Champagne, IL based record label, Polyvinyl Records began back in 1996, started by future husband and wife team, Matt Lunsford and Darcie Knight. As the label celebrates its 20th year of existence, the label plans to release a compilation called Polyvinyl Plays Polyvinyl on November 25th along with various merchandise like a LeDoux designed skate deck. We got to sit down with Matt and talk about Polyvinyl’s humble begins, the albums they’ve released, and the albums they wish they had released.
Polyvinyl started as fanzine but how did you decide on the name?
We literally were listening to a lot of vinyl and looking for a name that had a great, memorable ring to it. When we came across the word “Polyvinyl”, it worked perfectly and the fanzine Polyvinyl Press was born!
When did you realize that you could run a record label full time? / What was the first band you signed that you thought “I can’t believe they’re letting us put out their record”?
When we did the third issue of Polyvinyl Press, we put a split 7″ with the issue–which was a somewhat common thing for fanzines to do at the time. It was a fascinating experience. Our mission was always “tell the world about bands we love and further music discovery”. So releasing music was an even more powerful means to that end than writing about music. With the fifth and final issue of the fanzine, we did a 20 band compilation called Direction. At that point we started to release records and it was not long before we were putting out the debut album from Rainer Maria Past Worn Searching and Braid‘s third album Frame and Canvas. It was at that point that we realized that we were being entrusted by these amazing bands with these amazing records, and that we needed to be 100% committed. Darcie and I dropped out of college and started committing all of our time to putting out records.
What is an album you wish you put out?
Great question! There are a couple that come to mind: Sufjan Stevens‘ Come on feel the Illiniose because I love how it’s a concept album in the truest sense but it’s also one of the most well-orchestrated and well-thought albums of the past 20 years. Plus it’s about Illinois…and we are from Illinois… Also M83‘s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. Like Illinoise, it is just a record that uses the album-format to its fullest advantage and is such a great hour plus of music start to finish.
In an age where many are claiming the obsolescence of physical music, how has Polyvinyl adapted?
We’ve been adapting from practically the first day we started releasing music. It’s been a crazy, wild ride the past 20 years. We’ve always done vinyl, but we’ve lived through the peak of the CD, the invention of the internet (which in itself is bonkers) which obviously brought permanent downloading and more recently streaming–not to mention things like, uh, email, which we didn’t have at all when we started the label. It was all phone calls and old school letters in the mail. Then there has been the rise of vinyl and the resurgence of cassettes. Through it all, we have always gone back to trusting our original mission: to tell the world about bands we love. We are happy to do that in any medium which people want to consume music. The medium is just a tool to help us accomplish that goal and it will continue to evolve and change.
What was the last album you bought?
In the age of streaming, I now just consume massive amounts of music on Spotify. It’s definitely caused my electric listening habits to go into overdrive. For example, just looking at the last five things I’ve listened to: Man Man, Dowsing, Hoops, Lorde, and Ryn Weaver.
Much of your 20th anniversary merch was designed by LeDoux. How did that collaboration come about?
We had always admired Jesse’s work, so we asked him to create the original artwork for our 2015 4-Track Singles Series. We had such a great connection working with him on that project, we immediately wanted to collaborate with him on creating imagery for our 20 year anniversary.
Part of that merchandise is a skate deck. What is your relationship with skateboarding?
Creating a deck with Jesse and the team at Girl was literally a dream come true. Without skateboarding, Polyvinyl would never have existed. I got into skating in like 1989; I was never really into organized team sports, but I was always pretty active/athletic. When I discovered skateboarding, I loved it’s self-expressive nature and individual focus. Along with that came an amazing set of friends and a discovery of music that was fueled by listening to bands while skating and watching the latest skate videos.
What other big plans do you have to mark your 20th anniversary?
By total coincidence, Polyvinyl’s release schedule the second half of this year is nearly double what it ordinarily is. We have an album release every couple weeks from June to December! So we’ve been almost too busy putting out records to actually stop and enjoy it. I have such immense gratitude for the all the PV bands who have entrusted us with their records over the past 20 years. Looking forward to doing it for 20 more!
What hopes or aspirations do you have for the future of Polyvinyl?
Really to keep working with artists who we love and respect and continue to play a part in bringing amazing records into the world. If we can continue doing that, we’ll be totally psyched!