Even with our handy-dandy guide to CMJ, it’s hard to know where to head this week — but one thing’s for sure: we’ll be at Silent Barn on Saturday to celebrate the third anniversary of Exploding in Sound.
Dan Goldin started the label in 2011 with money saved up from a desk job at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. “I didn’t, like, enjoy it,” the Greenpoint resident said of the gig he fell into after college. “But I didn’t hate going in either — it was one of those things where when my day ended, I didn’t have to think about it again.”
In between filling out spreadsheets at work, though, he found himself starting to cultivate a roster of hyper-amplified bands from all over the greater east coast, and paying more and more attention to fielding press inquiries about them. He was starting to live the dream he had had ever since elementary school. “It’s all I’ve ever really wanted to do,” he tells us.
His label has since become something of a standard-setting outlet for finding and distributing the region’s raw post-punk talent. Exploding in Sound bands like Grass is Green, Two Inch Astronaut and Ovlov all champion the kind of rhythmically complex, densely textured tunes of the ’90s, when labels like Touch and Go and Dischord were the purveyors of the American indie ilk. Fans of Exploding in Sound bands appreciate music that’s harsh and noisy, but also cerebral and technically challenging.
Just like in the ’90s, this potent brand of guitar rock is really only doted upon by a niche group of people. “I don’t think any of those bands are gonna be playing Madison Square Garden ever,” Goldin says. But as an indie label with relatively limited reach, that’s kind of the point.
Honing in on that small do-it-yourself ethic is what drives Exploding in Sound. Sam Rosenberg, guitar player and vocalist of Two Inch Astronaut, says that Goldin is motivated by the thrill of discovering new music — not the prospect of building a well-known industry brand. His ambition shows in the 25 records he’s put out over three years.
“Music seems to be almost a compulsion for Dan, he literally never tires of it,” Rosenberg says. “This is a person who will take a bus across several states to see your show, go back the same night and go to work at 6 a.m.”
Two Inch Astronaut and a glut of other Exploding in Sound bands are playing two shows in Brooklyn this weekend. The first is Friday at Trash Bar in Williamsburg, and the second is the anniversary show in Bushwick.
Several of the bands playing the latter show are journeying from the greater east coast in vans piled high with gear — an activity that’s all too monotonous but glaringly familiar. The label is chock-full of working bands like these that are all intensely devoted to their booming rock and roll soundscapes, and Goldin is spiritually fed by committing himself to them.
Without Goldin’s relentless promotion and unwavering interest, Rosenberg feels Two Inch Astronaut wouldn’t be getting even the modest attention they’re experiencing now. “It became apparent that the internet is really the only way to effectively draw attention to your art, and we just had no idea where to begin with all that,” he says. “The label was a huge help with that and we are so, so grateful that we don’t have to worry as much about promoting ourselves.”
Last week, Stereogum premiered “Part Of Your Scene” from the band’s forthcoming album Foulbrood, praising the track as “a spiritual successor to the tightly wound work of the Dismemberment Plan and Brainiac.” NPR’s “All Songs Considered” also sensed a ’90s influence in the melodies of the album’s title track, noting that “the nice common denominator among all the bands that Exploding in Sound puts out is that they’re recognizing that there’s still a lot to mine from this era — it’s not just copying sounds. It’s like, what else can we pull out from it?”
Exploding in Sound has a predominantly grassroots vibe, because the bands are always actively engaging with each other in what Rosenberg says is an “ongoing sense of a show-and-tell,” sharing new tracks and cultivating mutual inspiration. The end result is something of a songwriting laboratory where energy and enthusiasm take center stage.
“It’s always inspiring seeing the work that the other bands on the label do, too, and it gives us a kind of point of reference and an idea of what to strive for,” says Rosenberg.
Goldin wouldn’t claim he’s on a mission, but he’s succeeded in giving deserving bands the platform they need to vie within the overly saturated world of modern indie rock. He’s hopeful of a more promising economic situation where he can turn his artistic passion into a profitable business, but he says he’ll always value art over cash wholeheartedly.