Gubbey Records is a Louisville based record label that was founded in 1994, but has been especially active in the last five or six years. It is a label responsible for several underground releases each year, and perhaps most well known for the yearly compilation of Louisville music known as Head Cleaner – A Louisville Music Compilation, which has recently been released for the third year. This most recent installation to the series featured 188 bands and their songs and was released across five volumes (three cassettes and two digitally). The first run of physical copies sold out in just two days, with $2.00 from each sold being donated to Louisville radio station, ARTxFM. Here’s what Dave Rucinski of Gubbey Records had to say about the release, Louisville, and more:
What is the mission of Gubbey Records, and how do the Head Cleaner compilations serve that?
The mission of Gubbey Records is to document obscure, isolated and eclectic Louisville music, regardless of genre. The whole Head Cleaner-A Louisville Music Compilation series is about documenting Louisville music on a yearly basis. And while there are many well-known Louisville bands on this compilation series, there are also a slew of completely unknown bands that you will be exposed to for the first time and they are well worth your attention. So, I feel like the compilation fully pays tribute to the labels mission.
This is year three of Head Cleaner, and it’s getting bigger every year. Why do you think it’s gotten so popular, and where do you see it going?
The compilation certainly has had more bands from year to year, but popularity is not what we were seeking, this is about documenting. Here is what I like about this compilation and possibly why some people are attracted to it: It truly is a home grown series, we operate out of a basement with a total staff of three people, no sponsors or outside influence. We try to make it as easy as possible for Louisville bands to submit music, we are inclusive and do not judge the music based off of how many people like your band, genre or your musical expertise. We believe that is up to the listener and history to judge those aspects. And lastly, we believe it is as high quality of a compilation as we can provide.
As far as where I see it going, I guess the sky is the limit…. but one would think that at some point there is a ceiling and it is based off the amount of bands and musical acts that are currently performing in Louisville and that are willing to participate.
Why put it out on tape?
We started off in the 90’s releasing short run cassettes and when we came up with the Head Cleaner project it seemed like the right project to implement cassettes with again. We are able to get quite a bit more music on them then a CD or vinyl record. We found a manufacture that could provide archival quality chrome tape, we mastered and optimized the compilation specifically for cassette, Also they are professionally duplicated on high end gear. This is not your fathers cassettes, they were built to last and sound good.
Another reason for using tape is that we are able to offer our releases at a lower price point that most people will take a chance and buy a release from a newer band that they may not be very familiar with. And we certainly have not forgotten the people who want a digital copy, all of our cassette releases including Head Cleaner come with a digital download card.
Gubbey Records has been around since ’94, but much more active the last few years – what has led to all the recent activity?
We have been quite a bit more active since 2010. Before then, we were doing periodic releases. I was bouncing around the country for work and basically became more stable and focused around 2010 and we have been releasing a lot more records since then.
Do you have any short-term // long-term goals for Gubbey?
Our goals are to expose people to Louisville bands that they may have not otherwise heard of and we hope to do this in the most high quality way that we possibly can. We are constantly striving to provide the best audio and packaging that we can and try to keep our releases reasonably priced. We also have a distribution deal in the works, but are unable to comment further until it is complete.
$2 from each Head Cleaner sold this year went to ARTxFM – why do you believe in what they’re doing?
ARTxFM is much like Lexington’s WRFL. Their programming is unique and engaging and they care about the community that they are a part of. A good majority of their DJ’s are local musicians and they curate shows that are very deep in musical content. They have at least two weekly shows that I am aware of that are completely dedicated to Louisville music. The Deep End with Joey Mudd focuses on early to current Louisville music and Club El Rancho with former Lexintonian Brian Manley focuses on current Louisville music, both are excellent shows. Local music also makes it to their airways heavily in regular broadcast hours as well. Louisville has had a desperate need for a station like this for many years and through the incredible dedication of their staff, I am ecstatic to say that they will be launching on FM on 2/14/16.
What is your musical background outside of running a record label?
I currently play guitar and sing in a Louisville band called Furlong. I have really not had much time to devote to the project in the last few years because of the label, but there has always been something brewing behind the scenes, this year I plan to devote more time to the project and release our first full length LP.
