Rubber Brother Records:
DIY Kings Of Phoenix
Robbie Feffer (Center) Gage Olesen (Sweater Vest) Brendan Lechner (Employee, far left).
Valley-Based Record Label Releases Lo-Fi Recordings While Building DIY Culture In Phoenix Metro
By Jeff Moses
Modern Times Magazine
Feb. 13, 2014 — For anyone who has their ear to the ground in the Phoenix local music scene, Rubber Brother Records should be a household name. In less than half a year, Rubber Brother has cast a significant shadow over the Valley’s do it yourself music scene by producing some of the best DIY shows, and signing some of Phoenix’s best up-and-coming bands.
Every musician, promoter, sound guy, and music writer says they do things for the community. But when Rubber Brother co-owners Gage Olesen and Robbie Pfeffer say it, it seems a little more truthful. Their events have engaged the music community in ways unattainable to any other promoters in the Phoenix metro.
Their two PHX FMLY Fest’s brought hundreds of Phoenicians out to experience local music at local shops and venues along the downtown Phoenix arts district’s Roosevelt Row. Their “round robins” are an innovative idea where a bunch of bands set up at the same time and each play one song at a time. Even their coming out party, Rubber BrotherFest, was innovative by taking place over a period of two weekends and four days at two different venues.
On the way to their office, The Parliament, I told Pfeffer I think his Rubber Brother Record label does more to subvert capitalism and spread community than most of the activists I know, to which Feffer very modestly agreed.
Perhaps Rubber Brother is not going to be the next Columbia records, but I don’t think that’s the point. Rubber Brother is building an authentic music scene in one of the most inauthentic cities in the world, and their intrepid leaders Olesen and Pfeffer sat down with Modern Times:
Modern Times Magazine: When was Rubber Brother founded?
Gage Olesen: It was thought up around June of 2013 over cigarettes in our back yard. We didn't really get it rolling until right around September of 2013.
MTM: What sort of experience did either of you have with record labels before starting?
GO: I really had none, personally.
Robbie Pfeffer: I worked for BURGER Records all summer last year, that was amazing.
MTM: Why was Rubber Brother founded?
GO: Because we wanted to create a place where we could foster the kind of music we wanted to hear, and have a good time doing it. We wanted to do it in an open environment that was welcoming to whoever, without the pretension.
RF: Also, because I graduated college and didn't want to work a real job.
MTM: How did the two of you come to work together?
GO: I had just moved into town and for awhile I didn’t know what was going on because it’s tough to find interesting stuff in Arizona sometimes. Robbie ran The Fixx and I was interested in music and coffee shops and The Fixx was this half-venue-half-coffee-shop place on Mill. I met him down there and around Christmas one year someone wanted a day off, and I was like, I’ll take that day and I started working at The Fixx and Robbie taught me how to book and we’ve been working together since 2010.
MTM: So Rubber Brother is your first joint venture?
GO: We’ve been booking together for awhile,
RF: most of our stuff we did under Tempe Starving Artist, but that was more mainly Gage helping me. The label is more us working together on it cause I was doing Tempe Starving Artist since 2008.
MTM: Who are your favorite bands on the label?
RF: That one’s tough cause I think every band has different things that they’ve mastered. My favorite live bands are different than my favorite recorded bands. Some people are long time friends and some people are people I don't know that well, but I really respect their music. So picking favorites is really tough for me, I like everything on the label. I think the label roster is pretty much a listing of my favorite bands at this point.
GO: This might embarrass Robbie, but my first favorite will always be Playboy Manbaby. Up there with them for me are bands like Petty Things, Los Puchos, The Thin Bloods, WEBS, Diners. It's really tough to pick just a few because we try to sign anything that we like.
MTM: Any plans for expansion from cassette to CD or Vinyl?
RF: Maybe, not in our own stuff but we might be if someone puts something out and they want us to help spread the word on it. We are down to put it in the shop, but I don't think we will be producing CD’s or producing vinyl anytime in the foreseeable future.
MTM: Are there any bands you were interested in that turned you down?
RF: Is there?
GO: I can't really think of any.
RF: We’ve been super lucky everyone we’ve asked has said yes, we definitely lucked out there.
MTM: Do You have your eye on any new talent?
RF: No, our plate is pretty full right now as far as the bands we’ve got. I’m really excited that we are putting out a tape for Boys Age and they’re from Japan and they’ve got some wonky, I don’t even know how to describe it. Just really whacky Japanese pop music. If anyone has a phone number for Tom Waits, that'd be greatly appreciated.
