Josh Cohen: Memorials of Distinction

3 Mins read

The problem of getting one’s music heard is one of the biggest struggles that young bands and musicians face early on in their career.

As more and more small venues continue close and the online music market grows evermore saturated, artists are finding harder than ever to get their work out into the fans of potential fans.

There are brights lights at the end of this long, lonesome tunnel, however.

Memorials of Distinction, a small but growing Brighton-based record label, are dedicated to making sure that the bands and musicians they sign get the widest exposure they possibly can.

[pullquote align=”right”]“I’m an obsessive finder of strange music, and that’s why it was so natural to me to set up a label.”[/pullquote]Artefact recently caught up with Josh Cohen, the 22-year-old man behind Memorials of Distinction, to get the skinny on this exciting up-and-coming label.

Most people with an interest in music often harbour a secret ambition to start a record label but few people actually make good on that particular dream.

Cohen tells us that his decision to start a label of his own came from frustration that a band he enjoyed a great deal, bedroom shoegazers Smiling Disease, weren’t having their music heard by anyone outside of their immediate social-circle.

“We were the only ones hearing it [Smiling Disease’s music] and I’m quite loud and vocal about things I like so I decided to be loud and vocal,” he said.

Cohen says the name Memorials of Distinctions comes from a tombstone shop that he would walk past every day on his way to school; he appropriated the sign and font of the shop to act as the label’s logo: “I never saw anyone in it, I never saw the lights on or anyone come in or out. I don’t believe it’s real. I like these mythologies that exist in boring circumstances.”

This idea of mysterious mundanity runs through the majority of the music put out by the label. Bands like Porridge Radio and sAtAnic rituAl Abuse (Cohen’s own personal project) offer the listener an seemingly ordinary experience that can only be fully understood after several listens.

For such a relatively new label, Memorials of Distinction has managed to work several international acts, many of which are featured on the label’s compilation tape, How to Organise your Life & Get Rid of Clutter.

We asked Cohen how he manages to consistently find such a wide and diverse range of artists; “I’m an obsessive finder of strange music, and that’s why it was so natural to me to set up a label.” He downloads around 20 albums every week and tries to go to gigs three times a week.

Despite the fact that Cohen stresses that no-one is officially ‘signed’ to Memorials of Distinction, the label boasts an impressive roster of talent.

When we ask Cohen exactly how many bands and artists are affiliated with the label, he tells us that their are about seven bands that have released or are planning to release a project on the label.

One thing that sets Memorials of Distinction apart from other similar independent record labels is that fact that every physical release by the label has been on cassette.

In terms of medium it’s an interesting choice, despite the fact cassettes are currently having a vinyl-esque renaissance many still consider it a dead format (à la laserdisc).

Cohen explains it’s a combination of financial necessity and that cassette tapes offer an interesting analog experience that is so often lacking in CDs and digital media.

Cohen sites the long historic relationship that cassette tape and ‘outsider music has shared saying, “It just kinda fits [with the label]”. He oversees the creation of his tapes and when conducted this interview was preparing to release Baltimore rapper JPEGMAFIA’s third tape, Black Ben Carson, his second release with Memorials of Distinction.

We ask Cohen what he thinks the future holds for Memorials of Distinction, “I don’t know. We’re going to release a Porridge Radio Album, I’m about to release a JPEGMAFIA album  and a compilation tape that I’ve been working on since last summer. I just keep on finding people I want to release stuff with…”

Listen to JPEGMAFIA’s Track ‘Drake Era’ from the tape Black Ben Carson below:



Featured image courtesy of Georgie Stott/SUEP/Fat Dog Party on Facebook

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