Interview with Ryan and TJ from Furious Hooves
Standard question to begin – tell me about how Furious Hooves began.
TJ : I played in a band called Go Tigers and we did a demo with a guy, recorded an EP, and rather than having it pressed we burned the CDs ourselves. I made CD sleeves out of poster board, cut them all out with scissors, by hand. Then I really wanted to make a stamp out of rubber but I couldn’t find any rubber, so I got some of that non-slip plastic, the type that goes on top of stairs I guess? I glued layers of that together and made a stamp of a picture that I drew. I just had a really great time doing it and a lot of people were pretty stoked on it so I thought about doing it for other bands.
Ryan: That was in 2009 when TJ did that. Did you have the name then?
TJ : No.
Ryan : That was pre-Furius Hooves. Then in 2011 Furious Hooves actually started.
TJ : I got more into engineering and producing and a few of my friends started recording our own music and stuff. I had some friends who were in a band called The Naps and they wanted me to record a demo for them and so without telling them the plan was to record the demo and do the same thing I did with the Tigers CDs, kind of like a surprise. Like “thanks for letting me record you guys and I made these cool little handmade things”. That’s when I started thinking more about it and wanting to do it with other bands. I just love Ryan to death and think he’s a wonderful artist so that’s when I hit him with the idea of hey, do you want to do this with me?
And you guys live in the same town?
Ryan: We grew up in the same town, we actually rode on the same bus in middle school and high school. Then I moved away for college and I stayed in that same town
R: Yeah and the same thing for TJ. In 2011 I had moved back to Virginia and that’s when we made “Without a Fight”, the first one that we did together.
And then you put our more of your own stuff?
Ryan : I’m in Mumble Dust and TJ was in Go Tigers, he played in Without A Fight.
So it seems like your label was a combination of being in bands and people wanting to have this DIY approach, the fun of putting out your own music and your friends music. It seems to be the way a lot of such labels start.
Ryan : Yeah totally
And there was also the love of 90’s basketball?
TJ: Absolutely. Even before Ryan and I were trying to push ourselves as musicians we lived in a nowhere town where we kind of the only people like us so we bonded really well. Back then when we were hanging out, all we’d do is play basketball. I was in eighth grade and he was in seventh and we’d just hang out at each others house and talk about skateboarding and basketball. We’ve always been huge fans of the NBA and all the players we watched when we younger.
Ryan: And 90s hoops is just cool. So now we try to include a basketball card from the 90s with every release.
TJ : It’s from our personal collection from the 90s. It’s kind of hard to give up a little bit of that piece of yourself.
Ryan: It is really hard. You come across one sometimes and you’re like “oh I really want to keep this card”.
I’m sure they’re not the best cards that you’re giving away though…
Ryan: You put a good one in recently right TJ?
TJ: A lot of the time if I have duplicates I’ll do a player that I’m really into but sometimes I want to hook people up too, because I know if I got something like that and opened it up and theres a John Stockton card I’d be so pumped.
It’s mainly tapes you’ve done so far?
Ryan: We’ve done tapes and CDs and we’ve done one vinyl release, which kind of came into our hands.
TJ: We adopted that one.
Ryan: It was the 1000 Pieces record, which is like a really cool math rock record, it’s really good. We took that one under our wing I guess you could say.
Do you have plans to put out more vinyl or do you think you’ll keep going with tapes and digital?
TJ: I’d love to put out more vinyl but it’s just like a see how it goes kind of thing.
Ryan: What we are wanting to do with everything is so hands on and limited that it makes sense to do small runs. With vinyl, unless we eventually get our own press, it’s kind of difficult to do small runs.
TJ: Yeah you can’t do like 30.
It seems to work for what you’re doing at the moment. It’s really diverse, your catalogue. Listening to that recent compilation you put out, there’s so much different stuff on there: some screamo sounding stuff, some folk, some electronic sounds. I guess the label reflects your own tastes and having two of you it makes it even more diverse?
TJ: Absolutely. Ryan, he and all of the guys who are adopted into our collective family in Savannah amaze me on a regular basis. Without the addition of Ryan being in Savannah and all the musicians in Savannah, I would have never seen Furious Hooves being where it is now. So definitely both of us having different taste and knowing different people has increased the diversity to a place where I would have never imagined.
Sounds like it keeps you motivated, having two of you. Keeps you inspired.
Ryan: Definitely. I feel like we’re always texting each other or getting in touch with somebody to figure out what our next thing is going to be, like what friend do we have that wants to put something out or who can we talk to now. All of our friends are very talented people so it’s nice having that.
So that’s largely the sort of music you put out , from your friends? Family seems like a big word for you. As opposed you stumbling across something obscure on the internet and saying hey this guy’s good…
TJ: That happens as well. We also have people contacting us.