GO: We're constantly releasing things for new bands that we love, so it's really hard to say that I've got one specific band in mind. Pretty much anything we can find, that we like, we want to release.
MTM: What do you consider to be the label’s official coming out party?
GO: Definitely the Rubber Brother Fest toward the end of September.
RF: Technically I suppose it was the Trunk Space show in June. I was happy about that because packing a venue in the middle of summer on a new idea is no small feat.
MTM: How about unofficial, when do you feel Rubber Brother arrived on the Phoenix music scene?
GO: The same day as Tour De Fat we did a release at Cartel Tempe for the NUMB BATS/Petty Things split, NUMBTHINGS. Cartel was completely packed. Like, there was almost no room to move at all, and everybody was going absolutely nuts. That was the first time where I felt like people were really starting to take notice, and appreciate the label and music involved.
RF: Selling out Crescent Ballroom definitely made me feel like we've grown out of our little friend bubble.
MTM: What has been your favorite Rubber Brother Event?
GO: We put together a show for White Fang and The Memories when they rolled through town. I'm a big fan of both of these bands, so it was a crazy overwhelming thing. Robbie does this thing called The Church of Playboy Manbaby every once in a while, and lets me open it up with this really frantic preacher thing. It's like, the only time I ever get on stage in front of people. So, to do that while these bands that I'm really into are watching was a huge deal to me. That's definitely one of my favorite shows we've done.
RF: PHX FMLY FEST was my favorite. It was such a fantastic showcase of all the cool stuff that's happening locally and it was amazing to have so many good people involved in it.
MTM: What has been the most unexpected thing that has come of starting Rubber Brother records?
GO: You know, after we got it all rolling, we started to see more bands in the style we're pushing sprouting up. To see more of those bands, almost like they were inspired by other bands like Wolvves and Petty Things, was really unexpected. Either that, or having to package seven or eight online orders in a day.
RF: I'm just shocked by the enthusiasm. The people who are at the shows, the bands playing the shows and the people who make it happen behind the scenes all seem to have a new life about them. It's refreshing.
MTM: What has been the highest compliment you have been paid since starting?
GO: It's really hard to pinpoint just one, because I've heard so many way-too-flattering things over the last few months. I think the biggest one for me, was a friend of mine who has been an artist in town for years (like, longer than I have been alive) said something that we were one of the only interesting things happening in all of Phoenix. I really don't think that's true, but to hear somebody with that kind of perspective say something like that was totally mind blowing.
RF: People's actions have been the biggest compliments, in my opinion. People can say they support something, but that means very little to me. But people are actively coming out to shows and making this music part of their life. That's an incredible compliment.
MTM: What has been the worst insult?
GO: Honestly, I can't think of any. Everybody has been so positive and receptive.
RF: If people calling it "Rubber Brothers" instead of "Rubber Brother" is the worst thing I can think of, that might be an indicator that we've been getting very little in the way of insults.
MTM: How does a band go about getting signed by Rubber Brother?
GO: It's really as easy as just sending an email to RubberBrotherRecords@gmail.com. Include some demos. If it's something that we dig, chances are we will put it out or at least get you on a cool show or something.
MTM: How does a non-musician go about getting involved with Rubber Brother?
GO: The same way a musician does, honestly. Shoot us an email, or Facebook message, and we will try to involve anybody who is interested.
MTM: Do you feel Playboy Manbaby’s growth helps the label more, or the label’s growth helps the band more?
RF: I don't know. I think it’s they both help each other. You know Playboy was definitely a thing before Rubber Brother was and it definitely did its own thing. It helped a lot the stuff we were doing I still think kind of, like I don’t know, its coming to be about even. But I feel like the band is kind of bigger than the label right this second because the band’s been around longer. It’s helped a lot of things, but Playboy is kind of its own thing.
MTM: What’s the next move for Rubber Brother Records?
GO: If we can just keep doing what we're doing, and maybe grow a little bit in the process, then that's good enough for me.
MTM: Does Rubber Brother Records have plans for growth?
RF: I don’t know, I think we’re like, trying to like, manage what we have. I don't think if we got significantly bigger right now it would be to our benefit. I really like what we have right now, I want to make it bigger but it’s not the primary concern; I prefer it just to kind of grow naturally.
MTM: What’s Rubber Brothers outlook in 2014?
RF: I dont know we’ve got a lot of bands putting out new stuff we are really excited about that. I want to try and get more people on the road in the summer. But kind of solidifying what we already have, putting out more music and helping out the bands we already have on the label and getting everything knocked down.
Jeff Moses a senior contributor at Modern Times Magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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