Sun not setting on Afternoon Records

Local powerhouse label is the brainchild of 24-year-old Ian Anderson

PHOTO COURTESY AFTERNOON RECORDS

Ashley Goetz

PHOTO COURTESY AFTERNOON RECORDS

The office of Afternoon Records is really just Ian AndersonâÄôs apartment. Anderson, the bourgeoning indie labelâÄôs founder and head, does his best to keep the place in order, but itâÄôs clear that something big is brewing in this diminutive dwelling. Just outside his bedroom, thereâÄôs a row of tables that support three computers. The walls are lined with bookshelves brimming with books, magazines and records. Packages âÄî opened and sealed âÄî are strewn about the floors. Despite the untidiness, Afternoon Records has cemented itself as the go-to label for up-and-coming Minneapolis indie bands including A Night in the Box , Mouthful of Bees and Now, Now Every Children . In fact, the labelâÄôs reach is even expanding beyond the comfortable Midwest as two recent signees hail from Canada and Europe . Anderson, an extremely affable and forthright music geek, exudes not the cockiness someone with his youthful entrepreneurial prowess might, but rather a sense of overwhelmed gratitude. âÄúSeeing where it goes is really hard. I didnâÄôt think the label would be around past the time I went to college.âÄù Anderson said. âÄúSo this is really fun that it still exists. ItâÄôs my dream job.âÄù Still in his mid-20s, the things heâÄôs done with Afternoon stand as a sizeable achievement for a young man. Anderson started Afternoon Records while he was still a pudgy high schooler at Benilde-St. Margaret âÄôs. âÄúIt basically evolved out of being in a band in high school. The more you play, the more you make friends in other bands,âÄù Anderson recalled. âÄúNone of us knew how to make a CD, record it or get it in stores.âÄù A complete lack of formal education about the music industry is a roadblock that can easily derail most teens with bands, but Anderson saw a challenge and an opportunity. Determined to create an outlet for what he deemed as âÄúgood pop music,âÄù Anderson poured through every book that dealt with music management, label dynamics and releasing music that he could get his hands on. That early knowledge scouring created the structural bedrock from which Afternoon currently rests âÄî but Anderson is the first to point out that his persistence didnâÄôt sprout from supremely noble ambitions. âÄúI was, maybe, the most bored of the crew and decided I should figure out how to do the business aspects and just did it for everybody,âÄù he said. âÄúFrom there, I caught the bug. I got addicted to it.âÄù Anderson was, after all, a high school senior and, as is expected with an 18-year-old dabbling in a practice career lifers still canâÄôt calculate, there were certain mistakes. After releasing each otherâÄôs bands with handcrafted cardboard cases and CDRâÄôs, the young Anderson and friends decided to approach a manufacturing company to take on the then-tedious production tasks. âÄúUsually a CD costs about a dollar to make, and I think they were charging us four or five,âÄù Anderson said. âÄúThat was like eight years ago and it was awful.âÄù But that wasnâÄôt the only misstep. Exposure in the music industry is a tricky thing. Public relations pros excel in catching the eyes of credible arts journalists, but as with the manufacturing fiasco, the infant Afternoon Records was not quite equipped enough to know the drill. âÄúOther mistakes I learned from were, straight off the bat sending records to, like, Rolling Stone that we made by hand.âÄù Anderson said. âÄúRight there, thatâÄôll tarnish your name when youâÄôre trying to build something. We had no idea, no concept of branding or association.âÄù Today, though, the early years seem like a far cry from what Afternoon Records currently stands as. Anderson reports that heâÄôs personally blitzed with 300-400 demo submissions from hopeful start-ups, and sorting through that task is âÄî sadly âÄî impossible. With that massive flux of submissions comes some unfamiliar geographic territory. âÄúMost of my signings in the past year have been from out of town.âÄù Anderson noted. âÄúWeâÄôre kinda going all over the place now. WeâÄôve been doing it long enough that we can safely and responsibly work with artists that arenâÄôt across the street.âÄù Needless to say, AfternoonâÄôs reach is now too vast to be contained by AndersonâÄôs quaint living space. Luckily, his mother has dealt out her 700-square foot basement as storage space for the crates of records that currently fill the Uptown home. When asked how large his ambitions are for Afternoon, Anderson does not mince words. âÄúIdeally, IâÄôd like for it to get to some sort of Sub Pop level [one of the largest American indie labels], but thatâÄôs after 25, 30 years of working,âÄù he said. âÄúItâÄôd be great to be a big label and have enough resources and clout that I could support any band that I fall in love with.âÄù For now, though, Anderson is hedging his bets on label stalwarts Haley Bonar and Now, Now Every Children, both of whom are being courted by major labels. Anderson is happy for the bands, especially considering that as manager of Now, Now Every Children he would be able to go along for the ride. ItâÄôs also worth mentioning that on top of being a label head and manager, Anderson also runs the popular blog MFR (http://www.minneapolisfuckingrocks.blogspot.com/ ), is lead singer/guitarist for his own band One for the Team and recently authored a book on his experiences. With such a résumé, getting a big head is a very real concern, but Mark Ritsema, a guitarist/keyboardist in multiple Afternoon bands, doesnâÄôt see any changes in Anderson. âÄúIf he does have a big head, he doesnâÄôt show it,âÄù Ritsema said. In fact, he has nothing but praise for his boss. âÄúItâÄôs cool because he knows us personally. HeâÄôs concerned about us if weâÄôre having any problems.âÄù ItâÄôs too soon to speculate on the future of Afternoon Records, but it does appear decidedly bright. As post-grads finish up their non-tangible, theory-based accomplishments, both brewing envy and a nod of appreciation are due in AndersonâÄôs direction. Business owner, band leader and author is certainly a lot to handle for a man still very much in his youth, but thankfully for Anderson âÄî and the greater Twin Cities music scene âÄî Afternoon RecordâÄôs focus remains clear: releasing good pop music for a city it loves.