Sam North's record label, Traffic Street Records went from being completely unknown to me at the year's start to my favorite by the end. North had sent me a few records to play on my radio show, and I liked them so much, I ended up taking advantage of a deal he offered back in May, wherein you could get six 7"s, a 10", a t-shirt, patches, stickers, and buttons for $35, postage paid.
His Dangerous Intersections series of four-way splits are rapidly becoming the best way to get acquainted with the hot up-and-comers of the power-pop-punk underground, and when I met him at the Jackpot this summer (as he toured with Rational Anthem, he was amazingly friendly and nice. All of this along with attending law school, I might add.
Because of the stellar breadth of material his label has released this year, I felt Traffic Street bore showcasing beyond a short mention in the course of yet another year-ender list. North was cool enough to answer some questions via e-mail.
Best thing to happen to Traffic Street this year?
Unwelcome Guests pretty much booked their Spring tour by hitting up all of the other bands with records out on Traffic Street. Getting calls from them in Phoenix when they played with Rumspringer, in Indiana when they played with Like Bats -- that kind of thing is really cool. Meeting kids from Japan and Europe (at shows in Baltimore and Gainesville) who love the label and the bands we put out -- same deal. To see the ways that the label has connected people both across the country and across the world is great. I'm totally emboldened by any positive feedback though. Whenever I hear from (or about) someone who genuinely loves a record we've put out -that's a pretty incredible feeling.
Worst thing to happen to Traffic Street this year?
We've had a few releases that I was really excited about that seem to keep getting pushed back and delayed for whatever reason so that's always a bummer. The worst specific incident though was a shipment with about $400 worth of records arriving as an empty box at its destination in Japan. Postal insurance is a joke so I had to pay that out of pocket and when you're already operating in the red, stuff like that is just salt in the wound.
The interview continues after the jump.
Favorite release (both yours and otherwise)?
I know its a cliche, but I really do put out my favorite records. That makes choosing a favorite pretty difficult. With a gun to my head though, I guess I'd have to say either the Rumspringer 10" or the Brokedowns / Turkish Techno split. Both of those records are pretty much flawless in my view. So far as other people's favorite... Pug Life (the Andrew Jackson Jihad / Apocalypse Meow split 7") is the best seller, but I seem to get the most positive feedback on the Rumspringer 10".
Favorite thing you've got coming next year?
The Brokedowns' New Brains For Everyone LP is one of my absolute favorite records, but since Thick Records already released it on CD a couple of years ago, it doesn't totally feel like a Traffic Street release. There're a lot of exciting 7"s that're already done or near done, but looking back at the end of 2010, I'm sure my favorite will have been some full length that I put out. Which band's full-length that actually is remains to be seen, but I'd be thrilled to get the opportunity to put out new LPs by Rumspringer, Like Bats, New Creases, No High Fives to Bullshit, or The Brokedowns.
Why the hell isn't Rumspringer the biggest band in the world?
They definitely deserve to be more popular than they are, but the sad reality of the situation is that -for the time being -Rumspringer can't tour very often (on account of school and jobs) and touring is still the primary means of getting the word out. Once Wes (guitar/vocals) finishes college, I think they'll pick up the pace a bit, but in any case, I think they're hitting the road for 3-4 weeks in either the spring or summer. They told me last week, but my memory is a little fuzzy.
Will you finish law school?
As of last week, I'm officially at the halfway point so there's no way I'm quitting now. As much as I dislike law school, I'm just as cowardly now as I was when I started and I want the safety net that comes with that degree. I still don't have any desire to actually use it, but I like the idea of the option being there.
Will the label continue after you finish law school?
There's no question as to whether or not the label will continue after I graduate -just as to what capacity it might be able to operate in the first few years post-graduation. I was lucky enough to get scholarships to cover the bulk of my tuition but I am going to have to hold down a serious job for the first two or three years if I don't want my Stafford loans hanging over my head. I've been able to manage while in law school though so I'm sure I'll still have time for the label even with a full-time job. If anything, I'd probably scale back and just do a few LPs per year or, alternately, bring in a friend to help with the day to day type stuff. Once those loans are paid off though, I want to do Traffic Street full-steam. Of course that would require that the label actually be turning a profit by that point. If that's not the case though, I can always find part-time work to keep the lights on.