Underground Lexington Sounds
Desperate Spirits – June 23, 2017
Desperate Spirits follows up their first Lexington-based compilation with another – this time one of all female-identifying artists, with label co-founder, Kim Smith, at the curating helm. Spanning eighteen tracks, the compilation collects many of Lexington’s finest, as well as artists with ties to Lexington now living elsewhere.
Like the music on White Power is for Dummies, the sounds on Lady Parts! span a wide range of musical sounds. The compilation opens with “Hold On,” contributed by Reva Dawn Salon – it mostly features an uptempo string band, save for a colorfully contrasting bridge. Coralee’s “Kick My Heart” is a beautiful, low-key track with lots of atmosphere; soon after, For the Crown mixes their clear voices over a funk-tinged industrial-synth track on “Hands Where I Can See Them.” Jeanne Vomit-Terror’s “The Author and His Egg” is a quick, dizzyingly heavy electronic punk track; the rich string arrangements of “Moon Song” by Kate Wakefield provide an aural contrast a couple songs later. Powder Room’s “I Watch You Sleep” is an infectious listen, toeing the line between calm and unsettling; following that, “Resolve” by Italian Beaches features Reva Williams’ voice on top of an always great mix of dense synthesizers and behind-the-beat drums.
Compilations are a great way of finding new music you might not have heard otherwise – I’d never heard of several artists on this compilation, and I’d been meaning to hear many others. Lexington is fortunate to have an abundance of talented female artists, and Lady Parts! gives you only taste of many musicians who have much more to listen to. Purchase a copy on Desperate Spirits’ Bandcamp, and 100% of proceeds go to the Kentucky Health Justice Network, whose mission includes supporting direct services to healthcare access, education and advocacy for reproductive health in the Commonwealth.
Tracks I Liked: (All of them, but especially) Reva Dawn Salon (“Hold On”)!!, Coralee (“Kick My Heart”)!, For the Crown (“Hands Where I Can See Them”)!!, Jeanne Vomit-Terror (“The Author and His Egg”)!, Kate Wakefield (“Moon Song”)!!, Oh My Me (“Where the Red One Goes”)!, Powder Room (“I Watch You Sleep”)!!, Italian Beaches (“Resolve”)!!!
Ben Southworth – July 2, 2017 – Post Road
This Man Records – November 18, 2016
I’m totally a sucker for Christmas compilations – it’s fun hearing bands convert generally traditional sounding songs to fit their own sounds. Louisville Covers Christmas is a collection of eleven previously written holiday tracks recorded to the liking of eleven bands and musicians out of Louisville. Brenda does a cover of Lady Gaga’s “Christmas Tree” – a really fun take that is noisier and heavier than original. That’s followed up by a calm, cool setting of “Winter Wonderland” as performed by The Watson Twins, set to a softly grooving bassline and electronic, shuffling beat. Billy Nelson‘s “White Christmas” sounds just like it would fit on his recently released Water Sports – the melody plays on delayed synths before being joined by Billy’s spacey-sounding self-harmonies. A favorite of mine from the compilation is a beautiful, calming cover of Joni Mitchell’s “River,” contributed by Fire the Saddle, set with acoustic guitar, mandolin, and male // female harmonies. Later in the album is a bizarre take on the hymn, “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence,” by Maximón – it’s complete with darkly pulsing synths, affected vocals, and samples from a Malcom X speech. Plastic Bubble closes the compilation with “All I Want for Christmas is You,” a jangly, uptempo rendition complete sleigh bells and background choirs singing ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ to add some extra texture. Compilations like this are a great way of finding out about several bands you’d never heard of in a short time – at least 6-7 of these bands were new to me (including some of my favorites of the release). Treat yourself to some locally-source holiday cheer and grab a copy of the compilation from This Man Records – proceeds from sale of the record go to benefit Star Duck Charities.
