This week meet Mandy Morgan, owner and operator of Nadine Records, a primarily vinyl based independent record label in Portland, OR. Her label doesn’t have one specific sound, but tends to focus on genre-blending underground music in the Pacific Northwest. She also works at Cascade Record Pressing in the Quality Control department and does shipping once a week for the record label Sahel Sounds. If you can believe she has any more time she also plays bass and does some singing in the bands Nasalrod, General Electric and Time & The Bell. I was introduced to her by a recommendation and I just love when I meet women like her who have immersed themselves in the industry in so many facets they’re like a one woman supergroup.
When she’s not working, she is spending time with her wife and family and doing “mildly athletic or relaxing activities” outside as much as possible.
I like reading, writing and researching things I’m curious about, and traveling when I can. I’ll DJ for fun around town once in awhile, and of course I’m always listening to and playing music and going to lots of shows.
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?
I’ve been a lifelong lover of music and a fairly obsessive rock ’n’ roll fan. From ages 15 to 21, I was in a scrappy punk band called Berzerk and Todd Congelliere, the owner of Recess Records put out a few of our records. Having our music on vinyl made us feel like we’d “made it” in a way that was beyond having a CD or a tape. It was legitimizing in this way that still resonates. I used to love going to visit the Recess office and seeing the stock of all the records by all the bands on his label. He was very down to earth, laid back, and DIY about the whole thing, doing it all with his own distinct flavor. He made it seem like this kind of life- playing music and running your own label- was within the realm of possibility. It made an impression on my young mind and on and off over the years I nurtured the dream of having my own record label. I actually created Nadine Records in 2013 and put out a CD of songs by my friend Tyler M King with hand silk screened covers. Releasing vinyl seemed out of reach for me at that point. Then a few years back I took the leap and quit my customer service job of 8 1/2 years to work at Cascade, because I wanted my life to revolve around music as much as possible. Through Cascade I’ve learned so much more about the vinyl making process, and all the parts and pieces started to click into place. When my band Nasalrod finished recording our album “Building Machines” we shopped it around to a few labels but didn’t hear anything back. I asked my bandmates if they’d trust me to put it out and they agreed. That was Nadine’s first vinyl release in 2017. Since then I’ve put out 10 more LPs and this “experiment” continues to grow and evolve organically.
What is a day in the life like?
My days can vary greatly depending on what I’ve got going on. When I’m working at Cascade, my job consists of visually inspecting every record that comes off the presses in production. I’m also listening to records as much as I can to make sure everything sounds good. I communicate with our press ops if anything is amiss, so they can fix the issue ASAP. I keep track of waste and how many records are being pressed, and at the end of the day I log all of the numbers. I work on the label in my spare time. This generally involves some combination of answering emails, packing and shipping records, lining ups projects, organizing my timelines, meeting with artists, bookkeeping, and promoting shows or releases via social media.
What has been your favorite / the coolest thing you’ve worked on?
Being able to put out records for myself, my friends, and fellow musicians is extremely gratifying. Each album is like a fun art project I get to help see through from start to finish. I’m able to work with rad, creative people in a collaborative process which yields a beautiful, tangible finished product we all feel good about. Then those albums document their art and can help fund their tours. The support I’ve felt from my local music community has been very positive and humbling.
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
There are several steps to the process of making a record, so timing everything just right can be a challenge. Not being able to put out every record I’d like to is hard. Having to say no to bands and artists I really dig is difficult, but we’re all working with finite funds and resources of time and energy. Taking on too much can suck the fun out of it. Making mistakes is how I tend to learn. Maintaining a healthy work/ life balance continues to be a struggle but I think I’m starting to get better at it.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
Having a record label is a labor of love so I’ll say do it because you love it. Do it even though you may be feeling your way as you go. Start small and use whatever resources are available to you. Don’t take huge financial risks – It’s harder than you think to make your money back. Check out how other labels are operating, especially if they’ve managed to make it for a number of years. Observe and ask questions to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. Go to shows and get to know your community. Be friendly and honest and communicate as clearly as you can.
Before I was hired at Cascade I volunteered there for a few months stuffing records. I made myself available to work whatever hours they could give me, because I wanted to be there. A lot of it is also timing and luck, but if you have drive, a good attitude and work ethic and you keep showing up ready to help out, opportunities will open to you.
Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?
You bet! I started collecting punk records as a teenager in the 90’s when they were cheaper to buy than CDs. It was a pretty modest collection until recent years, when I started working in the industry it really ramped up. I get a lot of free and discounted records, but I’ll buy new stuff and reissues, and I love a good crate dig as well. It’s one of my happy places. I try not to buy from Discogs too often so I can go out and enjoy the thrill of the hunt at one of Portland’s many awesome independent record shops. I seem to always have a list of records I’m low-key on the look out for.
I’m romantic about the format, I’m one of those people who thinks music just sounds better on vinyl. It’s a preference, a ritual, a fetish. It’s nostalgia, an emotional response to an art object. It’s more meaningful and substantial than other media. You have to make space in your home for it. You have to care for it and interact with it. This requires genuine affection.
What types of things are happening in your industry / with vinyl that you’re excited or worried about? i.e. innovation, or trends you’re seeing.
Vinyl is still enjoying a renaissance, and it’s exciting. There seem to be more record plants popping up all the time, which means more competition, and therefore better quality vinyl and faster turn around times. People are finding new ways to make vinyl beautiful to look at by pushing the artform with hand pours, additives, and the blending of wild colors using top secret methods.
I think the music establishment is becoming a more hospitable place for women, people of color and LGBTQIA folks, which is crucial to its survival. We are in an unprecedented and unconventional time where having a wide variety of perspectives is recognized as an asset. Inclusion is how we will evolve, reinvent and ride the changing tides in this industry.
Tell me what you’re currently listening to?
Right now I’m listening to a lot of Victims Family and Sun Ra. I’m also digging the new Mdou Moctar album, Ilana, that just came out. And I am very much looking forward to the Jealous Butcher Records repress of two albums by one of my all time favorite bands –Team Dresch– which will be coming out at the end of May.
Last month Nadine Records released an album by Arteries, a Portland art-rock/post-punk band. In the next three months I’ll be releasing albums by MARC & The Horsejerks (oddball rock ’n’ roll— like Tom Waits fronting Ween), Dark Numbers (epic, proggy, melodic doom metal) and Elrond (experimental electronic).