Pure Noise are a Berkeley-based record label started by Jake Round in 2009 while he was working for AMP Magazine. It began as a booking agency but when Jake’s friends in No Bragging Rights started having issues with their label, he pivoted to releasing records. After growing in leaps and bounds over the course of a decade, Pure Noise is now a major success story and a respected institution in the world of pop-punk and hardcore.

Pure Noise has released some of our favorites records from scene champions The Story So Far and State Champs, emo-core standard-bearers Senses Fail, West Coast hardcore acolytes like Terror and Rotting Out, boundary-pushing antagonists Drug Church, and even a couple of bangers from this most recent wave metalcore which included drops by Knocked Loose and Year of the Knife. There hasn’t been a trend in punk rock this past decade that Pure Noise hasn’t been on the cutting edge of and New Noise has been delighted to follow their rise each and every year of their big come up.

Now that Pure Noise are well into a second decade of running on pure passion and delivering none-stop noise, we decided to check in with the staff of this scene stalwart before they get too big to return our phone calls. Thankfully the Pure Noise team were kind enough to answer our questions about the day-to-day of working at a label like theirs and were even happy to share what they could about the company’s plans for the future. If you ever wanted to look over the shoulder of someone while they make all the big decisions about how and when to press a record, this might be as close as you get in this lifetime.

Without further ado, it is our pleasure to introduce: Creative Director and Brand Ambassador Kat Nijmeddin, Royalties & Finance Director and Senior Product Manager Anna McAllister, Product Manager Amber Hughe, and Digital & Physical Sales Manager Jenn Stookey. We’ll let them take things from here.

Kat Nijmeddin: Creative Director x Brand Ambassador

How long have you been with Pure Noise? 
June 5 was actually my four-year anniversary!

What is your background in the industry? 
While I was in college, I was a freelance designer and illustrator, and I would make merch & admats, and grew from there.

What band or release made you want to be a part of Pure Noise? 
I have been a fan of Pure Noise since I was in high school, so I think I gotta say The Story So Far. 

How would you describe Pure Noise’s philosophy and guiding principles?
Pure Noise has always been very DIY, from selling one record to selling a million. 

Give our readers an overview of how your efforts combine to realize the label’s principles? 
We’re all very passionate about our jobs and do what we can for all of our projects. we’re genuinely excited about our releases and it feels like we’re physically putting blood sweat and tears into releases and rollouts. 

What does the market look like for color vinyl right now? How does the culture around this kind of vinyl influence your decisions when preparing the role out of an album? 
People love seeing color vinyl variants for each release we have. All variants are created in relation to the album so it’s all cohesive visually.

Is there anything wrong with liking a band purely because they have sweet merch? Bonus: What is your favorite piece of band merch at the moment? 
I think that music and art really do go hand in hand, and if someone wants to like a band because they have cool merch, then who are we to judge it. if you discover your next favorite band because you see a cool design, then power to you. 

My favorite band merch at the moment is truly any piece of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band merch I own.

Do you see Pure Noise growing in the coming year? What projects are on the horizon for the label? Can we give a sneak peek? 
I absolutely think we’ll be growing in the coming year, thankfully.

What releases in 2021 are you most excited about? 
All of them :-)

What are some of the shows and festivals that you are looking forward to now that things are opening back up? 
I’m honestly pretty hyped on Furnace Fest, it’s specifically for Myspace Kat. Also, very excited to see Ruston Kelly finally be able to play his new record later this year!

Any final thoughts for our readers? 
The next couple of years are gonna be so good for music, so be sure to be paying attention!!

Favorite Pure Noise album: From the Depths of Dreams by Senses Fail

My favorite release is actually the Senses Fail’s From the Depths of Dreams reissue. That record was huge for me growing up, so it was really exciting to me to get to be part of the new version of it. Senses Fail was one of my first favorite bands so working on anything with them is always such a wild full-circle moment for me. 

Anna McAllister: Royalties & Finance x Senior Product Manager

How long have you been with Pure Noise? 
Three and a half years!

What is your background in the industry? 
I worked in music publishing before coming over to the label side. 

