Citing some eight years in business, Portland boutique label and indie institution, Tender Loving Empire pops some corks with the hand-picked release of locally and non-locally-sourced artists on, Friends & Friends of Friends Vol. 7. Selecting an array of national rising talents, TLE presents tracks from Bay-Area-by-LA friends, A Million Billion Dying Suns; Louisville, Kentucky’s White Reaper; Seattle neighbors like Iji, and more. Delivering two discs of independent talents that you and the rest of the world may not have heard of yet—discovery here is it’s own reward—along with a bit of familiarity sprinkled in with selections from the likes of Wampire and Wild Ones. Also from the compilation, we give you the premiere of King Friday’s “Fol-de-rol”, followed by a reflective interview with Tender Loving Empire’s co-operator, Jared Mees that glances backwards and forwards on various insights of the business.
Seattle strange fellows King Friday have emerged from their own self-imposed exile to release their latest tongue-in-cheek titled album; I Wanna Hold Your Gland, where “Fol-de-rol” can also be found outside the comp. On the third album into their Tender Loving Empire catalog, Matthew Sweeney and Alex Folkerth find a mystical psych portal that follows modern traits of the ancients to make alchemist brews under contemporary circumstances. Updating new uses for outdated terminology for scattered items of matter, King Friday picks up assortments of piano notes and dubbed back-up vocals to gather up all the loose and assorted of meanings found about the world into one lazy album rock pastoral. Languid lyrical passages continue to move about the mind with the lasting idle phrasing of the parting lines of: “You won’t remember all the folderol, but just the same, like a veteran in November, you’ll have your day.”
King Friday also sent us this following minimalist, weird-for-weird’s sake video for “Fol-de-rol”, where Matthew and Alex combine bongo drums, a burger king hat, and some home made tricks to keep the entire affair off kilter. Sway like them to the song, and be king—even if only for a day.
We now bring our interview with Tender Loving Empire’s Jared Mees, in a discussion about the label and empire labor of love he operates with his wife, Brianne Mees:
What were some of the earliest, best memories of starting Tender Loving Empire in Portland back in the day?
We started TLE in a 2 bedroom apartment only a few feet from the 5 freeway. It was so loud. I remember the wonderful feeling of making the first few projects for the label — collaboration with artists, knowing what it felt like to believe in other peoples art as much as you did your own. Knowing we were making them feel awesome by believing in them. Being scared shitless of quitting our jobs and opening the first TLE store. The artists, the writers, the comic artists. The pipe tree. The early fans that we made at first Thursdays.
What have been some of the challenges you all have faced as both a brick and mortar boutique and publishing imprint; especially as operations have expanded, to you all now opening up a second location at 3541 SE Hawthorne Blvd?
The first major challenge was the downturn in the economy in 2008. We realized then that we had to get somewhat serious about making TLE a business if it was going to survive. The downturn came about 6 months after quitting our jobs and jumping in with both feet so that was pretty scary. Brianne and I both have the opposite of MBAs too, so its been a lot of following our noses to make good decisions. We’ve gutted it through some tough times but they have only served to clarify that we love what we’re doing with our lives and so do the people that work at TLE. This new Hawthorne store is our thank you to Portland and all our friends family and fans who have supported us. The main theme of the store is, ‘You are part of this place,’ and as such there’ll be lots of ways to interact with it and lots of ways to experience it.
How has TLE been affected by Portland too during all the ups and downs of economic rollercoasters, gentrification, developments, re-developments, etc?
Portland, in my opinion, has fared phenomenally well given the circumstances. To my mind the economy here is booming on many fronts… It seemed soft there for about 2 years from Mid 2008 to mid 2010 but things seem to be going well in Portland for businesses in general. I think we’ve definitely been fortunate enough to catch a bit of that wave.
State of the Portland, and Northwest scenes, according to Tender Loving Empire?
Hmm…depends on what scenes you’re talking about, but in general there’s lots of really great things happening on many fronts around here. Besides music and visual art, its an exciting time for design, tech, food and entrepreneurial endeavors in general. This is a good place to start a band, a business or a family. So I’d say state of the scenes = A-okay.
With the seventh installment of the Friends & Friends of Friends; what were some of the criteria and methods that you all employed in selecting songs from artists from Portland, Seattle (like our premiere of King Friday’s “Fol – De – Rol”), and everywhere else?
The selection process was pretty simple. We just opened up submissions to everyone for a few months, during which time we also selected some of our favorite songs from the past year. But we want the process to be a constructive one so anyone who didn’t make it on the comp got feedback on why if they asked. As for King Friday, they are an amazing group that we’re privileged to be working with. They came to us with 9 stellar records in tow and one will be released every couple months until they’re all out. “Fol-de-rol” is one of the saddest, catchiest, loveliest songs possible. The video though juxtaposes that loveliness with inane absurdity… And speaking of inane absurdity, if I may plug King Friday’s twitter, its one of the funnier things you can do with 30 seconds. Great textures.
How has the Tender Loving Empire mission statement evolved over time while remaining steadfast as a resource for so many creative independent communities and minds?
I think the mission statement is pretty much right where we started as far as being committed to peoples creativity and committed to connecting human beings with other human beings who create art. We started out believing and we still believe that creative expression is Important with a capital I. Its important for the people creating and the people experiencing. Its a beautiful human process that never gets old. This new store will hopefully be a reflection of that. We want it to be a welcoming place that people can come to and experience in a way that refreshes them and uplifts them.
Friends & Friends of Friends Vol. 7 is available now from Tender Loving Empire.