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Interview: Paradise of Bachelors

Brendan Greaves and Christopher Smith are folklorists and collectors, committed to in-depth research, compelling curation, respectful collaborations and beautiful presentations of music. As Paradise of Bachelors they are a record label, a recording company, a Soundsystem and an archive located in pastoral North Carolina. They are one of a select handful of labels whose releases we buy as a precedent, everything they have released has spun long on our stereo and sat proud on our shelves. We called up Paradise.

Deluxe: Day to day, who is involved in PoB and how did it all come together?

Christopher Smith: There are many of us! Brendan and I do the main stuff you'd typically associate with a label: curation, A&R, writing, design, manufacturing, etc. Our wives Samantha and Constance are integral, covering our books, office management, photography, and plenty of the typical label stuff. Same for our crop of interns. They all contribute above and beyond what we'd imagined possible. We have plenty of friends who continue to assist, inspire, and keep the boat chugging along. It just came together out of necessity, a very organic and holistic result of collected energies and focus.

D: Over your first twenty releases, what has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned?

CS: It's more work than you think it will be and plenty more than that! Stick with your gut and trust your partners.

D: You know that we’re fans; do you feel that your catalogue is telling a broader story than the individual records together? ‘Paradise of Bachelors’ feels like a vibe that is pulling these works of art together. Was that intended from the outset?

CS: Yes, we intended to create something more than a summation of albums and musical tastes under the PoB banner. Brendan and I come from art, film, and folklore backgrounds, along with music. We've both worked extensively as curators, writers, filmmakers, musicians, in academia, the whole shebang. We still do! Our day to day lives lack a specific feeling of separation or compartmentalization of these things. We read science fiction, a record comes in and a song reminds us of one of the magics in that book, however it sounds like a DAC vibe, too. Brendan's son Asa dances to it, his motion recalls something we saw in a film or a party we went to 10 years ago. The convo at that party had to do with HC Westerman, one of his sculptures influencing a design idea. We'll smoke some trout out back and further discuss. It just keeps going that way; perpetual narrative and hopefully inspiration to contribute to the line.

D: MC Taylor, Nathan Bowles, William Tyler, Steve Gunn and Nathan Salsburg are some of the nicest guys and most passionate artists we’ve met through the shop; I am sure it helps but is liking your artists important to you? Do they need to get the Bachelor vibe?

CS: They just do. These folks are friends. There's no real litmus or anything like that; we sort of make an automatic connection with all of our artists. I wish the world could see the first encounter with Chance; to me, that's what being on the same page plays out like. Manifestation.

D: So stretching that out a bit broader, where on your travels across the USA has particularly impressed you?

CS: We've been all over the place! The South has influenced us, naturally. Brendan and I are both classic Yanks; I still live in Philadelphia. Brendan and Sam moved to NC for grad school and that exposure was fundamental.

D: What makes for a good record shop? And more tellingly, what makes for a bad record shop?

CS: Good shops are well curated and low on the dead stock. You can drink a beer there, or a few. There's a community and a guy like Harmonica Dan.

D: Which shops have been particularly good supporters of your label? Who was first to really get onboard?

CS: There are so many! All Day Records, Harvest, Bull City, Philadelphia Record Exchange, Other Music, Academy, you guys. It doesn't feel right to select a few.

D: Jumbo, a superb English Inside shop in Leeds, chose Steve Gunn’s “Way Out Weather” as their 2014 record of the Year. - Did you expect your releases to reach out as far so early?

CS: We knew Steve would blow folks away. He's never going to stop! He's just incredible and a complete natural. Working with him has been a huge blessing and pleasure.

D: I have to confess to knowing very little about Mike Cooper until you reissued some of his work. How did the reissues of Places I Know/The Machine Gun Co. and Trout Steel come about? Did you get to spend anytime with Mike? Was it a personal project to you?

CS: When I first partnered up with Brendan, Mike Cooper was one of the first ideas we had. He was well known enough among the record folk, however never really celebrated with a reintroduction. It was personal, as we love his music and had to deal with layer upon layer of major label detritus to see it through. We've met Mike on the phone, email, Skype many times. He is the man.

D. Now a record that we are currently obsessed with is Kenny Knight’s “Crossroads”. I guess the same question as Mike, how was it working with Kenny? On paper he comes across as an utterly charming guy.

CS: Kenny is a sweet, humble guy. He's been a pleasure to work with.

D: Over the last few years there have been some amazing success stories with reissued works (in particular Light in the Attic and Rodriguez) - do you think people are actively looking backwards for lost gems?

CS: It sure seems that way. There's a lot to look for and listen to.