City Paper is not for tourists
Will Eastman is a record-label proprietor of the reluctant sort, a rarity in a town identified by its indie supremacy. He moved to D.C. from Minneapolis last spring to enroll as a graduate student in the Museum Studies program at GW and brought along his pet project, Brittle Stars Records. Eastman isn’t one who abides by the “live indie or die” creed. “I do it as a hobby, and in that sense, we’re not actively searching for bands to sign. We put out stuff by people we know, and that’s the way it will stay. We don’t have any expansionist aspirations to find the coolest band in far off Japan or Hoboken, N.J.” With his studies and full-time job at the university (Eastman works as an administrative assistant for an “unpunk” department at GW), there’s no pressure to play the scene. “The way I look at it, I can have a good time with it because it’s not my livelihood.”
Eastman runs Brittle Stars with Kristen Wobken, who is enrolled in design school at Marymount. “She’s my soul mate of sorts from Minneapolis,” Eastman proclaims of his business-minded partner. “She loves music,” Eastman says, “but she doesn’t care about being a music person. She has a very practical head on the whole thing, which is good because it can get so petty, kind of revolved around minutiae.”
At first, Brittle Stars was to be a cassette-only label, releasing what Eastman calls “guerrilla artifacts.” “The first concept was to do a compilation of 12 bands, six from Minneapolis and six from D.C.,” he says, ” but when I got here, I just didn’t meet six bands.” The musicians he did meet, however, had already cut deals, such as Dischord’s Smart Went Crazy. As a result, the compilation idea was tossed, and Brittle Stars pressed 2,000 copies of a full-length CD by Eastman’s friends Steel Shank. “They’re almost all gone,” he says, adding that the label’s next issue will be a 7-inch by the Waves, a Minneapolis band that was to be included on the original compilation.
Eastman doesn’t find his relocation to be detrimental to Brittle Stars’ success. “The concept of a city movement is completely bum. It has nothing to do with movement at all, because I really don’t think it matters what city you’re at.” The purpose of running a label, according to Eastman, is to enjoy the music. “My good friend has a saying: ‘You can’t keep a good band to yourself, no matter how hard you try.’”