Nick Cao is a fixture on the Shanghai music scene, having previously been a main force behind excellent indie label Shengjian Records, as well as guitarist with cultish band The Cheers Cheers, while also plying his trade as a music producer. Nowadays he’s working with a new underground label called Letter Records. The label has already put out a number of releases in 2019, including one by the dreamy lo-fi duo Peking Picnic (named after the Ann Bridge novel of the same name) and, more recently, a gorgeously constructed EP from Pocari Sweet singer Siyu. We caught up with Cao to talk about his decision to leave Shengjian Records, his opinion on bedroom rock in China and upcoming plans for Letter Records.
Why did you choose to leave Shengjian Records and start Letter Records?
I always want to make music that is more underground. Shengjian Records became more interested in growing its bands right now, whereas I have a more underground spirit when it comes to music. So, our ideas about music development weren’t exactly the same.
How many people are working on the label?
Just two. Me and a Guangzhou friend, the guitarist from Pocari Sweet, Jueer. We connected with each other online. He’s responsible for the art and design side of things, while I’m responsible for finding bands and organizing releases.
How do you find bands for your releases?
Usually I pick from among my friends’ bands that I like, and then I find other bands online. For example, we found 2-D Foil online and then we contacted them. If they are interested, we ask them to send us a demo of their music.
What’s your opinion on underground music in China?
Shanghai’s scene is quite big. There’s quite a bit going on and a lot of big bands from outside come to Shanghai regularly. In Beijing, it has its own strong scene as well, while Guangzhou, I’m not too sure of. Bands down there really like DIY music and quite a lot of Hong Kong bands make their way over to Guangzhou.
How do you record the music on the releases?
I like to make music in my bedroom, but on my label, some of the bands prefer to make music in a studio. So, it’s sometimes a mixture of both.
Could you talk a bit about what you have lined up for Letter Records in the future?
In December, we are planning a performance at Yuyintang in Shanghai, details to come. We’re also planning to release some more music. The bands that have already released with us – from Beijing, Chengdu and Guangzhou – are going to come to Shanghai to perform. Your Summer Dream, 2-D Foil, The Cheers Cheers and a new jangle pop band with a Sarah Records style called All Romantic Days.
[Cover image courtesy of Nick Cao]