Q&A: Nabil Ayers On Leaving Seattle, 4AD, Schoolyard Heroes, and Sonic Boom's New Capitol Hill Store"/>
In August of 2008, Nabil Ayers had it going on: drummer for The Long Winters, co-owner of Sonic Boom Records, manager of Schoolyard Heroes, newly married, and owner of his own record label, The Control Group. But for Ayers, it was time to leave Seattle and return to his hometown of New York City to focus on The Control Group full-time. Then he ran into a suit from Beggars Group (a collection of indie labels) at a party. "The next day he emails me and was like, hey, there's this 4AD (Records) position."
Renee McMahon Nabil Ayers, right, with Sonic Boom co-owner Jason Hughes.
Ayers still co-owns Sonic Boom and still runs The Control Group, and now he heads a label that includes the likes of Bon Iver, The Mountain Goats, and Department of Eagles.
What's your job title at 4AD?
What's your job title at 4AD?
Ayers: I'm the label manager, so I essentially run 4AD for America. I'm the only 4AD employee in America. There's a shared Beggars Group staff of about 40 people and those people work on all four labels (Matador, Rough Trade, XL) and share the same office and everything.
So, are you shopping for bands right now?
Not a ton. There's always a possibility that we'll sign a band, but I wouldn't say we're actively hunting for bands right now. It's a pretty good tight roster right now. I just signed a band from Norway called Serena-Maneesh, and that's the first band I've signed at 4AD.
How did you find Serena-Maneesh?
I've been a fan for a while. Their first record came out in 2006, and I actually remember getting it at Sonic Boom.
What drew you to Schoolyard Heroes?
I saw them play (at a venue that Ayers' couldn't remember the name of) like a Sunday afternoon at like three o'clock when there was like four people there, in this really depressing setting and they were just so fucking great.
Did you try to convince them to keep the band together?
They've done a lot of things they should be very proud of. There's something to be said for new blood and a new start.
Is it hard to play drums with The Long Winters?
I think the six guys before me probably thought so.
Are you playing drums at all right now?
Not at all.
I'll be back.
Are there more bands per capita in Brooklyn than in Seattle?
That's a good question. There are more people who look like they're in bands per capita than in Seattle.
Have you worked on Sonic Boom's new Capitol Hill store?
No. I talk to Jason. The space (1525 Melrose Avenue) is incredible. It's a lot bigger. We love Capitol Hill. It was a little quiet on 15th. We couldn't do as many in-stores as we wanted to because of neighbors.
You're involved in two of the most damned businesses in America: Record stores and labels. Why are you so optimistic?
Seattle is so incredibly supportive of independent businesses in general. There are so many great drivers there: obviously Seattle Weekly, The Stranger, KEXP, The End--and every band plays there. There are so many great things that I think a lot of people don't realize most cities don't have that really help Sonic Boom survive.
The record business, so much of the sky-is-falling stuff is major labels. Right now there are indie labels that are just killing it. Sub Pop is obviously having an incredible time right now. I know 2008 was the best year Beggars Group ever had.
Domino's doing great, Secretly Canadian's doing great. These labels are selling hundreds of thousands of records without, whatever, buying billboards, and like, having people with $500,000 salaries.
Does 4AD give away a digital copy of the album when you buy it on vinyl?
Yes. Anything that we can we do. In The Control Group I do it as well. I makes sense. If you bought the record on CD you get to have the digital version, so why shouldn't you if you buy it on vinyl? It's sort of that simple.