Ryan: We’ve had a few people contact us that we’ve ended up releasing. Bedroom was one, he got in touch with us…that might be the only one.
TJ: We’ve had a lot of people enquire
Ryan: Nadine Carina got in touch with us, she’s from Switzerland and lives in London right now. She’s really cool. She knew about Mumbledust and we were talking back and forth about our own projects and eventually I showed it to TJ and I said maybe we should just ask her if she has anything she wants us to put out.
TJ: I’m really stoked on her not only because her music is so awesome but she’s so collaborative with other people, such a prolific musician. She’s wonderful.
In that way there’s no rules in what you’re doing is there? A large part of it’s you representing music from Savannah and your friends but if someone does pop up from Europe you can put their music out.
TJ: It’s wonderful. The only thing that holds us back is transcontinental shipping fees.
Money’s always the thing. You mentioned collaborations, there was a collaboration you put out between Black Rune and Man Eating Sloth…
Ryan: That was part of the Halloween series that just started happening. We put out the Mumbledust and Blood Cousin one and then it came around again a year later and I thought “I wonder if Gabe (who’s Man Eating Sloth ) would want to collaborate with anybody”. Sure enough he and Paul from Blackrune just hit it off and they were able to create two separate tracks that just work so well together, back to back. It was pretty astounding.
It’s great you can bring that sort of thing together. What can you tell me about those two guys? I think they’re both really interesting artists.
Ryan: Paul lives in Savannah so I met him down here. He was doing music for years as this kind of electronic project called Magic Places. He has a tape out on that through Mirror Universe I think. We were talking and he was like I’d like to release something through you guys but not as Magic places, I want to change up my sound a lot and go into this dark shoegaze realm. That’s how Blackrune was born. Gabe is friend of ours from way back, right TJ?
TJ: Yeah I met Gabe in my freshman year of high school skateboarding. I didn’t even know that he played music back then and then Ryan played with him in a band for years.
Ryan: The cool story about Gabe is that he learned music just by one day deciding that the entire summer he was going to stay at home and learn guitar. He did that and he’s a phenomenal musician now, after that happened.
That’s great. How did International Tape Day go? You did something at Graveface, can you tell me about your relationship with Ryan?
Ryan: When I moved back to Savannah I met up with Ryan and we became friends. Eventually I started working for him, doing graphic design. We formed a relationship as friends a few years ago and he now he does our digital distribution. He’s a good guys who’s helped us. He has a store and thats what we did the tapes for. He asked if we could throw something together for an extremely limited Graveface release, which was compilation that he put together of Graveface bands, obscure stuff that he had. So that was the limited five tapes that we did with him.
How do you produce your tapes?
TJ: We do it all ourselves. Be it running an RCA cable from an iPod to a tape deck, or burning a side A and a side B on separate CDs and dubbing it that way. So its all very homemade. Mix tape style I guess.
Has that been something you’ve always done or is it something you’ve gotten back into recently with the resurgence of tapes?
TJ: A little bit of both. I was never really as technologically advanced as most kids my age growing up. I remember I got this shitty little car from my parents and all it had was tape deck so I remember sitting in my room for hours going through my CDs making mix tapes. Even before that, when I was young, my dad was a guitar player and always have like a little mini recorder thing and he’d always record himself playing Neil Young covers and stuff. The idea that you record things and put them on something else and have them with you wherever you go, it’s always been interesting to me.
Ryan: I always remember you having a car that had a tape deck, you’d be cruisng around blasting it.
TJ: You bet.
That seems to be very central to the tape movement, tape decks in cars. Whenever I hear people talk enthusiastically about tapes they talk about listening in their cars.
TJ: It’s bittersweet when thats all you had when you were young.
Ryan: I had a friend who I was talking to recently who doesn’t have a tape deck and he said he was seriously thinking of hooking up a tape deck via the auxiliary cable.
So what’s next for you guys – you don’t seem to be hugely ambitious. You’re just working from one project to the next?
TJ: I’m going to school and working full time so it’s hard to be overly ambitious to do new things. Currently I’m trying to pick up a release that we kind of dropped the ball on, just to make everything right with that and not have a hole our catalogue.
Ryan: Basically we were being too ambitious at one point and thats how we dropped the ball. We’re very busy in our outside lives so we just kind of do it as we go along. If we’re feeling like making a tape or making a CD or something, we’ll do it. We usually give it about a month notice.
So you can put something together in that time? Within a month?
Ryan: It depends on what’s going into it. Sometimes if we’re looking for a certain feel we’ll do a lot of looking around for materials that we think fits whatever project we’re working on.
R Like that first Bedroom EP. It’s all recycled filing folders..
TJ: Yeah it’s just dark green folders from a filing cabinet.
