Brassland is an artist-operated independent record label started in 2001 by Alec Hanley Bemis and Aaron and Bryce Dessner. On their 10th anniversary, The Guardian said of it that it is at "the centre of New York's other music scene."
Bemis is a writer who has contributed to publications such as LA Weekly, the New York Times, the New Yorker, LA Times, Slate.com, and Coolfer.com. The Dessners are twin brothers and both musicians. Bryce plays in Clogs and The National, and has guested as guitar player with artists such as the Bang on a Can All-Stars and Sufjan Stevens. Aaron plays guitar and writes music for The National. Brassland Records is based in New York, though it claims to operate "a satellite office in California." The label also has close ties to Ohio, where the Dessner brothers were raised. All five members of the label's original flagship band, The National, hail from Cincinnati, Ohio.
The first two releases were debut albums by The National and Clogs. Over the years, it has also released albums by musicians such as Baby Dayliner, Erik Friedlander, and Pela. The label considers itself something of a collective, making A&R decisions based on the tastes of its founders but also the interests of the artists involved in the label. The label actively encourages collaboration among its musicians, and with members of the larger community of which the label is part. For example, founding Clogs' member Padma Newsome now contributes regularly to The National's records and live shows. He also plays on Devastations second album, Coal. Bryce Dessner performed on Erik Friedlander's album, "Grains of Paradise"; later the favor was returned on Clogs' "Stick Music". Pela guitarist, Nate Martinez, has frequently acted as a fill-in guitarist for The National; Bryan Devendorf from The National plays on Pela's first EP, "All in Time". Also, Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman) contributed heavily to The National's 2007 album, Boxer. He has since frequently been a part of their live presentation, including an appearance with them on the Late Show with David Letterman. Many of the artists on the label have collaborated with Vincent Moon, perhaps best known being director on La Blogotheque's "The Take-Away Shows", a Paris-based videocast of performances by bands.
Brassland published this mission statement on its website: "Music is our current focus. We like music that transcends genre. At the same time we try not to make transcending genre a cliché by applying labels to what we do: funk-metal, progressive punk, Afro-Cuban jazz, underground hip-hop, intelligent dance music, whateva! We like musicians who play well and possess the elusive tonic of personality. Most of all we just like music."
Past Musicians on the Roster
- Snapes, Laura (June 16, 2011). "Brassland: the record label at the centre of New York's other music scene". London: Guardian. Retrieved June 16, 2011.
- Alec Hanley Bemis's website
- Bryce Dessner bio @ Clogs' site
- Interview with Aaron Dessner
- Interview with Alec Bemis on Brassland