“It’s exciting being on the ground floor of something. I put out White Lung’s first record when they were playing in basements of East Vancouver, at warehouse parties. Now they’re flying all over the world. It’s cool to be a part of that. I can say I was there.”
These are the words of Ryan Dyck, the man behind Vancouver label Hockey Dad Records. There’s something humbling about Dyck, genuine and low-key, as we’re tucked away in the corner of JJ Bean. Gazing out into the multi-coloured evening lights of Commercial Drive, Dyck takes a sip from his coffee and dives into the origins behind the label.
“I was in a band called Fun 100. We recorded an album but no one wanted to put it out, so we were like ‘Okay, let’s just start a record label.’ My brother and I started it and set everything up.
“We named it after a friend of mine who used to be in my band, who, whenever we went out of town for a show, would wear my brother’s hockey jacket. He looked so much like a hockey dad, someone who would be up at 6 a.m. at the rink. That’s why [the label] is called Hockey Dad Records, in honour of him.”
Since the initial Fun 100 album in 2006, Hockey Dad Records has done releases by The Bloggers, White Lung, Defektors, Dyck’s own band B-Lines, and The Courtneys. The sound represented by the label ranges from hardcore punk to happier, summery garage pop, though each band has its own, distinct sound. No release from Hockey Dad Records feels redundant.
“If I like a band and nobody else wants to put out their stuff, I’ll put it out. When I get really excited about a band, I like to be a part of it,” says Dyck. “Have something to do, you know? More than just going to shows; more than just going to shows and getting drunk.” They’re simple words, but there’s something to be said about that simplicity. Dyck’s passion for the project is evident. Moreover, for a label that chooses only a handful of bands to release, Hockey Dad Records has seen some remarkable success come out of the selected few.
One of the label’s biggest success stories is the 2013 self-titled release by Vancouver trio The Courtneys. “I first saw The Courtneys really early on,” recalls Dyck, “it was maybe their third show. I liked them right away so I introduced myself and hung out with them a bunch, and when they finished their record they asked me to put it out. They had put out a tape on Green Burrito, which I really liked. I figured it would be a pretty safe bet.”
Since their debut release, The Courtneys have enjoyed immense national and international success. “[The LP] is definitely the biggest selling record I’ve ever put out,” says Dyck, “I pressed it three times; it’s been put out in Australia and Japan as well.”
The Courtneys aren’t the only band from Hockey Dad Records to taste enormous success: Dyck also released White Lung’s debut seven-inch Local Garbage back in 2007. The group is now signed to Domino and just wrapped up a world tour.
Thinking about these bands on world tours and looking at the guy who’s sitting in front of me now, I can’t help but wonder what all of this means for the label, or more precisely, for Dyck himself. “It means I’m not losing money on the record, which is nice,” says Dyck, with a laugh. “It’s nice to know that I can work on stuff with them and the records are going to be heard by more than just the two or three hundred people in Vancouver. It’s kind of intoxicating.”
While White Lung is no longer in Dyck’s hands, The Courtneys still are. Their new seven-inch Mars Attacks, which features local rapper Young Braised, will be released on November 4.
Our conversation inevitability gears towards the Vancouver music scene, from the rise of electronic music to the fate of punk.
“Oh yes,” says Dyck, in response to if he likes electronic music. “There’s so much you can do with so little. Punk bands are, in a way, an antiquated idea: four people playing amplified instruments. It doesn’t really make sense in a city that doesn’t really have any room, and where space is expensive… But I like punk.”
“There’s a certain sentimentality to it,” I say.
“I guess I grew up with it. It kind of means something to me.”
It’s well into the evening and our voices sometimes get faded out by the noise from the surrounding traffic. Watching Dyck’s eyes as he talks about punk and thinking again about the basis of his answers, I can’t help but imagine that Hockey Dad Records, in a way, embodies Vancouver’s music scene in the purest sense, with its heart, its soul.
The coffees run out. Before we finish, I ask Dyck what he envisions for the future of Hockey Dad Records. He stops to think, though not for long.
“I guess I’d like to keep putting out records,” Dyck says. “It would be great if I could do the next Courtneys LP, find a couple of new bands I can get excited about.” He pauses. “I don’t know. I never plan ahead. I’d like to keep doing this. The more you do, the easier it gets.”
Join Hockey Dad Records, The Courtneys, and Young Braised for the upcoming Mars Attacks release party on November 7 at the Fox Cabaret.