From the independent label’s inception in 2000 up to Malajube’s second release in 2006, all of Dare To Care’s albums were hand-made on its premises. This arts-and-crafts approach reflects the philosophy that led to label’s creation, in an apartment located in the south-central area of Montreal. At the time, the young Eli Bissonnette played trumpet in the punk-ska outfit(?) Naked N’ Happy; he and his partner Hugo Mudie (lead vocalist of The Sainte-Catherines) wanted to create a company with a truly unique and human approach: a record label where artists would be directly involved in the decision-making processes and in the various tasks required to market their work. A strictly DIY work ethic. “Founding Dare To Care was the best way for me and Hugo to release our own bands’ albums,” explains Eli.
On April 24th, 2001, DTC’s first recording was released: Naked N’ Happy And Friends Live At L’X. At the time, l’X was Montreal’s temple of punk. The venue was located right below the Soundcentral music store, where Eli and Hugo rented out a portion of the back-office to run DTC in 2003. A year later, the two partners went their separate ways. Eli continued to manage DTC on his own, carrying the label’s activity to his Rosemont apartment. As releases multiplied (The Sainte-Catherines, Planet Smashers, Selfmademan, Rollerstarter, Fall Out Project, La Descente du Coude), Dare To Care developed an enviable reputation on Quebec’s ska and punk scenes.
Things began to take an unexpected turn in 2005 and 2006, with signings such as Malajube, Pawa Up First and Avec Pas d’Casque. All of a sudden, the label was tending towards indie-rock, post rock and country. Driven by a strong desire to penetrate the French-language music industry, Eli founded Grosse Boîte, a sub-division of DTC, in the fall of 2006. “Over time, Dare To Care has targeted Quebec as well as the international market,” mentions Eli. “Grosse Boîte focuses strictly on the francophone population.”
In just two years, Grosse Boîte has signed artists such as Le Husky, Chocolat, Cœur de Pirate and Tricot Machine, a roster that has gained the label credibility alongside Quebec’s major record companies. Tricot Machine’s success proves that DTC/Grosse Boîte is not just about one band (Malajube) and that the label can equally satisfy fans of abrasive music and pop songs. Out of 15 nominations at l’ADISQ, including one for record label of the year, DTC has won six Félix awards, taking home the Revelation of the Year prize in 2006 (Malajube) and again in 2007 (Tricot Machine).
Between 2006 and 2008, the label’s staff grew from one to ten employees, who now work in a “real office” located on Boulevard Saint-Laurent. Although the label has expanded, it has remained true to its initial philosophy. Thus, almost everything is done in-house: media relations, radio tracking, concert productions, and artist management in some cases.
“We try to keep a friendly and laid-back approach while working to expand our company, and this challenge influences our decisions,” explains Eli. “We could choose to release certain albums with the goal of making a lot of money; however, we are not prepared to put out music that doesn’t reflect who we are. To us, the important thing is not to sell a lot of records, but to release truly authentic music. Given the current state of Quebec’s music industry, this authenticity may not allow us to become rich, but it can be profitable. It’s all about finding the right bands.”
As such, Dare To Care/Grosse Boîte has become a major player in discovering unique and innovative new artists.