We’ve been reviewing Rum Bar Records releases for a while now, so we thought it would be interesting to know more about Malibu Lou, the man behind it.
Can you introduce yourself? When did you first get in touch with rock’n’roll? What was the first record you bought?
Greetings Laurent and readers of Veglam, Malibu Lou from Rum Bar Records here. My first touch with rock n’ roll is definitely from childhood. My parents listened to plenty of music, primarily what was on the radio at the time. Being a product of the 70’s starting in 1970, I was always listening to radio programs like Casey Kasem’s American Top 40, Cousin Brucie on the Oldies channel, plenty of what was considered classic 70’s rock, Album Oriented Rock, arena rock, along with early rock n’ roll ala The Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Chuck Berry, British invasion, lite rock what some would call Yacht Rock these days, doo wop, girl groups, and oldies were a part of my childhood musical influences.
When did you start Rum Bar Records? How did it happen? What was your first release?
Let’s go back before Rum Bar Records, in early-mid 90’s I was spending a lot of time down the Gulf Coast of Florida visiting friends, one of them in particular was Big Stiff of the legendary Stiff Pole Records home to the Pink Lincolns and the Gotohells. Stiff had talked me into starting a label so I went home and spoke with some of my closest mates Bruce aka AB (for All Business) and Iggy, plus at the time i was working for Caroline Distribution in NYC, and just about everyone employed by the company either played in a band or had their own record label. 2 bands in particular whom were both comprised of work mates from Caroline and friends were Greaser Rockers The Heartdrops and Garage Rock stalwarts The Morning Shakes. Together we formed Melted Records. The Heartdrops also had a solid pop element which later attracted a slew of pop punk fans and bands who wanted to see them and have them on shows. From what I have been told by many was we were considered the first label putting rock n roll in front of the pop punk kids. This is very true. The label had a great run with releases, bands and shows, and pretty much came to an end in 2000. I remained working in the music industry bouncing around from distributor to label, to distributor again, getting laid off and then starting anew back in indie distribution. in 2011-2012 I was itching to get back into it, releasing records on my own terms by bands that I personally loved, had an affection for, a personal friendship with, and can feel like we were all part of a team. Also in between this I did over the years continue to help with booking bands and later worked with a few Boston bands out of a bar called The Abbey Lounge. I had heard a cover of the song “7 Nights To Rock” by a New Hampshire band called The Connection getting loads of play on Little Steven’s Underground Garage. I love that song, I loved this cover version, and I was like man I have a lot of friends in New Hampshire, I am sure someone out there will know who this band is. After sending out some emails of inquiry, an old friend of mine Geoff Palmer, whom I met on my first trip ever into New England back in 1997, had remained good friends and musical comrades, we booked shows together, a few of his bands even though not on the label were always considered Melted Records family, reached out back to me acknowledging it had been a year or two since we probably had seen each other and that it was his band The Connection that I was trying to get in touch with. Right then we knew we were going to be crossing paths and working together again and a relationship between The Connection and myself started Rum Bar Records, the label is named after the bar in my home the Rum Bar which is where the family is always welcome.
Speaking of connection, you once said there’s a strong one between you and the artists on Rum Bar Records, is that important to you?
Yes, the bands more or less have all some connection to me whether it stems back 20 years, 10 years, 5 years, I have a connection and long standing family friendship with all of them. The Connection is my longest running partner on the label, and Geoff was probably the friend I knew the longest on the label until I started working with Shanda & the Howlers which includes songwriter and bassist Luke Metz of The Heartdrops. The Cheap Cassettes are born out of The Dimestore Haloes who I used to see in NY and also played shows with The Heartdrops. Kurt Baker I know through The Leftovers but I also worked for a distributor that sold the last Leftovers release. Daniel James of Indonesian Junk is a friend I made through Kurt, and Nato Coles and the Minneapolis crew I was turned on to through a record review for Mono In Stereo, however Nato was an old Heartdrops fan, and is good friends with Daniel James. Nato introduced me to the wonderful lads in The Right Here. Daniel James of Indonesian Junk and I were kickin’ back shots and beers with KB before we ever discussed releasing music together, we just had that same bond on first meeting and it has been a great relationship ever since. The Phantoms came to me from Victor M. Penalosa, a friend I made while he was playing drums in the Flamin’ Groovies. Mono In Stereo consist of 3 friends from Rockford who played in a legendary Rockford 90’s punk band called Mulligan Stu, they were also considered Melted Records family and had a song on a compilation we released. When Mono In Stereo started playing it only made sense for us to work together. Bands like Watts, Tom Baker and the Snakes/the Dirty Truckers, Justine and the Unclean, A Bunch Of Jerks, Jay Allen and the Archcriminals, are all family and dear friends of mine that I made during my time in Boston over the past 14 years and Kris Rodgers has probably played on more Rum Bar Records releases than anyone else. This is a family, I am truly and utterly thankful to call these bands friends, family, and be given the opportunity to do what I love to do with their releases.
