Upper Class Recordings is a small Toronto-based indiepop record label. It was first established by its owner, music promoter Gareth Jones, in 1999, and has has to date released four albums.

It first release, 'The Manhattan Collection' (UCOO1),was a fifteen track compilation which featured eight local bands. It followed this by releasing two albums by the Russian Futurists, the nom de plume for Matt Hart, another local musician. The first of these albums, 'The Methods of Modern Love' (UC003), came out in 2000, and the second 'Let's Get Ready to Crumble' came out in 2002 (UC004). Upper Class's latest release is the self-titled debut of Jones's own band, the Canescos (UC005, 2003). Its next release in May will be 'Early North American'(UC006), the first album of Toronto duo, Girls Are Short.

At first impressions Upper Class seems strictly a bedroom label. Both the Russian Futurists and the Canescos' albums were recorded at home on zero budget, using 80's computer and synthesiser equipment. "Burnt" made-to-order CDRs of previously unreleased recordings made by the bands on the label's roster and recorded before it was formed are also available at a budget price from the label's website www.upperclass.to

Gareth Jones, however, is keen to promote his products on an international market. Both the Russian Futurists two albums have done especially well abroad, and Matt Hart toured Europe in December to great acclaim. He is hoping that the Canescos and Girls Are Short CDs will prove similarly successful when they are released in Europe,America, and Australia.

Pennyblackmusic spoke to him about the increasingly prolific Upper Class, and its first few years.

PB : Why did you decide to call your label Upper Class Recordings? Was there any special reason ?

GJ : Upper Class is a nice 'prissy' name to completely contradict the kind of records we knew we'd be putting out.  We try and be tongue in cheek about rich people's social circles as much as possible since we're all their slaves in labour, politics, business, education, and the such like.

PB : Upper Class's first official release was a compilation, 'The Manhattan Collection' in 1999. You have also released over the yearsvarious "burnt" CDs. Can you tell me more about these ?

GJ : Yes, 'The Manhattan Collection' was the official first release so all those previous burnt CDs are simply the albums that the bands we were working with at the time put out in the days before the label, so we decided to sell them off the website just in case anyone wanted to hear some old old rough stuff.

We can't really afford to properly do up all those releases so we just burn them one off with each mail order.  I actually learned the technique from a local hobo who claims to be responsible for the end of some sort of Cold War Canada apparently had with Denmark.

PB : You're a musician as well as a label owner. Why did you first set up the label ?  Was it primarily simply  as a means of getting your own records out, or were there other factors as well ?

GJ : In part, but as a whole I had bunches of friends both at college and in my home town who had great music, but nobody was really doing anything about their own destinies, so I decided to do something about it and condemn their destinies to shitty little indie releases that basically nobody buys. You know, to prevent them from becoming recording stars and abondoning me as their small town friend.  I'm keeping it real for them.

PB : Your current band  is the Cansescos. The Cansecos are a duo,  the other member of whom is Bill Halliday. Who is he ? The band was born out of the ashes of another band God's Cops. Who were they ?

GJ : Yes.The Cansecos is myself and one Bill Halliday.  This was also the make up of God's Cops.  Bill and I have been making music together since 10th grade and God's Cops was more of an indie-rock band.  We never released an official album but recorded and passed around to friends no less than 8 albums in 6 years.  The new album is all bleeps and bass so we put God's Cops to rest. For now anyway. 

Just as I run a label on the side of the band (and also hold down a day job on the more major side of the music biz doing radio promotion for the likes of R Kelly, Justin Timberlake, Hed (pe), Sum 41, Hall and Oates and more) Bill also keeps his hands full doing music soundtracks for short films, writing and directing his own films and musicals and is an accomplished painter as well here.  Bill directed the video for Manitoba's 'Dundas, Ontario'".

PB : The other main act on the label are  the Russian Futurists. How did you first meet up with, and become involved with Matt Hart ?

GJ : College.  Dirty dirty college.  We were in the same program and ended up at the same 4am trans am show or something.  I heard a 3 song demo of his on cassette.  It sounded like the Stone Roses.  He was happy being played on 'Brave New Waves' (CBC national late night weird music show).I told him there were more of those shows around the world.  Done deal.

PB : Both the Cansecos and the Russian Futurists record at home, and using 80's style computers and synths. Is that the criteria and the policy of the label, to release albums recorded on limited budgets on four and eight track, and using  old-fashioned equipment ? Could you conceive of it releasing studio releases that perhaps took advantage of using  more state-of-art equipment ? Would you describe Upper Class as a bedroom label?

GJ : Actually it's pure coincidence!  That just happens to be what my friends who want to put records out are making. Everyone on the label-Matt from the Futurists, myself and Bill from Cansecos and Dan and Al from Girls Are Short- all listen to mostly hip hop...I'd put out good hip hop records for sure if there were any around here but I haven't found any yet.. Through budgetary constraints at this point I'm definitely restricted to low budget recordings but if the label grew and made some cash I'm sure we'd put more in to each album too.  That or move our office to Costa Rica or Jamaica.

PB : Despite the similarities between the Cansecos and the Russian Futurists, they also seem very different in some ways. Would you agree with that ?

GJ : For sure, we're both into making pop with weird production but aside from that there's not much similarity.

The Russian Futurists have more of a naivity about what they're doing musically but way more lyrical talent.  It sounds so simple and bouncy and old but new.

The Cansecos - we're a little more brainy about the instrumentals but our lyrics generally stick out less.  We have way more bass than the Futurists!

PB : One of the first releases of  Upper Class Recordings was going to be Ben Oakley's 'Stereo Recorder', which was due for release in 2001, but he scrapped most of it at the last minute and began work on it all over again.  Can you see that album ever coming out ?

GJ : Ben I think has gone nuts.  He rerecorded that album he scrapped then scrapped it again and moved from recording on a ghetto blaster to a top notch computer so he's currently recording another new album.  We'll see about Ben.

PB : Upper Class also has Girls are Short's debut record 'Early North American' pencilled in for later this year. Who are Girls for Short ? When will that album come out ?

Girls Are Short are the answer to the world's problems.  They make music that sounds like Pavement absorbed into a Japanimation world playing playstation games and they sing about things like friendship and school being out.  The album will be released in May here in Canada and June in the UK and the US and Japan and some other places.

PB : The Russian Futurists have just come back from successfully touring Europe. The Cansescos album is also due out over there in the next few weeks.  Is one of your aims for the label for this year to break into Europe more?

GJ : YES - I know nothing about how it all goes down in Europe.  I think places like Germany and Italy and Spain are, firstly, probably the most beautiful places to go on tour and secondly would really dig some of this music.  This kind of label relies heavily on word-of-mouth so if you have any friends in the rest of Europe, spread the word!

PB : What other plans have got for Upper Class in the near future ?

GJ : Releasing all of our albums in the United States.  Scary place but lots of money.

Releasing all of our albums in Australia.  Scary place but lots of koalas.

PB : Thank you.

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