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
Genre: Acoustic Psych-Folk
RIYL: William Tyler, Nick Drake, Mark Fosson, Fleet Foxes
Bear Medicine is the up and coming band Lexington band that everyone (in town, and beyond) would be smitten with, if they knew about them. Made up of four veterans of the Lexington music scene, the band hones in on a sound that thrives on a gentle, but persistent ebb and flow of melody and texture (it seems apropos that the album title references the moon in this way.) With the gentle precision of Josh Wright’s guitar playing and singing, textural noodling from Kim Smith and Seth Murphy (piano/flute and cello/bass, respectively,) and the always tasteful drumming from Severn Edmondson, the record is at the same time relaxingly pleasant and engaging. The songs range from simply arranged finger-picked acoustic guitar tunes (“Red Bird,”) to texturally dense psych-folk numbers (“Guillotine Valley.”) Favorites of mine are “Infestation” and “Blood in Common” – both have a way of reaching a rollicking stride, and do it cleanly, flawlessly, and effectively. Whether or not you’re already familiar with the stuff that Bear Medicine is doing, this is one to check out – it’s a quick, pleasant, and thoroughly refreshing listen.
Tracks I Liked? *Red Bird!, Infestation!!!, Rigor Mortis Dear!, Blood in Common!!!, Two Steps, Guillotine Valley, *Big Chief!, Sevens!!, All You Celestials!!
*(Tracks 1 and 8 are both great instrumentals!)
Can’t wait til mid-October to hear some? Hear “Infestation” below!
Ben Southworth – September 26th, 2014 – Hagermann and Maxwell
When folks ask me about my favorite albums of the year, I find myself delivering the disclaimer “I didn’t listen to much music made outside of Kentucky this year.” This is thanks to my job of overseeing WRFL’s Kentucky Music Playbox until August, but lucky for me 2013 has been an excellent year to be a musician in the Bluegrass. Some musicians had been storing up music for years, waiting for things to come together before releasing their albums. Others sprung their music upon the world without even a moment’s notice, but pleasantly surprised us with such a sudden gift of song. Regardless, the quality of music in 2013 has been incredible, and I consider myself lucky to have been an agent of support for the work that so many people have done so creatively.
I’m not always one to listen to rap or hip-hop, but after meeting Devine Carama and Sheisty Khrist through WRFL’s Trivial Thursdays and hearing the stories of their music, I was excited to give this album a listen. Rather than boasting exaggerated claims of materialism – money, drugs, fast cars, and the like – Devine spends the length of the album fighting for positivity. He urges for a shift in the attitudes of others in the genre, asking them not to continue misleading America’s youth, but challenges them to empower them through their music – something that No Child Left Behind is able to accomplish with ease. It’s not just something he preaches on the album – his Twitter feed is one of my favorites to follow, despite his knack for spewing out the occasional ten-tweet spiel, he’s unfaltering in his positivity.
Another Trivial Thursday’s find, Ford Theatre Reunion’s Famous Monsters was an excellent part of my 2013 Independence Day. Spanning twelve tracks, the album is a tour of the band’s strange and goofy sounds, but showcases some serious songwriting chops. Famous Monsters is centered around the theme of (not surprisingly,) monsters, and each track is about a different monster – some are even are presented as songs sung from the point of view of the monster. Perhaps not the album with the most serious subject matter of the year, but one that is unfailingly creative and fun to listen to.
As far as uniqueness goes, there aren’t many albums that I’ve heard this year that do better than MrWimmer’s Once More Unto the Breach. For years, Alex Wimmer, the singular force behind MrWimmer has been accessing the soundcard on his little, yellow Gameboy Color to orchestrate soundscapes of “bleeps and bloops.” Pairing the music from these pre-written tracks with little more than his guitar and voice, MrWimmer sets out on his first full-length album with the story of a girl and her dreams that take her away from the sadness of her reality. Importantly, Once More Unto the Breach is able to stand on its own two feet as a great album – it keeps from using chiptuning as a gimmick, but rather as a tool that fits the music perfectly.
Not many albums in 2013 were as surprising as Mercurial Rites – not as much due to the content of the music on the album, but because of how unexpected it was to be released at all. After remaining pretty quiet as a group since 2008 (though the members of the group have ended up finding plenty of things to keep themselves busy,) Hair Police dropped this album with hardly any notice at the beginning of February. It is overflowing with cacophony and grit – inhuman vocals, screeching feedback, droning electronics, and a healthy dose of static and distortion – but for all the discomfort that it holds, it has a surprisingly “acoustic” sound to it. Mercurial Rites is easily the most challenging listen on this list for the casual, non-acclimated listener, but it turns out to be the one I find most dense and meditative.
I was surprised to see how much press and attention this album received when it first released, but I really shouldn’t have been. Jim James is easily one of the best known musicians from Kentucky, and probably made more appearances on the late-night circuit than anyone else from our state in 2013 (shy of Jennifer Lawrence, perhaps.) Regions of Light and Sound of God is James’ first solo album of original music, and while it shares a lot of sound with My Morning Jacket, it is unmistakably a solo expedition. The music, for all its electronics and reverb, becomes difficult to place – it sounds equally likely to have come from the future as it does to have come from the past. When all of this is taken together, it creates an album that paints a picture of Jim James, and of nobody else.
