Owen Hooper and Gordon Hunter work together under the moniker Jamroom Records, producing albums and throwing shows in Victoria, B.C. The label’s humble origins began on Saltspring Island, when Jamroom bands Lover’s Touch and Brothers crafted their beach-y rock and roll sound. Hooper then imported these vibes from the small Gulf island to the larger Vancouver Island, setting up in the basement of his new home in the neighbourhood of Fernwood, in Victoria, BC. The "Fernhaüs" became a practice and performance space for local bands such as Cadboro, Leisure Suit and Bridal Party, some of which would go on to collaborate with Jamroom in the future.
Meanwhile, Gordon Hunter began hanging out at the Fernhaüs writing songs for his band Wild Aminals. Their first single is featured in the audio interview below.
The duo aspires to be much more than just another indie label: they want their reach to be global, albeit humbly so. They take major inspiration from larger outfits such as Sub Pop; in Jamroom’s eyes it was Sub Pop’s attunement to what their specific scene had to offer that gave them their indie-to-institution success.
Earlier this fall, Holy Smokes sat down with Gordon and Owen to talk about their ambitions, as well as Jamroom’s place in the Victoria music scene. Within the short time that has elapsed between then and now they have accomplished much: collaborating with local film production company Ft. Langley and working with management company Amelia Artists. Read and listen to the interview below.
Song credits: Wild Aminals—“Sugar”; Lover’s Touch—“Tiger Blood” made available courtesy of Jamroom Records.
In another conversation you mentioned you wanted to find a space for yourself. What kind of space are you going to make?
Owen Hooper: So at this point, we’re lucky enough to have a limited partnership with a studio in town: we’re able to kind of do what we want for a certain amount of days per month, slash, by month—whatever—but the ideal future for Jamroom is to have a space where we can, you know, record and throw awesome shows where everyone involved can do something. We have friends who DJ—and that’s what they do—we have a great friend Maddie and she’s a great DJ and we want to be able to throw shows where it’s multidisciplinary in that sense. Not to say DJ’ing is different—well obviously DJ’ing and bands are two different things, but two different parts of music and we want to be able to showcase both of those things. And it shouldn’t even be something where every single band that we play with and we put on shows for is part of our label in every sense. There’s no three-sixty agreement with the band. We don’t put on shows just for our people. We want to put on shows where people we love, who do things that we love, get to do those things, for other people that we love.
Gordon Hunter: The connection to place I think is something that grounds labels. In the instance of like, Sub Pop for example, how like, Seattle is really connected to the idea of Sub Pop and all the music that came out of there. I think Victoria is in a time now where that is happening, from what I’ve been seeing. I’m interested in telling people about that.
What does that sense of place look like for you? How does that actually manifest?
GH: You know, people come here to do their thing. The size of Victoria right now, it’s kind of like a big-little city: [there are] a lot of places to play music or have an art show or whatever and these things are very accessible. And for that reason it creates this fertile culture where you can just, if you have an idea about something you can go out and do it. And that’s why I like Victoria so much.
How does Jamroom fit into that?
OH: It’s the ability to do exactly what you want to do without having to worry about if people just locally are going to worry about it, and rather look at your ability to send it out to the world. I mean, we look at places like, well, Tame Impala in Melbourne is a great example of just, musicians who really marketed, sort of, the scene there into something much more global. Like, I think a lot of psychedelic rock comes out of that area. I don’t know if I’m just contradicting myself, but I just find that a lot of musicians get stuck in a rut, in Canada, of having to play up the ranks of a scene that just isn’t big enough to really sustain musicians. There’s just not enough money in Canada for you to be an act that is super popular here but just stay as that. You can’t really make a living doing that. We want to make something that the world looks at, so that musicians in future generations can do what they want in Victoria and realize that people all around the world are already looking at Victoria, just like they do in Montreal.
GH: It’s like, we think if we’re honest about what we’re doing in the scene and we produce good stuff, then it is relevant to someone on the other side of the planet, you know, that just sees our video or something like that.
What are some Victoria artists these days that you guys look up to?
OH: The local scene is damn good already—
GH: I think like, Fountain, Jons—
OH: I’d have to say Zuzu’s Petals is my favourite band of, like, almost of all time just in general. I just think they’re really awesome guys.
GH: You know, Logan’s [Pub]—the bands that play Logan’s, you know. Those are the cool bands—
OH: And so we figured, might as well expand the scene and continue to do great things and look up to these amazing musicians we know around town, but continue to sort of stay on the track of what we really want to do.
- Joseph Leroux