In addition to playing music, I am also an audio engineer. I offer private mastering services through my home studio Tin Pan Basement. I have also run sound for large and small acts and worked in my earlier days for labels in Nashville and New York.
What advice would you give young bands who want to record and promote their music? (Other than putting something out on the Gubbey catalog).
You need to work very hard, there are thousands of other bands competing for the same audience as your band. You will need to outwork other bands if you are trying to be “successful”. This means making the best records that you can, contacting the media when you have important news on shows or releases, putting up flyers, blasting social media, playing tight and interesting shows and touring in your regional area. In short, just when you think you have done enough, do more. All the while, you need to set yourself apart from the other bands while remaining true to your identity as a band, everyone can spot when a someone is not being genuine. Also, no one owes you anything, so be gracious for any help provided to your band in any way, building strong relationships is the key to the music game.
What is your favorite non-musical thing about Louisville?
It is home… I have lived in a lot of great places, but keep finding my way back here… It is a town like no other. From the many parks, great eats and deep history, I don’t know of anywhere else like it. I think it is impossible for you to be bored on weekends, there is always something going on. Also, I love the DIY entrepreneurial spirit that emulates from this town as well, it is pretty infectious.
Who // What are you listening to the most right now?
I have been on quite a bluegrass kick as of late, listening to a ton of old Stanley Brother and Bill Monroe cassettes. Also, here are some other non-local records that I have been listening to: Fella Kuta -Original Suffer Head / I.T.T, Priests- Bodies and Control and Money and Power, Shannon and the Clams-Gone By The Dawn, Crazy Al’- Indiana Punk & New Wave Compilation1976-1983.
Thanks very much to Dave for taking the time for this interview – if you’re interested in finding more about Gubbey Records and their releases, you can check them out in the following ways:
Ben Southworth – January 10th, 2016 – Mount Horeb
Harsh Heavy Rock
November 6th, 2015 – auralgamiSOUNDS
I wasn’t sure what to expect with Insect Policy’s most recent release – where their former EP was sparse at times and full of harsh avant-noise, Wolf Brick River Dirt Train Moon feels thicker and is full of brutally harsh motion from the get go. The first two tracks complement each other in some way – “Power Container”chugs along with some serious groove, while “After Ghidaro” is a dark mixture of sludge and doom – both ending with the line “we will never see land again.” “The Importance of Banishing” picks up the pace again with pointed, angular guitars before dissolving away with a wash of noise and screams. The second half of the EP opens with “The Sound of Tumult,” a freer, noisier, somewhat calmer track that offers a break from the unrelenting drive of the first three tracks. “Zero Weather” features a noisy violin and guitar duet for much of its duration, but by the two minute mark the dissonance gives way to something really beautiful between the two instruments. The final track, “Atlantic Ocean,” opens in a somewhat similarly pleasant way – buzzing guitar drones, french horn, and mandolin (I think?) provide a distant sounding backdrop for calm, subdued vocals to bring the album to an unexpectedly calm close. Wolf Brick River Dirt Train Moon is not the album that I thought it would be – it travels through some real grindingly harsh stuff before turning over with a few truly pleasant and relaxing tracks to finish. I certainly haven’t listened to an album that does anything quite like this EP, and it’s well worth the seventeen minutes it takes to take this trip.
Tracks I Liked: Power Container!!!, After Ghidaro!!, The Importance of Banishing!, Zero Weather!!, Atlantic Ocean!!!
