SUNSET PARK, BROOKLYN: Don’t hate Matty Amendola because he’s beautiful. It’s a cross that this entrepreneurial multi-instrumentalist must bear on the way to 825 Records, his artist development baby that’s coming straight outta Brooklyn.
A pro drummer starting at the tender age of 13, Amendola has been backing up musicians of every stripe ever since. While he still gets paid to pick up sticks and pop a bass, he’s become just as interested in growing artists’ careers as backing up their singles. A studio, a label and a comprehensive concept, 825 is his vehicle to do just that. Hop in and see where his vision is driving him and the bands he signs.
Q: Which came first for 825 – the studio or the label?
A: The studio started as your typical home studio and was only being used for mixing and recording demos. 825 Records as a label started after I was producing so many artists — and watching their product fail due to lack of promotion and publicity. I figured, “Why not put all these artists on one roster and give them distribution, promotion and publicity services?”
I also love the idea of people being a fan of “825 Records” as a whole. That’s one thing that attracts me to indie labels and even hip hop labels: Even though every artist is different in their own way, there’s a quality in each sound that brings them together. I like making sure if someone is a fan of one 825 artist, they’ll also like another, even if the genre is completely different.
Q: It’s all about cohesion. Tell us about the studio: What’s your facility set up to be able to do?
A: Well the studio was started by my father when he was my age – it was his studio that he used for the artists he wrote for. I started sneaking in and messing everything up at a pretty young age! The older I got, the more gear I bought and learned how to use, and then a few years ago with help from GRAMMY Award-winning engineer Butch Jones (Madonna, Talking Heads) we finally added everything we were missing. It’s an ideal setup for any singer/songwriter, or multi-instrumentalists like myself. We also use various other studios in New York and then bring the tracks back to 825 for overdubs and mixing.
Q: Geek out for a second. What are some choice pieces of gear?
A: Our ears… We have some vintage gear, a ton of instruments, as well as an up-to-date digital setup, but that means nothing if you don’t trust your ears.
Q: Spoken like a sage! Is the studio open for everyone who wants to use it, or just 825 artists?
A: Primarily just for 825 artists, but we also take on plenty of mixing and mastering jobs, as well as FTP track transfers, jingles and music scores. Butch handles most of the technical side of things and his services are always available for hire.
Q: You said that on the label side, your big angle is artist development. How do you approach accomplishing that for your bands?
A: Our motto is “FROM THE STUDIO TO THE MASSES” and we really mean it. We offer a full range of artist development services.
Artists will work one-on-one with a professional songwriter and producer, turning their notes and ideas into a finished product that best exemplifies their talents. Recording time at the 825 in-house studio allows for the smooth production of a professional product, complete with graphic design and digital distribution. Artists also gain access to the behind-the-scenes work necessary for jump-starting a career in today’s music industry. Publicity work includes the creation of an industry standard press kit, including biography, press releases and pitches to target media outlets. Digital marketing management ensures a growth in artist fan base and promotion for album releases and live events. 825’s experienced team is dedicated to the success of every artist on their roster.
Q: What did you personally have to learn about distribution, promotion, publishing and business in general to get the label started? What have been some surprises as you get deeper into it?
A: As an artist myself, I’ve been in these people’s shoes when it comes to trying to “make it” and I learned as I went along. After playing with hundreds of bands, I self-released my first solo work =Ecstasy in 2008, and all I had was a Mac computer and publicist/friend Francesca Basile.
I worked on all my Internet presence and promotion, and Francesca worked on magazine reviews and radio appearances. At the time, I was playing bass in a band called The Classic Futures. We were on tour and did some major television performances, so I was “out there” in the mainstream. The work we did on my first album was all a setup for my second album Life Commercials. It quickly became a well-known and respected album in the industry and the single “Summer” received a very nice amount of national radio play.
