Photo: Willow Gamberg
Art Signified is a music promotions company that specializes in live music, artist management, art/photography shows, festivals (including Burger Fest and Psych Fest), music film projects and booking tours.
Studio Vostok is a new art and music space that facilitates not only entertainment and celebration, but a place where one can express true emotion and energy through their chosen art form.
…and Taya Fraser and Mitch Ray are the determined and devoted duo behind them both. We recently sat down over a couple pints at Heatley’s to discuss the Vancouver music scene, their achievements, and goals for the future.
CG: When starting Art Signified and now Studio Vostok did you feel there was a need for more artists to be heard and encouraged in Vancouver? Or did you feel there was already enough support?
Mitch: I think there is a lot of support within the artistic community but maybe not a lot of support systemically.
Taya: Yes, there is no funding. There is no government support or any support from the city.
Mitch: Recently, they had the $15 million BC Music Fund announcement.
Taya: Oh ya..
CG: What happened with that?
Mitch: Well, that’s the thing… do we know anyone personally that is going to see any of that money at all? I’m always skeptical when I hear about that sort of thing. But within the actual community it is very supportive.
CG: What kinds of art do you encourage at Studio Vostok?
Taya: Mostly media art and music, photography and painting. We are pretty much open to anything.
Mitch: We get a lot of proposals and some of them are super weird…hahaha…
CG: What would you not encourage?
Mitch: Something that is needlessly offensive or hateful..none of that shit.
Taya: We would probably not do any hardcore punk shows, the ones that make people fight.
Mitch: None of that gross stuff, anything that is negative, violent or hateful can fuck off.
CG: I hate when you are in a mosh pit having a good time and then out of nowhere people start throwing elbows and fists. A friend of mine once got nailed in the face so hard she thought she was going to pass out. I used to never encounter fists or elbows it was more like if you fell down people were there to pick you up.
Mitch: We want crazy posh pits but we don’t want anything like that.
Taya: We don’t actually want people to get hurt at shows.
Mitch: People that go into pits looking to hurt people… we don’t want any of that.
CG: Those are not my people.
Taya: Our friend got beat pretty badly. It’s intense. That kind of thing is just stupid.
CG: It’s so stupid.
Taya: You are not in High School anymore…showing how big your dick is… We are into anything that promotes good times.
CG: Love it. Art Signified has been around for over 3 years…what do you think you provide the scene that will make you stick around for a while? What do you offer that other companies don’t?
Taya: We are really artist driven, we don’t make a lot of money which is intentional, the bands are the ones that are providing a service and we are just gathering or building the event basically. We like going to shows so we build shows that we want to go to.
Mitch: I have to say in the case with Studio Vostok, for a month and a half people were donating their time in helping us getting the space set up.
Taya: We had people hanging out until 4am sometimes. We had one friend Milton who stayed every single night that we were there. He would come after work, help us with taking tiles off of walls, painting floors and sanding. A lot of people came and helped whether it was for an hour or five.
CG: I’m sure people recognize that they are a part of something great. In 20 years people are going to be like, “Ya we were a part of Art Signified and Studio Vostok!!! Remember that time when we took those tiles down!” This is your history and other peoples history. Not something those involved will soon forget I’m sure.
Taya: Yes for sure.
CG: I read that you guys also do artist management?
Mitch: Yes we do.
CG: Who do you currently have on your roster?
Mitch: We currently manage two bands..Brass and Eric Campbell & The Dirt.
Taya: And pretty much Hedks too.
Mitch: We help out the band Astrakhan a lot too. They are kind of an unofficial one. We would like to manage more but we have to be realistic about the workload.
Taya: Taking this venue on it’s literally our lives. We practically live there.
Mitch: It definitely doubled the workload. I quit my day job.
CG: That’s a big step, quitting your day job.
Mitch: I will have to go back at some point though..hahaha…
CG: Do you think being an artist yourself Taya has helped with putting on shows?
Taya: I think so a lot actually, being in a band I know what sucks.
Mitch: I think the basics of some of our business practices is we want the bands to just show up and have everything taken care of. They are not worried about what the payment is going to be, what the load in time is, we want it to be an effortless experience and just have them focused on playing.
CG: Nice. Which one of your shows has brought in the biggest crowd? Who was playing?
Mitch: Our three year Anniversary show that The Baptists played. We packed the Rickshaw with at least 500 or more.
CG: I was there! And what I remember of that show it was really good…hahaha! Thanks guys I had a lot of fun…
Taya: Me too!
Mitch: We have also done Psych Fest and Burger Fest. The last couple years Burger Fest has brought in about 1000 people. Psych Fest has been about 700 to 800 people but as far as one night it would be The Baptists Rickshaw show.
CG: I’m sure you want to continuously push the envelope with this new endeavour with Studio Vostok what would you like to see more of that you haven’t been seeing enough of in Vancouver?
Mitch: More unique kind of events, I can’t specify exactly what that means
CG: So no Granville Street dance parties?
Taya: Hahaha! We want to take the $$$ that Granville Street makes and bring it to Vostok.
CG: Yes, where it belongs. So what have been some of the challenges you have faced with both Art Signified and Studio Vostok?
Taya: Time and money.
Mitch: With Art Signified it’s been harder to do smaller shows because the attendance will be low no matter how well it’s promoted and how good the bands are. A big part of that is probably the high cost of living. Not everyone has $10 to throw down for cover on a Tuesday night. It sucks at the end of the day when you have to pay $50 out of pocket to pay each band and lose $200.
I think for Studio Vostok the city bureaucracy hasn’t been a problem yet but we are finding that it does take a lot of time to get something done. You deal with several different people all for one job. It gets very convoluted so I think we are going to run into a lot more of that going forward.
CG: It’s a tough city, in comparison to other big cities in Canada.
Mitch: It hasn’t come as a surprise, it’s not like we are shocked.
Taya: Our buddy runs 333 and he has gone through so much shit with the city. We are kind of prepared for that.
Mitch: We know that it’s going to be the biggest challenge.
CG: What has been some of the greatest moments so far? What are some highlights for both Art Signified and Studio Vostok?
Taya: The Grand opening was the best for Vostok.
Mitch: I think every once in a while we have a show where it totally validates everything in our mind as to why we do it… those are usually the best.
Taya: We actually talked about this the other day, Mitch and I were at a show and we were both standing in the back just watching a bunch of our friends hugging at the front of the stage. Each one have met through shows we have put on and they now all play in bands together and are the best of friends.
Mitch: We watch a big community of a lot of lifelong friends come out of events we put on and that’s the most rewarding thing without a doubt.
Taya: What is Art Signified? It’s Friendship. Hahaha!
Mitch: To be a factor with something that people are going to remember in the lives 30 years down the road… that’s huge.
CG: Definitely something to be proud of.
Taya: It’s the most rewarding thing seeing all your friends and people you don’t even know having a good time. Being a part of creating a community where people love each other and play music.
CG: Sounds like nothing better.