BLACK ROCKERS UNITED MEDIA

#BRUTALK: CHELSEA CORONIN, FAMINED RECORDS

INTRO |  SEARCHING SOUNDFAMINED RECORDS | LIVING/LEARNING | MUSIC VS. MONEY

      


INTRODUCTION

NK: Black Rockers United, Nicole Kali (#BRU Media). I am here with Chelsea Coronin from Famined Records metal label owner in L.A. Hello!

Chelsea: Hello!

NK: How are you doing?

Chelsea: Pretty good, how have you been?

NK: Doing all right! Thanks for asking. What's new in your world, Chelsea? What's going on?

Chelsea: Whoo! I mean, it's been an interesting year. Umm, I think I can speak for everybody, really to be honest on that. I've been lucky enough where I've been able to continue doing what I usually do! Which I know some other people haven't been as lucky, really.

I've heard of venues closings, I've heard of people being letting go ALL over the world. And it's nice to be able to still rely on the things I used to before [COVID].

We did have to pump the brakes a little bit overall, a lot of especially March and April when it really hit. There was a lot of uncertainty and a lot of "Would we be here halfway through the year? Who knows?"

I mean, bigger companies put off, put everything on hold or called it quits so who's to say a small indie is gonna stick around? So we did slow down a little bit.

NK: I get you.

Chelsea: But we restrategized and had to rearrange the schedule a little bit. We try to keep as consistent as possible so we've been focusing on less to keep the quality!

But definitely less on our hands to make sure we can still keep with everything that's happening. We've put out a couple of albums this year, which is really...we usually put out more, but again, we're trying to take it slow at this point!

NK: Yeah!

Chelsea: We put out a couple of albums, a handful of singles and then we have a new single tomorrow (blacks0n), so have another single next week. So we're still keeping busy. We're doing what we like, we're just trying to you know, adapt.

I have new music scheduled until the last available Friday of December or something along those lines. We're not taking any hiatuses or anything like that.

NK: Wow, I'm so proud to hear that! You have new music coming out all the time, and it definitely reflects on your social media and excitement, what you do! When did you first get introduced into metal if you could tell us about your youth and how you discovered the scene?

SEARCHING SOUND

Chelsea: So I'm from Italy, fun fact. So I was born and raised there for 20 years and I've been here [California] for about seven or eight, roughly fresh out of high school and I came here to the States. And when I used to live back there, I grew up on a lot of late 90's, early 2000's R&B.

That was like, what my mom used to jam all the time. So it was a lot of 50 Cent, P. Diddy, Eminem, like really! A lot of Nelly and Ne-Yo. And when I started developing my own tastes, I still stuck with a lot of R&B. I love Ne-Yo, I still do, Craig David.

I developed that kind of taste for myself. But I also started going toward more mainstream radio-y kind of stuff. Like anything really!

And then eventually I discovered rock as a broader term. Good Charlotte were AMAZING, I used to love Good Charlotte, umm, Simple Plan! They were great 'cause you know, I had that angsty teen phase so [laughs]

NK: [Laughs]

Chelsea: Those were the only thing I'd listen for periods at a time. I think the first CD I've ever asked to receive was a Simple Plan CD. Pretty sure. And then from there, the transition to Paramore was kind of by default!

NK: Yeah! I feel you.

Chelsea: So Paramore opened a whole new world—I was like "Oh, shit! Tattoos and piercings, this is great!" That's when I started listening to more alternative stuff.

I don't even remember what video it was, I just remember that "Situations" by Escape the Fate was playing and I was HOOKED! I was like "Okay, I love this bit. I'm gonna look this up, I wanna know what this song is".

I looked up the song, watched the video. I was like "Shit, okay, I like this" so I listened to the album. And the screaming, initially, I wasn't a fan but again coming from R&B, it was a big shift.

So I steered toward songs that had only cleans or a solid 70%, 80% cleans with like, the occasional screaming? And that's how it goes. You Google the bands who sound like [insert band name]. And Google pulls up results and recommendations with threads on Reddit and all that! So I started kind of navigating the scene, just to see who was out there.

And I used to listen to anything really that I could get my hands on: labelled as "post-hardcore". Dance Gavin Dance, The Word Alive, Asking Alexandria, all the teen bands in the early 2000's, like in the 2010-ish kind of era. And from there I honed in on what I like, prefer vs. what I don't which is more...

