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Muscle Beach Records makes waves in Oxford’s music scene

Muscle Beach Records, founded by a group of three friends, is Oxford’s latest boutique label.

The label was founded in May 2016 by local musicians Kieran Danielson, Graham Hamaker and Adam Porter, who met while working at Fat Possum Records.

“I think it’s natural for us to start our own label, because that’s what we’re around all day,” Danielson said. “We’re all in each other’s bands, and we all work together.”

Once the three decided to create their own record label, they set out on coming up with a name for the new venture. The label got its name, and eponymous logo, from one of Hamaker’s favorite places and an autocorrect fail.

“There’s this island in North Louisiana where my grandparents have a lake house, and there are a whole bunch of mussels around it, so we always called it Mussel Beach,” Hamaker said. “I was texting the guys one day, and I threw the name out there but I spelled it the other way, and we just made it a play on words, a mussel with muscles.”

One distinguishing factor of Muscle Beach is the relationships they have with the artists on their label.

“We do stuff with all of our friends, and each of us has our own bands that we’re all also in, so we’ve got our own releases,” Danielson said. “Every artist is someone who we have a personal relationship with.”

Most recently, the label welcomed Australian performer Harry Permezel. Hamaker, who has a music industries degree from Loyola University, says they connected with Permezel through bandcamp.com, and invited him to come to Oxford for a few shows around the area, including a recent spot at Thacker Mountain Radio’s season opener. Muscle Beach will also be releasing Permezel’s next album on vinyl in spring 2018.

“For people like Harry, coming to the states, we wanted to try and do a few things that he wouldn’t be able to do over there in Melbourne,” Hamaker said.

The label has produced one vinyl album, Casey Golden’s self-titled release, but the rest of their projects are available exclusively on cassette tape or online. While cassette tapes might seem outdated, Danielson says there are several advantages.

“The first two releases were for my band and Adam’s band. I just wanted a cassette, because they’re cheap, it’s a quick turnaround time, and it’s something we could easily do,” he said. “It’s kind of just part of who we are and what we do. We’re self-proclaimed tape heads.”

For reference, Danielson says the average cassette tape costs around $5, which is a quarter of the price of a vinyl record.

Both Danielson and Hamaker say one of the best parts of running their own label is having control over their work.

“It’s nice knowing someone’s going to put [the music out], meaning us,” Danielson said. “It’s something to look forward to.”

In 2018, Danielson, Porter and Hamaker say fans of Muscle Beach can expect more releases and more playlists streaming online.

“All of the music on Muscle Beach can be found streaming online,” Danielson said. “It’d be awesome to keep it going, and add more playlists and more artists in the future.”