Ships at Night

Date of Birth: 2005
Releases to date: 7
Biggest seller: The Field Register Tire & Caster
Upcoming releases: Orillia Opry, Plants and Animals, Belleisle

Conventional wisdom has it that an artist should keep a comfortable distance from their record label. For the community that rallies around Montreal’s Ships at Night label, that’s impossible. The couple at the core of the flagship band — Jeannot Boudreau and Rebecca Silverberg of the Field Register — run the label; two other members of that band run the recording studio where every release has been hatched, and the liner notes for each record feature a suspiciously similar cast of characters.

"I’ve read interviews with labels where they say, ‘Don’t work with your friends,’” says Boudreau. "Sometimes that applies, but we’ve been really lucky. We’ve got a really solid network of people who do really good work, and I think that’s important.”

Folk If Necessary, But Not Necessarily
Though the Field Register’s shoegazey indie pop launched the label, it’s the rootsy Timber that has set the label’s tone. "Musically, we didn’t plan on being an alternative or indie folk label, which I guess is what we’ve become,” says Boudreau. "We release one record at a time. We don’t have a specific mandate. We’re just huge music fans. There are certain demos that we get where we’ll say that it won’t fit with the rest, but I don’t think we’ll limit ourselves to continuing on the indie folk philosophy. It’s not the only thing we’re interested in.”

The Label That Plays Together…
Timber guitarist Warren Spicer is also a driving force in the post-rock acoustic band Plants and Animals, and produces the rest of the Ships At Night roster. "We owe a lot to his production style,” says Boudreau. "It’s all on analog tape, and as much as possible is straight-up live recording. Warren plays guitar on all the records as well, and adds a lot of magic.” Spicer’s Timber band-mate David Macleod is responsible for the label’s finest hour — his 2006 solo album Strange Biology — and also moonlights on bass in the Field Register. Finally, Timber bassist and vocalist Katie Moore is one of Montreal’s MVPs; her impending solo debut has been the talk of the town for months now.

Vanity is No Fair
The birth of Ships at Night was technically in 2003, when the transplanted Monctonians in the Field Register slapped the name on their debut CD, The Eastern Shore. "We were planning on it being a real label, but that only happened after the second release, which was Timber,” says Boudreau. "A lot of people release their own band on their own label. When you put out other people’s music, you’re responsible for more than your own stuff.” Expanding the roster also helped with a key factor: distribution, which is now handled by Sonic Unyon. "It’s hard to call yourself a label without distribution,” says Boudreau, "and releasing other people’s records without distribution would have been difficult.”

In the Neighbourhood
Most of the Ships at Night roster — many of whom are transplanted Maritimers — have congregated in the same Montreal neighbourhood that hosts their recording studio and their preferred graphic designers. Says Boudreau, "We’re not a very big label, so when it comes to bigger issues, it’s nice to go across the street and talk to the artist in person, instead of dealing with email all the time. You learn to appreciate the people a lot more, when you can just hang out and play music and go to shows with your friends. For now [the label is] about our immediate community, but we have thought about releasing music by people in other cities. We’re not closed to that idea.”