This year Deep Elm Records is celebrating its 16th anniversary and since its formation in 1995, the label has been home to the likes of The Appleseed Cast, Moving Mountains, Nada Surf, Latterman, and Benton Falls. Whilst its current roster includes names like Last Lungs, Moonlit Sailor, Athletics, Goonies Never Say Die and The Cast Before The Break.
It's extensive back catalog is diverse with indie, emo post-rock and post-hardcore, being just some of the genres the label covers to this day. Whilst its 'Emo Diaries' and 'This Is Indie Rock' compilations have become influential with Jimmy Eat World, Further Seems Forever, The Movielife, and The Forecast being featured on previous releases.
Now in it's sixteenth year, Deep Elm continues to be 100% independent and consistently producing admirable releases. In addition the label has openly accepted the digital age as all it releases are now digital-only. Thus resulting Deep Elm being one of the most respected, and well-rounded DIY labels today.
Interview with Founder John Szuch
Year Founded: 1995
First Release: Nada Surf - 'Deeper Well / Pressure Free' 7-Inch
Latest Release: Moonlit Sailor - 'Colors In Stereo'
The Appleseed Cast - 'Low Level Owl'
Latterman - 'No Matter Where We Go..!'
Deep Elm Sampler 9 - 'We Dream Alone'
Various Artists - 'Postrockology'
The Emo Diaries
Number of Releases: 182
Current Roster: Athletics, Cari Clara, The Cast Before The Break, Carly Comando, Dorena, Ethienne, 500 Miles To Memphis, The Ghost Of Otis, Goonies Never Say Die, I Am Sonic Rain, Last Lungs, Late Night Condition, Les Sages, The Lions Rampant, Moonlit Sailor, Papermoons, The Sky Life, Summer Hours, This Drama, Track A Tiger, Nathan Xander.
Why did you form Deep Elm?
The label got started in 1995 with nine seven inches for New York area bands (Nada Surf, Shake Appeal, Camber, Ruth Ruth, Scout, etc.). The goal was to keep it community-oriented and help build the local scene. Since I had no prior experience in the music business other than being a college radio deejay for three years, it was pretty hard getting started. No band wants to be the guinea pig for a new label. It was rejection after rejection. But then one band got signed to a major deal, then another...I think it was 5 out of 9 bands. So the label drew a lot of attention early on. We released our first CD back in March 1997 by Camber. Deep Elm started as a labor of love, but it quickly became a full-time operation.
How did you come up with the name Deep Elm?
Several months before I decided to start the label, I had visited the arts area in Dallas, Texas called Deep Ellum and the name stuck with me. I needed a logo, so I started drawing and out came the name "Deep Elm". There was really no planning...it just happened.
Because we are giving away $100 in FREE music (in hi-def no less) to everyone so they can discover our amazing bands and albums. Because Deep Elm is part of a threatened breed of "true independents" that exist for the love of music. Most so-called "indie labels" are, in fact, funded and distributed by major record labels and their affiliates. Not Deep Elm. On a completely self-sufficient basis and without major label support or distribution, Deep Elm competes in an industry dominated by corporate giants. We put out the records that move us and support the bands we love. And because Deep Elm has weathered the seismic shock to the music business with great poise, preparing itself for the future while also not abandoning the music or principles by which the label has long defined itself.
What are your future plans for Deep Elm?
Deep Elm will continue to be run as a true indie on our own terms. I refuse to sell out. We've had offers, but I've turned them all down. And I like where we are at. If we get much bigger, too many people are gonna find out about us and it's all gonna be ruined. Deep Elm is like a best kept secret to many of our fans.
My ultimate goal is to have an internationally roaming record label, where we move from one location to the next for maybe a couple of months at a time. It's entirely possible since we're all digital now. It's our chance to connect even more with our music, fans and bands. We recently relocated after 12 years in North Carolina and we're currently operating from an undisclosed location on an island in the most remote archipelago in the world. If we can run the label here, we can run it anywhere.
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Words by Sean Reid