Permafrost Records

DATES OF BIRTH: 1997/2003
BIGGEST SELLER: Jon-Rae and the River Old Songs for the New Town
UPCOMING RELEASES: Jon-Rae and the River The Road (reissue)

Permafrost, one of Toronto’s most diverse indie labels, is enjoying its second life under the guardianship of Steven Himmelfarb. After inheriting the obscure Winnipeg-based label in 2003, Himmelfarb (a booking agent at Paquin Entertainment by day) soon partnered with Shameless magazine to release the impressive Good Grooming for Girls compilation. Since then, Permafrost has put out disco-punk by the Femme Generation, alt-gospel by Jon-Rae and the River, and surreal folk by the Barmitzvah Brothers.

Record Relay
"I decided to start a label when I graduated from university. Upon doing some research, I was told to talk to [Permafrost founder] Richard Siegesmund. Because he was a friend of a friend, he told me to take over the label to get a little head start. It already had a logo and a back catalogue — that really just sat there — but it was something to get going from rather than starting from scratch. So Permafrost has two real phases. I don’t know much about phase one — I know the releases and the names — but it’s basically a brand new label since I took ownership. I don’t think there is a real meaning to the name but it makes a little more sense knowing the label was founded in Winnipeg.”

Moving Music
"The major goal of the label is to take the bands we are working with to the next level, eventually acting as management and expanding Permafrost, with label and management being two separate entities. The plan is to act as a stepping-stone to take bands to the next level and, by next level, I mean quitting day jobs to play music full time. I feel like the goals are finally being put into action, specifically with Jon-Rae and the River. Currently Permafrost manages Jon-Rae and he’ll be moving on to a bigger label with more muscle to do things we couldn’t do.”

The Uncommon Cold
"It’s been a very quiet approach to establish a name for Permafrost and that’s sort of been the goal; let the records speak for themselves. The plan wasn’t to have the label be the focus but let the bands take the lead and I think that’s been our identity. I think we have a lot of Toronto darlings on the roster so we’ve built up a bit a niche on the theme of ‘Torontopia.’ A lot of people who buy the records are truly independent music fans. There is a certain lo-fi aesthetic that I look for in bands and I think the fans of the bands/label share that same feeling.”

Let’s Make a Deal
"I have a ‘Don’t screw me if you blow up faster than the Arctic Monkeys’ handshake and I give a ‘I promise, if nothing else, to work my butt off to sell your CDs’ handshake in return. It comes down to being on the same page as the artists; you aren’t going to disallow a good opportunity for your band but at the same time you hope the band respects that you’re working your butt off and investing in them. If the relationship is healthy there can be harmony amongst exclusivity and non-exclusivity.”

True Patriot Love
"Canada is a messed up piece of land. It’s such a massive territory with major centres at different ends, nowhere close to each other. While Canada has a wide range of benefits, it fucking sucks how big the land is. It’s hard to market Canada as a whole because it is so big. Permafrost concentrates on the Ontario market because we just don’t have the hours to give our bands justice in the west and east coasts — both of which have fantastic music fans.”

Citizen Permafrost
"We do as much ‘cheap’ marketing as possible. We try and keep personal relationships with a lot of the smaller store owners, set up as many in-stores as possible and basically ‘get out there’ as much as you can without spending any useless money. We also have a street team of three million kids, each kid working exclusively with ten people—that way we have all of Canada covered.”

Goals and Assists
"The long term goal is probably to pass the label on and keep it going to another keen young buck like I once was. Short term goals would be to develop artists that I can bring to my day job as a booking agent and help them grow as touring artists.”