I guess the R&B kind of still comes into play with my style 'cause I still steer toward predominantly clean or more melodic, progressive stuff. I've learned to try heavier things! I've learned to try more technical things. A band that a few years ago was too heavy for me—now I worship. So you know, I've learned to give a shot to a little bit of everything. Yeah.

NK: Cool!

Chelsea: And then on the side, I still listen to Top 40 whenever I feel like it! I kind of jam a little bit of everything, sometimes even a bit of country songs! Just a couple.

NK: Just two! [Laughs] Right?

Chelsea: [Laughs]

NK: Okay! What kinda country artists?

Chelsea: I wouldn't necessarily say I'm well-versed or anything but I will say the occasional Carrie Underwood shows up on my rotation every now and then. And also, I think, one or two songs by Rascal Flatts. I like to say...and it's literally one or two.

That's the extent of it. I don't really deal with country. There's just two or three songs that I am like "Wow! These regardless of genre are great".

NK: I feel that, and I feel like even your country influences, they're kinda R&B-ish. Carrie Underwood has like, a blues-y R&B feel so I can see why you dig her

 And I can see why a lot of the bands that you have on Famined Records reflect your taste!

FAMINED RECORDS

NK: From back then and also now: from Apple Sauce and Despite Exile to WINDRUNNER! They're all very melodic and they have that blues-y, grungy sound. That's super-metal. I love it!

Chelsea: Yeah, thank you!

NK: Yeah. How did you reach out to each of the bands for Famined and say that you would like to represent them, 'cause I definitely dig all of the sound that you have brought to this label?

Chelsea: There was a time when we were like, figuring stuff out where I would do a lot of outreach. We weren't really anybody so I had to do a lot of legwork and just reach out, and do my own research. And hit up the bands that I thought we could help or that I thought could benefit from our help. And there's been a lot of trial and error in that, obviously.

And not all the moves I made were right, I by any means did not knock it out of the park on the first try. But again it's trial and error. I had to learn that the hard way too. Umm, eventually, the majority? Lately it's a lot of connection.

 Umm, a good chunk of the bands that I run into now is more like because of people that we know in common. For example Apple Sauce worked with an engineer.

I'm gonna say he mixed and mastered the [Apple Sauce] album and I'm so sorry if he sees this, and I'm wrong! And I had worked with him prior with another couple of bands. So word of mouth kind of circled like that. Umm, he might've name-dropped me or they might have seen that I worked with him before so that was like, an easy connection.

Despite Exile, I've known for a while actually, I used to, I tried signing them years ago when we weren't where we are now. And they went with a bigger label for multiple, multiple right reasons. And when they became freestyle again and we started talking here and there, we eventually made them an offer and it looks like it worked out so far!

But I've known them for years. I used to talk to the guitarist who is now not necessarily in the band anymore, but I've known them since like, 2015 or something.

WINDRUNNER are one of those ones where—I have somebody who works for me, reach out to. They worked with my friend who was their manager at that time.

And he has a really good ear. He kinda fell off the face of the earth, I don't, I have not seen him on social media in a while but he has a really good ear.

He had brought other bands to me before and they all went really well. They all did really good so like if he's got an eye for these guys, they might be worth my time. I don't know how much you know about them but they're Vietnamese. So it's a different scene over there. I mean, I wouldn't even know where to begin!

Umm, so I was like "You know what? They might be worth looking into. However, I don't think we're at that point where we can pick up somebody from that far, where we can't really help much. So you know, look into them but business-wise, I dunno what we can do.

And my friend who reached out to me, our A&R at the time was like "Talked to the guitarist, got a couple of demos or singles back". And he came to me. He was like "No, just check it out, check it out! Don't worry about the rest. Just check it out." So I listened to a couple of songs and was like "All right, cool!"

So that's how the guitarist and I started talking directly and ended up releasing an album together at the end of 2018—did another one last year, we're gearing up for another one next year.

And I mean, it's been a blast because it's such a different take from more Western music and just Western mentality, really.

NK: Yeah!

Chelsea: So it's been interesting, also, to get the chance to learn and see different things. So I've had a bit of a mix: how I find bands, how they find us! Like, there's a whole lot less outreach lately than there was before. Now it's a lot of word of mouth. We get submissions here and there.

And again, it's a small—the metal community is small overall.

NK: Yes.

