rip. The musicians I've worked with so far are all close friends of mine, and I've always thought it was strange that their music -- which means so much to me -- was a secret only I seemed to know about. Slowly, the site began to focus on that, and eventually I saw the opportunity to realize a goal I've always had, to have a music imprint. The name carried over, which is probably my least favorite part about all of this.
Why not just change the name?
It's occurred to me, but people seem to respond positively to it, and I just don't have a good enough reason to. I can obsess over details to infinity, but it might start to ruin the magic. It again comes back to balance, and striking it between consideration and letting things go. It's the same principle I expect of the artists I work with.
What is it about the medium of cassette tape that appeals to you?
It's not really an act of nostalgia or a novelty so much, but rather a cheap way to release music in an analog format. I personally don't buy CDs. I think of them like software -- you load them on the computer and then tuck them away in a drawer for backup, whereas, to me, a cassette tape is more like a book (it even resembles one, spine and all). The object is linked with the experience, and you have to physically interact with it every time (you flip the pages of a book, the sides of a tape). It's a relationship that I think subtly affects the psychology of the listener ... that it's somehow more real. Ultimately, though, it's a matter of cost: I just can't afford to release everything on vinyl right now.
Do you see digital releases as a necessity in distributing music in today's market? Is this perhaps as a compromise of sorts?
Not at all. As a music listener, I predominantly purchase vinyl and cassettes, but it's all on my computer, too. I understand the importance of convenience and I don't aim to reject that or crusade against technology -- everything is balance! My releases include free digital downloads. It's the very presence of digital music that made compact discs so unappealing to me -- there just isn't an advantage to having them, whereas with the tape + digital, you get to have the music in several formats, enjoy the aesthetic and packaging in a unique (and in my opinion more elegant) presentation and, as I mentioned, possibly hear the music in a new psychological context. I am met with a lot of opposition when I tell people that I release things on cassette. I wasn't concerned with the reaction to my chosen medium when I started because I was aware of the hundreds of cassette labels operating around the world. I urge those unfamiliar with "cassette culture" to suspend their disbelief, and rather than getting hung up on "Why cassette?" ask "What's the deal with this music?" Pursue this question -- clearly the most important one -- and the other answers will come.
The label seems to be predominantly electronic acts. Was this intentional, or did it just turn out that way?
I am interested in a lot of music that is either largely electronic or at least colorized through electronics, so it was natural. It's all about balance, though, and they all have an organic, human warmth to them. I have really broad tastes, and whether or not I release something is purely based on a gut 'Does this fit?' reaction. I don't see any stylistic constraints in the releases I do and would very much like to put out music that treads jazz, bossa nova, R&B, and so on.
Are your releases strictly mail order, or do they retail locally as well?
You can find some things at Love Garden and a few local shops around Chicago. Sometimes I plant them among the Manhattan Transfer and Neil Diamond at the Goodwill. Mostly, though, I make daily post office trips. I've definitely sold more releases in Europe and Asia than I have in Kansas.