Interview Extra: Alex Ahmadi, Tyler Jacobs and Lucas Drake of La Chupcabra Records
This week, as you're doing your usual perusing through the Weekly's music section, you should come across a story penned by yours truly about the scrappy upstart indie label La Chupacabra Records out of Placentia.Hanging out in front of a Starbucks in their native P-town, I sat down to discuss the finer points of starting a regional label with founders Alex Ahmadi, Tyler Jacobs ( both pictured) and Lucas Drake, resident sound engineer and keyboardist of two La Chupacabra bands: The Living Suns and My Pet Saddle.
Though you'll definitely get a feel for how this label started by a couple 18-year-olds managed to snag some of the most popular bands in Orange County and Long Beach (The Living Suns, My Pet Saddle, The Growlers, Audacity, and Gestapo Khazi), there's defintely more to learn about these guys. Hence, this little scrap of Q&A with the LA Chupacabra crew. Our afternoon conversation tackled everything from a "how to" on producing a regional aesthtic for a label to photocopying gig fliers. Check it out.
OC Weekly: Talk a little bit about what inspired you to start a record label.
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Alex Ahmadi: Well, we're big fans of 80s underground and stuff as well as what's going on around here now. For me, and I know for Tyler a little bit, it was part of like Sub Pop indies and Touch and Go, and even as far back as Motown, all the regional labels really appealed to me. And we're from here, and we thought it would be cool for someone to do a regional label.
OCW: Were you encouraged by guys like Lucas Drake of The Living Suns to start the label?
AA: Yeah, what happened was
OCW: What were some of the perceived challenges you guys had when you were preparing to start the label and how has that matched up so far with what you've actually encountered?
AA: For me, it was a lot about the designing. There's a lot more that goes into the designing then I thought.
Tyler Jacobs: With starting up the record label it was really the finances at some points, being college students. But the whole image was a difficult part to get over and to find what we think would fit our idea.
OCW: In terms of the bands right now, you're working with The Living Suns, My Pet Saddle, Gestapo Khazi, The Growlers and Audacity correct?
AA: Well those are all the bands we're working with right now. In the future we talked to Sons at Sea, made up of a few members from Great Glass Elevator, it's their new band. They were supposed to play at that charity show but someone in the band got sick. But we plan on doing something with them and also we got Death Hymn Number 9, we'll being some stuff with them as well.
OCW: Is the plan to have the bands record their own stuff and then have you distribute it?
AA: So far three of the bands have recorded with Lucas, Audacity, My Pet Saddle and Living Suns did. Gestapo Khazi and The Growlers are doing their own recordings. But in the future we're thinking about getting them all in the studio to record with Lucas just so they all have a pretty similar sound. That's what Sub Pop did as well as Motown, they had label producers and stuff.
OCW: What is a mission or a goal in terms of getting more exposure for local bands?
AA: We want to expose them a little bit more. We're trying to get the best
OCW: What was it like to be able to pull that show off at eVocal?
AA: We were pretty happy. I talked to a few people and they said they had never seen that many people at eVocal. I know it's not that big a club anyway, but it was sold out so that was pretty awesome. They wouldn't even let anybody back in for a while, even us, they said there were too many people in there. It was exciting.
OCW: As far utilizing 7" split vinyls for the bands on the label, do you feel that is part of appealing to the fans you are marketing to? Is it something the bands suggested?
AA: It was something we were interested in doing, also Mike, from Gestapo Khazi, he had an idea as well. We had different pairings for the splits but we kinda compromised and ended up with all the splits which is Audacity and The Growlers, The Growlers and My Pet Saddle, My Pet Saddle and The Living Suns, and The Living Suns and Gestapo Khazi. We just tried to have each band have a kind of similar quality or trait that.
TJ: It's a simple way to put out singles without using the whole 7" for a band. You could put out the 7" split just give one side to a band and make it a lot more cohesive and not so financially straining.
OCW: What are some skills that you are learning on the job now as you are developing this label?
TJ: Getting better with computers. We've been doing everything by hand. The flyer was cut out, we just photo copied it and I mean that's time consuming and just overall design, just making it the same image.
AA: We've been doing shirts for all the bands as well and we never dabbled in fashion before, I mean its just t-shirts but we never even thought about designing t-shirts really. So doing that was tough. We also studied the subject, we don't have any practical knowledge of it but we've studied the subject and we have a pretty good idea of what we're doing. There are reasons for everything we do
OCW: What are some of the main things an average person should know before starting a record label, things that maybe you didn't know?
TJ: I've never thought about that since we've started. Every obstacle we've come to, we've tackled. We've never stopped to think about it.
AA: Pick strong local bands so you can help each other out. Because their name will help give you a little bit of credit and then you can push their name and then you get credit. If you pick the right bands that are original and have quality songs, then the bands have to have something original to offer.
TJ: Just staying original but keep the quality.
OCW: Lucas, as the resident engineer or the label and a band member signed with the label, what are some things you look for when you're helping to create the records of the bands you're working with?
Lucas Drake: It's hard because I'm trying to balance a couple things when recording the bands because the sound, did they tell you about having the uniform sound? It's kinda hard because you have a lot of different bands coming in. You have Audacity and then Saddle and Living Suns and those are all three completely different sounding bands. I guess Saddle and Suns are similar because they both have rock n roll influences but you've gotta find a sound that everyone can use.
I'm just learning how to blend that right now. It's a combination of mainly analog and some digital overdubs and not too much mixing, just letting things sit the way they record. And I think there is some sort of continuity between all the recordings at this point. They all have a similar vibe, it's really raw, and it's really lively. All the shit was recorded live, it's all tape, and it's all done in three to four takes.
It's pretty quick, pretty old school. We didn't spend a lot of time overdubbing or doing all this shit. There's no post production, everything's done beforehand. We spend hours and hours listening to the drums and moving mics around, listening to the guitars and changing tones and sample record one part of the song and listen to everything.
OCW: Are all the releases still slated for August at this point? Any days scheduled in particular?
AA: No not yet, we're still trying to decide between whether to get the highest quality mastering or doing it here, we're not sure if we want to use the big dogs or just keep it local. And we're still just getting all the recordings together from the bands because the bands were really busy because they bands obviously are popular and going to shows all over the place and we knew that if we wanted to get those good recordings, we needed to wait a little bit.
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