Chelsea: So you're bound to run into somebody who knows your friend or somebody who knows a friend you've met before. So it's a lot of that too. It's a lot of stumbling across people who have worked with so-and-so, who you're friends with or who you'll be working with and so, and so forth.

NK: Yeah! I love that you're definitely highlighting that: the synergy of metal, right? Like how the community is small but we get so much done. When we bridge those gaps together, I mean even if they're in Vietnam WINDRUNNER works with you now in California, in the U.S.A.

Chelsea: I know, it's crazy! It's 100% crazy [laughs]

NK: [Laughs] Bands like Melbourne, etc., let's go down the list! I mean how does that feel to have that connection now? Whereas you know it's taken years, but you're finally to the point where bands come to you through word of mouth?

Chelsea: I know, it's crazy. Really I never thought we'd GET to that point or if I did, I didn't think it would take about ten [years], it has taken 'cause I still remember you know...

We had a couple of years ago still, like 2018, we had an e-mail thread which was "Bands We're Looking Into"! And it was just a list of bands that I enjoy and that other people enjoyed. And we just cross-referenced it to be like "Okay, this we all agree on and this, not necessarily!"  to get a different set of eyes or ears, I guess.

LIVING/LEARNING THE INDUSTRY

You know, band names, link and a favorite songs like YouTube video and different opinions circulating. So a thing that I make sure I don't fall into is working with somebody without hearing somebody else's opinion first because I know, I can be biased.

Especially if it's something that reminds me a whole lot of something else! And maybe I don't hear...I'm not hearing it right. Maybe I think "Wow, these guys remind me of so-and-so", pick it up then somebody else's like "Well, they do but this could be better, the vocals could be better. The mix could be better..."

But I'm like "No, they remind me of one of my favorite bands, I don't care! I'll work with them." So I always try to get a second opinion.

NK: Right on!

Chelsea: Umm' cause I don't wanna end up blindsided by my own, by my personal tastes because it doesn't come down to any of that at the end of the day. That's how we found a couple of bands that we worked with back in 2018. There's only one band that I've reached out to this year, that I can think of a week ago. And that's about it.

Everybody else is either current, has been with us for a minute or we've been talking since last year. This has not been the year of the outreach. Just nice to see people come to us at some point, it means we're putting our name out there!

NK: 100%! It means you've finally reached the point that you wanted to. Respect to that, Chelsea!

Chelsea: Yeah!

NK: So how did this start? And does that e-mail thread, was that at the beginning of when you made Famined Records, when you were kind of getting a feel for who you wanted to collaborate with?

Chelsea: I think it started out when I was really young. I had just turned 21 actually. So a lot of that is very naive of me. And I haven't lost that. I used to pick up bands and it was just like "You sound great! Let's work together!", and that was pretty much the only criteria at that time...which, you know, for a business who just took out a loan is not necessarily the best move.

And I learned that in time! So through the years, you kind of tweak that approach. Where now it's like "I love your music! But let's make sure there is something we can do before we do something".

Or "Let's make sure it's an expense we can afford before we do something about it"! So we had to learn that...

But back in the day, I don't really know how it started! I had a different company, and then a friend of mine got me in touch with the former owner of Famined Records. He was looking to sell. I was looking to GROW. And I was like "All right, this sounds like a match made in Heaven! Here's my college money tuition. I'll buy it out from you". And literally, I used my college money.

NK: Wow!

Chelsea: So, I know, another not necessarily great idea.

NK: [Rock salute] That is so cool!

Chelsea: [Laughs] But it worked out, it worked out! And at the time again, I had to...he had a company and he had developed it to a certain point. So I stuck mostly to his style of music. It didn't make sense for me to take over a company and just do a complete overhaul without even knowing what I was doing.

NK: That's true.

Chelsea: So we kind of stuck with the same niche, within the same genre. And one of the things that I wanted to avoid was while we were still building, was just go in and disrupt everything from the ground up! And in the past couple of years, we've branched out a whole lot more.

And I think I'm not necessarily steering away, but definitely putting less focus on what he had started at that time and more on what my personal preferences are. Which lie in the heavy and technical as much as they lie in the alternative rock!

I have a band currently that we dropped a single for this year that's just 100% modern radio rock. There's nothing heavy about it, there's nothing metal about it. They have a couple of moments but there's really—if you were to label it, you would not categorize it as metal at all!

I had to work my way to just kind of figuring out what exactly I'm gonna work with, that's not gonna alienate the fans we currently have. But it's also not gonna make me choose with things that I don't necessarily wanna work with.

