By Carl Begai
During a recent interview with guitarist Jason Bieler about the possibility of a Saigon Kick reunion (found here), he also discussed his independent record label Bieler Bros. Records – now in their 10th year – and his new Owl Stretching project. With regards to the label, it remains surprisingly low key in spite of the fact bands like Slaves On Dope and Nonpoint were a part of the roster and acts like Deathstars and Karnivool are now part of the family. It’s fair to say that being dubbed “independent” isn’t synonymous with “disposable” in this case given the artists that have signed on over the years.
“We’ve been so passionate about finding amazing records and working with these artists and figuring out what we can do with them that we sometimes forget how to tell the story about what we’re doing,” Bieler says of the label’s underground status. “Even I look back sometimes and go ‘Holy shit! We’ve done some really cool stuff!’ The label portion of my career has been around as long as the Saigon Kick portion of my career, and sometimes I have to get away from it to actually see it for what it is. Having a band like Karnivool… we’re so proud of being involved with them. And last year we had one of the biggest alt records in the use with a band called The Silent Film. Nonpoint did well, and Skindred’s doing well in Europe right now.”
Bieler Bros. was launched out of a love for music, and as such the label roster isn’t restricted to heavy material as some might expect. Artists like InAshton and Look Right Penny can be found in amongst the metal-oriented bands, and Bieler makes no apologies for throwing that curve.
“The diversity issues we have are funny. It would be much easier for if we tried to be a Nuclear Blast or a Victory Records who really focus on genre-specific stuff because everything we did would be going to the same journalists, the same radio or marketing formats, so everything would be geared to that one audience. People who like Deathstars would probably boil Censura alive in their own urine given the opportunity, and vice versa. The label has a lot of the same identity issues in that we just want to do great things with stuff we find amazing, and there’s not necessarily any rhyme or reason behind it.”
They must be doing something right, as a decade in the business is quite an achievement given that the music industry has been taking a royal dump on the very people that drive it over the last few years.
“It was a lot more fun when people bought music.”
Having his own label allows Bieler to promote his own music, of course, which he’s been releasing over the last several months under the Owl Stretching moniker. It has left the fans salivating for a new Saigon Kick album, but there’s something to be said for Bieler getting back they can relate to and get off on.
“I’m writing a lot more lately,” Bieler reveals. “I’ve been spending more time in the studio. I’ve spent a lot of time producing, but I’m getting away from it because at some point I felt I needed to do other things. For the last five years I’ve done nothing but play hockey (laughs), but once I realized that I wasn’t going to get into the NHL and that I should probably focus on something where I have a degree of talent, I started writing again and working with different musicians. It’s been cool.”
Owl Stretching was launched, interestingly enough, with Bieler re-recording Saigon Kick’s ‘The Lizard’ with some industrial tweaking. A grand experiment that got passing grades.
“Owl Stretching is me working with different musicians, some of them older and more experienced, some new guys, and constantly messing with it and evolving with it. Because I own a label and a studio, I don’t really have to do anything. It’s been the most fun, and the most dangerous in a sense, because I really don’t care. I can do what I want with whoever I want and how I want along with the people working with me, with no real justification for it. I’m not concerned about whether radio will like it or being able to tour with it. We’re just making music that we think is cool for that moment. We’ve only done a few things so far, but the diversity of Owl Stretching makes Saigon Kick look like a death metal band (laughs).”
“There are about 12 songs almost done that are completely different from each other. There’s some heavier stuff, and some other material that may be more on the alternative side. My goal is to release music every month or so. I’m not too concerned about making an album because the music isn’t geared that way, and I think that in this day and age people don’t really listen to albums anymore. I’d love to do something with Benji from Skindred, I think the guys from Sic are amazing, and people that came out of the woodwork over years that are in really big bands now. I just want to keep it fun and different and see where it goes.”