Sad Cactus Records: A Creative Oasis In The Hudson Valley

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Running an independent label can be tricky business. Giving a band the support it needs to make its record successful requires careful coordination and an endless amount of emails. Luckily, Tim Brown, Niccolo Porcello and Spencer Davis, heads of Poughkeepsie NY’s Sad Cactus Records, have supportive community of friends. At a little more than two years old, the label has racked up a musically diverse catalog of releases from artists like the jazz-fusion outfit Vishnu Basement, indie-rocker Abi Reimold, SUPERTEEN, Doubles, Fake Boyfriend and more. We checked in with Sad Cactus co-founder Niccolo Porcello via email to talk about the label’s day-to-day grind in anticipation of Sad Cactus staples SUPERTEEN and Vishnu Basement’s June 15 show at Palisades.

“Being in Poughkeepsie so far has been a matter of geographic predetermination.” Porcello said. The label, which features artists who are all tied to New York’s Hudson Valley in some way, grew out of Tim Brown and Niccolo Porcello’s friendship that formed during their freshman year at Vassar College. Spencer Davis joined soon after, followed by assistance from Max Goldstein and Ben Parra. While being located upstate doesn’t allow Porcello the resources to book the large showcases other larger labels organize or scout new talent from a Brooklyn-sized pool, the label is happy to reside outside the more crowded environment of larger music scenes. “I think we’re in a really unique creative space in the Hudson valley where it’s nascent but also extant.” Porcello said. “I hope people think of us as being a valuable part of the valley’s growing scene, and we have something of an identity as being a not-Brooklyn operation.”

The label chooses its releases collaboratively, with each team member voting on what to put out. Other day-to-day duties, like dubbing tapes and doing promo, are distributed among other Sad Cactus staff. “Day to day is something that at this point can still be done relatively easily — I dub most of the tapes, order CDs, and ship orders; Tim deals with all of our design for tapes and CDs and our web store and such.” Porcello said. “It’s still something we have to be on top of though, with DIY-ish releases the release date always seems to come quicker than we think, especially since we’re all in school or working jobs and have a lot going on.”

Now in their last year at Vassar, the youthful label is happy to grow alongside artists it has nurtured from its nascent stages. From the beginning, Sad Cactus has fostered two Vassar-bred bands in particular: Vishnu Basement, an experimental ensemble that turns out 20-minute tracks, and SUPERTEEN, free form psych-rock project. Porcello said of the groups, “When we started the label, we knew they had to be an integral part and truthfully we started the label FOR Vishnu and SUPERTEEN, to get them out there and free them from the business minutia and do what they do best — make music.” The label continues to grant artists space to fully realize their vision, putting out, as examples, the beautiful debut LP from Bard-affiliated band Doubles and a well-received LP from up-and-coming songwriter Abi Reimold.

Despite difficulties associated with running any business (namely, as Porcello says, sorting out taxes), the guys are happy to be located in a place where they can lay the foundation of a tight-knit, quickly growing community. “There have definitely been nights where I’m dubbing tapes until 2am the day before the album comes out.” Porcello reflected. “That’s also the beauty of this size operation though — it’s so much a labor of love that we always make it work and the results are usually (I think) really great because of the love we put in.”

For more information on Sad Cactus Records, visit their website.

-Michael Kolb

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