NK: The balance is hard to strike but you did it! You know?

LOVE OF MUSIC OVER MONEY

Chelsea: It's just, it's fun! I want it to be fun at the end of the day. I wanna work with something I know, I enjoy. I once picked up a band that I thought would profit us—regardless of whether I liked it or not. I was like "You know what"?

I got to a point where I was like "This is also a business". As much as I like the music, it also has to make ME money. Otherwise this is not gonna stick around 'cause if I keep spending, spending, spending but I don't make it back, then it doesn't matter how good the music is.

So I picked up a band that I thought would make us a good amount of money. Ironically enough it didn't and part of it, I'm sure—part of it was on me because I was not into the music.

NK: Okay.

Chelsea: So I wasn't able to push it as much as I would have with something I genuinely enjoy. And that was the only band that I've ever picked up, where I was not sure. I fell into that trap again a while back, little while after.

And before we released anything and we were too involved, I was like "You know what? Never mind. I'm sorry" 'cause you know, we tried to make it work and made all these plans, and all this budgeting.

NK: Right?

Chelsea: But I'm not feelin' it. And I feel that if we go ahead, then it's too late to turn back so I would rather turn back now before releasing anything even if it messes everything up...than have you stuck with us when you don't wanna be and we don't want you to.

So I had to be a little bit more critical but make sure I don't lose sight of that. I need to like the music! I have learned that doing it, for me personally, doing it for the money DID not work because if I don't enjoy the music—I don't have the spirit. I don't have the incentive to work with it.

NK: How are you gonna promote it, Chelsea, if you're not even really feelin' it? Ugh, you know? And you want to like you said. You already get halfway through the plan but I just don't—this music just doesn't jive with me.

Chelsea: I know. I know, I was not feeling it. And I feel like I'm gonna regret spending money on this. And I don't wanna resent you and you don't wanna resent me. And it's just gonna be a mess!

NK: [Laughs] Yeah!

Chelsea: I'd rather you be mad that we are not gonna pull through now, than you be mad that we pulled through and didn't pull our own weight.

NK: I respect you so much 'cause what it really is, is you didn't want to have to be a people-pleaser in the industry. You're just "I have my opinions. It might cause some waves but I like what I like," and I think that's important especially in metal.

Chelsea: Yeah.

NK: You know 'cause a lot of metal is peer pressure, and people saying that you SHOULD like this band and you SHOULD go ahead with this thing.

Chelsea: Mm-hmm! It is.

NK: But it's like "I'm not really—just my opinion!"

Chelsea: It is! No, it really is and uh, I don't know, it's just if I have to spend time and put effort in something and turn down other things? Especially before when we didn't have a lot of funding so all my savings would go to this kind of thing.

I've turned down vacation time! I'd rather not go on vacation because then all the vacation money, I wouldn't get paid for would come into my account and then I'd just put it on the company. Like there's no incentive in doing that if I don't want to promote or spend time and money on some things!

So I want to at least make sure, what I do is something that I like, be like "Okay, you know what? If I have to skip on a night out with friends, that's fine because I'm gonna be spending, working with this music that I actually enjoy listening to!

NK: Yeah, yeah, doing something that you love 'cause like you said, you have to take that time off and make those sacrifices sometimes to push labels, to push your vision.

And sometimes it is the vacation and having to like, pull back a little bit because you get overambitious about being everywhere and doing everything all at once and rockin'. How would you describe Famined Records to someone who's never heard heavy music before? Like in one sentence?

Chelsea: Diverse? If you wanna use one word specifically, I wouldn't know how to build a sentence per se. For me it's been about variety! Like I said, I wanted to stay true to the original sound which, for the most part, we have.

Still a sound that we deal with. It's a smaller niche of metal that we still promote and still work with. A majority of our bands fit into that category!

However, we started branching out here and there. So I think diversity is the best way to put it and just not musically, it's definitely there musically. But also culturally and country-wise we're all over the place. And again myself, I lived in the States for less than a decade.

I come from a European country, I was born and raised in a European country so I still have my European mentality. I've still gone about life here and my friends are sometimes like "Why are you looking at me like that?" And I'm like "I don't know what slang you just used!"

So it's still a very different perspective for me, being here. I may bring a different perspective to the table as well when it comes to business.

NK: I think so!

Chelsea: I like to believe, anyway!

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