Record Labels and Sad Music With Billy Philhower, the BC Senior Behind Too Far Gone Records

ComeSpring of 2016, Billy Philhower, CSOM ’16, will graduate from Boston College—leaving behind BC’s storied halls and taking with him Too Far Gone Records, Philhower’s BC-born DIY record label.

Started in early 2013 during his second semester of freshman year at BC, Philhower’s Too Far Gone Records has seen immense growth over the last three years, with the label now issuing releases from bands all over the world.

Shortly after the label’s creation, the Gavel sat down for an interview with Philhower, then a freshman, about his venture into the greater complexities and innermost workings of the DIY music scene. Now, three years later, we sat down with him again to see what he’s been up to, where he plans to go and what’s changed in the scene since the last time we spoke.

“Within the last three years, what have you been up to?”

Basically, I’ve just tried to release as many albums as possible that I really think are good music. I’ve tried to keep it consistent over the past couple of years. I’ve been able to put out a lot of great albums from great bands around the country. I put out an album from a band from Canada for the first time, which was cool. I’ve been trying to keep busy and active and, yeah, it’s been an exciting couple of years.

“Where did the inspiration to start Too Far Gone Records come from?”

When I was younger, like twelve to sixteen, I would just go to shows—a lot of local shows. That was awesome, that was how I really got super involved. Eventually I just reached the point where I wanted to do a little bit more than that. I’m not musical myself—unfortunately, I wish I was musical—so I thought this was a good way to give back. 

“What other record labels really helped inspire you?”

Photo courtesy of Tumblr.

Photo courtesy of Tumblr.

Square of Opposition Records — a record label from Bethlehem, PA that’s super cool. I’ve been friends with them for a while and they were a huge inspiration for how I went about things. That’s probably number one.

“In regards to the DIY scene, do you feel like there’s been a change in the past three or four years in the perceptions of these DIY record labels and the scope that they are able to achieve?”

Yeah! I think a few years ago, maybe five years ago, there weren’t that many smaller labels. The smaller labels were still pretty medium-sized at least; like Square of Opposition. Over the past couple of years people have really realized that they can just contribute as well without needing much financial upfront or anything like that. You can just really make a difference. So I think there’s been a huge shift in that a lot of labels are just popping out of nowhere.

“How do you think your management of Too Far Gone Records has changed since you were a freshman?”

So I think over the past couple of years I’ve learned more about what I want to do and what I don’t want to do. So I guess I went into it not really knowing that much; just knowing what I’ve seen other labels do or other bands do. I pieced it together a little bit. I’ve been able to create a way that I like to do things and I’ve learned a lot about the music scene in general—I’ve learned from the perspective of being a label as opposed to the perspective of being a fan.

“Has the label shaped the way your college experience has gone?”

It definitely gave me a side of college that I don’t think a lot of people have, which is like a whole, weird other friend group with a different interest that may not completely line up with college student interests. It’s almost like a side job—or rather it was a side job in a way. It gave me things to do, like going to shows, which was a great part of college that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. It’s just another side to it, and I thought the dichotomy between the two was super cool. I think it gave me a well-rounded college experience with a lot of different friend groups and interests.

“When you first started Too Far Gone Records, did you ever imagine it coming as far as it has?”

I don’t think so. I’m surprised it has. I’m grateful—when I look back I definitely put a ton of work into it so I can honestly say that it came about honestly. I sat down and I worked on it. But I’m still very surprised. I never thought that a band would sell 50 tapes or 100, 200 records. That seems astronomical to me.  When I sit down and I get orders from Denmark or Germany it’s incredible. I don’t know how it happened. So no, I really didn’t imagine it. I’m happy that it did and mostly I’m looking to see where it goes from here. Anything could happen.

“Are you interested in keeping it a small DIY record label or do you want to try to expand at some point?”

Photo courtesy of Tumblr.

Photo courtesy of Tumblr.

I definitely want to keep it small. I don’t want to make it into a full-time career or a major label. I just want to keep it stable; I want to get to the point where I can be small but stably release a few records that are super awesome. I definitely don’t want to make it into my full-time thing, but I definitely want to keep it going because it’s a huge section of my interests and it’s a huge thing that I’m super into.

“Has the process of getting bands interested in your label changed at all over the past three years?”

I think three years ago nobody knew about it all, so I was pretty much just reaching out and connecting with people based on me. Like, I didn’t have anything to offer them or anything to show. I hadn’t done anything, so I was just connecting to people personality wise. I think that was cool, but now at this point I’ve developed a circle of bands and associated bands that I’ve worked with and friends of friends of friends. It’s different, because people usually approach me and I actually have something to say—I know what I’m doing now.

“Do you know where you want to take Too Far Gone Records when you graduate?”

Once I graduate the world is kind of my oyster. I definitely want to keep it up. I think I want to start moving into fewer releases and more vinyl. In terms of geography, I really don’t know. I’ll probably stay in Boston. I just want to keep it up and see where it can go. I feel like there’s constantly new music coming out that’s really, really sick. Who knows what’ll happen! It might crash and burn or it might keep going. I’m excited to see what happens. I think it’ll keep going and I’ve got some releases coming up that I’m super excited about. Who knows!

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Daniel Lee