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E-Tron: non-record label uses old fashioned approach to promoting new sounds

By Jared Davidson on July 25, 2011


FET.NAT, one of the bands on the E-Tron label. Photo coutesy of Olivier Fairfield

E-Tron Records is not a record label. At least, not a traditional record label. Their focus is not money. They don’t find and fund fledgling bands, or turn small sparks into huge stars overnight. They aren’t equipped with a talent-scouting A&R department. They’re just two guys, Phillipe Charbonneau and Olivier Fairfield, who love music.

“In some ways we call it a ‘record label,’ and it is that, but we’ve realised that what we’re trying to do is to get people together and make something that is recognisable,” says Fairfield. And it seems to be working. Since last summer, E-Tron has been working with bands like Fet. Nat., Scattered Clouds and J’Envoie. Some of the bands on the label are bands that Charbonneau and Fairfield play in; some are made up of their friends.

It’s a very close-knit bunch of artists. And at a time when music creation and consumption is entering an increasingly digital space, E-Tron’s stands out as being resolutely old fashioned. These are people who go out of their way to meet one another in real places. For these two men and those around them, the way to make music, to make art, is to be there.

“To be in a room with others – that’s very old school,” says Fairfield. “If you think about it, why do you make music, really? It has to be about that. It’s got to be about someone there.” It is this idealization of real-world experience that defines the core of what E-Tron is. Like most newer art initiatives, the label is based online. They sell digital music, they promote shows and events through their blog. But underneath this is a love of the real and the tangible.

Which is why they still publish music on tape and vinyl.

“I think for us it’s important to have physical copies because we’re musicians and enjoy having something,” Charbonneau  explains. But it’s more than just a physical version. In some cases, the two men explain, there is something more to be gained from physical mediums. “When you play a record with the stereo off, you can hear the music playing off the needle,” Charbonneau says. “There’s a certain connection with just the material aspect.” It’s a connection that he feels is lacking in purely digital music.

The same is true of tapes, Fairfield points out. “What’s cool about the tape is that there’s a constant hiss. And when the tape ends you still hear that hiss, so it feels like it’s kind of like one continuous song.”

They put great care and effort into the production these tapes and vinyls, which they see as art pieces unto themselves. They are hand-made, unique denizens of a forgotten time. “As an object,” Fairfield says, “the tape becomes something that is actually a piece of someone’s work.”

It is this desire to explore the tangible aspects of music creation that is apparent in their recording of an album for Fet. Nat. Conventionally, recording an album is a cloistered, solitary event for a band, but this recording took place in an open art space where anyone could visit at any time.

“The thing becomes more than just a band putting out a record,” Fairfield says, “People are actually part of it.”

And it’s this participation in music that E-Tron sees as the ultimate end point to its projects. E-Tron is about people: artists and listeners. It’s not enough to simply record and sell music, but, as Charbonneau explains, the goal is musical community.

“Getting people together is what music does, and what it’s been doing way before recording was invented. And I guess in some way we’re going back to that. That a spirit of trying to bring people together to share something in common.”

The live show. That’s the logical end point to the E-Tron process. And you can catch Charbonneau’s band Scattered Clouds at The Temporaire on the 16th 13th of August at Le Petit Chicago with Hotshotcasino and StillNative. Until then, check out their blog or their bandcamp to experience what E-Tron is about.