20 December 2021
Another troubled pandemic year, causing a wide varied range of big and small problems for humankind around the world is nearing its end. Hard to say what the future will bring as the viral enemy comes and goes, but never disappears, so far.
Despite the daily-life-altering confusion, Canada-born musician/singer-songwriter and indie addict Laura Lee Schultz re-activated her beloved Off White House Records label and signed several must-hear acts. A heart that’s dedicated to someone/something is a determined one that beats even harder when times are difficult.
Let’s hear Laura Lee‘s
You revitalized your label OFF WHITE HOUSE RECORDS
with loads of sonic fuel. What made you do it?
“I had a different life plan when 2020 began. Down The Lees was going to continue
playing shows around Europe, ERIIS with Naomi Sijmons (Renna Riot) and Mirabelle
Van De Put (HAZE) would be unleashed on the world, and summer looked inviting!
However, we all know what happened there. After the first lockdown, my partner
and I decided it would be wise to move closer to my family in Canada. It was
a difficult decision for me because I adore Belgium!
We were getting ready to go when Mirabelle said she wanted to release her lockdown album and launch HAZE. I offered to help and added her to the Off White House roster and provided her with support for the release. I wasn’t playing shows and I wasn’t writing. But I wanted to keep active in music. So I built a website, reached out to a few of my friends to see what they are doing and voila, roster.
I really wanted a place where new bands can collaborate and support each other. I don’t know if you have noticed, but everyone on the label gives kudos to each other on their socials. There is quite a bit of mutual respect going on.
I may be the founder of OWH, but we really want to operate as a collective.”
Do you have to be crazy to run an indie
record label in this day and pandemic age?
“Yes…and no. The model is changing. We always need music. That was very apparent
when the world shut down. We consumed so much music last year. It was insane!
We just didn’t have a chance to see our favorite bands live.
But we kept writing and putting music out. There will always be a need for music,
but the delivery of it evolves. And artists need to be compensated better for it.
Don’t get me started on the streaming debate.”
The “White House” in the logo doesn’t really look like
the one in Washington. Is it your own dream house, perhaps?
“It is definitely not the house in Washington! It was a run-down house in East Vancouver that was supposed to be white but was so discoloured from age. It stank like mold, was very cheap and I had a jam space in the basement. That is where the first Down The Lees album was written.”
How did the impressive roster come together so quickly?
“Well, I put my ear to the ground and just listened. Once I decided to open up the roster, I started talking to friends and looked around on the internet. HAZE was first. Bronson Arm came along because of Noise Rock Now, a FB group that is excellent. I found Foxeagle on Instagram and instantly fell in love.
I also have a few longtime friends in BC with new bands (Fantasy Boys, Bonnuit), and it just grew from there. Now I get emails with bands pitching their songs wanting to be on the label. That is how ’00_’ joined. And it’s growing! It didn’t take very long. Once the word spread, it was just a matter of deciding who to add.”
A couple of months after the label’s rebirth, your first excellent compilation came about. I always wondered how different artists end up on the same album. Who’s the architect and how does it actually work for compilations, Laura?
“The shocking, and unfortunately not surprising, discovery of the remains of 215 children at a Kamloops residential school prompted all this. It wasn’t hard to convince bands on the label to be part of a compilation that is a benefit for the Indian Residential School Survivors.
I live, work and play on the traditional, unceded territory of the Okanagan/Syilx people.
We wanted to do something to help our indigenous communities and this was one way we knew how. It was an excellent exercise for the bands because we all chipped in to make it happen. From artwork, to mastering, to content curation.”
The compilation is labeled VOLUME 1. So when can we expect VOLUME 2?
“We will have another one next year! Not sure what the theme will be, but it
will be excellent as the bands are writing and recording in the coming months.”
If you had the opportunity, which famous bands, from
the past and/or present, would you really love to sign?
“Oh wow, that is a can of worms! Would I want to sign bands that would make me rich so
I can have 5 houses? Or would I want bands that are not famous but feed my soul. I think the latter. Famous to me may not be to others. If Shannon Wright or Pile knocked on my door, I wouldn’t turn them away. Ultimate respect.”
What is your own musical status as an artist right now, Laura Lee? Plans?
“I have a few songs written that I recorded myself (with the help of a friend).
I plan to release them next year. If the world can get itself together by spring,
I’ll be back to Europe with some shows.”
Can indie labels survive the by now almost 2 years of pandemic drama?
“Some will and some won’t. Just like the fate of anyone or any business during
this crazy time. The mental aspect of this is heartbreaking. You may have the best
intentions and community behind something, but life can get in the way.
Most bands don’t survive, lots of labels don’t survive. I’m going to try my
best to honour the talent on this label as long as my heart will let me.”
The best track and album of 2021.
“I love all the bands on the label so I am not going to play favorites.
If I had to choose outside of the label:
Track: Racist, Sexist Boy – The Linda Lindas
Album: Hey What – Low.”
Are you a fan of traditional Xmas carols, Laura? If so, which is your favorite one?
“Traditional, not so much. Although, I’m a very nostalgic person and enjoy revisiting Brenda Lee or Darlene Love with a cup of hot apple cider. But if you are talking about The Waitresses – Christmas Wrapping or Type O Negative – Christmas Mourning, I’m all in.”
Which song will be on your stereo on 31st December at midnight?
“During my youth, I used to stay home alone on New Year’s Eve to write and record
a song. It was an annual ritual. I wanted to avoid the pressure of having a drunken night that I wouldn’t remember in the morning. That was the first song I would hear at midnight. I haven’t done that in a long time. Maybe I should do it again. Definitely a good way to set intentions for the year, I think.”
Three things you really love to happen in 2022 for the label and/or personally?
“In no particular order:
Releasing a lot of new material for bands on the label and partnering with new acts that collaborate on such an inspiring level.
Return to Belgium/Europe for a month in the Spring to play some shows and visit friends that I miss dearly.
Improve mental health. This is something that is not talked about very much at all. This pandemic has been very damaging for artists on so many levels. The most heartbreaking of all is the depression, sadness and isolation that we feel. It is a loss of a dream. A loss of who we used to be. My friend Riel Hahn put it this way, “There actually is nothing else. Just this, that is only mine. It’s not my family, it’s not grief, it’s not romance, or deeply working on decolonizing. It’s just the thing I am, I do, I love, I excel at, where my edges are.” That has been taken away from us, and it is hard to reconcile with. My hope is that we can all help each other get through this, and honestly admit how dull our edges are. I, for one, have had a very terrible time with all of this. But I will continue to try and not give up. That is what I wish for everyone in 2022. To not give up.”
Thank you, Laura Lee, for this interview.
may the road rise with you, the label, and
all its artists in 2022.
Buy yourself your Xmas gift
and have a noisy night with Santa…
Full OWH roster (click on name for more info)
Bronsom Arm (US)
Dating Myself (Canada)
Down The Lees (Canada)
EP Island (Canada)
Fantasy Boys (Canada)
New Years Resolution (Canada)
Seperation Agreement (CA/BE)