“Zero game plan, just wanted to be artful and to contribute,” writes Amanda Brown over email, asked if the LA based label Not Not Fun she co-runs with her husband Britt was set up with a particular guiding concept. “The vision was clear but short-sighted… We just wanted to hand-make releases with insane packaging and meet rad warm interesting people in Los Angeles and the West Coast… Our aesthetic and close-knit vibe were our thing”. Community is the driving force. Not Not Fun releases have a feel. A unifying, yet never homogenizing, sense of something that makes the label more interesting than merely the sum of its artistic parts. It’s a “weird extended family” as Amanda puts it.
Not Not Fun was started up in 2004 by Amanda and her then partner (now husband) Britt Brown. Since then, they’ve put out some fine pieces of psychedelia by the likes of Odd Clouds, Sun Araw and Topaz Rags. Then there is her own work as a musician, first as a member of Pocahaunted, and now as solo artist LA Vampires, a project formed as a result of “opening my mind to the possibilities of beats disassociated from techno or hip-hop… Beats are the best, there’s so many attitudes, and I’m intrigued by them all… Dub music is a relatively new favorite of mine so I can’t claim to be an expert on it. What I am drawn to is heavy bass, syrupy rhythms, echo vocals. Dub as a logic and aesthetic is how I like to synthesize the elements in a song”.
Like other artists on the Not Not Fun roster, it’s an aesthetic coloured by LA. “I think the LA image, not the LA reality, has an effect on artists currently. This imagined LA is a complete fantasy, just like Brooklyn, Paris, Berlin. And in that way fantasy is always inspiring and intriguing”. Fantasy and dream-time. The sun-scorched subconsciousness of Sun Araw, Pocahaunted’s ‘Bored Forest’ 7” which sounds like it might swallow you at any moment, the desert dub-swept sounds of LA Vampires’s collaboration with Zola Jesus, and this month’s team up with Matrix Metals for ‘So Unreal’, with its mind-moving rock faces of deep thick beats. Not Not Fun put out records of psychological insides painted bold and sweeping, but always delivered with playfulness, personality and warmth. “Sometimes well-played music recorded with no atmosphere, no personal aesthetic, sounds unappealing to us. That might not seem fair to some of the musicians sending in demos but that’s what we’re looking for – not necessarily low fidelity or tape hiss junk, but a certain warm, soulful quality. I want a song to move me – emotionally and physically, although I know the former isn’t easy. The bulk of what we get is abstract, experimental-style music. It’s a bummer how few demos move my body. But the new Peaking Lights record, the new Sex Worker record, the new Psychic Reality record, those will move you. And MOVE move you.”
Not Not Fun’s roster is composed of artists whose personal aesthetics line-up. It’s a “scene” built through something more than just happening to come from the same city. They come from the same head-space as well. “In mainstream music no one’s from anywhere… But even though a musician’s geographical location has become an irrelevant detail, a sense of community is still crucial. Sometimes we’re brought together under the umbrella of a record label, sometimes we’re grouped together by a genre. The truth is it used to be considered really epic to be part of a hometown scene. That’s a big part of the myth behind heroes like Calvin Johnson and Ian Mackaye, even Lou Reed. But most people don’t really feel that way anymore. That’s why we try to create a Not Not Fun ‘scene’ that bands and artists can feel like they belong to, no matter where they live. In a weird way being on the same label is like being from the same place.”