Dean Bein of True Panther Sounds is the man behind the biggest (probably) break out band of the year, Girls. Bein also threw like, 4 CMJ shows, DJed a FADER party, and even did another party on Sunday of CMJ weekend– when the shit was already over. He’s devoted to sound. Bein took some time out to discuss the music of Girls, working with Matador, the appeal of cassettes and records, how to pronounce his last name and more.
How and when did you start True Panther Sounds?
My friends Molly, Avi and I started a band called Red Tape Apocalypse so our friend Sam could have a vehicle to learn how to play guitar. We wrote some songs and decided we should go on tour. We made a recording in the basement on my 4-track, mixed it on a friend’s computer, pooled our money and put out a tour-only 7″. That record sold so we decided to put out another one using the money. The label has sort of kept afloat on that one-to-one project style since then. That was in 2006. Putting money into something, praying it would sell enough to put out something else.
You started in San Francisco right? Why the move to Brooklyn?
We started in San Francisco. At one point I realized that growing up in SF and moving back there made it really difficult to focus on anything. San Francisco is a fantasy-land in the best and worst possible ways- you can walk down the street, get some free pizza, step into Dolores Park and run into 20 of your best friends. It was really hard to accomplish anything longterm for me there because it had so much history for me. Once I got to New York I realized how vital the music scene in San Francisco actually is and how unfortunate it was that it didn’t really have a loud voice singing its praises.
How many people work for you? Do you operate in Cali too?
Nobody works for me. The label started out as just Molly, Avi and myself. Then it was just me. Now I’m really lucky to work with the staff at Matador to promote and support TPS releases. I also have a really smart industrious and generally awesome intern named Ben Mallett who helps a couple of times a week. But I don’t have any employees, per say.
How do you find talent, primarily?
I listen to music from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed, usually go to sleep listening to music. I trade music with friends, talk about it with them, DJ radio shows and parties, collect records, etc. Music is pretty much my life, so a part of that is constantly discovering new bands and musicians. I’m lucky now to also have the bands that I currently work with hip me to things they think are cool.
Tell me the story of Girls, were they first friends of yours? Did you know instantly that they would get so much love?
I used to see Christopher around SF a lot. I ran into him at Glen Park BART one morning at 8am as he was going to work, and I was going to work. I found it really surprising that he was up so early and commuting to San Mateo for work. A few months later, I was living in New York and incredibly homesick. I heard his and JR’s songs and completely fell in love, overwhelmed by the images of San Francisco they evoked and the beauty and intimacy of their songs and recordings. I feel like most people, if they are listening with an open heart, will recognize that their songs are really special, and have a sincerity that is rare these days.
What do you think is your job? Curating? Finding music? Or just helping share it?
I think if labels can’t provide something that bands can’t do for themselves they are useless. The job of the label is to realize the dreams and aspirations of a band, use our resources, ideas and experiences to help a band make the best music they can, and share it with the right audience. Everyone can find music these days, and a lot of those same people can release music. The job of a label is to help organize and tell the story of the music. I suppose a part of that is curating, wading through the volume of music in the world, selecting something and telling the story of the music.
What do you think about the music industry in general these days?
I think it’s an incredibly exciting time for people to try to think of new ways to make the business work, and an incredible opportunity for people with fresh ideas to take part. It’s a wonderful time for music, and especially independent music, to get an audience and tour the world. It’s also a special time for music fans who can now access music from all over the world. As a lifetime participant in independent music and punk rock, I enjoy the fact that major labels are struggling, and that indies can negotiate the music world with a dexterity and quickness that the goliaths can’t. Our ability to adapt and think about what artists need creatively is our greatest strength.
Are vinyl and cassette formats the future? Or is it really digital?
I think vinyl and cassettes are signs of the continued need of music fans to feel a physical connection to their favorite bands- to purchase something directly from them and put it up on their wall or shelf. Just as the CD was a transitional medium for the evolution of analog to digital music, I think the resurgence of vinyl/cassette is the sign of another kind of transition, from purely audio physical objects to some kind of integrated but still tangible object. No idea what that will be, I suppose if I knew TPS/Matador would be billionaires!
What are some of your favorite acts these days? Brooklyn or elsewhere?
I feel honored to work with some of my favorite artists. I think Girls are writing some of the most heartfelt, beautiful and ultimately classic songs around. Lemonade is toying around with totally new and mind-blowing sounds. Glasser has one of the most powerful and versatile voices I’ve heard in recent memory. Tanlines and Teengirl Fantasy are reformatting house music in really liberating and progressive ways.
Outside of TPS, I love the songs of Cass McCombs and the sounds Cold Cave is exhuming. Also, the fact that Willie Nelson and Motorhead still tour, that Omar Souleyman is making a record with the dude from Blur, etc. etc. etc….
How did the deal with Matador develop? It seems odd that Girls didn’t put out any music and Matador teamed up with you for their debut.
I feel really honored that Matador came to believe in the music that was coming out on TPS, they saw it over a period of time and believed in it enough to bring it into their fold.
Along with Lemonade and Glasser, they watched Girls develop, heard songs as they came in, and came to fall in love with them just as I did.
Do you handle press and promotion for True Panther as well?
I used to, now I do for certain releases, and Matador staff helps with others. It depends on the demands of the project.
What other future projects are you especially psyched about?
As I mentioned before, the Lemonade album is going to be incredible, utilizing all kinds of new sounds and beats. Their new music is a daring evolution in American beat music, a true product of the international and musically liberated subculture we’re living in. A few bands who can’t be mentioned yet. The Hunx and His Punx album is hilarious but still better than 99% of the garage rock out there.
What upcoming bands would you love to put something out for?
What’s the best thing about working in/with music?
Never buying furniture and sleeping on record boxes, eating off of record boxes, eating used cds, wearing only promo/band t-shirts and slowly but surely becoming a bonafide alcoholic.
How do you pronounce your last name? Bean?
Bein, rhymes Chow Mein. I used to think my last name was spelled wrong because I moved with my family to America when I was 6 and my dad didn’t speak English. I don’t think that’s the case anymore though!
How was CMJ? What were the best bands you saw, True Panther or otherwise?
I’m completely exhausted after CMJ. I usually am super hyper but on Monday I woke up and actually couldn’t move my body…I just needed some rest. My favorite bands were Lemonade, Glasser, Tanlines, Harlem. Some other ones but I hope to be putting out their records some time next year.