DC DIT is always looking for opportunities to better connect the D.C. music scene with other like-minded and hard working scenes around the country. When the opportunity came to bring together some of their favorite D.C. musicians with two great New Orleans based Community Records bands, All People and Pope, they knew D.C.’s Babe City Records (formally Chimes Records) was the right partner to make a showcase to show some of the best of D.C. and NOLA. With The Sea Life and Swings representing D.C. and Babe City, it’s a bill for anyone who is a fan of alternative rock. With the showcase at Black Cat this Sunday night, Jon Weiss from Babe City Records, and Greg Rodrigue from Community Records, interviewed each other to give each other, and all of us, a better idea of what they do and what is going on in the music scenes of their respective cities.
Greg on Jon
What’s your favorite (or one of your favorite) shows you’ve been to in D.C. over the years? Any local bands that have really inspired you?
Been thinking a while on this one, and I can’t say I had one particular show that I know I can immediately call my favorite. There have been so many incredible shows, it’s hard to try and qualify them individually. One band that has particularly inspired me in many different ways is D.C.’s dreampop band Go Cozy. Although Homero, the singer/guitarist is one of my closest friends, at one point we were just acquaintances, and this day I’m extremely inspired by his songwriting and the Go Cozy craftmanship. Homero spends months with harmonies– even years– before deciding how something should sound, listening to it on repeat and being hypercritical with every aspect, every note, every voice every instrument. This is not to say that Maria, Ryan, Hays, and Andrew, the other members don’t have a huge influence on Go Cozy’s sound, because they absolutely do and the band wouldn’t be the same without them. But the obsessive and perfectionist aspect of writing is very apparent with Homero. That kind of dedication is inspiring to me, and I still feel as if I’m falling in love with the music every time I see them play.
What record labels have inspired you to start Chimes, and what record labels are around today that you are excited about?
One of our biggest inspirations for starting a record label was definitely Factory Records. From their (poorly managed but well-intentioned business ethic) with a focus on artistic quality, to their consistent brand and image, to the records they put out, we’ve been heavily influenced. Record labels we look up to right now — Slumberland, Art is Hard Records, Inflated Records, Community Records, BUFU Records, Merge and many many many more I can’t think of without my collection in front of me.
What song(s) does The Sea Life currently play that you feel most accurately displays most of what you’re going for as a band?
We’re actually in the process of recording our new LP for the first time in two years, so 90% of the songs we play live at the moment haven’t been released, but we’ve definitely gotten more comfortable with each other and our specific sound than ever before. Concerning released songs, “Prozac & Merlot” is definitely your best bet for public music, but our live shows right now are the best way to hear the songs that define The Sea Life.
Where should All People get some good food to eat while we are in D.C.?
100% hands down we have two favorite restaurants. Woodlands Vegan Bistro in Columbia Heights will make you think twice about the “faux meat,” as this place is mind blowing. The only problem is it’s a little pricey, but you can definitely get a full belly for less than $10. I don’t understand how they make half the things on the menu. Our second favorite place, although not technically in D.C., is Galaxy Hut in Arlington, VA, ten minutes outside the city. Great food, great beer, nice atmosphere. But if this a question pertaining to where you should go on Sunday at our show, Black Cat has a killer veggie burger and nachos, and we’ll be more than happy to cook up some good vegetarian eats at Babe City afterwards.
Jon on Greg
How do you balance time for Community Records and your own band All People, and how has running both affected each project?
We just try to stay positive minded and motivated towards making music and helping others to make music. Lots of meditation, reflection, good sleep, eating well, making time to laugh…those aspects help one stay focused. I feel that running both helps each of the entities. When we tour with All People we bring the whole Community Records distro and we try to spread the word about the label at our shows. Releasing music from other bands via the label also helps us to connect with new people who might be inclined to listen to All People.
We also are not in it alone, we get a ton of help from others. JayTee Barbour and Alexus Fisher are interns (essentially employees) for Community Records that have been tremendously helpful in keeping us going and helping to make improvements. D-Ray and I who run Community Records and play in All People are also highly involved in other stuff around New Orleans too. I (Greg) co-own a coffee shop and roastery called Hey! Cafe. We sometimes put on DIY shows at the shop. D-Ray is a manager at Mid-City Pizza which employees a number of community records band members & sometimes MCP sponsors Community Records shows.
In general though, I don’t think we have the “balance” thing figured out. We just wake up each day and do what we can to work towards our dreams and goals. Some days I fall flat on my face and I have awful anxiety, but the people, friends, and family around us keep us going. We couldn’t do this without them!
Your new record, Learn Forget Repeat, is being released through three different record labels: Asian Man Records, Community Records, and Broken World Media. Why did you decide to release the album through three different labels, and why Asian Man, Broken World Media, and your own imprint?
Community Records & Asian Man Records co-released the vinyl for this album and Broken World Media released the cassette tape. Asian Man Records co-released our first album (an EP called Communicate) and we’ve always liked their record label so continuing to be affiliated with them is meaningful to us. I did an internship with AMR in 2007 and in many ways that experience was what led D-Ray and I to start Community Records in 2008. Community Records co-released Donovan Wolfington‘s vinyl LP Stop Breathing with Broken World Media in 2013. We enjoyed working with them on that release and so another project together seemed like a rad idea. In general, we enjoy doing co-releases with other labels who we feel that we pair well with aesthetically.
I noticed Community Records, like my own imprint Babe City Records, has a heavy focus on tapes and vinyl. When you are listening to an unreleased album, what makes you decide whether cassette or vinyl is the right medium for the album on Community Records? Is it purely a financial matter?
Releasing music is a nuanced thing. It does involve paying attention not only to financial elements but also to which medium the music will be well received on. Some bands do really well on cassette tape some do better with vinyl or both. It also is a matter of how much the band is planning to tour, has already toured, or what kind of following the band has already gathered. We have to consider all of these things and other factors when trying to make a decision on which medium(s) we want to release the album on. Cassette tape is a much less risky financial situation in comparison to vinyl, but it also doesn’t have as wide of an appeal as vinyl. We love both vinyl and cassettes so it’s all fun for us either way.
In New Orleans, how is the house show/diy scene in comparison to heavy house scenes like DC, Philly, and Boston? Do you find All People and the bands on Community playing more houses or nightclubs and venues?
All People and most of the bands on Community Records play more DIY spaces than nightclubs and venues while out on tour. We typically prefer house shows to proper venues, but both situations have their pros and cons. As far as New Orleans goes, we tend to go about 50/50 in terms of playing DIY spots and venues, that’s mostly because house venues and DIY spots tend to not last too long in New Orleans it seems. Lately we do our local shows at either Hey! Cafe (DIY spot that we run) or One Eyed Jacks (proper venue). One thing that keeps house spots tough in New Orleans is that there are no basements. Soundproofing house venues in New Orleans can be pretty difficult.
Where do you see Community Records in 5 years from now? And do you see yourself and Community Records as a permanent resident of New Orleans in five years?
Five years from now I hope that we are just further along on the path that we are on now. I’m really stoked on how much touring All People has been able to do lately and I hope that this project has another two or even three albums out by then. We are approaching release number 60 for Community Records and I would hope that five years from now we are approaching release number 100. If we stay on the track we are on, it should be an attainable goal. New Orleans will always be the home for Community Records. D-Ray and I grew up here, and the foundation for our shows and the majority of the bands that we work with are out of New Orleans. One of my main goals with the label and the band is simply just to be an entity from our city that leaves an impact on the national and international music DIY scene. We are striving towards helping to put New Orleans on the map as far as DIY music. We love our hometown.