Ben Southworth – January 6th, 2016 – Kenwick Place
Fuzzy Poppy Rock
October 16th, 2015 – auralgamiSOUNDS
Cereal Glyphs is the product of Louisville’s Andy Myers – a series of ten songs written, recorded, and performed only by him. Reading through some stuff written on this album by the talented and prolific folks over at Never Nervous, there were a lot of comparisons of this project to the sound of Ty Segall, and I think that’s definitely an apt description. My own interpretation was that it comes in sounding a lot like something influenced by John Dwyer and his projects, Thee Oh Sees and Damaged Bug – maybe with some Stephen Malkmus thrown in too. The album is spilling over with a thoroughly DIY aesthetic, but for all the grunge and fuzz, the album is equally full of pop sensibility, catchy hooks, and creative melodies. The guitar imitates and acts as counterpoint to the vocals at several points throughout the album – a technique that I’m particularly a sucker for, and something that serves to add a significant amount of depth and craft to the music. If you’re wanting something a little more laid back, you can try songs like “Siren Stalker” and “The Well.” Need a little more intensity? Take a listen to “Dead Beat,” “Count the Night,” or the 30 second “Gralehaus Fried Chicken” (these three songs make up the middle of the album, and are all spectacular). Cereal Glyphs might seem like a pretty unassuming album at first glance, but it is certainly a really good one – I’ve enjoyed listening to it every single time I’ve gone through it as much as I did the first time. Congrats to Andy on recording something this great as a solo project, and to auralgamiSOUNDS for yet another killer release.
Tracks I Liked: Siren Stalker!!, Instagram!, Dead Beat!, Count the Night!!, Belly of the Snake!!, The Well!
Ben Southworth – November 20th, 2015 – Park Avenue
Poppy Instrumental Electronica
October 2nd, 2015 – auralgami SOUNDS
The Evaporated Life is described on the one-sheet as “relentlessly optimistic,” and I doubt there’s much better a way to describe it. ATOMO is the project of a singular Louisvillian (whose name is omitted from all online materials I could find), and a seemingly new project at that. All the tracks on this album are lengthy enough for them to flesh themselves out pretty well – the shortest of them still spills over the 4:30 mark. Throughout these six works, it’s tough to place when the music is originating from, and I think that’s a good thing – there’s a refreshing mix of aged timbres (buzzing saw synths, sampled drums, and electronic organ) placed within more modern-and-constantly-evolving arrangements, none of which take themselves too seriously. This is definitely stuff you could dance to – perhaps not in the sense of Todd Terje’s driving disco displays (although track three gets close) – but it possesses the same lighthearted mood and nearly romantic atmosphere. I’m happy to see a Kentucky label putting out stuff with such diversity in sound – auralgamiSOUNDS has released garage rock, world-influenced jazz-electronica, improvised noise, and now this – all within the last twelve months, and they’ve all been quality. The Evaporated Life is fun, light, and decidedly enjoyable – I can’t imagine anybody finding it anything less than pleasant and refreshing.
Tracks I Liked: Mirrors!, Dr Waycroft’s upsidedown namepiece!!, its 2015 and i drive a computer!, Ice cream truck paranoid!!
Ben Southworth – October 3rd, 2015 – Mount Horeb
Gubbey Records – Released April 11th, 2015
Mosquito is the soon-to-come release from Louisville’s Blind Tigers, and its a very strong one at that. The six songs that make up the EP are quick and to the point – putting this out as a cassette only adds to the general punk aesthetic they’ve got going on (I love the art work, by the way).
“Do or Die” starts with a sustained strum on an overdriven electric guitar before picking up with the constantly descending progression – the chorus has a nice, dissonant crunch to it, and pairs well with the vocal harmonies that were added. “Night of 1000 Eyes” is even sludgier than the first track, and is my favorite track of the EP. Everything except the drums has a bit of distortion on it, and the guitar solo at the end is pretty great, too. As the EP progresses, it introduces more instruments, straying away from just guitar, bass, and drums. “Smooth Talker” layers in some handclaps, “Talk Demon to Me” adds some synth (or maybe theremin?), and “Turn Up My Radio” even imitates the sound of radio dials being tuned in. “Violent Pop” was the track that caught my ear on the first listen – the background vocals, super-catchy chorus, and guitar solo are all really great.
Blind Tigers releases the cassette with a show on April 11th at Modern Cult Records with Opposable Thumbs and Satellite Twin. If you like rock and roll, this is a good one to check out – it sounds great on cassette and headphones, alike.
Tracks I Liked: Do or Die, Night of 1000 Eyes, Violent Pop
Ben Southworth – March 29th, 2015 – Park Avenue