The element that draws together a community of people isn’t always transparent. Sometimes this ingredient is mysterious. Fortunately, for Portland’s newest music label, EYRST, the thread of compassion is visible in their formula.
“This summer we’ll officially launch as a label,” CEO Taylor Dutton says, sitting in a sheek basement studio near Beaverton. “EYRST also offers a professional recording space for local artist to make tracks. We’ll release some stuff on vinyl. Our goals are all based on getting the art out there.”
The artist roster, which includes young talent like Blossom, Ripley Snell, Neill Von Tally, and Myke Bogan, also brings a brand new face to the Portland music scene. Born in Edmonds, WA, Martell Webster entered the NBA after being drafted by the Trailblazers in 2005. Yet since signing with the Washington Wizards in 2012, the 6’7”, 230 lb swingman hasn’t lost touch with one of his true passions. Under the name Sui Generis, Webster will release his debut album, A.R.T. (anyone who relates to this) later this year. Check out the interview with the EYRST camp below.
Sui Generis: Music became really interesting to me my rookie year. My older cousin who moved in with me brought his studio equipment down with him. After they set it up in the guest house, I found myself going over there after practices and enjoying vibing out. Eventually, one of my close friends Mike Knight came down and brought a engineer Charles Hopper, who is now the producer of my upcoming album. Watching Mike’s creative process was something I’ve never witnessed and it alluring. Ever since then, music has had a piece of my heart.
How did EYRST begin?
Neill Von Tally: Really the origins are rooted in my time with Futro and Martell’s time masking music over the past few years. This summer is really went it started to happen. We were working on his album, I helped co-produced part of it. We just got to talking a lot about the Portland scene, what’s going on with the fire marshall in recent years. He didn’t necessarily know that stuff was happening here and it really struck him at his core. In a town that’s so in to art and culture. There are these groups of people trying to combat that, and that’s what this music is here. We discussed that EYRST could be another piece of that community, helping the artists here get shine.
I know both you and Ripley were on the artist collective, Futro. Why the switch? [CORRECTION: Neill Von Tally and Ripley Snell have not left Futro, ed.]
Ripley: The point is to create that friction that drives the culture forward. Being in Futro changes me from being just a rapper to an artist. But Futro was never a label. I believe this label is focused on spreading a positive message globally.
Neill Von Tally: That’s what we’re hoping to be able to offer at a competitive rate to the people of Portland that are saying, ‘hey I have these great bedroom recordings but I don’t have an actual place to make a final product that I could go shop around the labels.
Ripley Snell: That’s the other thing to know about Portland too. It just make sense for there to be a serious label because all these studios around Portland have crazy gear from just the music scene that’s been in the Northwest forever, it’s just been really not accessible to more alternative forms that young people are using now like rap, hip-hop, R&B.
What does EYRST mean?
Ripley: It comes from a medieval poem called Cædmon’s Hymn, and the poem is meant to evoke divine creativity.
What does it take for an artist to get signed to EYRST?
Taylor: They really just have to have a message and they have to come to us and say, ‘this is my message,’ and it’s got to align with us. At the core, our message is about positivity and spreading that Portland good energy. We’re not restricting ourselves to a specific genre. If your values align with ours then that’s something we’re interested in.
Neill Von Tally: Equality is one of the pillars we wrote into the business plan.
What would you say rappers and NBA players have in common?
Sui Generis: I would say that the competitive edge is what makes us similar, the drive to want to get better every game, or every song. Always having something to prove.
What is the significance to your logo?
Neill Von Tally: What inspired the final version of the logo is actually painted by hand in the wall there. I picked that symbol up while I was in Cambodia. If you look closely at the original it sort of looks like a stick figure with something going on between its legs, and it’s a landmine. When I was travelling we were in areas that still had millions of landmines in them and that was how you could tell where the path was. So it’s just spray painted everywhere, on thousands of trees. At that time when I was in Cambodia I was personally coming to grips with the fact that I didn’t want to have a normal professional life, that I wanted to commit full time to music and I was okay with being poor if I wanted to do that. I needed to do that because things like that going on, people are living where there are landmines and you don’t have a lot of choices, you options are limited. So if I have this opportunity I need to take it and hopefully be able to make a difference. So carrying that symbol back with me was about compassion, and commitment, and a lot of things.
What’s next for this camp?
Taylor Dutton: The first album on deck is Sui Generis’s album and it’s called A.R.T. (anyone who relates to this). Pretty soon we’ll have an EYRST mixtape, with a short demo to show what each artist has to offer, before getting them each into the studio on their own projects.
What makes EYRST different from other labels?
Sui Generis: We believe in going about something (no matter what it is) with mindset of, “how do we not only better ourselves, but also the people around us.” How can we all benefit from whatever project we’re embarking on? We as people get too caught up in the “me, me, me,” of life when really, if we work together, we can accomplish anything. EYRST is the true definition of TEAM.