With a mutual appreciation for each other that began at the tender age of 11, Luckyhorse Industries creators Amanda Graham and James Bertram drifted apart only to reconnect years later at a rock show in Chehalis. The two industry vets have since combined forces in labor and love, spreading the gospel for some of the best bands around.
How would you describe the magic that is Luckyhorse Industries, and what all goes on behind the brick walls?
Magic? Maybe smoke and mirrors! We assist bands and artists in designing, producing, and selling all kinds of merchandise for tours and online sales. Different bands need or want vastly varying degrees of help with those things. The Luckyhorse store is a marketplace for around 40 different artists, and we also custom build and manage independent online stores for a few bands (Modest Mouse, the Fiery Furnaces, the Rogers Sisters) who want to have their very own shop. Also, we operate a small record label of our own, which has been on semi-hiatus the last few years (but look for more limited-edition and digital-only releases in the near future!). Lots of blood, sweat, and tears over the years.
How did Luckyhorse Industries come to be?
Completely by accident. In 2001, we started out doing some stuff for Sub Pop in Japan, and it just took on a life of its own from there. We then began printing shirts and pressing CDs for friends, and the rest is history.
What inspired the name?
It has no meaning—we just had to write something on our business license application. We like luck, we like horses, so that was that. In hindsight, we probably would have put some more thought into it.
What did both of you do prior to starting Luckyhorse?
James was in some bands (Lync, Beck, Built to Spill, 764-Hero, Red Stars Theory) and did a bunch of touring while simultaneously working for many years in the sales department at Sub Pop. I studied photography at Evergreen, graduated in 1999, then worked for pioneering online radio station/record store Groovetech (RIP) for several years.
What are some Luckyhorse projects you think particularly ruled?
The Love as Laughter double heavyweight vinyl LP version of Sea to Shining Sea with a handmade cover is pretty awesome. Just so thick, heavy, and all around aesthetically and musically satisfying! The way the music industry is changing these days is fascinating to me, so recently I'm really inspired by the new wave of DIY stuff going on . . . the supertalented label-less artists who are hand-making limited editions of their own recordings, like Whalebones and TV Coahran. These kids aren't waiting around expecting help; they are just going ahead and doing it themselves and working really hard at what they love. If we can assist them by making their records and merch available through the Luckyhorse store, and maybe even get them some digital distribution, then that's covering some ground that will hopefully contribute something positive to their efforts. Spreading their gospel, finding new ways to get the word out there. That feels nice.
As purveyors of a slew of quality artists, what's your selection process like in terms of who you work with?
Since we are quite small and family-style, there has to be love involved. We must organically develop real attachments to the music or the people. Other musts are evidence of a strong work ethic and realistic expectations. My litmus test is, "Would I be willing to do this one for free?"
What's the best Isaac Brock story you've got?
Let's see, one that won't get me in trouble . . . Isaac's mom helped deliver my son. We had an early version of Good News for People Who Love Bad News cranked in the birthing center at Swedish when the kid was born. True. Modest Mouse has quite literally been the soundtrack to much of my life.
How did the stars initially align to bring you and James together?
We met in 1984 when we were both 11-year-old middle-schoolers in Issaquah. We admired each other from afar back then, but became close later on when we ran into each other at a Modest Mouse/Some Velvet Sidewalk show at a coffee shop in Chehalis in 1997. Best friends ever since. So weird.
Do you have a compost heap?
We put our scraps in the yard-waste can. You can put lots of stuff in there now! Does that count?
Any TV or Netflix addictions?
Of course! The Office, Arrested Development, Adult Swim. Bring on the funny.
What are your feelings on record players vs. iPods?
I love them both for different reasons. I feel they serve completely different purposes.
Top five records to spin . . .
1. Through headphones: Sunset Rubdown, Shut Up I Am Dreaming.
2. While decompressing: Beirut, Gulag Orkestar.
3. While driving: the Fiery Furnaces, Bitter Tea.
4. When dancing with our kid: Wolf Parade, Apologies to the Queen Mary.
5. While partying: Pink Mountaintops, Axis of Evol.
A weekly peek behind the curtain of the Emerald City music world, Behind the Scene sheds light on folks you won't see onstage, but who make it all happen.