Andrea Hoang and Jason Edelstein were tired. They’d spent a long weekend in early October carrying filmmaking gear and band equipment up and down a mountain somewhere northwest of Denver to shoot a video for the band Bear and the Beasts.
Hoang, who along with Edelstein is a founder of The Salt Lick Records — a new label that sprang from Salt Lick Denver, a crew of creative people livestreaming bands from a Denver basement — joked that they were trying to get in a couple more hikes before winter. Edelstein isn’t quite as sunny in his characterization of the shoot: “Shlepping gear up and down a mountain.”
“The band got a good workout, too,” he adds.
Edelstein sees the teamwork involved in the shoot as a good representation of what he and Hoang want the nascent record label to be: a tight-knit crew where everyone helps out and occasionally spends the weekend shlepping gear.
Edelstein alludes to the Tarantino-verse: In that filmmaker’s oeuvre, characters from one movie might be referenced in another, and the films are chock-full of Easter eggs and self-references. The same actors always seem to be showing up. Hoang and Edelstein envision bands performing together, appearing in each other’s videos and forming a community of artists that represents the creative spirit of Denver.
The Pond, the basement studio where the team records performances in a livestream called Songs From the Pond, is beginning to fill up with items specific to each band that might show up in another band’s video some day. They hope people notice.
The Salt Lick currently has five artists on its roster: Bear and the Beasts, John Baldwin, Mlady, Silver Screen Fantasy and Sponsored Content.
“We were always hoping to start a record label one day,” Edelstein says. “With the vaccine rollout and venues opening back up, we’ve really been able to celebrate what the Salt Lick has been doing. It seemed like the right time to start doing it.”
Bear Redmon, of Bear and the Beasts, says he's been working with the Salt Lick since January 2020. The band was among the first to play a streamed set in the Pond, when live venues were shut down because of the COVID pandemic.
“It was very creative. They had just taken this basement they were scooping water out of...and just building this whole kind of setup [where] they had dolly tracking and everything,” he says. “They took a bad situation and created a space where it not only could be made safely, but made well.”
“When you're a musician, you hear about getting involved in a label [and] you're a little hesitant,” he says. "Images of Taylor Swift getting screwed over by people pop into your head.”
Edelstein notes that bands don’t always have a reason to join a label nowadays, because releasing music independently is easier than ever.He and Hoang wanted to go about launching a record label in a different way. The Salt Lick Records is primarily focused on getting its artists’ music heard, and the founders worked to form contracts that are mutually sustainable.
“The artists keep the majority of the revenue,” Edelstein explains. “They actually have an ability to share revenue with each other, and we don’t have our hands in any of their creative decisions, the recording or the material.”
Hoang points out, for example, that the Salt Lick provides its own audio engineer, but artists aren’t required to use in-house services if they prefer to go somewhere else. "The option is there,” she says. “We’re moving toward an ‘artists favored’ label. We're here to bring their ideas and visions to life through our content creation and video production.”
Over the past several months, the Salt Lick has networked with artists and other local labels, strengthening its presence in the Denver music scene, Hoang notes.
Songs From the Pond has included more or less a set every month, and it feels like a success so far.
“A lot of the artists we’ve had on the sessions have been able to meet with each other and network,” Hoang says. “We’ve been able to bring them together at live events like our Underground Music Showcase Day party.”
Many of the Salt Lick bands met for the first time that day, August 29, and participated in a “Super Jam” where they drew names out of a hat and played together, along with several bands not associated with the label.
“I can tell they're stoked about working together,” Edelstein says of the jam session.
Although there isn’t necessarily a “Salt Lick Records sound,” Edelstein says they look for bands that are writing original material and that bring something different to the Denver music scene.
Hoang adds that being exposed to so many artists during Songs From the Pond has been a blessing the past several months. She’s excited to be working with the bands the label has signed so far.
“It’s definitely music that makes me want to listen to it again,” she says. “The amount of dedication and time and songwriting ability of these artists have definitely stood out. Creativity and dedication are what I look for.”
Edelstein recalls that during the Songs From the Pond sessions, he and Hoang began to realize that once live music returned, people would no doubt be eager to go see national acts returning to Denver. They hope their online presence will help spur people to buy tickets to local shows and celebrate the wide range of music the city has to offer.
“We want those same people excited about, checking out and prideful in their local music scene,” Edelstein concludes. “We want to foster the kind of music scene in a city where people are bragging to their friends from outside the city that we have such a great music scene.”
For more information, visit thesaltlickdenver.com.