Austin music label comes out of the closet


So the Stylelicious shoot yesterday morning went fine and dandy hard candy Christmas. We ran all over town faux laughing and faux shopping.

From today’s Daily Texan (The University of Texas Paper)…

Jennifer Perkins and Chris Boehk run a record label out of a jam-packed closet in their South Austin home. Has Anyone Ever Told You? records is the newlyweds’ love child, conceived in 2000 when Chris and his friends wanted to make some music. The label, now 5 years old, bears a striking resemblance to its parents.

Jennifer, 31, looks a lot like Molly Ringwald, with red hair, pouty lips and big, heavy-lashed eyes.

Her style is vaguely ’80s-throwback, her fingernails painted Minnie-Mouse-style red with white polka-dots and her right wrist clunking with a chunky, beaded bracelet she made for the Naughty Secretary Club – a jewelry business she runs.

She specializes in rescuing and reusing broken antique costume jewelry, designing what she calls “revamped vintage.” It’s a term that could describe much of the music Has Anyone Ever Told You? releases; a lot of music the label currently finances would probably be at home on “The Breakfast Club” soundtrack.

But it didn’t start out that way.

Jennifer and her then-fiance Chris Boehk started the label in 2000 as a medium for Chris to produce his own music and the music of his friends – mostly indie-rock artists that needed a break.

Chris plays in four of the nine bands the label has financed. His most recent album, Beta Valentine’s “The Proposition,” was performed at End of an Ear on Friday. Openers included a dance team whose members Jennifer knows from the Naughty Secretary Club and a disc jockey who is friends with Chris.

“It’s all pretty incestuous,” Jennifer said, laughing.

The label receives tons of press kits, demo mixes and requests for funding, but Jennifer and Chris “haven’t listened to a lot of it based on the packaging,” Chris said.

The label owners decide which bands are worth backing financially. The couple is willing to put a couple grand on credit into a record, but usually only for people they know and trust.

“For you to come out of the blue, without any respect or allegiance, it would be very unlikely for us to say, ‘Hey, let’s put $5,000 into a record for you,'” Chris said. Strangers don’t have much of a chance, Chris said, “unless you’re strangers in a big band. Even then, we’d have to become friends first.”

Has Anyone Ever Told You? did put out a 7″ vinyl with The Deathray Davies, and in its early days, talked about making a record with Death Cab For Cutie, Jennifer said.

For the most part, the couple runs the label business casually. Some friends built their Web site for them, and Chris and Jennifer handle all the finances and relations with the bands themselves.

“I don’t think we even have a contract written up,” Chris said.

The band’s logo, a Japanese lantern, was taken from a rubber stamp – part of a set Chris gave Jennifer the first year they were dating.

“There’s no special significance to the lantern,” Chris said. “Jennifer was into Asian-themed things at the time.”

The label’s name was also Jennifer’s doing, though it was chosen almost by accident. In 2000, soon after they had decided to form a label, the couple went to Flipnotics to get a cup of coffee and choose a name. They were stumped until the woman behind the register handed them their change, looked at Jennifer and asked, “Has anyone ever told you you look like Molly Ringwald?”

They laughed, and then one of them suggested calling the label “Has Anyone Ever Told You?”

It was decided.

“No doubts about the name,” Chris told SplendidEzine.com. “We knew it was perfect.”

When they put out their first release, they made “MR-01” their catalog number, MR meaning Molly Ringwald.

Five years later, their catalog goes up to MR-15, and as Jennifer devoted more and more time to developing her jewelry business, the responsibility of running the label has fallen squarely in Chris’ lap.

“If it had taken off the way my jewelry business had, I’d definitely be just as happy doing this as doing my jewelry business,” Jennifer said.

But the Naughty Secretary Club grew, and the label didn’t. The couple sleeps in the guest room because Jennifer runs her jewelry business out of the master bedroom. Has Anyone Ever Told You? now occupies a closet.

“Just because you haven’t released an album in a couple of months doesn’t mean you have to close the Web site or the label,” Chris said. “You get tired of something, you put it on the back burner and come back to it. We’re not the kind of people that sit around on the couch and watch TV,” Chris said. “We have to make and do things.”

And the couple expects to still be running the label do-it-yourself style five or 10 years from now.

“Unless something I don’t expect happens, I can see it staying in the same place,” Chris said.

The couple sometimes spends evenings outside on the porch of their South Austin home, listening to music on Jennifer’s iPod. They argue over which Dinosaur Jr. album was the best or why the latest popular indie release is too dance-y for Chris’s tastes.

Jennifer listens to a bit of everything, and Snoop Dogg will sometimes follow Death Cab on her playlist. Chris cites bands like Hüsker Dü, the Minutemen and Fugazi as his musical inspiration. But don’t ask either of them to pick a favorite band, or a favorite album on their label, for that matter.

“It’s like choosing a favorite child,” Jennifer said.

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