Monofonus Label Profile on Austin Sound

Monofonus is more than just one of the most eclectic record labels in Austin; it is an impressive multimedia umbrella that brings together musicians, visual artists, and writers to collaborate on incredibly unique projects that inspire and build upon each other. While musically Monofonus has released great albums from the Golden Boys, Diagonals, the Pillow Queens, and the Roller, to take these albums out of the multimedia context for which they were intended (as we often unfortunately have with our reviews) is to lose much of the point and excitement of Monofonus’ projects. Originally formed by the triumvirate of Will Slack, Morgan Coy, and Becca Cohen, the Press, and especially its IF Series, is perhaps the embodiment of Austin’s rich creative culture, with collaborations that are continually unexpected and push artists in new directions. This week, Monofonus releases IF06, featuring the new album Looking for a Spark from Over the Hill, artwork by Noel Waggoner, and the novella Mile Marker by Brian Hart. Hart will be doing a reading at BookPeople tonight, Monday May 18, and Waggoner will be showing his work at Testsite on Tuesday, while Over the Hill caps the release week with a show this Wednesday, May 20, at the Parish with the Pillow Queens and Precious Blood.

Label Profile: Monofonus Press

Year Formed:

2007

Present Artists (*Texas Artist):

All Monofonus artists were at one point or still are Texas artists.
Musicians: Psychic Blinders, Ralph White, Diagonals, Over the Hill, the Pillow Queens, John Wesley Coleman III, The Golden Boys, Thor Harris, and the Roller.
Visual artists: Max Juren, Colleen Matzke, Jill Pangallo, Michael Berryhill, Michelle Devereaux, Virginia Yount and Noel Waggoner. Writers: Morgan Coy, Brian Hart, Rebecca Bengal, and Karen Davidson.

Past Artists (*Texas Artist):

No one here gets out alive.

Recent Releases:

IF04: Clear Violet, a story by Karen Davidson accompanied by the Pillow Queen’s debut album Kookoo Legit with art by Michelle Devereaux.

IF05: I Could be so Happy, a comic by Michael Berryhill accompanied by the Diagonals’ debut album, Valley of the Cyclops, with art by Michael Berryhill.

Let me Entertain You, by Jill Pangallo. We published a compilation of writing and art that inspired the performance artist to create her one-woman show for the Texas Biennial.

Upcoming Releases:

OUT THIS MONTH:

IF06: Mile Marker, a novella by Brian Hart accompanied by the second album from Over the Hill, Looking for a Spark, with art by Noel Waggoner. Brian reads from his novella at BookPeople, May 18, 8pm; Noel shows his work at Testsite May 19, 7-9pm, and Over the Hill plays with Precious Blood and The Pillow Queens at the Parish, May 20, 9pm.

Max Juren: Videos, a compilation of the video artist’s hilarious work. Though we already “released” Max’s DVD out into the world, he has an upcoming show at Domy Houston on May 30 at 7pm, for all those jokers who missed the insanity of his one-night-only show here in April.

THE FUTURE:

IF 07: An Ocean of Despair, a true story written and illustrated by Thor Harris accompanied by his album Fields of Innards. There will be an awesome party to celebrate Thor and his work – check our website for details!

IF 08: will be a collaboration between the musician Ralph White, the writer Audra Schroeder and, in a new bold move, a non-Texan artist. Better yet, a Floridian.

Plus new work from Jules Buck Jones, Michelle Devereaux and Andy Rihn.

What was your impetus for starting the label:

Basically, it was Morgan’s idea to give his friends a platform for their creative endeavors, just some way for them to get their work out in to the world. What started out as collaboration between old friends is branching out to include collaborations between new ones, all in an effort to explore and express the ties that bind us together across mediums.

What would you describe as the label’s general aesthetic:

Where fine art meets the DIY aesthetic, we guess. The physical beauty of the packaging is really important to us – we hand print and hand-silkscreen a lot of stuff right here at Monofonus studios, but we also have to keep our budget in mind. Content-wise, there seems to be a certain darkness to the stuff we put out (apocalyptical visions, suicidal depression, alienation), there’s also a lot of humor (the life and times of a waitress in a New Age cafe, the Ren Faire we threw during SXSW, Max).

How do you view the label in relation to Austin’s overall music scene:

Well, it’s Austin’s creative scene that inspired us in the first place and what keeps us going today, so we guess you could say that Monofonus is a tiny beast suckling at its teat. You know, we’d shrivel up and die without it. That said, we definitely think we throw the best parties of any label in town. And, yes, that is a challenge.

And though we don’t work directly with all the bands in town, we do try to include as much of the scene in what we are doing. We just launched NONOFONUS on our wesite, which is where we highlight bands that haven’t actually collaborated with us, but who we think are rad, like Pataphysics, Foot Patrol, Hello Lovers, Human Milk, and so on. You should check it out! You can buy all kinds of records and cool shit on our website.

Could you explain the idea behind the IF series a bit and how that got started.

The whole point of the IF Series is to not only encourage collaboration across mediums, but to give people access to mediums outside of the ones they usually buy. Basically, we want to get books in the hands of people who buy records, and vice-versa. It was the IF Series that started Monofonus. Originally, that’s all we did. We’ve since branched out to video and clothes and you-name-it, but really, the IF Series is the heart of the label.

If you could do an IF release bringing together any writer, musician, and artist from any period past or present, what three would like to see collaborate for a fantasy project?

Morgan: Literature by J.G. Ballard accompanied by an album from Thin Lizzy with art by Charles Burns.

Will: Literature by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins accompanied by album from Bo Diddley with art by Aubrey Beardsley.

Diana: Literature by Hakim Bey accompanied by an album by Amon Duul II with art by Yoko Ono.

What do you feel are the advantages and challenges of running such a multimedia and multi-platformed operation?

It’s great to have so much creative input, so many ideas floating around and so many talented people to make them happen. Communication can be hard sometimes, wrangling all that talent and all those ideas and making them happen. And it’s really hard to get the word out there because Monofonus is not simply a record label, and we don’t want to be seen as such. But, the music is what gets us noticed the most, it seems.

Given infinite resources, what major band or act would y’all most like to have on the label:

It is a tie: Either an IF Series by Terence Malick, Dirty Projectors, and Daniel Clowes or a triple-threat IF Series by Richard Simmons.

What do you feel are the most important elements for success of an indie label:

Having an actual business manager, which we don’t have. What we have here is basically an art collective of idealists and a benefactor who just wants to recoup some of his dough, some day. If you have any experience in making something like that happen, please send us your resume.

What have been your most gratifying and most difficult moments in running the label:

It’s incredibly gratifying to produce such amazing packages created by our talented friends. It’s incredibly difficult to traverse the perverted world of public relations, where places like MySpace are a necessary evil.

What are your thoughts on the current state of the record industry, especially in relation to new technology:

See above. Then add to that the fact that the internet is the only place where unknown people become known with little or no money. So, places like MySpace and Facebook really help us spread the word about our events and releases, and we’re really proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, but we want to go global! We want to see our artist’s names in lights!

Other than the label’s bands, what’s playing at Monofonus headquarters these days:

Pataphysics, White Denim, Sublime Frequencies label, Not Not Fun label, Black Lips, Inside Voices, Baris Manco, 91.7’s Jamaican Gold, Sam Cook, K’Naan, Storm Shelter, and Aaron Blount.

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