SPL, a local up-and-coming—and avowedly DIY—electronic label and event-planning team, founded by producers Jason Tucker and Matt Bond, along with visual artist Tyler Hallett, plays a role in the Boston music scene akin to something like a knot in a larger piece of fabric. Its list of connections to other local artists reads like a who’s-who of the Boston music scene: Hallett describes their “extended family” as including Thanatropics, Limousine, among many others.
The label prides itself on its distinctly DIY, punk ethic. Those values hold an important place in the history of the duo’s involvement in music; Tucker described being enthralled by punk and DIY from a young age given its “active effort to blur the lines” between artists, promoters, and audience. Hallett voiced particular aversion to the role of the promoter being focused around promoting business. “As a promoter,” he said, “my main goal is to stray away from the idea that curating a show means that you put four similar bands in a room, and all of their friends come and watch them play. I hate… separation and how there are a lot of tiny scenes [in Boston].”
And at the center of SPL’s mission is a respect for the individual artist. “Though it is young,” Hallett said, “SPL is constantly evolving and adapting in response to things we see that we don’t like, such as: promoters who don’t promote, lugging our own PA because we can’t trust the house PA, poor communication, the list goes on.” In line with their punk-slash-DIY leanings, the label aims to return a level of autonomy and self-control to underground musicians who all too often find themselves struggling under the boot of late capitalism, as it finds itself manifested everywhere from venues, labels, and distributors. It’s an almost neo-Husserlian “back to the artists themselves.” These themes mingle throughout the duo’s music. Biproduct—Tucker and Hallett’s actual musical collaboration—wrestles with them head-on.
“Biproduct,” Tucker explained, “is a direct reaction to the systems of control in our society. It’s nice to go out on a Friday night, dance your woes away, and escape reality for a bit. There are a lot of options in any city for that sort of thing. I think a Biproduct gig is a space where you can do all of that alongside people who carry a progressive DIY ethic and come together to achieve a sense of belonging.” Biproduct’s and SPL’s music fuses radical politics and techno in a way that tries not to get “lost in the aesthetic,” as Tucker said. “It’s important to me to keep all of this in mind with any project I do, to express my values and show support to everyone struggling against oppression.”
That’s not to say the label is just head-in-the-clouds theorizing, though. SPL’s music is fantastic. Biproduct’s “Burn / Fatigue”, SPL’s first release—two singles plus two remixes—has given the label an unfathomably strong start. “Burn”, in particular, pulses, crackles, and shrieks (not necessarily in that order) to perfectly match the label’s unrelenting and dour-yet-optimistic outlook on organizing in an increasingly hopeless time. Their music is at once boundary-pushing and mesmerizing. It’s ironic and almost tantalizing such great techno was released at the latter end of 2020. But as Tucker noted, “I’m mainly looking forward to our post-vaccine efforts.” Hallett: “[W]e are still anticipating, planning, and staying hopeful for the return of live music.”
I emailed Tucker and Hallett ahead of SPL’s latest release—Octalisk’s (aka Matt Bond’s) “Hiddensee”, a sprawling ambient track accompanied by two remixes—to talk about the origins, mission, and future of Boston’s most exciting electronic label.
N. Malte Collins: Can you tell me more about the history of your and Tyler’s collaboration? You mention working together on various events and projects since the early 2000s; what of those have been the most important to you?
Jason Tucker: Tyler and I have worked mostly independently of one another until we began Biproduct and SPL, but our friendship is based on Tyler being extremely supportive and me doing my best to reciprocate. I play in bands and we both make flyers, book shows, tours, etc. Tyler has a lot more focus on the curation/promotion side, as well as taking photos, making videos, and doing live visuals. When I decided to start playing techno live, we immediately got to work figuring out how to combine our interests into an audio-visual experience. Establishing the label and planning events together was a natural progression. Biproduct has been a concept in my head for about a decade, but 2019 is when we really started putting our heads together and I’m mainly looking forward to our post-vaccine efforts.
Tyler Hallett: I’m a Boston transplant and it took me a minute to work my way into the scene. I went to lots of shows, took lots of pictures and videos, drove vans, met a solid group of people and eventually shifted my focus to booking and curation under the moniker Content Brakes. It is impossible to do any of that without crossing Jason’s path many times as he is in what seems like an endless amount of bands in the area. Toward the end of 2018, Jason mentioned that his solo techno project was opening for Hide at Great Scott. I honestly had no idea he was into techno, and it immediately sparked my interest. He expressed that he was busy trying to figure out how to make standing behind a table by himself more interesting. I suggested shifting people’s focus to something else to look at, to which—in true Jason fashion—he asked if I could have a video ready in a week. I don’t think we even really met up between that conversation and the night of the show, but I’ve been a part of Biproduct ever since.
NMC: What’s SPL’s backstory? Any cool releases on the horizon?
JT: Every music and art scene has a similar makeup: There are the artists, the promoters, and the audience. As a teenager, I got hooked on DIY and punk because there’s an active effort to blur those lines. What you end up with is a melting pot of different attitudes and approaches to the same end: art, music, and events which are memorable, accessible, and represent the feeling of that time and place. Since the late 70’s, punk has confronted racism, police brutality, gender discrimination, and class warfare. Many facets of the punk scene still readily engage in this discourse, but a lot of it gets lost in the aesthetic, the partying, and even the music itself which can veer into the apolitical. It’s important to me to keep all of this in mind with any project I do, to express my values and show support to everyone struggling against oppression.
Growing up, we would put shows together in any garage or basement we could find, make records and merch on the crummiest equipment and basically give everything away for free, quit jobs to go on tour, come home broke and start all over again. Fast forward twenty years and SPL has the same spirit with just a tiny bit more discipline.
