Chicago. It’s the home of Oprah, Kanye and wind. It’s also where Nate Steinheimer lays his head. He looks like he’s the long lost brother of one of the members of Culprit, used to be in a band called Rosaline and in recent years decided to launch his own label; Mutant League Records. He grew up in the Chicago scene watching bands from from basement shows to arenas, and in that time he learned the ins and outs of the industry from first hand experience. Now he’s putting all that to good use and if you think what he’s done so far is pure luck, think again. Hard work may as well be this guy’s middle name. So keep on reading on to find out more about Mutant League, distribution and why he can’t stand a certain English band.
Kendra: It seems like every kid who ever went to a show back in the day started to blog or has a label today. What makes Mutant League stand out alongside the others?
Nate Steinheimer: Blabbing about “standing out from the crowd” seems sort of self-aggrandizing and is likely just another one of those things people just repeat without thinking. I think there are a lot of really terrific independent labels out there right now that are accomplishing more than ever before. And rather than stand out from them, I hope Mutant League becomes closer in association and is discussed as an equal among labels like Run For Cover and No Sleep. I’m just putting out music I identify with and care about- and I think that’s probably the same thing that all of the great indies are doing.
Kendra: In only a few years you scored some grand distributors. What’s the secret behind that – a lot of meetings, luck or knowing the right people along the way?
Nate: No secret- just inevitable expansion as things grow. Right around the time we were working on putting out the Seaway LP “Hoser”, a lot of kids were getting turned onto them and the band was asking if the album was going to hit retail. I had a couple other records that were either in production or would be soon and I was sort of struggling to figure out how everything was going to work. Victory offered me a deal that put up the money for these kinds of expenses and were able to make retail distribution a reality for our releases. The fact that they’re also from Chicago mattered to me because I knew I could just drive over there to drop off/pick things up and talk with everyone face to face whenever I needed to. I have to imagine that few independent labels have this luxury of proximity to their distributor, and I’m grateful to have that.
Kendra: Mutant League has released some pretty stellar vinyls from some of the most notable Drive-Thru bands; Allister, The Movielife and Home Grown. Is it safe to say that you were looking at that label as a sort of influence when it came time to start your own?
Nate: Actually that’s not entirely true. The (totally baseless) perception I had as a teenager was that Drive-Thru didn’t have the same kind of DIY philosophy as the other labels that I respected and hoped to emulate, like Epitaph & Lookout. A lot of the albums that Drive-Thru released in their prime impacted me a lot in my youth though. Many of those bands defined a sound that I grew to love which helped spark the ideas that led to the formation of MLR.
Nate: It’s too bad the band Bastille isn’t from Chicago, they would have been an easy pick for this. I guess they win the consolation prize of “internationally apologetic…” Really though, I’m fairly proud of the alternative music Chicago has birthed. I’m sure if I thought hard enough about it there are few embarrassing new metal or butt rock bands that should have never existed. But I feel pretty lucky to have grown up in a city that’s home to a lot of outstanding artists. One of more memorable local shows I can remember was seeing Rise Against in a basement when I was 14. They were still on their first album with Fat playing songs from “The Unraveling” and it was one of those times when everything felt important to me. It’s also worth mentioning that the opening band that night was Fall Out Boy who nobody seemed to really care much about -I’m pretty sure it was one of their first shows. I remember thinking that their bass player spun his guitar a silly amount of times per song and generally seemed douchey.
Kendra: Last year Bastille was your worst nightmare. What song has dethroned them this year, or has it yet to be released?
Nate: Haha no, it’s definitely still Bastille. It’s impossible for me to imagine a worse song than “Pompeii” the same way contemplating something larger than the universe is beyond my comprehension. I hate that I even know the name of that song. Whenever they’re on the radio I clench the steering wheel and just fume the whole time.
Kendra: If you had to make a mixtape that best represented Mutant League as a whole, what five songs would have to be on it?
Nate: We just released a new compilation album in time for Warped Tour that features many of our artists. It’s free with any purchase at our site right now, and is definitely Mutant League’s very own “Golden Mixtape.” Below are five tracks that I believe best represent this era of the label: