By Vanessa Tam
VANCOUVER – Unknown to most, there is a major commonality between the Ironman Triathlon, Shark Week and local record store-turned-label Pacific Rhythm: The premise for each was actually conceived over a few drinks between friends.
“I guess it was like four years ago,” recalls Derek Duncan on how Pacific Rhythm was first founded. “I was working at Dane’s restaurant Bestie and we just talked about how cool it would be to open a record store.”
Armed with a cool $200 investment each by Duncan and his two co-founders Dane Brown and Russell Cunningham, Pacific Rhythm started as an online shop stocking hard-to-find records handpicked by the trio. “I initially [would just] deliver records for free, so every day I was meeting up with people after work, like riding my bike,” Duncan recalls. “I did that for like six months and while it was wildly unsustainable, it was also really interesting because it kind of showed me that there was a lot of people that maybe weren’t the party type, but they were appreciators, you know? It was just nice to go out and kind of see those faces.”
While currently based in Vancouver, Duncan, Brown and Cunningham originally came from Calgary, Alberta; Castlegar, British Columbia; and Windsor, Ontario, respectively, before starting Pacific Rhythm. Combining their collective experience, the three tastemakers have come to develop a signature vibe within Vancouver’s electronic music scene—including Duncan’s latest position at the helm of the Celebrities Underground.
“I had begun working with Blueprint on a few projects last year, namely with Seasons Festival, and we had talked about working together for a long time,” says Duncan. “The opportunity to take over the bookings for the basement came forth and I took it. It’s been really exciting to basically turn the blank slate [of the Celebrities Underground] into something that I feel like has the potential to grow into something [incredible]. It’s been really fulfilling and cool to have the opportunity to book a lot of people that I wouldn’t have [been able to] on my own. It’s nice when people take a leap of faith on you and are willing to cosign in that way.”
With new local releases by Khotin and D.Tiffany on the horizon, Pacific Rhythm goes the distance by choosing to press all of their records physically in addition to their online releases. “I pretty much started [Pacific Rhythm] because I’m a strong believer in creating physical artifacts. And even if it was to stop tomorrow, I would be proud of the fact that we at least documented some of the music that I thought was really important and kind of left it behind to the next generation to find out about. I think it’s really cool when things don’t just live on the Internet and have created physical objects.”
Evolving from an online store, to a physical shop and label, and now back to an online store and label, the team is still working to tweak Pacific Rhythm’s position in a competitive global market. “The last couple years I’ve just been trying to change what my expectations for the label are,” explains Duncan. “Because [while] I was releasing one record per year, I was also mounting so much music at the same time.”
“My initial thought for the record label was like, ‘OK, I’m gonna do three compilations,’ and then I was gonna release three individual EPs from each of those artists that was on the compilation,” he goes on to say. “That just happened last summer. Now I guess we’re just in the process of catching up with what I initially said I was going to do. We’re getting pretty close to it, in terms of like a release schedule, but for the next incarnation of the online shop it’s just gonna be us selling our friends’ labels more or less focusing primarily on stuff from Vancouver. Because I don’t think there is a Vancouver-centric online store that is sort of like your ‘one-stop shop’ and all that.”
Pacific Rhythm will be celebrating its four-year anniversary May 11–13 at various venues.Dane Brown, Derek Duncan, Pacific Rhythm, Russell Cunningham