The Label Makers: Hot Tramp Records

Hot Tramp Records founder Sarah Armiento (photo: Maryse Bernard; art: J. Di Gioia)

The Label Makers is a monthly feature spotlighting independent record labels from across so-called Canada. This month’s featured label is Hot Tramp Records from Montreal, QC.

When Sarah Armiento first launched Hot Tramp as a management company in 2019, she didn’t have any management experience. Through booking shows at a DIY space in Montreal’s Saint-Henri neighbourhood, where Armiento still resides, she met electronic/r&b artist and DJ Janette King and alt-pop artist Maryze and asked to be their manager. Armiento laughs now at her boldness, but this determination and passion are at the heart of Armiento and Hot Tramp. 

Over the phone during an unseasonable heatwave, Armiento rattles off what her hectic to-do list was like in 2019, which included not only PR and booking tours for her two artists, but Hot Tramp also put on a five day festival in Montreal that featured over 20 acts. When the pandemic hit and live shows were put on hold, Armiento turned Hot Tramp into a label.

“That first year [of Hot Tramp] in 2019, I felt like I was doing a million things all the time without much structure,” Armiento explains. “When I launched the label, I was like, okay, this is the priority. I was able to focus more and do things in a more organized way. I think back to 2019, and it was so much fun, but I was absolutely all over the place.”

The step Armiento felt she had to take for Hot Tramp to become a label was to secure a distributor, and so she teamed up with Outside Music (and their partner Redeye Distribution). With Maryze and King already on board, Armiento asked soft-pop/rocker Alicia Clara to join them, she happily agreed, and by August 2020, Hot Tramp relaunched as a label.

As Armiento explains, Hot Tramp is committed to supporting emerging artists that may have trouble landing on other labels or have had bad experiences with the industry in the past. In the Instagram post that announced Hot Tramp Records, Armiento laid bare her principles, writing, in part, “as a new label, I promise to always stay open and communicative with folks. I have no interest in being gate-keeper-y…”

“For me, it’s really important to be extremely transparent and very open and always have honest conversations with my artists,” Armiento maintains. “We have a good flow going with that, and it really works for us. People have had bad experiences with the industry. Everyone is trying so hard to make money, but there’s not much of it in this industry, and people can get screwed over very easily. That’s what I always want to avoid at all costs. I’m always very upfront about what I can offer as a one-person run label, and I make sure that I’m managing expectations and I’m never overselling myself.”

Although Armiento would love to have the capacity and resources to expand the label’s roster, right now she gives her all to her three artists. Since the relaunch of Hot Tramp, which recently came in second in the Best Label category of Cult MTL’s 2022 Best of MTL readers poll, each artist has put out a release. In February 2021, Clara released her debut EP, Outsider​/​Unusual, in June of that year, King put out her debut LP What We Lost, and earlier this month, Maryze released her debut LP 8. You can catch both King and Clara, who will be releasing EPs later this year, at Sled Island Music & Arts Festival next month, and Maryze will wrap up her album release tour on May 31st in Quebec City.  

“I’m proud of what [Hot Tramp] has become so far and the growth that I see in myself from 2019,” Armiento says. “At least locally, being able to get opportunities for my artists that I wouldn’t have been able to get two years ago and being able to book them for festivals, I feel really proud when those sorts of things happen. To me, it makes me realize that my network is widening. The more my network widens, the more I’m helpful to my artists.” 

On paper Hot Tramp is a one-person run label with Armiento as the sole owner, operator, and employee, but her open-door policy and dedication have ensured that she is not alone. 

“All of the artists I have, first of all, are just incredibly talented, and my whole self believes in all three of their projects. But they’re also hard workers, and they’re passionate,” says Armiento. “We all care so much about each other, and we’re all good friends — that is the vibe of Hot Tramp and what I would want to keep it being. It’s a support network, really. I couldn’t ask for better artists to be on this journey with me.”

Throughout our conversation, Armiento returns to this bond between her and the artists of Hot Tramp. “We’re a team,” she says. And a winning one at that. 

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Evan J Cartwright 
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