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The two Placentia teenagers behind La Chupacabra Records hope success is more than a myth
It’s been a little more than two months since Placentia natives Alexander Ahmadi and Tyler Jacobs decided to start La Chupacabra Records. For that reason alone, you may be wondering why a story about a newly blossomed label occupies coveted space between full-color rock-star ads and tales of established local heroes.
To fully appreciate their mission and contribution to the Orange County music scene, you first have to recognize a few things. Like the fact that neither Ahmadi nor Jacobs has formal experience managing a record label and that they are just 18 years old. But they’ve already managed to corral some of OC’s most celebrated indie bands under one banner in an attempt to unify the county’s widely scattered rock & roll tribes.
“We’re trying to get the best Orange County bands, bring them together and expose them,” Ahmadi says. “We know if we bring them all together, then they can get more attention for Orange County and the scene as a whole than they can by themselves.”
For La Chupacabra’s founders, birthing a regional label required research into the methods of iconic forerunners, from the marketing brilliance of Motown to the rise of underground labels such as SST and Sub Pop. From there, Ahmadi and Jacobs set out to build their own brand and an image cultivated by the bands they’ve acquired. The label’s roster currently includes the Living Suns, My Pet Saddle, the Growlers, Gestapo Khazi and Audacity. These bands already share a close working relationship, gigging together regularly in bars and clubs from Lake Forest to Long Beach.
Lucas Drake, keyboardist for the Living Suns and My Pet Saddle, was among the first to support La Chupacabra. Besides coaxing both bands to join the label, he also signed on as a recording engineer. He views La Chupacabra as an antidote to the tendency of bands to choose to depart for the culturally saturated pastures of LA and abroad.
“Everyone is leaving, and they didn’t really establish anything here before they left, so we’re like, ‘Let’s do something here,’” says Drake. “This is more important to me, anyway, than going out on the road. Creating a scene lasts much longer than creating a couple of hits and touring.”
So far, public interest in La Chupacabra has been put to the test only once, at a June 25 charity gig for the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund at Costa Mesa’s now-closed all-ages venue/art gallery eVocal. Given their limited computer and design skills, both Ahmadi and Jacobs admit that forging a stylish aesthetic for the label has been a challenge, even in something as simple as printing fliers.
“We’ve been doing everything by hand. The flier [for the June 25 show] was cut out; we just photocopied it,” says Jacobs. ”That’s time-consuming.”
Luckily, the work paid off. Sporting a lineup of La Chupacabra bands, the small, paint-slathered venue could barely hold the sweaty ruckus fueled by the capacity crowd. “They wouldn’t even let anybody back in for a while,” says Ahmadi, who, along with Jacobs, was refused re-entry at one point.
La Chupacabra patterns itself after legendary regional labels, chasing a mixture of the individual creativity and uniform aesthetic that gives bands a chance to develop their identity, while also fostering a cohesive style for the label itself. In La Chupacabra’s case, that style revolves loosely around reckless, rock & roll fervor dipped in reverb.
“I think there is some sort of continuity between all the recordings at this point,” says Drake, who has already engineered newly recorded material for Audacity, My Pet Saddle and the Living Suns. In addition to pressing CD samplers featuring all of the bands, the label is releasing a slew of 7-inch splits that combine two bands per album, distributing them in August in Orange County, LA, San Diego, and parts of Oregon and Washington.
At this rate, it seems youthful energy and passion might be La Chupacabra’s strongest ally, even if their experience is lacking.
“Every obstacle we’ve come to, we’ve tackled,” says Jacobs. “We’ve never stopped to think about it.”
La Chupacabra Records are online at www.myspace.com/lachupacabrarecords.