There are a number of amazing releases featured throughout the Sub Pop Records catalog -- from obvious ones like Nirvana's "Love Buzz" (SP023) to favorites like SP018 (Mudhoney's "Touch Me I'm Sick") and Father John Misty's Pure Comedy (SP1200) -- but there's no question that our favorite catalog number so far is SP0217, because that is Iris Parker-Pavitt, daughter of label founder Bruce Pavitt. It was under that umbrella that I reached out to Bruce to ask him if he and Iris would come to KEXP for an interview about, well, Iris: her childhood, the inspiration behind giving her a catalog number, and most importantly, the amazing woman she has become.
KEXP: What feelings come up when you hear that Sub Pop catalog number?
Bruce Pavitt: Well, the first feeling that really hits me is "whimsy," because giving my daughter a Sub Pop catalog number was a ridiculously whimsical thing to do. And that's kind of how we rolled at Sub Pop. Of course, having Iris enter my life was a magical and totally awesome experience. But giving her the catalog number really brings memories of whimsy.
Iris Parker-Pavitt: I mean, Sub Pop's been a big part of my life. I've been hearing the stories and meeting people from back in the day for as long as I've been around. It makes me feel tied to that whole world.
Bruce: I will go on record as saying that Iris is just one of my favorite people in the whole world, and that really has nothing to do with the fact that she's my daughter. She's just really awesome. I have so many fond memories of her growing up. One of my fondest memories is of her going through my CD collection when she was 12-years-old and going, “Dad, I really like Gang of Four, Joy Division, and The Slits.” And I thought, “That's my kid.”
With regards to Iris getting a catalog number, I will say that Dave Rosencrans, who was the office manager at the time, it was his idea. He came up to me and he said, “You know, Bruce, Factory Records gave their nightclub The Hacienda a catalog number. And wouldn't it be awesome to give your daughter a catalog number?” And I just thought it was a really creative idea, and I rolled with it. But I have to give Dave Rosencrans credit for that.
Iris, what was it like to discover that record collection? My dad's record collection was like, Bing Crosby. What's it like to have a decent record collection to go through?
Iris: I didn't realize anything was different about it. It was what I'd heard growing up my whole life, and being able to explore it, I remember, was completely fascinating and exciting. There were so many different sounds, and the huge range of collections -- not just post-punk, but a lot of the classics and ska and reggae and some of the Sub Pop stuff that was coming out at the time, like The Shins. I remember being the first one to introduce The Shins to my friends – they thought it was cool and “edgy.” I was always the one bringing new music to people I knew because I found it at home.
Bruce: I remember being slow on the draw with Band of Horses, and one day Iris put the song “The Funeral” on repeat. After a couple hours, I realized that it truly was an amazing track and I have to give thanks to my daughter for drawing that to my attention. Some of my treasured memories of bonding with Iris over music include traveling down the west coast, down 101, and picking up a CD copy of the first Go-Go’s record and putting that on repeat for many hours. That was just so fun.
Iris and I used to DJ together occasionally for fundraisers on Orcas Island where we were living, and where she grew up. And we would tag team sets, trying to raise funds for the local organization, Children’s House.
Iris, what was the first album that really felt like yours?
Iris: Yeah, I would have to say The Go-Go’s Beauty & the Beat. I remember going to that little tiny record store in Mendocino, California, and we bought the CD, and it was mine and it really felt like something that wasn't from my dad's collection. He helped me pick it out. He thought I would like it, but I really made it my own. And we did listen to it every single day on the road trip back home. I knew I got my obsessiveness about music from somewhere. And it’s still one of my favorite albums to this day. Just listening brings back all the emotions of the first time I listened to it. I know all the lyrics, I know every beat. “Our Lips Are Sealed” is still my favorite song from it. It’s got that classic intro. That's the one that gets me.
Bruce, I hope this isn't a weird question, but what were your hopes and dreams for Iris the day she was born?
Bruce: I didn't really have any. Yeah, I was in that moment. You know when you when your child is born, that's where your attention is going at the moment. I'm usually thinking about the past or the future, but when she was born, you’re just so in the present.
Iris, why does music matter to you?
Iris: I mean, music is about connection and celebration and identity and all of that rolled up, and being able to share that with the people in your life that you care about. That's what matters, what brings people together. Being able to be a DJ and share your favorite songs over the air brought me closer to my dad. [ed note: Iris was a college DJ at Mount Holyoke College.] He’d come visit the station once or twice and having him tell stories about what it was like. Being able to share maybe under-represented artists that I found really appealing that weren't getting enough airtime and being able to bring that to the people I cared about.
What are some of the acts that you’re listening to these days that you’re excited about?
Iris: The last show I saw at the Vera Project was amazing. It was Emma Lee Toyoda and Adult Mom. I was back from the East Coast and was feeling really homesick being in Seattle for the first time in a while, and seeing Adult Mom play really, really grounded me in being in Seattle and that was a great live show.
What did it mean to you for your Pop to hear that you're playing Band of Horses and that amazing song “The Funeral”?
Iris: Yeah, I remember that was when I broke up with my first boyfriend in middle school, and I was super down about everything. So, that's why I was listening to it on repeat. There was a mental state attached to that, so I can't really say I have the most positive emotions associated with that [laughing], but I'm glad that you enjoyed it.
It’s a very melancholy song but beautiful. I remember we went to the Showbox to see Band of Horses. Growing up on Orcas Island, living on a rock, my dad was the one who'd bring me interesting music and zines and books, and we’d talk about culture and politics, and that really helped keep me sane growing up there. And when I turned 14, 15, we would go down to Seattle for shows, just him and me, and the first one we went to see was Sleater-Kinney on the Woods tour at the Moore Theater. I still have the poster from The Stranger for that show that I kept on my wall. I always had great memories of the first show that was really me, going to see an artist that I was truly interested in, just like that Go-Go’s album. It was something that I felt like just my dad and I could share. And it was an amazing show. And then in later years, we'd go to the Showbox. We'd go see the Blood Brothers. When I was 14, that’s what I was really into. Dad would be in the back stretching and I'd be so short that I couldn't see anything -- a little 14-year-old, 5 feet tall.
When you hear her remember that, how do you feel about that?
Bruce: Well, I'm just so glad that I was able to share music with Iris and go to some shows. And I know that early shows that I saw growing up as a teenager in Chicago completely impacted my life and I'm just stoked that Iris was able to really appreciate and get excited about some of the bands that I was as well.
KEXP is counting up the entire Sub Pop catalog, playing a different song from their discography an average of 8.3 times a day, 24-7 for the next 4 and a half months, leading to the label's 30th-anniversary concert at Alki Beach in West Seattle this August. Follow along with our count-up here and stay tuned for more Sub Pop 30 coverage all Spring/Summer long.
We take a second look at Eric's Trip's debut Love Tara, the drama behind the LP, and why it remains a timeless classic as we celebrate Sub Pop's 30th anniversary.
Legendary independent record label Sub Pop will turn 30 years old this year, and Seattle-based public broadcaster and arts organization KEXP will pay tribute to the label with a four-month retrospective.