By Arielle Coughlin
Infinite Bisous is the recording monicker of England native Rory McCarthy, who has played with acts ranging from Connan Mockasin and Mac Demarco to Julian Casablancas. He currently lives in Paris and releases much of his lo-fi, funk-infused, semi-psychedelic music through the Internet collective Tasty Morsels. Here, he talks to Rare Candy via Skype about what it’s like releasing music so freely, among other topics, including his love of red wine.
Rare Candy: Tasty Morsels has been described as an “oddball net label” or a “nontraditional” release platform. How would you define the group?
McCarthy: I think “collection of friends” is closest. It started out a group of us at home in England at a place called Charnwood. I think we realized there was a big pile of music which no one was releasing because it didn’t feel official enough or something. As soon as you start to have other friends who make music, you realize they only release ten percent of what they make, and that in the remaining ninety percent there’s some really great stuff. We wanted to make a place where you could put that out and not worry too much about it. It becomes quite liberating. I wouldn’t call it a label, there’s no need to call it a label.
RC: What’s it like to work as an artist within the context of a collective?
McCarthy: Once the politics of working with close friends works out, it’s the best set-up there is. Way less politics than a label — you don’t have to convince people you don’t respect to see things your way; you don’t have to talk about money. If everyone likes it we release it, and that’s it.
RC: Tasty Morsels streams all its music for free digitally. How does it feel to be creating a product that’s less closely associated with traditional physical components?
McCarthy: I’m personally quite attached to having a material object and I think it’s a bit strange to never have that, as if we’re losing something without the tactile side. You have a real kind of unique relationship with something when you own your own copy of it. The sad thing about digital is that all the versions are the exact same. It’s nice to have a record where maybe one song is scratched or the cover’s a bit fucked. Maybe that’s totally shallow and everyone should have the same, I’m not sure.
The great thing about digital was its practicality — we could release things incredibly quickly. If we wanted to put something out next week, we could do it. At record labels, they’ll say, “Ok, we need three months,” and then the vinyl needs printing, which itself takes weeks, and it’s just such a long process that it’s easy to lose steam. Especially if it’s the sort of project that’s sitting on the side. We needed something more instantaneous and easy and free [to listen to]. If it doesn’t cost us anything to release the music, then I don’t see why people should pay for it either.
RC: Do you see music moving more and more in this direction? Do you think we’ll be seeing more widespread free collectives crop up?
McCarthy: Yeah, I think it already is. It’s the only way you can avoid getting too caught up in record labels. The one thing they’ll never let you do is release all your music for free — as long as you do that, it’s like garlic to a vampire. They won’t come near you. I think we’re in this transition between people caring about record labels and people realizing they’re actually more effort than they’re worth. By releasing it yourself you’re admitting, “I want people to hear this music regardless of whether I’m making any money off of it,” which I think is the important part. It has to go forward like that until people find a way of making money from digital music. Then there are all these companies like Spotify stealing a lot of money from people. I don’t really know what’s going to happen, it’s interesting. But I don’t really care so long as I can keep giving people music for free.
RC: Now more specifically about you as an artist. What’s your background as a musician and what led to you becoming infinite bisous?
McCarthy: Well, I came up with the name ‘infinite bisous’ in the East of France, and I was playing with Soft Hair and Connan Mockasin and LA Priest. While I was in France, it was my first exposure to people kissing on the cheeks and I thought it was great. I just really liked the idea that everyone’s kissing all the time. So in Sancerre, I was making a record called Column, and while I was there I kept drawing stage setups and kept writing ‘infinite bisous’ on the top, not even planning a band. Then I started making some music, some of which will end up on the record I’m going to release soon. So it was this mix of me seeing France a lot for the first time and I was in a strange period with relationships, so it left me in a specific mood, and that’s where the music came from.
RC: Between the music video for ‘life + you’ and the Tasty Morsels logo, what’s with all the wine?
McCarthy: I don’t know—they were both my idea, so that might be my fault. The other thing that made us start Tasty Morsels was that I have a studio at home and we used to just hang out there and drink a lot of wine. And then my friend Sam Eastgate [of Late of the Pier and LA Priest] started making all this music solely under the influence of a lot of red wine. But it was always nice to have this heavy, kind of posh drink and then make music and see what happens. And I’ve kind of stuck by it actually, so. I made that video with my friend Isaac Eastgate, the brother of Sam Eastgate, and we just had this idea forever of this endlessly pouring giant wine glass in a weird kind of restaurant. I don’t know where that came from, maybe I’ve got a fixation, I’m not sure. But we’re all a fan of wine.
RC: You recently released a version of your song “Confused Porn” in Japanese. What inspired the language crossover?
McCarthy: I’m a huge fan of Japanese music and Japan in general. I think I just thought that would be fun and I had a Japanese friend who helped me translate the lyrics. And I was learning Japanese at the time actually, so it wasn’t too hard to sing. It’s probably bad if you’re Japanese, but it’s much easier than German, for example. The basics of Japanese sounds quite nice straight away, whereas if you’re trying to speak Italian or something, you sound a bit stupid until you get good. It just seemed fun and I’m obsessed with Japan.
RC: What’s it like playing with Mac Demarco, who you’ve previously toured with?
McCarthy: Always fun. We met him the first time I went to New York, at a party for the fifth anniversary of our label, Mexican Summer, through one of my friends who has a band called Aldous RH. Mac came up to me in the queue for the bar and he was typically Mac straight away and was super loud and excitable and really nice. So we became really good friends and we’ve toured together a few times. We did a tour with Julian Casablancas, and we’ve played so many festivals together and he just sent me some of his new record today! He’s very fun, quite pressuring, he’ll make you stage-dive straight away. But he’s very fun, I love the guy, and his whole band actually—they’re all lovely. It’s always nice with Mac. And crazy.
RC: Based on your song titles like “Confused Porn” and “Teen Sex,” and a name like ‘infinite bisous’ [which means infinite kisses, in French], what inspires your affectionate aesthetic?
McCarthy: What I’m doing is sometimes maybe playing on that, but it’s natural. This is the first project where I felt like I’m being myself, so I think any of that stuff is just me. That song, “Teen Sex,” I did write it a little because I thought it was funny, but it was really about a story from my teenage years, written when I was 18, so it was more ok at that time. Now I’m 23 and people are starting to ask questions. But at the time it seemed totally normal to write that song. So I think I’m being myself. “Confused Porn”…I don’t know why I called it that, but it was because I was very confused at the time. I don’t know where porn came from, I must’ve been very confused in more ways than one. But my best answer is I hope I’m being natural.
RC: Is there any music that you’d like to recommend at the moment? Anything you’ve been listening to especially recently?
McCarthy: Mac just sent me some of his new music, so I’ll listen to that some more. I’m quite bad with music, but yesterday I found Nico’s first solo record, Chelsea Girl, which is great, I’d never heard it before. So I’m listening to that a lot. The new record by Sad Eyes on Tasty Morsels is great. I’m afraid I’ll have to give you the self-centered answer that I’m mostly listening to the music I’m making.