Five years of Pleasence

Five years in and 50 releases deep, Pleasence Records is more than a passion project

For the past five years, Pleasence Records has been supporting some of the weirdest, loudest and most wonderful bands Toronto has to offer. From New Fries and Slim Twig to CROSSS and Blonde Elvis, Pleasence has been an essential part of the explosive local music scene we are currently emerged in. Now as the label enjoys its fifth anniversary, they are not only celebrating a determination that has kept their fires burning, but also a milestone 50 releases bridging cassette, EP and LP formats.

Label co-owners James Lindsay and Deirdre O’Sullivan met seven years ago while both working at the now shuttered Book City in the Annex. Recognizing their mutual admiration for experimental music, the two became fast friends. Both are native to Toronto – Lindsay from the east, O’Sullivan from the west – and growing up in the city they witnessed a combined wealth of changes in the local music scene.

As the two reminisce about former essential venues, they talk fondly of the Bagel, a diner venue that was briefly active for a only a year or two at College and Spadina; they recall a time seven years ago when Sneaky Dee’s was a mecca for the best underground bands in the city; they remember Teranga, a Senegalese restaurant and venue on Augusta Avenue where some of the best dance-filled, sweat-drenched nights took place until its unfortunate closing. It was attending local DIY shows together at that Kensington Market venue that it was decided that building a label together was the next logical step in their friendship. O’Sullivan confided in Lindsay she was thinking of putting out a record by a band they mutually adored, and that set things in motion.

The pair’s first project would be a favourite for them, a seven-inch release for a band they often caught at Teranga: Induced Labour.

From there, more connections were made and more projects were put on the plate.

“Things in motion stay in motion,” Lindsay offers.

That was five years ago, and on Oct. 16 the label celebrated its anniversary with a stacked bill including sets from Soupcans, New Fries, Blonde Elvis and ZONES at Smiling Buddha. The first 50 to attend were the lucky recipients of a cassette of spooky Halloween songs, a compilation of sounds from bands from the Pleasence stable.

“It was something I wanted to do from the beginning, a compilation of spooky Halloween sounds,” O’Sullivan explains. “Most bands submitted songs, but there are some spooky Halloween sound effects as well.”  

For those unable to join the first 50 at the Buddha that night, the compilation is available to stream in its entirety through Chart Attack.

Today, Lindsay and O’Sullivan are looking to the future with a busy 2016 ahead of them. O’Sullivan can personally count at least four releases that are currently in the works for the next year as the pair continues to support and contribute to the ever-expanding and sometimes overwhelming Toronto underground music scene.

“It’s a privilege to live where there is a home for open mics, music, writers… for whoever,” Lindsay enthuses. “People still go out 12 months of the year.”

And in kind, the local respect for Pleasence Records is a complete reflection of the respect Lindsay and O’Sullivan have for the city and the scene they came up in.

It is an accomplishment for everyone when a great institution celebrates another anniversary, and with the explosion of talent in Toronto, indie labels like Pleasence Records are essential in the growth and sustainability of the artistic community. Here’s looking forward to seeing Pleasence celebrate 10 years.