Q&A: Nabil Ayers

The Sonic Boom founder stays in touch from NYC.

In August 2008, Nabil Ayers had it going on: drummer for The Long Winters, co-owner of Sonic Boom Records, manager of Schoolyard Heroes, newly married, and owner of his own record label, The Control Group. But for Ayers, it was time to leave Seattle and return to New York City, his hometown, to focus on The Control Group full-time. Then he ran into a suit from Beggars Group, a collection of indie labels, at a party. "The next day he e-mails me and was like, hey, there's this 4AD [Records] position."Ayers still co-owns Sonic Boom and still runs The Control Group, but now he also heads a label that includes the likes of Bon Iver, the Mountain Goats, and Department of Eagles. For more of Ayers' thoughts on records, record stores, and record labels, see an expanded transcript of our conversation on our music blog at seattleweekly.com/reverb.SW: What's your job title at 4AD?Ayers: I'm the label manager, so I essentially run 4AD for America. I'm the only 4AD employee in America. There's a shared Beggars Group staff of about 40 people, and those people work on all four labels [Matador, Rough Trade, and XL are the others] and share the same office and everything.What drew you to Schoolyard Heroes?I saw them play [at a venue Ayers couldn't remember the name of], on a Sunday afternoon at 3:00 when there was, like, four people there, in this really depressing setting, and they were just so fucking great.Did you try to convince them to keep the band together?They've done a lot of things they should be very proud of. There's something to be said for new blood and a new start.Is it hard to play drums with The Long Winters?I think the six guys before me probably thought so.Are there more bands per capita in Brooklyn than in Seattle?That's a good question. There are more people who look like they're in bands per capita than in Seattle.Have you worked on Sonic Boom's new Capitol Hill store?No. I talk to Jason. The space [1525 Melrose Ave.] is incredible. It's a lot bigger. We love Capitol Hill. It was a little quiet on 15th. We couldn't do as many in-stores as we wanted to because of neighbors.You're involved in two of the most damned businesses in America: record stores and labels. Why are you so optimistic?Seattle is so incredibly supportive of independent businesses in general. There are so many great drivers there: obviously Seattle Weekly, The Stranger, KEXP, The End—and every band plays there. There are so many great things that I think a lot of people don't realize most cities don't have that really help Sonic Boom survive.[In] the record business, so much of the sky-is-falling stuff is major labels. Right now, there are indie labels that are just killing it. Sub Pop is obviously having an incredible time right now. I know 2008 was the best year Beggars Group ever had.ckornelis@seattleweekly.com

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