I’ve drawn on that personal experience, and we’ve used the same formula for our other artists, except now we have a bigger team — it’s all about getting the product out there and keeping the ball moving. Social networks, media coverage, targeting the right audience, playing gigs, etc… I’ll also shop my artists to major labels if that’s the way they’d like to go. I encourage my artists to move to bigger things if they have the opportunity.
Q: What type of artists does 825 sign? In your opinion, what makes a viable artist today, and especially one that’s well suited for your label?
A: Anyone who has the talent, dedication, a look and honest music are the artists I look out for. I’ve learned that solo artists and singer/songwriters are generally more dedicated than bands. Even though I love working with bands I always feel like a babysitter when the singer and guitar player are fighting, the bass player is getting stoned in the bathroom, and – worst of all — if the drummer sucks!
We cater to all genres of music as long as there’s a market for it. The songs need to be written well and honest, with catchy hooks and unique twists.
Being a producer/songwriter who owns a label, I also prefer to work with artists from the ground up. From the songwriting process to the pre-production, and then into the studio I completely dedicate myself to whoever I am working with.
Q: That sounds like a great “incubator” for the bands that land in it! Tell us about how you’re bringing one of your artists along right now.
A: Working with Tiva Lee is a lot of fun for me. Not only did I have to develop her sound, but we wrote really well together — she already had a huge fan base and they were completely knocked out to hear how talented she really is. We worked on the EP for about four months, but we wrote and recorded the first single “Burning Up” in about six hours. A week later when Tiva went back home to Trinidad to celebrate Carnival, the song was released and received a great response. All the clubs were playing it, it got airplay in both Trinidad and here in the States, and I really felt it let people accept the very unique and different sound of the Introducing Tiva Lee EP with open eyes and ears.
The next release on the 825 roster will be Toni Rose’s single “Get Out.” Toni was featured on the Grammy Award-winning Mister Rogers Soundtrack in 2005, and this will be her debut solo release.
Our game plan at 825 is to slowly and quietly build internet and social network presence while the artist is in the studio, and then I pick the single. We will then start putting together press kits, press releases, an EPK, promo photos, etc… I always think an album or EP should be released no later than two months after the single’s release. Once again this helps keep the ball moving. The preparation promotes the single, the single promotes the album, the album promotes the shows. It’s all about speeding up and not slowing down.
Q: That’s what I call a “signal path”! Who’s been an inspiration to you when it comes to the business side?
A: Almost everything inspires me. Even the things I hate! But one big idol for me is producer/multi-instrumentalist Jon Brion. He has produced some of my favorite records, played guitar on some of my favorite records, scores beautiful movie soundtracks, and has solo material that I absolutely love. He does it all and does it all well. Legend Levon Helm once called me “the utility man”, and I just have to live up to that!
Q: Now gaze into your crystal ball. What’s next for all of us in this crazy music business?
A: Nobody knows and it’s unfortunate. I don’t want to sit around and try to predict what will happen. I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and making sure I’m doing it to the best of my abilities.
Q: One day at a time. In your opinion, are there clear advantages to being an NYC-based business, or artist for that matter?
A: The NYC music scene is definitely like nothing else and I’ve been on it since I was really young. I’ve played the dive bars, I’ve played Radio City, and every possible ridiculous scenario in between. I think the contrast has taught me what works, and what doesn’t work on this scene. My artists trying to make it on the NYC scene never hesitate to ask me for some guidance, because whatever it is they’re doing, chances are I’ve been there.
For any NYC artist, it doesn’t get any better than being on the 825 roster. We try to bring the old school vibe back to our facility, and we have a super-friendly and dedicated team that’s always hanging around helping out. An artist can be in the studio with me, while another artist is in our backyard doing interviews. We can meet, record, distribute, and promote an artist all in one facility.
Q: Anything else to add?
A: I’d like to thank SonicScoop for letting me share some information. If you are a band or an artist, looking for artist development or studio services, we are always accepting inquires. Check out http://www.825Records.com or give us a shout at [email protected].
— David Weiss