Tracks I Liked: Brenda (“Christmas Tree”)!!, The Watson Twins (“Winter Wonderland”)!, Billy Nelson (“White Christmas”), Fire the Saddle (“River”)!!!, Maximón (“Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”)!, Plastic Bubble (“All I Want for Christmas is You”)
Ben Southworth – December 18, 2016 – Kenwick Place
Desperate Spirits – November 28, 2016
What a great response to the ‘dumpster fire’ that has been 2016. With the emboldenment of white power this year, a strong, unified response against it can be a source of hope. Here are twenty bands and musicians with ties to Lexington lining up behind the cause of rejecting this notion of bigotry and malice.
The sounds on the compilation are pretty far-ranging, though electronic music (in many forms) runs through it as a common vein. Ainsley Wagoner contributed “Deep Water,” a soft, folksy track driven by soft synthesizers and a clear voice – a few songs later is “Mia Zapata” by Vegan Death, a melodic indie rock song with a touch of grunge in the guitars. Jeanne Vomit Terror channels a dark, thick, heavy, industrial mood on “Youth Infection,” which is a favorite of mine – it’s chased immediately with the short, spacey ballad, “No One is Inside You,” by The Silver Masked Tenor. Auto Delta Time and Dr. Midnight put forth a story about a house in Michigan set to an aggressive beat – TFC follows right after with a lengthy, soft slow jam about the death of a great-uncle. “Little One” is a beautiful, dark, quiet track by Frigid Kitty with a thick texture – the compilation is closed by Carl Calm’s inventive arrangement on an Idiot Glee track.
For those that like Lexington and its music, this should be a great listen. That said, I’d imagine event the most ‘plugged-in’ local music lover will find a lot here they hadn’t already heard – the compilation shows off several musicians that don’t commonly release their music in recorded form. Go here and pay for a copy (proceeds benefit the Anti-Defamation League), and find something new.
Tracks I Liked: (All of Them, but Especially) Ainsley Wagoner (“Deep Water”), Vegan Death (“Mia Zapata”)!!, Jeanne Vomit Terror (“Youth Infection”)!!!, The Silver Masked Tenor (“No One is Inside You”), Auto Delta Time + Dr. Midnight (“Air Ranch”), TFC (“The Bike”)!!, Frigid Kitty (“Little One”)!!, Idiot Glee + Carl Calm (“Life Without House”)
Ben Southworth – December 11, 2016 – Kenwick Place
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
I can safely say this is the first piece of mail that IronPost has received that has required the acquisition of a new piece of equipment to listen to. As a twenty year old, I remember growing up with a few cassettes, but I think that even then, they were probably on their way out – making way for CDs and eventually for MP3s. That said, cassettes seem to be regaining popularity, and this compilation – spread over two cassette tapes – is stuffed with forty-six songs from Louisville bands. Much in the same way Louisville’s music scene isn’t devoted to one or two genres, this release is a (excuse the cliche) smorgasbord of sounds, jumping track-by-track from lo-fi indie, to hardcore rock, to jazz fusion unapologetically.
The quality of the music is superb, and though there were several groups and musicians who I’d never heard of, it’s clear that the folks at Gubbey were careful in picking good tunes for this release. And though plenty of bands I did know weren’t included on the release, most of them already have music that resides on some form of physical media – I’d say the majority of the bands on Head Cleaner haven’t had an opportunity to put their music out on something like this. It’s endearing, to say the least, to see so many bands and musicians – spanning ages, cultures, genders, and genres of all kinds – being brought together for a compilation like this.
In the meantime, I’ll be listening to Head Cleaner for the next good chunk of time – I’ve got some work to do in order to figure out how to navigate cassettes all over again. If you’re challenged by antiquated forms of musical media like I am, you’re in luck – the cassette comes with a download code that can be redeemed on Gubbey’s website. If you’re new to Louisville, to Kentucky, or simply want to find out what music is right for you in this massive collection of bands, I can’t think of much better a place to start.
If you’re wanting to catch some of this stuff live, and celebrate the release of this massive compilation, you can enjoy a series of shows on November 29th and 30th – click here to read more.
Ben Southworth – November 23rd, 2013 – Maxwell and Hagermann