BARF: How long has Fourth Row been in existence for?
FOURTH ROW: Fourth Row Records turns three years old this year. We started in the summer of 2013 and put out our first release "this comp belongs in a museum vol. 1" in December of that year. We've been based in my bedroom closet ever since.
BARF: What inspired you to start your own independent label?
FOURTH ROW: This collective project began as a small, spontaneous endeavor between a few friends and I in high school. We had been inspired by the immense amounts of solidarity and creativity which knit the San Jose (and Bay Area) music and arts scene together; I guess we just wanted to contribute to that community effort. The San Jose scene – like art spaces all around the world – has gone through waves of change and still faces a lot of uncertainty but has been continuously cemented in place by people dedicated to cultivating a safe, inclusive, and radical space for the shared experience of art and music. I guess implicitly, the mission of Fourth Row is to support the efforts of those artists and organizers. A lot of the projects we release belong to people of color, queer folks, women, and other marginalized people who are providing alternative, often-silenced narratives while carving their own space within and beyond the scene.
BARF: What’s the label’s most recent release?
FOURTH ROW: During the summer of 2016, we worked on and released three tapes almost simultaneously. We put out a really stellar emo album titled "best buds" by Berkeley-based Mom Jeans., a dreamy and expansive indie pop album "cool" by the Bay's own christian francisco, and a re-release of Seattle-based pigeon pit's beautiful queer folk punk album "shut in." They're all really good I think!
BARF: Contrary to not so popular belief, the Bay Area’s music scene is alive and well; currently, who’s your favorite local artist/band?
FOURTH ROW: This is an impossible question to answer! The Bay Area is thriving and giving birth to so many amazing artists that it is difficult to pick one favorite. Maintaining loyalty to our home turf, among our favorites are hometown heroes: leer, Try the Pie, Hard Girls, Best Buds (not to be confused with the album), Jr. Adelberg, and Drop In. All of these bands are currently killing it and I'm certain will continue to do so; they seriously shred in their sleep. Beyond that, SOAR from SF, as well as Unity and Negative Standards both from Oakland, blow my mind.
BARF: What’s the most prized record you own?
FOURTH ROW: In my personal collection: probably Matsuri's "endship," that album rips so hard. Rest in peace texas toast diy and Matsuri.
BARF: What are some other labels you admire (and why?)
FOURTH ROW: If I could model Fourth Row based on any other label, I would undoubtedly pick Square of Opposition from Pennsylvania. For the past 15 years, they've put out some of the most memorable and influential albums while always sticking true to their DIY ethics and progressive politics. "Capitalism is killing music," to quote them, and community solidarity seems to be the only antidote. I also hugely admire San Jose's own Dutch Crunch DIY for their explosive emergence onto the scene with three really stellar releases right off the bat, as well as Smoking Room for exhibiting how truly versatile and unique the Bay Area sound is.
BARF: Anything else that you’d like to share (music or non-music related!)?
FOURTH ROW: A few months ago, there was an article going around on the internet that described San Jose as a sort of cultural wasteland. Our town is ravaged by parallel processes of cultural divestment and tech/start-up investment, evictions and raising rent prices, so on and so forth, but that isn't to say that resistance does not exist. We have a long legacy of protecting and producing revolutionary art; while much of that is being erased by "development," we seek to immerse ourselves in our history to propel ourselves into the future. I want to give a lot of thanks to the following groups who continue to prove wrong the cultural wasteland narrative: Cheers from the Wasteland, Think and Die Thinking (especially their Youth Art and Music Program), Regeneration Against Destruction, Silicon Valley De-Bug, Kitty Castle Collective, Dead Generation, and everyone else committed to defending our culture against capitalism – not by countering it with more capitalism but rather with community.