What band or release made you want to be a part of Pure Noise? 
The Story So Far

 How would you describe Pure Noise’s philosophy and guiding principles?
Pure Noise started very DIY, literally out of a bedroom, and I think that we’ve tried to do a good job of keeping some of that DIY work eithic while growing into a bigger company with better means to really support our artists. 

Give our readers an overview of how your team comes together to help to realize the label’s goals? 
We’re a pretty small team (7 people in total) so everyone has a hand in almost every aspect of the label which makes working on an album rollout run pretty smoothly. It’s nice that we don’t really have different departments for certain things because everyone pretty much knows where each of our projects stands in the process of being released and you can easily yell at the person two desks away versus having to send an email if there’s anything you need

Where do you see Pure Noise fitting into the broader ecosystem of labels that promote, sell, and distribute punk rock records? 
We are smaller than some punk labels and larger than others but I like to think we provide a lot of the same services as most other labels would. 

What are the challenges of putting out music in this day and age? What would you change about the industry if you could? 
I guess the biggest challenge is there’s just so much music being released simultaneously that’s it’s challenging to find new and exciting ways to get your artist to stand out among the others. If I could change anything I would make the industry more accessible for people just starting out in their music business careers. It’s not always an easy start since there’s no real ‘right’ way to get into it. 

What does the market look like for color vinyl right now? How does the culture around this kind of vinyl influence your decisions when preparing the role out of an album? 
There’s a pretty loyal market for color vinyl at the moment. Our production manager has a very good eye for creating custom variants that flow well with our artists’ album artwork. For the most part it’s a given that we’re going to create at least a couple of variants for each of our releases and it’s really cool to see fans get excited about trying to collect them all.

Do you see anything as problematic about the color vinyl collection market as it currently functions? 
Personally no, I find it pretty cool that it’s turned vinyl into even more of a collector’s item. If it’s a band you love then you want to collect all the variants and that only goes to help the artist in the long run because you’re buying more of their physical music.

Is there anything wrong with liking a band purely because they have sweet merch? Bonus: What is your favorite piece of band merch at the moment? 
If you’re buying merch you’re supporting the artist and I don’t think there’s anything wrong about that.

Do you see Pure Noise growing in the coming year? What projects are on the horizon for the label? Can we give a sneak peek?  
Yes, we’re signing a lot of exciting new projects that we can’t wait to share down the road and so many of our artists took time during the pandemic to write some really great music. I’m excited for fans to be able to enjoy it all as well.

What releases in 2021 are you most excited about? 
ALL OF THEM

What are some of the shows and festivals that you are looking forward to now that things are opening back up? 
I’m very much looking forward to Bonaroo because I’ve never been and excited to get back into some of the Nashville music venues

Any final thoughts for our readers? 
Support physical music when you can!

Favorite Pure Noise album: Brave Faces Everyone by Spanish Love Songs

This is one of the most honest records about growing up and adulthood. It’s about how it doesn’t always get better a lot of the time, living is just hard. I feel like it came out at a time where I was feeling pretty lost in my mid/later twenties and it said everything I was feeling, but didn’t know how to say. It made me realize other people are as lost as me, and somehow that made me feel so much better. It’s the album I turn up as loud as I can while I’m driving on really bad days.

Amber Hughes: Product Manager

How long have you been with Pure Noise? 
Let’s see, I started as a marketing intern in spring 2018, got hired full time as the marketing assistant that summer and have been here ever since (now as a project manager)! 

What is your background in the industry? 
Professionally, I started with an internship at Atlantic Records in urban radio where I learned a ton of transferable skills and great people. From there I moved right next door (the Atlantic building and WBR building used to be next to each other) onto an internship with Warner Bros. Records in rock with the Senior V.P. of marketing and that was totally more my thing. I learned so much about so many different working cogs of a major label. Near the end of my WBR internship, I took on the internship with PN and here I am :)

What band or release made you want to be a part of Pure Noise? 
Yo, I’m an old school PN lord. I remember going to the PN tour in 2014 and seeing some OG PN bands like Forever Came Calling, Handguns, Heart To Heart, and of course State Champs. I still wear the PN East Bay crewneck I got back in the day on a Warped date because it started raining. There’s not one particular release that got me though. I was discovering all these new bands and they all so happened to be PN bands so I kind of got hooked in that way.

