Fleeting Youth Records was formed by me, Ryan Monk, on October 7, 2013 in an apartment in South Austin, Texas after obsessing over running my own label for over a decade.
It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do—my passion, my pipe dream. Since I was 19 years old I’ve been fixated with learning everything I could about running a label and refused to launch or develop any of my ideas until I felt it was the perfect time. I’m a chronic over-thinker and quasi-perfectionist, so there’s really no such thing as the perfect time; instead, I’ve been stuck with many sleepless nights dreaming into notebooks, researching, looking at labels I’ve loved since I was a kid, and over analyzing everything until it became a proverbial wadded up piece of paper at the bottom of a trashcan. I’ve been “back to the drawing board” and back and forth with this stuff for around 12 years. Stifled by a savage combo of fear; self-doubt; neuroticism; a love of escapism, booze, and flighty romances with drugs; numerous shifts within the music industry; and hating the idea of a digital-only label, it wasn’t until the month before my 31st birthday last year that I finally had a break through. Thanks to the cassette renaissance (and numerous bedroom labels I’ve looked at for years), re-discovering punk and the DIY ethic, and labels like Exploding in Sound and Baldy Longhair, I was inspired to drop the over-thinking and decided to just fucking go for it. It was time to trust gut feelings and do things from the heart. It might sound ridiculous but, if you knew how my gnawing, overwrought, and anxious mind worked, you’d get it. This was a relief and instantly satisfying in every way possible. I couldn’t believe how much time I wasted just… thinking.
This is actually where the name Fleeting Youth came from. Not only did it have a nice ring to it and went with the type of music I wanted to put out, It was also a personal reminder—don’t waste time anymore, stop stunting yourself, execute what’s burning inside of you. Strip it down to the bones and, YES, it’s an embarrassingly cliche mantra, almost like the emo rendition of “YOLO,” but I never wanted to forget the strange path I went down to get to such a simple end point. I never want to forget those years that I threw away. I think that sense of urgency is reflected in the music and how things are run at the moment.
Now you know the boring personal backstory, which I don’t think I’ve told anyone before.
I also named the label Fleeting Youth because of the music I wanted to put out. I always found it strange and endearing how everyone clings and remembers the music attached to their youth. It’s really an innocent and beautiful thing, so my goal was to put out accessible, relatable, and highly infectious music that kids would look to for their soundtrack to growing up. Coming of age art—music, books, movies—has always been something I’ve been drawn to, even as I get older, and a lot of the music on Fleeting Youth reflects on coming of age themes. Mumblr’s records, The Chelsea Kills’ debut album Pulp Culture, and CHAMP’s EP are the best examples of bands reflecting on the darker side of growing up, but they wrap it in really catchy and anthemic music that isn’t just a mercurial sap fest. A lot of the music in Passenger Peru, Pink Mexico, Rasputin’s Secret Police, Le Rug, and Balue’s releases touch on struggling with the change to adult hood—being stuck, unsatisfied, or lost; not wanting to grow up; or the menial shit that surrounds it and how mind-numbing it can be. Then you got music from bands like Basketball Shorts, Big Bill, Habits, VLMA that has a lot of the same sentiments, but are mostly full of party anthems, stuff that’s danceable, funny, or just puts you in a good place.
Everything that has to do with Fleeting Youth is run by me out of my apartment in Austin (sometimes at my desk at work when no one is looking) with a lot of help from my Photoshop savvy friend, Jason Sheppard. I owe a lot to Jason. We actually help each other out with each of our projects and trade our services (nh) instead of cash (he does graphic design, I do coding/editing, we both bounce ideas off of each other), so if there is anyone other than the bands that have helped shape this label and get it to where it is, it’s him.
The first official release on Fleeting Youth was the Big Bill & Basketball Shorts split. These are two awesome punk bands from here in Austin that are fun as hell to see live. The tape covers both band’s debut EPs. The release came together after I emailed a group of bands (Mumblr, Big Bill, Passenger Peru, TCK) to see if they were interested in putting out something with a overly-eager stranger that’s really into cassettes. Luckily, all of them liked what I had to say and were all about it. Those four bands and their four releases were kind of done at the same time and I just went in order of what was pressed first.
After these initial releases, I continued to contact bands I was a fan of that were relatively new and only had one or no official releases out. I found most of the bands on the roster by being a music blogger for years and always on the hunt for new music. I also used to work for a music streaming start-up as my full time job and used to scour Bandcamp all day. One of things I enjoy most about this is finding bands on the rise. I try to only put out music by bands that are up and coming, relatively unknown, or are criminally slept on. I have an undying passion for the underdog, but I also get a big kick out of finding a great band before anyone else does and watch them develop from the ground up.
Before launching the label, I fell in love with Mumblr out of Philadelphia. I don’t really know if they were too serious as a band then, but they were putting out great shit that no one was paying attention to. I told my friend Jason that this is exactly what I want FYR to be, so I guess you could say that Mumblr was the lottery pick/player I wanted to build my franchise around. I always thought they had a great knack for melody and their viewpoint was really unique for their genre. It’s honest music—unabashed, reckless, youthful, recorded DIY with a lot of passion, and you can tell they love every fucking minute of it. I said from day one that they could be huge, so now it’s published and I have proof I said it before it happens. IT WILL HAPPEN.
Fleeting Youth is only one year old, but we’ve already accomplished more than we ever imagined. Our first (unofficial) SXSW showcase was awesome despite it being by the skin of our teeth-DIY affair; we’ve sold out of numerous releases and had an overwhelming response to Passenger Peru, Slippertails, Mumblr, Balue, and Pink Mexico’s records; we are planning to hit 21-23 releases by the end of the year because we grew up on the MF Doom-style of flooding the market; and best of all, we’re still here, still growing.
In the near future we will be releasing a cassette with Baltimore-based grunge duo VLMA’s first two EPs; a two-on-one cassette release with LA Font containing their first two albums; a new record from ex-Butter the Children guitarist Ray Weiss’ band Le Rug; a fuzz-fucked compilation featuring over 90 minutes of distorted bliss in collaboration with the cassette culture sub-reddit; and a re-issue of an album and EP from an Australian band that I really dig. In 2015, you can expect more from Passenger Peru, Mumblr, The Chelsea Kills, Pink Mexico, and tons more.
Cassettes are a personal passion of mine, but we are looking to move into doing vinyl releases in 2015. Cassettes will always be part of the label, but vinyl has always been the big goal. There are a lot of other things we’d like to accomplish in the near future, but to say the future of the label has been laid out would be a lie. I think this is where the big learning curves will come in for us—transitioning our small ideas into bigger ones, deciding on what we really want to be as far as size and scope, what to risk, what fat to cut, what’s the right direction for each small yet important part of the label. We’ve done well with doing things small and lean, so if it ain’t broke, why smash it to pieces, right?
We’re just trying not to over-think it and enjoy our time here by not wasting a minute of it.