The Ghosts of Griffintown
Friendship Cove Takes on New Forms, Lives On
Campaign for Infinity
Tucked away in the heart of Griffintown is the ghost of Friendship Cove.
Although Friendship Cove, renamed The Cove, has been laid to rest as a public space, the energy of the space lives on through two mediums: Campaign for Infinity and No Vacation Records.
The space, which has played an integral role in the Montreal music scene over the years, was raided during a show in July of this past summer. Tenants Brett Wagg and Arin Ray Gintowt were told they—and their roommates—would be evicted if they ever hosted another show. They could stay, but the big crowds had to go.
CFI, however, has been a long time coming. The first official CFI release came out in May of 2008. “For the first 10 or 15 releases I was mainly working on my own, up until the summer of 2009 when I decided to add Arin and [Dominique Alexander] as partners,” said Wagg.
CFI has released 43 limited edition tapes including music from Omon Ra II, Dirty Beaches, Futensil, Grand Trine, Red Mass, Play Guitar and Dead Wife, to name a few. The income from these releases has allowed the collective to begin No Vacation, which focuses on releasing vinyl.
“We stand behind everything we release, but only some are good enough to merit wax,” said Alexander.
The group has been funding the production of these tapes from their own pockets.
“The tapes fund the records so we can put them out,” said Gintowt. “We make a limited run of 50 tapes and with that we make a couple hundred bucks and that goes into making a record. We just want to put out [more quality] releases.”
The musical genres that the label represents are vast and varied. “We don’t want to get pigeonholed to a specific genre. We just want to put out unique stuff within all genres. I guess it’s more about exclusivity—it’s not necessarily meant to be everyone’s favourite music,” he added.
A trait with Campaign for Infinity is their medium of choice: cassettes.
“None of us would be able to afford putting out a record if we hadn’t put out tapes first,” said Gintowt. “Start up costs for making 50 tapes aren’t all that much as opposed to records, which are much, much higher.”
For the contemporary, digital-aged folk—perhaps it’s time to rethink the analog world.
“There is something about a limited edition tape. For the enthusiast and the avid collector, they want that edition, not the downloaded version,” said Gintowt, adding that if your computer crashes, you suffer the loss of all your digital downloads.
“Analog is beautiful. CDs and downloads are trash, they’re nothing—CDs are frisbees and downloads, when your computer is gone, are kaput—like they didn’t even exist,” said Gintowt. “The tape has a higher value because it’s hand-made with care. It’s not like something that is just pumped out to the masses.”
While the Internet is directly responsible for hindering record sales over the past decade due to music downloading, online traffic has helped rather than hurt smaller labels.
“The Internet has been bringing artists and fans together in a way that previously didn’t exist,” said Wagg. “The music scene is more global and less localized than in the past. There seems to be more interesting bands, more DIY labels and an overall increased level of enthusiasm.
“The Internet succeeds in promoting the releases rather than threatening sales. In my experience, hearing something I dig online often results in a purchase, something which is also facilitated by the Internet,” he said.
The music industry isn’t dead, but it is indeed changing, and independent labels such as CFI and No Vacation are proving they are often better equipped to respond to industry shifts.
“We’re less interested in revising our process and setting business goals than in expanding the catalogue and releasing more and more exciting work,” said Alexander.
The neighbourhood in which these labels bloom out of are also changing. Friendship Cove was arguably shut down because of city plans to give Griffintown a facelift. However, the loss of The Cove as a space to harness live music hasn’t hindered the success of the collective’s initiatives.
“For me, [The Cove] was extremely rewarding but I don’t know how necessarily important it was,” Gintowt said. “I like to think it was really great but it was an art space and art isn’t something that you can say people need. It’s not like water fountains or trees in a neighbourhood. You can’t really place the same value on it.
“But at the same time it has a benefit,” he added. “It’s not important but it’s really good.”
In the days of hosting shows the roommates were often left bartending and cleaning up the space. “I can’t say I was doing that for myself. I was trying to do that to help other people to get their music exposed.”
It’s no secret that Montreal planners have their eyes on Griffintown. It’s also no secret that the area is bursting with potential. The problem? Griffintown has a strong cultural identity already in place. What will happen to it?
“There’s a lot of really bad buildings and there’s a lot of cool stuff,” Gintowt said. “For urban space, it’s so close to downtown. I see where [the desire to develop] is coming from, but what I think would be good for the neighbourhood is if all the arts places just stay happening and functioning. Then this neighbourhood would have a lasting culture—not just be completely torn down and rebuilt. I think it would be smart to play on the idea of [Griffintown] being an art district with lots of galleries. It would be great for the vibe of the city.”
Multiple places are already in place for Griffintown to be a culturally rich landscape: Interstice, Unyoung Studio, The Stables, The Foundry (which hosts performance art and spoken word), and even an urban garden exist already.
“If I was a politician I wouldn’t be supporting quiet streets and family-oriented fun, I would be supporting arts and businesses.”
-Dolfins Nazis + Hesss split (members The Anals, AH kraken, Feeling of Love, etc)
-Red Mass – Untitled
-Red Mass – Scars Repress
-Walking Corpses (members Der TPK, ex DIJ, SPK, etc)
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This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 15, published November 23, 2010.