Tapes From The Garbage–A Q+A With The Mastermind Behind Experimental Music Label Autumn Sounds

Stephen Metejka

A little while ago, during my near-daily scrolls through Pittsburgh-based Bandcamp pages, I started coming across releases from a label called Autumn Sounds. The music found on these releases was unfailingly bizarre; it seemed like every weird or unconventional album being uploaded to the site by a Pittsburgh artist was associated with Autumn Sounds. To top it off, physical copies are only available in cassette format. Bored In Pittsburgh featured music from an album released on the label (BadRadio by Dragon Plant), and I was able to get in touch with Stephen, the person behind Autumn Sounds, to ask him a few questions about this unorthodox venture. Check it out below.

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Who are you? Tell us a little about yourself.

Probably the hardest question on this list haha. I’m Stephen Matejka. I guess i’m just a musician and filmmaker (in the least pretentious way possible) from rural PA. I collect tapes from the garbage.

What was the impetus for starting Autumn Sounds? How did you begin the process of creating a label?

Well the actual decision to start it came as a late night “fuck it” idea. But I guess what made me want to start the label was just the interest in making it possible for friends of mine to have their music put on a physical format that they could sell and spread around. There are so many people making great music but they don’t have the ability or funds to put things out physically or even digitally for that matter.

Why do you choose to release on cassette? Do you think that cassette is going to make a comeback the same way that vinyl has done?

The main reason I chose to do releases on tape is because I work at a thrift store and we don’t sell cassettes so basically every time we get them they get thrown out so I thought taking them home and reusing them for new releases was a great idea. 

BadRadio by Dragon Plant, and a few photos that came along with it.

Cassette appears to be having a gradual comeback already but I totally think tapes are going to have a bigger comeback sometime within the next decade or so before people start getting nostalgic for 2000s stuff. They might not come back as big as vinyl did but they’re very cheap for bands to release music on and they cost next to nothing for consumers too.

How do you find your artists? Any specific types of sounds or styles that you’re looking for?

Most of the time I either reach out to friends to do a release or they come to me. There are also four releases on the label that were done by me under different monikers (either publicly or secretly). Two releases are from people I don’t even know that contacted me through email. Including the Dragon Plant release. That dude was very cryptic. I’ll release any style of music. Doesn’t matter if its hip hop or harsh noise wall.

Is there a common theme or aesthetic that binds together all of your releases?

Not really except for the fact that they’re all very underappreciated and underground for the most part.

I’m going to list the albums that Autumn Sounds has released; please give a descriptive tagline for each of them. [slaycation ep by mediums has since been released as well; I couldn’t keep up!]

The Lake Is A Long Way From Here by Pond Tiger       

Recording of me and my friend Zach banging on things in an abandoned building in Lawrenceville. I slowed it down to stretch it to 20 minutes.

Loud Restless Thought by Origami Bear

Double EP collection made by my girlfriend. Really nice electronic/vaporwavy stuff

BadRadio by Dragon Plant

Short release from a mysterious Seattle dude. Ambient at times and techno-ish at others.

Chill Cheer by The Universe Online

Trippy electronic R&B techno stuff

Mo Bamba/Mambo No.5 by Sterna

Midi/text to speech remixes of Mo Bamba/Mambo No.5. The most ironic release

Dear Zachery White: A Letter To A Friend About His Life by Daniel Egg

Tribute album to my friend Zach who passed away. A compilation of stuff we made together/things he made himself. Very strange.

Fermenting Piss by Fermenting Piss

Layering experimentation. Late 2000s memes layered 50 times to create a weird environment

Themes 2 by Weather T.V.

Cool release from my friend Jordan. Nostalgic and strange electronic music

Arachnylvania/Bastard Squad by Goosewind

Double album by classic 90s tape culture band Goosewind. Some punky stuff, some lo-fi experimental stuff. Something for everyone in here

Do you see Autumn Sounds expanding or branching out in the future? If so, how?

It’s possible but not certain. I currently run this label with very little monetary investment and I will probably keep it that way unless for some reason the label actually starts making money. Even if that’s the case I’ll probably continue to run it the way I do since the lo-fi homemade aesthetic is incredibly important to me. Almost all tapes are recycled and covers are made with photo paper I print on my regular ol’ home printer. Tapes dubbed in real time using an audio interface from my laptop into my boombox. Handmade packaging with random found objects included. 

Any other local artists or labels that you’d recommend checking out?

Besides all the artists featured on my label i’d recommend anything from Crafted Sounds and Unread Records. Also Endangered Species Tapes from Allentown (not local but still in the state). 

Anything else that I forgot to ask or that you’d like people to know about yourself?

My main music project is County Conservation District. I release my films on Youtube under the name “The Chodeman”. Thanks for asking me to do this. Back into the woods I go.

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Many thanks to Stephen for contributing to this piece and for releasing some truly unique music.

You can find Autumn Sounds on Bandcamp and Facebook.

Make sure to also check out Autumn Burnt, the 2018 EP released by Stephen under the County Conservation District moniker, and to check out his Youtube channel.

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