Brattleboro label celebrates 10 years with music festival

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BRATTLEBORO >> Ten years ago, Disques de Lapin released its first album.

"It was my album," said Thomas Nöla, label founder and one of its artists, referring to "So Long, Lale Anderson."

Most of Nöla's energy is focused on assisting other artists get their music out but he records music at his home studio in Dummerston and a studio in Greenfield, Mass. He considers the label Brattleboro-based after moving to the area in 2015. He previously lived in Salem, Mass., where the label was born, then Boston.

From 3 to 11 p.m. on Saturday, April 2, the underground music label will celebrate its birthday and obscure releases at the Hooker-Dunham Theater in Brattleboro. Tickets cost $10.

"It's a small theater. It only holds about 100 people. I think it's going to be a pretty packed place," said Nöla. "I think it will be fun. I don't think it will be standard Brattleboro live music fare. I think it will be stranger than what is normally seen in Brattleboro."

Performing at the music festival will be artists such as David E. Williams, Jawzwa, Jerome Deppe, Oval Portraits, Polly Eurothane, Wisteriax and a Philadelphia, Pa.-based band called Destroying Angel. Nöla himself will get on the stage with a band whose members will also perform beforehand. Hermit Thrush Brewery, of Brattleboro, will be there with beverages.

A ventriloquist doll named Dandy Lion, a regular on local radio station WVEW's "Piso Mojado's Twilite Revue" will emcee the event. The station, 107.7 FM, is playing selections from the label's artists on March 31. But websites such as davidewilliams.bandcamp.com, lapin.bandcamp.com and destroyingangel.bandcamp.com can also provide samples before the event.

At first, Nöla's passion was filmmaking. His website, eskimofilms.com, reflects that. But on it now is mostly music.

When a soundtrack was needed on one of Nöla's movies, "The Doctor," Nöla decided to give it a try. He said he ended up really liking the process and the music was really popular. He had a label put it out and paid attention to the way it was done.

"I got some satisfaction and went from there," he said. "I still don't think of myself as a musician. I just happen to be making music. I could be making something else one day."

Nöla also has screen-printing artwork on display at Brattleboro Printmakers, a membership-based print shop that opened about five months ago on Elliott Street in Brattleboro. He uses the facility for projects associated with the label too.

Nöla sings, plays piano and will bring his keyboard to the festival. He will be joined by a guitarist, bassist, drummer and cellist.

"When I'm lucky, I have a brass section," he said. "They're heard to come by."

Some have referred to Williams' music as Barry Manilow with a brain tumor as it mixes pop music or songs sounding like show tunes with lyrical subject matter that touches on perverted, violent or absurd themes. Serial killers, prostitutes and World War 2 were just some topics he's explored since the mid-1980s.

In Nöla's opinion, Disques de Lapin released one of Williams' best works to date: "Every Missing Duck is a Duck Missed." The songs were all written about Williams' real-life girlfriend who died.

"This was his way of coping with it, I think, in a triumphant way," said Nöla.

The label is a full-time obsession, said Nöla, noting that underground music is not lucrative but a labor of love. A label of this kind lasting so long is rare, he said having seen many contemporaries close up shop over the last decade.

"But I put in a lot more time than a logical person would," he said. "A lot of people who treat it as a business would have given up a long time ago. I treat it as necessity. It's the same with the artists I work with. It's an obsession you won't necessarily get tangible rewards from. I just feel compelled to do it."

Just wrapping up shooting one of Destroying Angel's music videos, he describes the band as "very moving, orchestral, spacey and psychedelic."

The label is preparing to put out its 47th album to date. Although they are not all "properly pressed" as some are only available digitally through bandcamp.com, Nöla said artists span the United States and Europe. In 2007, he met a bunch of artists in Spain. They really hit it off.

"I've worked with them ever since," he said. "Most people who listen to the stuff from my label are in Europe."

In years past, Disques de Lapin would release a lot of its music via compact discs.

"People just don't care about CDs anymore," Nöla said. "That's pretty across the board."

Now, the label started pressing boutique vinyl. And on the day of the festival, it will have two cassette releases. "The Official Disques de Lapin 10 Year Anniversary Kit with Instruction Manual," contains "very elaborate" information on how to play the tape format and "even respond to it emotionally," said Nöla. The other cassette comes from Polly Black, which he describes as a "kind of sad, almost country-sounding instrumental music."

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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