Keep Shelly in Athens

Discover: Cascine

Laura Studarus

By Laura Studarus

on 09.30.13 in Collections

[Dive into Cascine's catalog with this free sampler, featuring tracks from Keep Shelly in Athens, Shine 2009, Selebrities and more. — Ed.]

Originally founded in 2010 as an arm of Service, the now defunct Gothenburg, Sweden, label that was once home to the Tough Alliance, the Embassy and Jens Lekman, the New York and London-based label Cascine doesn’t stray far from its roots. Owned and operated by Jeff Bratton (with assistance from Publicist/Girl Friday Sandra Croft), the label has cast its lot with electro pop — the slicker and hookier the better.

“What I’m drawn to is pop music,” explains Bratton, “very musical and melody-inflected pop music. A little bit of bounce and some electronic production. All I can do as a label is put out exactly what I like. I don’t trust myself when I start dipping outside of that sweet spot — especially when it comes to putting real money into it and asking people to pay attention to it.”

Though he originally focused on the Scandinavian music scene, Bratton has since expanded his efforts to include bands from across the world. Since opening shop three years ago, they’ve put out releases from a notable slate of pop up-and-comers, including Kisses, Chad Valley, Shine 2009 and Keep Shelly in Athens.

“I’m constantly taking it on the chin for releasing as much music as we do,” he laughs. “In our first three months we had four releases. We’ve always moved at a really brisk pace.”

Here, Bratton walks us through some of his favorite Cascine releases.

There was a French blog, and the guys that ran it were friends with a lot of people. It was good. I don't think the readership was more than a couple hundred people. He found a Selebrities demo on MySpace and posted it. It was awesome. I was flying from California to New York and I heard this track, and I was totally floored. Within 20 minutes I had reached out to the address that was listed on their MySpace. I ended up meeting up with the guys in the band a few days later in New York. They had these five tracks called Ladies Man, and they were fucking awesome. I was just obsessed with the material. They were one of our first proper signings. Being a part of a band's process in the early stages is the most exciting thing.

They're total jokers. They sent some crazy message to us. It was an unsolicited email, it said something like "Wanna Party?" I opened the email, and it was nothing more than a sentence, something provocative and raunchy about wanting to party. There was a link to this FTP, where there must have been 30 plus demos and sketches. It all looked really old and antiquated. This was in the fall of 2010, and we had gotten so few unsolicited emails that we were listening to everything at that point. Their tracks were brilliant. It didn't take us long to realize that something really special was happening. From the 30-something sketches they sent us, we chose five for Pure Wet. Then we gave them a bunch of notes and went back and forth for months to get the tracks tight. An EP emerged out of all of that. We felt really proud about that. They were one of the few bands we worked with on an old school, A&R level. I have such a good relationship with those guys it was more like a conversation.

In a lot of respects, I credit Sami Suova from this band as the reason the label was founded. Sami was the very first artist to believe in the label. He believed in it, he said yes. We have a new album coming out with them in October. That'll mark three years of working together and three formal releases with a couple of singles in between. I feel such a deep connection with them and a whole lot of gratitude. From a sound standpoint, if I had to pick one album to represent the label, that's as close to Cascine as possible. It's such a good definition of what we aspire to sound like.

He's such a pro. Speaking of artists where I'm able to offer feedback with tracks, Chad Valley [aka the recording alias of producer Hugo Manuel] is one that I don't ever do that with. He turns in material and we put it out. He always hits the mark. He never misses. I'm a perpetual fan. I've got a handful of sketches and things that he's played around with on keyboards. It's all jaw-dropping. You either really like what Chad Valley does, or you don't. For me, it hits the sweet spot. He's also a total gentleman. He's not putting it on for anyone.

Keep Shelly in Athens and Chad Valley are actually going on tour this fall. It'll be a co-headlining tour. Hugo's working on new material right now. We're going to try to roll out a new track or two prior to the tour.

Erika is awesome. We were all such over-the-top fans of [her band] Au Revoir Simone. I remember, prior to even being involved in music, listening to Au Revoir Simone and loving it and being so stunned by the music. You conjure up these images: three beautiful girls traveling around, playing this really wistful, well-produced electronic pop. Then you fast-forward several years and you get to work with one of those artists. It was really gratifying process for us, to work with someone we really respected for years prior. The material was so spot-on for us. Her manager sent over those demos. Instantly, they worked. They were so much fun.

It was a little bit of a surprise. But Erika has her hands in so much stuff. She's such a renaissance woman in that sense. She's such a fixture in the New York community. Every time I turn around, she's doing a fun, collaborative thing with taste-making artists. She's a great musician and really talented. You can't pin her down too much. She's told me that she has new material that she's developing. So I know we'll do something else with her for sure.

It's our first reissue. Those guys are from Gothenburg. It was one of the times I was first going to Sweden, knocking around and hanging with some of those guys. I was going around meeting with the Embassy guys and the Air France guys, these dudes that I had idolized for so long. Every one of these artists would name-check that Boat Club release. Everyone would say, "Oh you've got to hear Caught the Breeze by Boat Club." One of the first conversations I had with [Service owner Ola Borgstrom] was when he told me I had to listen to the album. It's funny that all these really established dudes were nuts about this seven-song release.

I heard it and loved it. It came out on CD and digital. It came out on a small label. It was never really rolled out in a grand way. I wanted to give it its day in the sun. I wanted to roll it out in a way that it deserved to be. It was released in 2007 — it's not like we dug back into the '70s or '80s. It's totally timeless and tasteful. It's one of those releases that I know I can come back to decades from now and feel confident in the material. Talk about an effortless style. I honestly think that's what makes the Swedish music scene so awesome. There's this sense of non-urgency. No one is in a rush to get the material out. There's not this hunger to capitalize on success or leverage popularity or go gunning for that next release. It's so refreshing. Nobody is hiding behind a musical wall.

They released a couple of EPs a couple of years ago. Since then, it's been nothing. They wanted to sign to a more permanent label home. We're really excited about this. It's really straightforward. They're not trying to invent new genres. It's a fun release. They do something simple very well. It's great, really confident electronic pop music. They play in that space that we really like. It's stylish, but it's a little rawer than the Scandinavian breeziness. Sarah P's a damn good vocalist. Some of the melodies that they pull into this album are so good. Really warm, thoughtful, driving, musical stuff that really takes you to where you want to go.