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Olive Juice Music
extra virgin goodness
by: Ben Krieger - October 14, 2008


Matt Roth arrived in New York City in 1994. He settled down in the Lower East Side, scraping by on $150 a week and exploring the Antifolk scene that had been thriving in the neighborhood for over a decade. The original Sin-é was on St. Marks then, but for fresh faces interested in playing on the same stage as up-and-coming artists like Jeff Buckley, there was a common response from bookers: try the Sidewalk. It was here that Roth met musicians Paleface and Tom Nishioka, was given his new handle (Major Matt USA), and introduced to Lach’s Antifolk world. The venue was, in his words, an edgy, welcoming “bottom of the barrel” for artists who were just starting out and trying to find their voice. “It was a shit hole full of total freaks,” recalls Roth, “Junkies would perform on stage…it was like someone had invented a place for me.”

Roth began a blossoming new chapter in this environment, and along with Nishioka, started to brand his tapes with a fictional record label (it was still a novel idea at the time). Over time, Olive Juice Music became something a bit more real. Currently, Olive Juice Music is a thriving community of like-minded artists who congregate both on and offline, sharing stages, recording studios and even a music festival: the 2nd Annual OJ All Day Festival packed the Cakeshop for an all-day weekend this past summer.

“Punk rock, underground music, DIY…those are very important concepts to me,” explains Roth, “I’m not going to try and be a success in my art at any cost.” For some indie record labels, the DIY aesthetic is merely a transitional stepping-stone as the business pursues greater ambitions. With Olive Juice Music, Roth isn’t going after bigger game. “I think I learned early on that I don’t want to be a traditional record label,” he says, “The concept of real record labels is sort of, not healthy…[it’s] about ownership and exploitation…it’s not the way I want to operate.”

While Olive Juice Music’s community is its strength, Roth’s ability to take the reigns when necessary has kept the label from drowning in democracy. He runs a fully equipped recording studio out of his apartment and has produced many of OJ’s releases himself. On the OJ Message Board, he chimes in as an equal, but his wisdom always seems to shine through. He’s also a talented and respected songwriter, having released numerous CDs as a solo artist and with bands such as Kansas State Flower and Schwervon! (a duo act with his live-in girlfriend, the musically visceral Nan Turner).

If the Sidewalk has always been a place to for Antifolk caterpillars to earn their wings, Olive Juice Music comes across like an Antifolk grad school where fully-formed artistic voices can continue to experiment and learn from each other Toby Goodshank, Kimya Dawson and Jeffrey Lewis are just a few of the artists that have found a place to develop here in the past 10 years. Career-driven artists aren’t the only ones who find a home, however the label also welcomes parents, day-jobbers, and other assorted weekend warriors who happen to write great songs and want to network with other talented individuals. The common trait among the Olive Juice artists is a desire to give back in some way, even if it’s by piping up on the message board with tips on where to get CDRs burned cheaply. Artists who can’t see past their own ego and ambition just don’t seem to fit here. In this way, Olive Juice Music is continuing the Antifolk tradition of naturally weeding out those who—to borrow from Roger Manning—“just don’t get it.” The press release for the second OJ All Day Festival sums it up perfectly: “When you ‘Do It Yourself,’ you're all alone. That's why the songwriters at Olive Juice Music ‘Do It Together.’”



 
 

“Punk rock, underground music, DIY…those are very important concepts to me"


Olive Juice Music
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what it is

Good music, good people, and everything in between - including a recording studio and a record label.