Industry Interview: Peter James of Manic Kat Records

Based in New York, Manic Kat Records have been helping indie punk artists navigate the music business since 2009. They emphasize collaboration and interpersonal connections in all of their work, and put forth an an artists-first philosophy that ensures the artists and label grow together. Manic Kat have signed acts like Rival Town, Wired for Havoc and Bad Case of Big Mouth in their eight years in operation, and have seen their artists featured in outlets like Alternative Press.

We caught up with Manic Kat’s owner and founder Peter James to hear about the label’s history, latest happenings, and (of course) pizza preferences.

The Daily Slice: Could you first introduce yourself to our readers with your name, your official title at Manic Kat Records, and (since we’re a pizza-themed site) the best place to get a slice of pizza in your hometown?
Peter James: Sure thing, my name is Peter James and I am the owner/founder of Manic Kat Records. The absolutely best slice of pizza is right down the street from our office, it’s called Mr. Crispy’s Brick Oven Pizza. They have the best thin sliced pizza in the area, hands down! 

TDS: Could you briefly describe how you first got involved with Manic Kat?
PJ: Manic Kat Records started back in 2009 primarily as a vanity label for a band I was in at the time. Soon after we realized that we wanted to help like-minded bands out and try to take their music to the next level. We had a much smaller roster back then, mainly comprised of very talented, local bands.

TDS: What’s a typical day at work like for you?
PJ: The best part about my job is that the days are rarely typical! There is always something new or different that needs to be taken care of or done. There are days that I’m on the phone all day with potential partnership opportunities, or in the studio for 12-hour recording sessions with a band, or meeting with prospective signings. Every day usually comes with it’s own unique agenda.

TDS: Which artists/releases/general Manic Kat happenings are you most excited about right now?
PJ: We have 8-10 releases slated for this year with several more pending. We have also partnered up with a local CAN-AM baseball team, the Rockland Boulders, where our artists will be featured at select games this Summer. We also look to expand our roster by the end of 2017!

TDS: What is your proudest moment so far since you started working at Manic Kat?
PJ: One of my proudest moments thus far had to have been when Alternative Press started featuring a few of our bands in their publication and online. It was that moment when I realized that people are actually starting to take notice of our bands!

TDS: I’ve noticed a running theme in your branding is that you’re a “safe haven” for independent artists–what about your label is different from other labels for indie artists?
PJ: I don’t know if this necessarily sets us apart from other labels, but we do pride ourselves in very open lines of communication between the label team and the bands. We work with our artists for a common goal; which is to continually grow together.

TDS: How do you go about recruiting new artists for Manic Kat?
PJ: We are very selective with the bands we work with. First and foremost is the music. We currently house a staff of over 30 people, who all have to agree that they really love a band’s music before we even reach out to them. Then we look at how active and engaging the band is on all their social media platforms. We don’t really care if you have 50,000+ Likes on your social media if you’re engagement and interaction on posts is less than .001 percent of your total Likes, we look for bands that are constantly interacting with their fans. The bands we look at have to be willing to tour on a very regular basis. Despite the Internet being the wonderful thing that it is, the bands that tour regularly grow their fanbase that much faster. Finally, and most importantly, we have to get along with the band as people. I have a rule, “If I can’t hang out socially with you, then I definitely don’t want to work with you” – especially for a long period of time. We say we are like a family, that is very much the case with our staff AND our bands.

TDS: If the Manic Kat team was a pizza, who would be represented by each component of said pizza?
JP: That legitimately has to be the best question I have heard in a while! The A&R Team would be the crust because they are our foundation, bringing in bands and keeping relationships with them. Our PR Team would be the sauce because they are bold and spicy. Marketing would be the cheese because they bond all our crazy ideas together. Then our ancillary teams, like engineering, videography, graphic design, and booking would be our toppings because they give their own unique flavor to our organization.

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