by / October 26th, 2011 /

Dancing with Soul and Bizarreness: Amanda Brown, 100% Silk and Not Not Fun

Since it was founded in 2003 as a label with “an emphasis on community-based bands and really artful/hand-crafted releases”, Not Not Fun has become one of the most influential imprints in the American underground. Over the years the label has released records by such acts as Sun Araw, Ducktails, Pocahaunted, Robedoor, Abe Vigoda, U.S. Girls, Wet Hair and Inca Ore. While there’s a great amount of variety not just within that list but across NNF’s output in general, a certain aesthetic has come to be associated with it: cerebral, esoteric, tending towards psych and drone, and firmly left of field.

Run by husband-and-wife duo Amanda and Britt Brown (of Pocahaunted and Robedoor respectively), 2011 has been one of the label’s finest years yet, with well-received releases from Maria Minerva, Peaking Lights, Xander Harris, Jonas Reinhardt and more cementing NNF’s reputation as a home of exciting, restless creativity. 2011 has also seen the introduction of a sub-label: 100% Silk, a home for “diamond-life dance, bliss-disco and basement luxury grooves”. Stemming from Amanda’s passion for classic disco and house, 100% Silk has released a string of impressive 12”s from a bunch of artists who share her aesthetic – both in terms of affection for those sounds and in terms of bringing their own leftfield sensibilities to the table.

Those artists include Ital and Magic Touch (the respective solo projects of Daniel Martin-McCormick and Damon Palermo from Mi Ami), the aforementioned Minerva, Sir Stephen and Octo Octa, with the label’s roster growing rapidly. The vibe in general that the sub-label gives off is one of abandonment to dance music’s most primal, non-cerebral elements: that sense of transcendence that characterises vintage house. Allied to this is an open-minded, non-specialist approach to dance which can sometimes risk sounding amateurish but can also result in pure alchemy.

Since the dissolution of Pocahaunted, Amanda also makes music under the guise of LA Vampires – which isn’t a solo project so much as a fluid conceptual and musical project that encompasses collaborations with like-minded artists (Zola Jesus, Matrix Metals, Ital, Maria Minerva) and an ever-evolving sound that has (vaguely speaking) touched on both points of the NNF/100% spectrum.

State caught up with Amanda Brown recently and discussed NNF, 100% Silk, LA Vampires, the American underground and more.

NNF/100% Silk is very much a small scale, independently-run operation but the sheer amount of releases is almost overwhelming at times. Is it a challenge trying to keep it all ticking over?

“We have critics who complain about our output, saying we shouldn’t release so many records and tapes, and that with abundance comes a drop in quality. It’s really a ridiculous concern. This is our job, it’s what we do EVERYDAY. It’s our job to find the best, most exciting, vibrant music in the underground and then give it a medium to be heard. If the music is good, it’s worth coming out, even if we’ve already put out another 12” or tape that month. We’re not the majors, we don’t have to plot, market or strategize stressfully. All we have to do is believe in the music and keep sending the masters off. The challenge is finding incredible artists, not supporting them”.

What influenced you to set up the sub-label? Is it true that it was partly inspired by a mixtape from Daniel (Ital)?

“Not a mixtape, no, though Daniel has made me some amazing burnt CDRs in the past. Daniel was part of the inspiration for 100% SILK, mainly because he’s had the musical journey of a lifetime – and he’s still in his 20s. From Black Eyes to Mi Ami (in all its incarnations) to Sex Worker to Ital, Daniel has continued to experiment, stay weird, cool, unique, and unambiguously himself. I love dance subgenres – disco, house and acid house in particular – and was afraid to take Not Not Fun in that direction. We have a loyal fanbase, and though we’re the curators, we do want to give fans something that will blow their minds, not immediately turn them off (which was a worry with strict dance). Dance was my secret love, something I never thought I could create or cultivate because of my deep underground background. But Daniel proves you can dance with soul, grace, bizarreness, lo-fidelity as well as hi-fidelity, and a sense of humor/sadness/whimsy. That’s the main purpose behind SILK”.

There’s a clear division between 100% Silk and Not Not Fun releases. The former are more club-oriented, ‘bliss-disco’ releases; the latter is the dubbier, noise-influenced stuff, more of a direct descendent of the likes of Pocahaunted and Robedoor. Does this reflect you and Britt’s differing interests or is there a fair degree of overlap?

“Britt and I have very different taste, in everything really. Because we’re married and have been together for 8 and a half years, of course we overlap often… at least when agreeing about what makes something beautiful or artful or intense, whether we’re a direct fan of it or not. I go deeper with dance music than Britt does; he goes deeper with drone and noise than I do. But in order to put out anything we have to agree to its (for lack of a better word) awesomeness. I mean that like it fills us with a sense of awe – either because the musician is so amazing, the sounds are so rich, or the experience is so altering”.

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