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Sockets Records: Sean Peoples and the Music Scene Reflect on the Label’s History

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Sockets Records, the label owned and operated by Sean Peoples since 2004, made its last curtain call this past Saturday with a send-off showcase at the Black Cat. For Peoples, the label was not only meant to be a business, but to formulate a close-knit community.

“There was a small, but vibrant scene of post-punk bands in the area.” Unfortunately, those bands were leaving the region at a quick pace.

Peoples envisioned a stable and diverse music community that the District seemed to have trouble retaining. This led him to work for a local community radio station where he began working with up-and-coming artists. It was at this point that the vision of launching a record label became clearer to Peoples.

“I always wanted a hand in a record label since I was a kid,” Peoples says. “I not only wanted to document some of the smaller music stuff, but also give myself something to do.”

Since its inception, Sockets grew not only in size, but also in scope and sound. Peoples welcomed musicians from all genres and walks of life, no matter how unconventional their sound may have been.

“I wanted to have something that was all-inclusive,” he says. This declaration soon evolved into regular Sockets showcases, which Peoples remembered fondly as “weirdo pep rallies” which quickly grew a large following and presence. Unofficially, Peoples was put in an interesting position of being the champion for the experimental scene.

Imperial China was one of several groups who worked under the Sockets label. The band’s drummer, Patrick Gough, says that the label created a community that was unlike anything the city had ever seen previously. “The label isn’t as well known to people outside the D.C. area, and stylistically it’s arguably more diverse. But for bands around here, it came to represent the city in a positive way that had been missing for a little while. The music that Sockets promoted was aggressively experimental, so that went against the formula of D.C. punk bands to a meaningful degree.

Additionally, the group’s guitarist, Brian Porter, also agrees that Sockets was pivotal in making a long-lasting community. “It seemed like D.C. had just started to really develop a stronger community of artists and musicians around 2007-2008, and Sockets just came in at great time, as Sean created a space for those artists to operate and get their music heard. I would even say that the Sockets family is bigger than just the bands on the label”.

However, as the label continued to grow, so did the challenges and obstacles that came along with it. Peoples was having difficulty investing time in the label the way that he wanted. Eventually, money and operating expenses became the major death knell. Despite this, Peoples remains extremely proud of what the label has accomplished in its time.

“No matter what, people think about the scene in D.C.; not only is there really good music from here, but it’s evolved,” he says. There are no qualms that he’s had a hand with aiding the process.

[Sean] put out a bunch of records that very few people cared about out of pure love” says E.D. Sedgwick’s Justin Moyer.  “Bands need more people like him — holy fools willing to pour money down the hole of art”.

With Sockets coming to an end, Peoples is looking into the future and is planning to mix music and business in new and creative ways, as he sees the landscape of music production and crowd sourcing change. In order to manage this, Peoples is relying heavily on the community he helped to build, who he hopes will continue to stick by his new endeavors.

“You got to make sure you are a part of something,” he says, whether it’s asking for advice or connecting with bands. “If you feel like you’re helping or you’ve got people around you and you want to do cool shit, that community aspect is where you pull your confidence from.”

Collin Crowe, guitarist of progressive-rock quartet Buildings contends that Sockets’ legacy will continue to be profound for the D.C. community.

“Sockets Records helped out bands that no one else wanted to, and they did a great job and became a pretty popular local label” he says. “I hope, if anything, this motivates other people to put out records, put on shows, record music and perform, and do whatever they can to try and foster a fun and unique community in D.C.”