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No Label Required
Long Beach’s Repeater and a zillion-selling producer try to shake up the music biz
As of right now, Repeater are probably the luckiest band on Earth.
They’re recording an album with producer Ross Robinson, who has produced albums by Korn, Soulfly, Limp Bizkit, Slipknot and Sepultura, earning him the dubious nickname “The Godfather of Nu Metal.” Not exactly Repeater’s speed—their influences are closer to post-punk and new wave—but Robinson also produced At the Drive-In’s final record, Relationship of Command, and 2004’s self-titled album by the Cure.
But the band aren’t just recording with him: All five members of Repeater are also living with Robinson in his oceanside Venice Beach home studio during the recording, so they can spend nearly every waking moment focused on the music. When I meet up with the band at Robinson’s spacious, two-story pad, they’ve settled in and essentially taken over the living room adjacent to the studio, with PlayStation 3 games and a Blu-Ray of Blade Runner (Repeater share that Robinson has told them they’re the “nerdiest band he’s ever worked with”). They’ve now got access to the type of recording equipment that most bands in their position only dream about—or pretend they’re too cool to be interested in.
So how did some unsigned band from Long Beach wind up there, anyway?
“The way we are here, recording a really cool album, is MySpace,” says Steve Krolikowski, lead singer/guitarist/main songwriter. “We added Ross. He’s a true music guy and listens to everyone who adds him on MySpace and doesn’t really do much for most people, but he did for us. Everyone has that chance.”
“Pretty much, what he’s trying to say is that we got lucky,” interjects bassist Victor Cuevas. “There are a million bands on MySpace. We’re really fortunate that Ross found us and was interested in us. There’s no [other] way we would have ever met him.”
Krolikowski makes it clear, though, that he doesn’t think it was just dumb luck that got the band in the enviable position they’re in now—it was also because Repeater had a quality Robinson was actively looking for. (Robinson wasn’t at home during our interview and didn’t reply to an inquiry by press time.) “It’s not just lucky; it’s synchronous. [Robinson]’s looking for things that are pretty underivative and new, and I think that’s what we are,” Krolikowski says.
Originality is clearly a point of pride for Repeater: Krolikowski says they’ve spent two weeks “taking everything that’s derivative and stripping it away. Something very new is coming out of this process and making us into a slightly different version of the band that came in here.”
This is the first project from Robinson’s new “label-less” initiative, White Label Collective. At his own expense, Robinson fronts the recording costs to give bands such as Repeater (who self-released the melodic, literate Iron Flowers in 2008) an opportunity they wouldn’t normally have had without a record deal and advance.
The members of Repeater—rounded out by keyboard player Rob Wallace, guitarist Alex Forsythe and drummer Matt Hanief—say that getting hooked up with Robinson came at exactly the right time for the band.
“We kind of hit a wall,” says Wallace. “The way the music industry is now, you have to have a marketable piece to you, like twins in the band or some weird shit like that. None of which we have.”
Plus, the goals of the White Label Collective closely match the band’s own outlook. “Clearly, for most people, it’s crippling,” Krolikowski says of typical record deals. “An advance is a trap. It forces you to limit yourself and what you’re supposed to do. Whoever gave you an advance is going to dictate to the producer what they want. We are not shackled. We are doing exactly what we want right now.”
Though Repeater admit their good fortune, they’re also confident in their skills and feel they’ve earned their current spot.
“We definitely paid our dues,” says Cuevas. “I feel that this payback we’re getting right now is the sweetest payback we could ever get. We’ve played more than 200 shows in three years.”
Given their current living arrangements—typical for bands working with Robinson—all members of the band had to jettison their day jobs to relocate to Venice for the two months they expect it’ll take to finish the album. A bit of a gamble, but ultimately, it was an easy decision.
“If there ever was a time to quit your job, now is it,” says Wallace. An accountant, he was the only member of the band doing “career”-type work, but he assures that it wasn’t tough to leave.
“Hopefully, the wheels will be turning by the time we’re out of here,” Krolikowski adds. “We don’t know, but we have a lot of things in place.”
Repeater can be found at www.myspace.com/repeaterband.