Give our readers an overview of how your efforts combine to realize the label’s principles? 
We all do so many things and wear so many hats since we’re such a small team so it’s a little hard to pinpoint exactly what any of us do. In the most vague, easiest explanation I can give, I help get together all the different working pieces that create/go into creating a record, keep the process on track and get the record out. Throughout the album cycle and in between cycles sometimes, I help the band/management with socials, content…all that good stuff. 

Where do you see Pure Noise fitting into the broader ecosystem of labels that promote, sell, and distribute punk rock records? 
I think PN will always remain a vital part of the scene because we don’t just jump on what’s popular and trendy, we put out what we believe in and stand by, not just pumping things out to make money. We may be slow to hop on the bandwagon for some trends, or not even hop on at all but I think that says a lot about the label, who we are as people, and who our listeners are.

Is there anything wrong with liking a band purely because they have sweet merch? Bonus: What is your favorite piece of band merch at the moment? 
Honestly, if you want to rep a band based on their merch, more power to you. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. If that’s what got you into the band then that’s cool. You still support the band and I imagine you listen to them so if they have cool merch it’s an added bonus. 

The past few years, I’ve begun to get away from collecting tees/hoodies because honestly, I feel like I can only have so many band tees so I totally dig when bands do non-cloth or less traditional items like… backpacks, sports jerseys, cardigans, jackets, pillowcases… Alkaline Trio has winter scarves and mittens which I love but I’d say their skate deck from their Is This Thing Cursed? tour is my fav piece of band merch I have at the moment. 

Do you see Pure Noise growing in the coming year? What projects are on the horizon for the label? Can we give a sneak peek?  
We’re always growing! As my girl Alicia Keys says, you can never reach the top of anything, there are always ways that you can rise, there are no limits. We have a ton of records and new signings in the works so stay tuned! Some of my all-time favorite bands are joining the team.

What releases in 2021 are you most excited about? 
I’m wicked excited that WAAX is in the studio recording their second album. Their first album is absolutely incredible so I can only imagine how amazing this record will be. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones started the year off strong with their new album and The Fake Friends and Sadgirl have been trickling out music so I’m hoping more comes out of that. 

What are some of the shows and festivals that you are looking forward to now that things are opening back up? 
Oh, without a doubt, Sadgirl and My Chemical Romance. I have tix to the hometown show in Jersey for MCR (even though it’s in 2022) so duh, that, and one of my favorite bands, Sadgirl, is playing a super intimate show in LA this fall. Also, Alicia Keys dropped an album last year so I’m stoked to see her perform and vibe with her. Oh! And I’m excited to hopefully get the chance to see a ton of bands I never got the chance to see before like Grey Matter and 3LH. Maybe Salem will throw the US a bone and come to the states too.

Favorite Pure Noise albums: Don’t Bite Your Tongue by Handguns and Lonesome Valley by Mundy’s Bay

Wow, I love, like, every PN release, but if I had to choose it’s between Handguns’s Don’t Bite Your Tongue and Mundy’s Bay Lonesome Valley.

Jenn Stookey: Digital & Physical Sales Manager 

How long have you been with Pure Noise? 
2 months! I’m a super newbie. 

What is your background in the industry? 
I did a lot of “odd jobs” and internships in college that ranged from being a radio DJ at a local rock radio station, to being a part of the editing team at an online music-centric magazine for 4 and a half years, to anything from PR and label and management internships. 

After college, I got a job at a boutique artist mgmt company where I was the only employee for my first 2 and a half years and a small team of three for the other 3 and a half. Needless to say, it was very hands-on work because of the small staff. I worked my way up from assistant to day-to-day to cultivating my own roster by bringing in artists and producers while remaining on day-to-day for the companies larger clients. 

After 6 years in management, I found my way to Pure Noise to be the Digital and Physical Sales Manager of the label! 

What band or release made you want to be a part of Pure Noise?
Too many! Have you seen the roster? But my favorite would have to be State Champs. The last time I ever bought a CD, and went to Target on release day to get it, was in 2015 for their album Around The World And Back.

How would you describe Pure Noise’s philosophy and guiding principles?
Pure Noise is a fucking machine. We’re a small group of people who are so passionate about music and our bands and artists that it’s on us for everything. We put our heads down and get to work. It’s all about good people doing great things for amazing artists. 