Ryan: Then we found this old, old toy catalogue from the 60s and collaged a bunch of stuff, because the Bedrooms EP was called Toys so I thought it was pretty fitting.
TJ: That was really fun too because didn’t we order the toy catalogue off eBay and we were expecting to be a lot bigger than it really was? It arrives in the mail and Ryan sends me a picture on his phone and it like fits in the palm of his hand. I was expecting like a Sears wishbook.
Ryan: It was two inches by three inches!
TJ: There’s always things like that that happen, when we have to get something online and it ends up not being how we expected. I like that one because we made it work.
I’m looking at the page now – twenty four you managed to put together.
Ryan: Yeah we can’t do a repress of that, because there’s no more toy catalogues.
That’s great though, so super rare and so nice for people to have such a limited edition.
TJ: Definitely and that’s what inspires me the most I guess. This release especially, the Toys EP. The reach that Noah (Bedroom) has. The fact that someone from Japan bought this tape blew my mind. Here I am in Dublin, Virginia, which no one fucking knows about, and we send this cassette tape to a kid in Japan. I remember his comment on it when we posted it and he was like “I cherish this tape”. It meant so much at that point.
Ryan: That was the moment where we went, whoa, this is kind of doing something.
TJ: Really cool. It blew my mind.
Wonderful. I guess that could have happened 20 years ago before the internet, but it would have been harder to make it happen and harder to get that feedback and support, to know it reached someone.
Ryan: I’d like to take this time to thank the internet, from Furious Hooves.
Bandcamp is a large part of what you do.
TJ: I love Bandcamp. I think it’s a wonderful interface and…I just love it.
I hear mixed things about it, that some artists and labels don’t like using it.
TJ: I don’t get that, I’ve never heard a real valid argument as to why people dislike it.
Ryan: I agree. I think they take the gains from every tenth item sold. I think that’s completely fair. It’s such a user friendly site.
TJ: It’s so simple and still looks so great.
Ryan: You spend countless hours on Bandcamp..
I do. I think a lot of the reason its so good is it’s run by music fans. You read about how they wanted to start it and they wanted to give music a strong digital platform, and I think that still really motivates them to make music easier to discover for fans, to make the interface strong, to give artists options. So yeah, I really love it as well. It’s been great to be involved with it and great to discover all this music and all of these labels. What do you guys see as the function of a record label?
Ryan: For us, it’s really family oriented. Our goal is to help out the artist as much as possible. We want to create something with our hands to give their fans but we also want to give them exposure to new fans, that may not be into that sort of music. Someone listening to Go Tigers may come across Nadine Carina – typically that would never happen.
TJ: I don’t know…
Ryan: You’re right, I won’t naysay
But it’s a great way to discover music, I know what you’re saying.
Ryan: I feel like we’re also trying to make sure the artists get what they deserve. So a lot of times we let the downloads on Bandcamp go directly to them. For instance Nadine Carina, Bedroom – you can’t download their album from us unless you buy the tape. We redirect their downloads to their own Bandcamp pages so they can get the full profit from that.
TJ: The biggest part is exposure. I feel like its like that with every label too. I mean I’m definitely no expert in the field of record labels. I have a couple of friends who run another label around here called Flannel Gurl so I catch a little bit of what goes on with it from them – Flannel Gurl Records are great, throwing it out there real quick.
Labels, in my opinion, in addition to the exposure, should give the music another face. Give the artist another face and hopefully in our case a more positive face. I hope that for us, especially, people see that these guys are nice and they suggested this so hopefully, this music will be good.
I definitely get that impression from your online presence and stable of artists, that positivity is a big part of it. That comes across. I think we’re almost done here…maybe to close – can you tell me about the name?
TJ: Honestly thats just a product of imagination running wild. I really enjoy wildebeests, just as an animal. I was starting to throw around names and we do a lot of this in our group friends – we like to think of the most terrible band names possible and share it with one another, we have specific group on Facebook where we do this. In the mix of thinking up terrible band names and song names you come across some really neat ones too, ones we think would be awesome.
So I was throwing ideas around and was torn between “furious hooves” or “gilded hooves”. I thought of furious hooves being a wildebeest destroying a pursuing lion or something like that, and then gilded hooves being a bronzed wildebeest statue – both of those are really cool in my opinion. I asked some people – furious or gilded hooves? and they were all “furious hooves is good”. I like the feel of that a lot better. There’s no true sentiment behind it rather than just enjoying the name and trying to come up with something cool.
Ryan: And without Furious Hooves we wouldn’t have furhoof (the labels catalogue title).
TJ: Fact. I’ve had several people comment about it – “I mean, furious hooves man!” And I’m like – “yeah I know!” I really just like the mental image you get whenever you hear it. It makes a lot of mixed impressions I guess, and most of them are positive.