Currently living what sounds like the premise of a television legal drama, Adam Gersten is a dude from Miami Beach who's found himself with the seriously serious job of being a Key West lawyer. Though Matlock and Sam Waterston do inspire his life choices, it is Gersten's label, Needless Records, which defines him as a man with dimension, talent, and taste.
Gersten grew up buying the Cure and They Might Be Giants cassettes at Flamingo Joe's, graduating to vinyl when he bought his first thrift store record player. While in college, he played in some bands and scored some legit DJ gigs.
He also gained credibility as a leftfield mastermind by throwing nights in Gainesville and then Miami. His first, now defunct, label must!delicious, released recordings by IDM wunderkind Otto von Schirach, Cyne, and psych master Michael Johnson, among others. Taking a slightly different approach this time, Needless' vinyl-only business model (currently limited to 7" singles) focuses on primitive rock and glistening pop from the Wiggins, Woven Bones, Jacuzzi Boys, and, most recently, Slavagoh.
Last week, Crossfade called Gersten at his Margaritaville outpost to ask why we should give a shit about Needless.
Crossfade: You've been around for a long, long time, throwing nights like Jukebox of Death at Churchill's and FM at Two Last Shoes and PS14. Can you tell us how the South Florida music scene has changed over the years?
Adam Gersten: There was a time when South Beach was just emerging from Scarface days and there was a possibility that it was going to be like a bohemian Lower East Side kind of thing on the ocean... with the Cameo, Washington Square, the Stephen Talkhouse, and of course Churchill's. Rock and weirdness got kinda quiet once house music and the 90s got rolling and there was a void - not too many local bands pushing envelopes - mostly because there weren't venues. I think Poplife, Revolver, to some extent, FM, kicked off a new era here at the end of the 90's and early 00's. Obviously, they aren't the only games in town now, or around at all, but ten years ago, that was it. Now there are a zillion places to play, more opening, and thus, more reasons to start bands and do cool shit. Basel probably has affected the full-timeyness of interesting and creative people being here, too.
Lately, quite a few labels have appeared around town. What do you think about this trend? Is there a large enough audience for them in Miami? Or are most of the sales online?
I think there is room for everything in Miami. Labels, bars, record stores, and cool shops are all like bands. There are different styles, looks, and presentations. Miami has not nearly enough & the place is still wide open. Obviously, quality matters, but what that is, is I guess subjective. Putting out records is generally not a money maker, even if they're great. If you can sell out of a release, that's great. However that gets accomplished, that's something each label decides. Also, customer service and communication is important. It seems like all the labels popping up so far have their own spin on things and hopefully they'll all do well. For example, my focus is on singles with streamlined artwork and cool music, I will be putting out albums in 2011, but Needless has a very distinct presentation, and this wont change. Andy Bones has kept that happening and the results have been killer. It helps when you have people helping you out. Speaking of which, I need an intern.
The most recent 7" single released by Needless Records is by someone named TODD. How would you describe him and his project Slavagoh?
TODD is an asshole, like a lot of my friends. But TODD is just one side of my pal Mario. I met TODD at ATP in 2006 in England...he was yelling at the drummer from the Black Keys trying to tell him how to play better, then he told the dude from the Shins how to write better songs. I'm not making that up. Anyway, I've known Mario for about 15 years. We met in Gainesville, at college, and he was in some great bands, Anklebiter, Argentina, the Beat Buttons, and others. He always has been a great songwriter and lyricist. The Slavagoh project is raw rock/synth/pop and has a sort of anthemic and spiritual feel that is distinct to Mario's output. This project definitely has a 80's feel, but not in a Chromeo-styled retro electro sense.
You're a huge nerd. I mean, a huge music nerd. Who are musicians that have influenced you and shaped the direction of your label?
Andrew Yeomanson and Courtland Green were two guys that turned me on to great records and sounds when I was in high school. Both of these guys still DJ and collect records. You may know Andrew as DJ Le Spam and the other guy DJs a place called Danny's in Chicago. Todd Saunders at Y & T Dance, which was on Alton across from where the theater is now, had awesome used records and I learned about interesting electronic music there, as well. Rob Dark took me to Memphis 15 years ago and let me record with his band at Sun Studios. My dad's mix tapes from the 80's. Bands: Spacemen 3, Mercury Rev (early), the Cure, the Beatles, the Velvet Underground... standard shit. Labels: Creation, Rough Trade, 4AD, Celluloid, and Mute. I also really love some types of disco, house and techno. Going to the label thing - Needless isn't limited to rock or any sound... I'll release all types of music, like the labels I listed.
Who would you like to put out an album for next?
Aside from a Slavagoh LP (in the works), I'd like to put out an LP by this band Django Django. Also, more music from Andy Bones and more stuff from South Florida. Start more bands!
The label is sort of like part-time Miami, part-time Key West. Should we expect a Jimmy Buffet record out on Needless soon?
Not unless he's covering Philip Glass' track "Koyaanisqatsi." Actually, I'd let him put out a 7" on Needless. Sure. He seems like a nice guy and maybe he'd finance the label. You know he was pals with Hunter S. Thompson. Oh, Hunter used to stay at the Sugarloaf Lodge down here. Kinda cool, no? This place is weird as shit.
-- Liz Tracy
Spend seven dollars and buy the newest 7" single at needlessrecords.com.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.