Give our readers an overview of how your efforts combine to realize the label’s principles?
Like I mentioned in the last bit, each of us have our own specialties and strengths that really give to the entire group to make it work so smoothly and prosper. I’m a small part of a larger picture. 

Where do you see Pure Noise fitting into the broader ecosystem of labels that promote, sell, and distribute punk rock records? 
Punk Rock will always have its place in a niche market and will inevitably cycle through the mainstream market every 10-15 years. I think right now we’re seeing another resurgence and I hope it stays for a while. Pure Noise has been feeding both of those markets since 2009 and to do it all independently for so long is a testament to the hard work behind the scenes and the artists who still make music because they love it even if it’s not a radio contender every year. This genre has always found a way into ears of people who want to listen and Pure Noise has figured out how to help keep this little ecosystem alive and be a part of a movement. 

What are the challenges of putting out music in this day and age? What would you change about the industry if you could?
I think we’re better off now than we were 5 years maybe 10 years ago. The amount of creativity blows my mind every week when new music releases. Physical brick and mortar record stores may be dwindling but vinyl sales have never been better and the stores that have been able to stick around are reaping the benefits as are the artists and labels. Technology has allowed so much music to be listened to all over the world that people wouldn’t have had access to even in 2009. The incredible thoughtful and mind blowing ways to market a record are literally endless. I’m always thinking “why didn’t I think of that?”

If anything, I think the biggest challenge is figuring out how to break through the noise. Because there’s so much all the time it’s difficult to figure out how to reach your core fans (thanks to algorithms) and new fans (also, thanks to algorithms). And this complaint is on a personal level but I wish it was okay for artists to go away for 2 years to write a record and release it later instead of constantly having to be go-go-go all the time and risk quality over quantity. I don’t think punk rock has as much of this issue as pop, alt, or hip hop but it’s creeping in for sure. 

What does the market look like for color vinyl right now? How does the culture around this kind of vinyl influence your decisions when preparing the role out of an album? 
Color vinyl, patterned vinyl, anything you can do to make it not a standard black with a sleeve is going to benefit you. Collectors may get mad at me for saying that but when you’re on the sales side you have to think of yourself as a kid in a candy shop. Is a kid going to buy a Hershey’s chocolate bar (classic, very tasty, quality is unmatched and it’s a safe bet) or are their eyes going to drift over that Hershey’s bar and go for something more flashy like Skittles, Sour Patch Kids, any “other” kind of M&Ms, Snickers! You’re probably going to go with something that has ~more~. So yes, we will always have your standard vinyl BUT we will always make sure you have options.  

Is there anything wrong with liking a band purely because they have sweet merch? Bonus: What is your favorite piece of band merch at the moment? 
At the end of the day, you’re funding an artist and I don’t see anything wrong with the principles of that. 

Do you see Pure Noise growing in the coming year? What projects are on the horizon for the label? Can we give a sneak peek?  
Absolutely. We’ve still got a lot of things up our sleeves. Follow us on socials to keep up to date! 

What are some of the shows and festivals that you are looking forward to now that things are opening back up? 
Bonnaroo, Riot Fest, Furnace Fest, Sad Summer! I’m just excited it’s real again!

Favorite Pure Noise albums:  Desinchanted and Life Lessons by Handguns

Probably Handguns’s Desinchanted or Life Lessons. I remember my core group of friends in college listening to those records a ton and driving to different cities to see them play during that time. But most of the label’s back catalog reminds me of that time. 8 or 10 of us, show hopping, going to Best Buy on release days to purchase CDs, a few of them even covered their couch in Sharpie with drawings of band logos all over it. That couch was given to me about 4 years ago and I still have it…. Although with a much more adult couch cover on top. You wouldn’t know what underneath held unless you were there in the beginning. 

Interview was conducted via email on June 11, 2021. The transcript has been edited slightly for clarity.

Thank you to Dayna Ghiraldi of Big Picture Media for helping to coordinate and compile this interview.

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Author

Metal. Cats. Scary Movies. Etc... Read more of my errant thoughts over on my blog at I Thought I Heard a Sound (https://thasound.blogspot.com/) or follow me on Twitter @thasoundblog

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