What really brought the three of us (Matt Bond of Octalisk and Thanatropics, Tyler, and myself) together was a desire to take the best pieces of the scenes around us and combine them in a context that supports inclusivity and subversive music. Boston is full of amazing art and hard-working promoters, but we’re picky and want to put something very specific out there.
Upcoming releases include Octalisk’s “Hiddensee” and Biproduct’s “Burn / Fatigue”.
TH: SPL was originally conceived by Jason and proposed to myself and Matt. For me it comes out of the DIY mentality, but more from the sense of making sure things are being executed the way we want them to. If we were going to be doing techno projects we would need a techno label. Our general frustrations, not just with Boston, but I think on a larger scale of the underground music circuit, lead us to wanting to eliminate those stressors we often found distaste in, and produce something we would have complete control over. There are definitely cool labels in the area like Moon Villain and Property Materials whose releases and curation I love. We wanted to do something new and for ourselves that has this strong feeling, whether you were holding a tape or dancing at a party, you knew it was us behind it. Though it is young, SPL is constantly evolving and adapting in response to things we see that we don’t like, such as: promoters who don’t promote, lugging our own PA because we can’t trust the house PA, poor communication, the list goes on. It almost sounds neurotic talking about it, but I think the three of us thrive on that. We scheduled our premiere Splintered event for April 2020 at Great Scott with performers Confines and Final Object, which would have been ideal, but as you know the COVID pandemic put a halt to live music (and shortly thereafter Great Scott closed for good), but we are still anticipating, planning, and staying hopeful for the return of live music.
NMC: How does Biproduct (and SPL as a whole) fit into—or break away from—the Boston electronic music scene? What sets you and Tyler / SPL apart from the rest?
JT: Biproduct is a direct reaction to the systems of control in our society. It’s nice to go out on a Friday night, dance your woes away, and escape reality for a bit. There are a lot of options in any city for that sort of thing. I think a Biproduct gig is a space where you can do all of that alongside people who carry a progressive DIY ethic and come together to achieve a sense of belonging. We’re not the first to take this approach and certainly not the last—many people feel the need to combine their catharsis with intense awareness of what they’re up against and we want to continue in that tradition, in a musical format not always associated with political activism.
Curating events is an important piece of both Biproduct and SPL because it means we’re setting up a space with the best possible sound and atmosphere. In the context of rock music, clubs and DIY spaces can get by with a modest PA and little attention to lights, visuals, and decor. Subversive dance music should be experienced in its own dimension, with loud and transparent sound.
TH: In regards to Boston, for me Biproduct stood apart first and foremost as the only techno set at the punk gig. As a promoter, my main goal is to stray away from the idea that curating a show means that you put four similar bands in a room, and all of their friends come and watch them play. I hate the separation and how there are a lot of tiny scenes. It always feels like high school to me. I really strive towards a break in monotony, putting different groups of people in the same room, different bands on the same stage, in hopes to start new conversations. I feel like the more weirdos that know each other, the stronger the scene can become. To echo Jason, we are not the first or the last to do what we do, and lots of cool things were and always are happening in the city, but it’s always motivating to create some sort of change, and find ways to stand out in regards to both sound and aesthetic. With that being said, it’s important to note that along with SPL, Biproduct works in constant flux. We are always experimenting and pushing each other towards something new/different with both the visuals/audio and the way they interact.
NMC: Anything else you’d like me to mention in the piece?
Jason: I’m very excited about the remixes for “Burn / Fatigue”. It was important to me to work with close friends who are deeply involved in DIY music. You can find Crmbl on SoundCloud; he’s an eclectic musician who bounces between Boston, LA, and Denver. Soren Roi has his hands in a lot of pots and I think this remix perfectly captures his production style’s transition from genre-bending techno to trap and hip-hop. Both of these people have been extremely supportive of Biproduct from the jump.
Speaking of beautiful, supportive people, Biproduct has a single out on Faktor Music, a new label and A/V collective out of Brooklyn featuring the amazing artists Octonomy, Confines, and Annunziata.
We urge everyone to support artists directly when possible, buy merch, support independent record stores, and get involved with their local scene.
TH: The events of this year have definitely changed our course of action in a lot of ways, but we still work meticulously at SPL, & in the last month or so we have really started sorting out a lot of details. Be on the lookout for what is to come from us. I’m also excited that Biproduct has become part of the Faktor family, and having them release our first music video for the track Captive. Jason and I are both involved in a large number of projects, and it would seem silly to not use a little space for self promotion. Jason’s band Cartridge just released a split with Wet Specimens, which everyone should check out. I am very excited to soon premiere The Incontinence Project, a collaboration with fellow Boston artist Frankie Symonds, which is an ongoing multimedia A/V web series, which collages repurposed footage and original content in an extended music video style format. Other area artists from our extended family who I encourage people to spend time with: Octalisk, Thanatropics, Limousine, Infinity Ring, Deep Hole, Final Gasp, Kira McSpice, Final Object, Grutch, Evicshen, Little Priest, Sterile Garden.
Jason: Also, Xen Chron and Solid State Entity. And I dare anyone to show me cooler sound design than Thanatropics. Ironically, I mentioned to Tyler that he should definitely use this chance to promote The Incontinence Project and his recent photo manipulation and video projects (Little Priest, Thanatropics, among others), but sometimes I’m bashful about promoting my own projects. So yes, there’s the Cartridge record and some other stuff on the way; I usually post to the Biproduct instagram once something is out.
SPL: Bandcamp Instagram
Biproduct: Bandcamp Instagram
Content Brakes: Instagram