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Photo by Tyler Scaife

As we continue to champion some of the most interesting and exciting labels across the globe, Rich Hughes catches up with Lou Rogai, label founder of La Société Expéditionnaire, fine purveyors of freak-folk-rock…

La Société Expéditionnaire was originally intended as a vehicle to release my own music (Lewis & Clarke) and that of my friends. Out of necessity, a musical orphanage of sorts was inadvertently created that has slowly turned into a resort community. Tom and Brian from Dragon Turtle were key in helping me launch the label. In the beginning, there were no distributors, no bean counting, no bottom lines, no worries. I was self-releasing Lewis & Clarke and wanted to make beautiful sounding records and tangible musical artifacts in the mp3 age. I had an idealist view that great music would find its audience, and friendships could prevail. I wanted to form a community, a co-op of artists. It sounds good in theory, right? The intimate process of releasing records with creative people comes with a roller coaster of ups and downs and some old fashioned trial-and-error. It’s not easy for those with a weak stomach. Some artists have ultimately fallen by the wayside or have been led in different directions on different paths, while others have created a lasting bond built on well-earned mutual admiration and respect for one another’s craft. I try not to forget about the importance of the ideal, and try to remember why I love music; expression and people. It’s a privilege to help spread the music of people I believe in. I guess that is the true “bottom line” for me.

I’m really excited about Soars’ self-titled debut as well as Columboid’s upcoming album, We Were One. I think I need a good amount of time to process what those albums really mean and how they will impact us before I can reflect on them. Here are some I can talk about in retrospect:

Lewis & Clarke – Live on WPRB 12″
This was one of the first releases on the label, my own music. There was a certain magical chemistry between Russell, Dave and myself at that period in time. We were in the process of recording what was to become the Blasts of Holy Birth album, and were invited to do a session with Jon Solomon on Princeton University’s radio station. A group of our close friends (including my then one year-old son) stopped in to the studio to surprise us and offer some backing vocals. We re-interpreted two older tunes, and played 2 songs that were going to be on the upcoming record. It didn’t take much for me to want to preserve the moment on vinyl. Our then drummer/banjo player, Dave Ulrich, led us in hand-screening some 500 record covers. Labours of love, indeed… simply preservation of a moment.

Moon & Moon VII – Acts of an Iron King
This is William Lemon’s “Avant-Rock Opera”, if you will. It has been one of my favorite projects to be involved with. It was originally intended to be carried out in full theater form, but it’s surely an equally engaging listen on recording. Watching Will’s brain at work is a fantastic creative spectacle, he’s completely without fear and invested in the performance at all times. The collaborative effort of the album is a feat unto its own. Matt Boynton recorded and produced the record, Jay (from An Albatross) was also a major player in the project. I was lucky enough to collaborate musically as well. We also recruited my then seven-year-old niece to narrate each of the seven Acts, and she did so with vigor and candor. Will is an amazingly skilled block-printer, he created 12 x 12 prints to correspond with each act. He also hand printed small cards which were inserted into each album and scented with Jasmine oil.

Dragon Turtle / Goodnight Stars Goodnight Air – Split 12″
Tom from Dragon Turtle mentioned he wanted to take a much-needed break from the laborious DT LP recording. His idea was to step back from the LP in the middle of the process to record a split 12″ with David (GSGA/Soars). The result was a swift and beautiful inspiration. This record takes me on a journey, providing a different twist with each listen. Aesthetically, the vibe of the record was captured perfectly, resting somewhere between the cold winter sky and our deciduous Pocono forest.

Mako Sica – Dual Horizon
The first time I saw this Chicago trio, they appeared to levitate the entire stage. That’s what they do best. There are rare and humble traits at work, as genuine humility can only come from the most powerful sources. The strength of the album continues to grow, as do their musical explorations. I’m excited that we’ll be releasing another full length together.

Judson Claiborne Time and Temperature
I was a fan of Chris Salveter’s band Low Skies, and when a mutual friend put us in touch, we hit it off right away. There’s a magic to his storytelling and arrangements. He’s an inspirational person, having travelled through Southeast Asia by bicycle, and taking time away from music to instruct Yoga. He’s a very well-rounded and positive human being, and it shows in the weathered compassion of Time and Temperature. Kindred and familiar, but exotic and enticing at the same time. Sarah Wilmer’s surreal photographs compliment the album perfectly.

For more information, hit their gorgeous website.