Last year, we started seeing a resurgence of locally-owned labels. Which totally makes sense: If you're going to release a local album, why not do it through a local label, and keep everything in-state so you both succeed? One of the most recent labels to gain exposure is Hail Atlantis, which started out as a zine, but gained immediate popularity this past winter when they helped release the Color Animal/Magic Mint split EP. Today we chat with the married duo behind the zine and label, and talk about where they're headed in the future. (All pictures provided courtesy of Hail Atlantis.
Stella and Rob Johannes (with Mona)
Hail Atlantis on Facebook
Gavin: Hey Rob and Stella, first thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
At the moment, I’m taking my second wheel-thrown pottery class, and am pretty obsessed. It’s a childhood dream realized, to make my own dishes. I love putting my art to use. I’m working towards a degree in Health Promotion. My AA was
in Art, the end goal is Art Therapy.
I grew up in the midst of the cornfields and railroad tracks of Illinois. Currently, I’m in the process of getting my certification from the state of Utah to become a social service worker. Along with music, I’m really into photography.
How did you each take an interest in music, and who were your favorites growing up?
My mom was really into music when I was a kid, so it’s always been around and has always been comforting. It was '60s music—The Beatles, Sly and the Family Stone, The Zombies, Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye—that really resonated for me and started me searching, though.
It’s true. I call The Beatles his comfort food. I didn’t have so much music around growing up. My mother played the piano, though, and I would always join her on the bench to sing and watch her hands. She played a lot of classical music, which I still love. She played the guitar as well, more folky, Simon and Garfunkel, Peter Paul and Mary. A very musical woman. I once caught her by surprise singing an Italian opera over the dishes. I got a clock radio when I was 13, it generally stayed on the '60s and jazz. I’ve always loved music, but it was later before I was exposed to a terrible lot of variety. Rob, on the other hand, was playing his records at a tender age.
When did the two of you first meet each other and eventually become married?
We met in Denver, where we lived for 10 years before coming to Salt Lake. We worked overnights together for years, so we got to be together around the clock. Marriage was just a spontaneous court date to make it official. I prefer the name Johannes to my maiden name, and I love saying “my husband”.
What drew you toward local music, and what kind of involvement have you had in the scene?
After we moved to Salt Lake City in 2011, we made it a priority to check out a little of what was happening musically in Utah. There are some interesting things happening here musically. Even after living here for four years, we know that we’ve only scratched the surface.
There are amazing artists everywhere, why not poke around in your own backyard?
As for the scene, we’re really just flies
on the wall.
What made you decide to launch a zine first?
We love zines. An old employer of ours was one of these chains that will replace equipment from time to time whether or not there’s a need. When they replaced the photocopier Rob volunteered to relieve them of the burden of disposing of it. When you own your own photocopier zines are even more fun.
What made you decide to launch your own music label? Where did the name come from?
I’d wanted to start a record label for a long time, but always put it on the back burner. Why this
past year? I don’t really know. It just seemed like the right time. I’ve also been fascinated with the art and design of record labels since a very early age. The name Hail Atlantis wasn’t originally intended as a record label name, though. It started out as a zine name. I was really into the legend of the lost city of Atlantis when we moved to Utah, which was also when I started making zines more regularly. Stella makes her own zines as well. So when we decided to start the label, we thought, “Why not connect our zines
with the label? The name Hail Atlantis came from the Donovan song “Atlantis.” In the lyrics, Donavan puts forth that as Atlantis was sinking beneath the waves of the ocean they put their finest poet, farmer, magician, scientist, physician onto ships to go forth to the corners of the earth and teach their knowledge. I really like what this song has to say. So I thought, yeah let’s join in and celebrate those that came before us, and brought to us the ideas that created our legends.
It’s like saying “Thank You.” I think too that Rob really associates the name with that part of sixties culture that wasn’t afraid to embrace the possibility of utopian ideals.
Yeah, absolutely, and the name Hail Atlantis has a quirkiness to it that I really like.
What was it like for you getting everything lined up to release music?
Rob did the footwork. I hoorayed, but homework always came first, and there’s always homework.
Exciting, I love the process. It’s fun communicating back and forth with the band about cover art, design, track listing, etc. Getting the actual product out was just a matter of letting the pressing plant know what we expected and waiting. It wasn’t as difficult as you might expect. Both Albino Father and Magic Mint/Color Animal were as excited as we were to put something out, which helped.
What made you decide to go with Albino Father as the first release?
We got to know Matt Hoenes, of Albino Father, as customers while he was working at Slowtrain record shop. He’s a fun one to talk music with, and an agreeable fellow in general. We’re just figuring out how to swing this record label thing. Albino Father was the obvious choice because it was a collaboration with a friend. Matt understands our vision for the label. We worked through it together. We all screen-printed the covers on the front room floor. Of course, we’re also big fans of his music.
How was it for you working on that album and getting it out to the public?
I was tickled
that Matt asked Rob to do the front cover art. Matt did the back cover art, and the photo for the center label is Rob’s. Matt was able to get it into the local record stores with his connections. We were very much
partners in the process. It was very cool.
It was exactly what I envisioned for the label, a collaboration.
What kind of content have you put in the zines so far and where do you plan to take it?
My zines are health promotion zines
for kids. I’ll probably keep sharing my enthusiasm for fruits and veggies. At very least anthropomorphized produce will feature. The food gap disturbs me. I like Rob’s zines
better. They’re more expressive.
My zines are basically just full of the goofy things that pop into my mind as I’m falling asleep or bored at work. As far as where I plan to take it? I don’t take it too seriously. They just come together.
The most high-profile album you've put out is Animal/Magic Mint. How was it working with Andrew on that release?
It was a blast. Andrew and his wife Mary are really fun people, both very talented and interesting. Mary illustrated and letter-pressed the covers herself, and Andrew designed the layout. It was fun getting to know them.
For those looking for copies of your releases, where can they find them?
and Diabolical Records, contact us through the Hail Atlantis Records Facebook page, as well as our Big Cartel site
What upcoming releases and zines do you have planned?
We’re super excited to be working on releasing a 7” with The Nods, another local band we’re big fans of. Joe Foster, co-founder Creation Records, is mastering the two tracks for the 7”. It’s a pretty big deal for us, and The Nods. Joe Foster produced and/or played with a lot of our favorite bands, such as My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Television Personalities, Primal Scream, The Sea Urchins and more. We’re hoping to have it completed by mid to late summer. Stella: As for the zines, Rob always has one underway. One that just needs fancier paper for the cover and one on the drawing board. I’ve got the cover for my next one, Apples and Oranges, but haven’t decided where to take it yet.
What can we expect from both of you and the label over the rest of 2016?
We have another project lined up for after The Nods, and some ideas for bands we’d like to approach down the road, we’re taking it slow. We’re still learning the ins and outs.