Lexington’s own Graham Tucker is to credit for the music of fleece, and while Present Pleasures is one of the least assuming albums of 2013, it’s one of the best. The album is full of forty-six minutes of music, but the thirteen songs don’t claim to be about much of anything – the music is just good. As far as ambient electronica goes, fleece has managed to do a lot of work on this album to let his ideas play out well. Though some of the tracks break the five minute mark, they keep from getting stale by slowly adding complexity in texture and motion. The entire album plays quite a bit like a live deejay set, as songs morph into each other and create a listening experience that is relaxing and on par with more famous folks like Ryan Hemsworth.
There aren’t many musicians in Lexington that I found so immediately interesting as Idiot Glee, and I found myself alongside many Lexington residents eagerly awaiting the release of this EP. Though James Friley stands at the core of this record, he is joined by some of the best, most talented musicians and artists around town throughout. The songs on the album are not only some of the better songs he’s put out, they’re some of Idiot Glee’s nicest sounding songs in terms of fidelity and production. “Pipes” is a dizzying track that asserts Friley’s maturity, but there might not be a better song out of Lexington this year than “Little Berlin.” The EP’s final track is heavy, swooning with depth and reverb, and accompanied by a breathtaking guitar/saxophone duel from Trevor Tremaine and Matt Duncan.
As a classically trained trombonist, I don’t find myself listening to music for its lyrics too often, but the opposite has always been the case with Lexington’s Englishman. Unsafe & Sound is somewhere between an EP and an LP, but the seven songs that comprise its twenty-six minutes are nothing but quality songwriting. Andrew English and his accompaniment perform songs that have a distinctly nostalgic, “Kentucky” flavor to them – English explains that the album is one that explores the “feeling that the ways in which we participate in the human experience are changing too rapidly to process.” Though there are some definite departures from the sound of Englishman’s self-titled debut, the music is lush, and the lyrics remain clever and sincere.
2. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy
I wish I could say I knew more about Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, but the truth is that I happened to walk into CD Central a few hours after he had dropped copies of this record off in person. Armed only with the knowledge that a lot of people really liked his music, I picked up a copy on vinyl and took it home to listen. The album is an incredibly intimate, sparse, and sincere ten-song work that features only Will Oldham and his acoustic guitar, and I immediately knew I had made a good purchase. I don’t think my record player has ever played a record as much as it has played this one, and for good reason – if you’re looking for a good way to get into Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s music, this one has effectively introduced me to his work in a big way.
Soft Times was Lexington’s most hotly anticipated album of 2013, and it delivered on the excitement that people had for it. Spanning twelve short pop songs, the album is perhaps the best representative of the town it came from – with artwork from Robert Beatty (like numbers three, four, (and maybe seven?) on this list,) performances from some of the towns most talented musicians, and a unique pressing on a record label started in Lexington. Matt Duncan has always shown a knack for meticulously crafted, perfect pop songs, and somehow manages to get it right on each song on the album. Like many others on this list, Soft Times gives a great, personal look into the life of the artist that produced it, but somehow manages to capture the spirit of an entire time in Lexington, Kentucky.
What album was your favorite?
Ben Southworth – December 26th, 2013 – Mt. Horeb Pike
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
Genre: Dreamy Folk-Pop
When I started programming shows at WRFL – my first regular spot was a much-fought-over 3-6 AM slot on Saturday mornings – one of the records I found myself playing the most was Englishman’s self-titled LP. Early in 2013, knowing that he had an EP on the way, it’s safe to say that I’ve been waiting on Unsafe & Sound with a healthy dose of anticipation since the last time it was cold in Lexington. Finally in November, it was a sudden release, but I find myself more than happy to have waited until now.
Sonically, Unsafe & Sound is a bit of a departure from the band’s last release, but they’ve certainly departed in the correct direction. Although Englishman’s music has always had a bit of added texture from various found sounds and electronics, this album expands the flavor – songs like “More than Insects” and “Fiercest Warrior” are swimming in it. The lead off track, “Fill a Silo,” has a certain “Kentucky” feel to it, perhaps due to its opening lyrics: “Mountains and minerals take years to unravel, the people who love them don’t often travel. They don’t get flu shots, don’t have TVs, live by the weather and the honeybees” – it’s the best first track to an album I’ve heard in a long time.
All seven songs on this EP are solid tracks, making it pretty difficult to say which is the best – on my first listen through, I was at a loss on which to choose. The pacing, ordering, and substance of the album and each song it contains truly makes this one of the most solid collection of songs that has been released since I started paying attention to Lexington music a couple years ago. “At 25” and “We’re the Monsters” are both big-sounding songs that I could listen to on repeat, and (as mentioned before,) “Fill a Silo” is masterfully written. “We’re the Monsters,” though, is wonderfully strange and at the same time, it’s everything a pop song should be – between verses of stark dissonance, are chorus sections that ring with the voices of what sounds like a full choir. It’s my favorite at the moment, but the simple beauty of the tune that follows it – “Dear Life,” a track that features mostly Andrew English with additional instruments padded softly below – is perfectly placed as the album’s closer.
An album that explores the “feeling that the ways in which we participate in the human experience are changing too rapidly to process,” the album will leave you feeling the need to slow down. Perhaps it embodies a sense of intentionality, but certainly a sense of self-awareness in thinking and digesting the experiences that life offers. Though it bears the label of an “EP,” Unsafe & Sound is a work that contains more than enough substance to feel like a majorly strong release.
Tracks I Liked: Fill A Silo!!!, Kids and Bipolars!, More than Insects!!, Fiercest Warriors!, At 25!!, We’re the Monsters!!!, Dear Life!!
You can also hear the music live at Cosmic Charlie’s this Friday, November 22nd. Find out more here.
Ben Southworth – Tuesday, November 19th, 2013 – Maxwell & Hagermann