Tim Presley, mastermind behind White Fence, Darker My Love, and former guitarist of The Nerve Agents, recently founded his own record label, Birth Records. Presley, a Bay Area native who splits his time between here and L.A., started Birth solely to release the gorgeous, self-titled debut LP from San Francisco folk singer Jessica Pratt, which he describes as like "Stevie Nicks singing over David Crosby demos, with the intimacy of a Sibylle Baier."
Presley says he didn't consider the potential viability of releasing Pratt's LP, but felt compelled to do so by the sheer power of her music. "I didn't even care if it sold 100 copies, I loved it that much. So, I had this future death-bed moment, [where] I could either pay rent comfortably for three months or put this record into the world."
Despite his low expectations, the album's first pressing sold out in less than two weeks of its release date on Nov. 6. Presley is awaiting the repressing to fill orders placed directly through Birth's website and to restock his distributor, an independent, San Francisco-based company called Revolver. "I'm waiting for the 'where the fuck is my record' emails any day now," he says. "The last thing I need is an angry mob at my apartment! Thank god I didn't put out an Oi! record."
Birth Records' website, in line with its minimal visual aesthetic, provides very little information about the label and releases, but displays Birth's logo prominently. Presley, who is also a visual artist in his own right, designed the symbol, which incorporates a spade, inverted cross, and arrow. Presley says that for him, the spade contains male and female characteristics. "In my mind [the spade] is androgynous and I feel all music is, too." Regarding the name, Presley explains in a cheerily self-deprecating manner that he slightly regrets the common, nearly un-Googleable name for his imprint. "I thought I was being clever, like a 'record of birth,' but it's called a 'birth certificate.'" So Presley says he's considering changing the spelling to "Byrth."
Between his output with The Nerve Agents, Darker My Love, and White Fence, Presley has been involved with countless record labels, including such lauded imprints as Hellcat, Woodsist, and Drag City. Earlier this year, he released a collaboration album with S.F. garage-rocker Ty Segall, Hair. Not surprisingly, Presley draws upon these experiences to determine how Birth should be operated. "When I reel in the years and think on my experiences and friends' experiences, I have a pretty clear vision of how this label should be done. I think the most important thing in life is to know what you don't want." Presley declined to specify which label experiences informed him how not to run Birth.
Birth Records is the most recent instance of Bay Area musicians establishing their own labels to self-release or champion new groups. The story evokes that of Thee Oh Sees' frontman John Dwyer founding Castle Face, and more recently, the founding of Wacky Wacko by Seth Bogart of Hunx and His Punx, who spoke to us about the endeavor earlier this month.