Did Rum Bar really turn 21? What are the main differences between releasing records 20 years ago, and now?
Haha, we turned 21 with our 21st release ‘Lookout Tower’ by Tom Baker and the Snakes, but are a label for 4 years going on 5. but the times are different, Melted Records back in the day used to be able to sell a box of CD’s off a listening station in Tower Records or Virgin Megastore. I have to work a lot harder to get that kind of attention in retail on these releases, but back then the online world, websites, myspace, email, that was all new, there was no digital, we were cutting and pasting flyers together, the digital age not music but album art, design, etc, is so different and everything is driven by social media. it is easier to find things that way however I still find it harder to reach the fans, get the word out, bands can not tour like they used to 20 years ago, gas, floors, homes and families, plus the clubs and making a living to continue staying on the road. I say you do what you can, this is a labor of love, do what you can do, what is best for you but most of all get your music heard. People like you and me, we crave new music. Get it out there any way you can.
Do you only release in CD/digital? What’s your opinion on the vinyl/cassette revival?
The company I work for during the day Traffic Ent, has been pressing vinyl records long before the revival. I sell records for these cats all day long, some of the labels we deal with include Get On Down, Now-Again, Big Crown, Red Scare, Asian Man, Eccentric Pop, Delicious Vinyl, Cultures of Soul, and Brick Records. We have an eclectic mix of hip hop, world, psych funk, reggae, and punk, great stuff. The Rum Bar does have some vinyl releases but we primarily have been working in CD format. Vinyl is a very expensive commodity from where it was 20 years ago. We sold that first Heartdrops/Morning Shakes single for $2.50-$3 a pop, now you have to sell a 7inch single for $7 a pop to make a living at it 😉 We do vinyl when we can, everything on the Rum Bar is handled on its own project, all releases have their own agreement, something I may have the rights for on CD but another label in Spain or US may have the vinyl rights, some releases the band and I partner up and make all formats available, it all just depends. But we do our best to get the music out to the fans and heard by anyone who wants it, that is our main objective.
Do you see Bandcamp as the best alternative for digital releases these days?
For me as a label, Bandcamp may not be the best overall in terms of what I can get but they are the best for what I get. They are my label webpage, you can hear all the Rum Bar releases on it, and you can purchase all our releases on it, plus we run our downloads through them. this is strictly just the label. For that it is the easiest and all in best medium for me to use. It is easy to work with and provides the label what we need for our online medium. I do think overall for bands, Spotify, itunes, siriusxm, Pandora, any digital and online provider that gets your stuff out there I do think Youtube has also been a big format in getting digital music heard. Youtube is not just for videos and tv shows and movies anymore, music too. i search for bands and music on youtube along with wrestling matches at least a few times a day.
Can you give us a list of all your releases?
How many records do you usually press a year?
That all depends on how the year shapes up and the projects I had committed to as well as partnered on. Honestly, I have been so blessed with all the bands and releases that I have been able to release and work with. I am proud of every Rum Bar release and honored to continue working with all of these bands. In 2016 Rum Bar Records released 10 physical releases. In 2017 we will have a total of 12 by end of year released, this includes CD and LP format of some of the releases. I have also been releasing Free Digital singles as well, we had released 3 of them last month including Justine and the Unclean, Indonesian Junk, and A Bunch Of Jerks. We will be releasing a few more Free singles before the end of the year, the Free singles are always available on our bandcamp page.
You mainly focus on rock’n’roll and glammy powerpop, and since there’s been a revival in that style these last years, have you noticed it when it comes to record sales?
Not with us, I can’t say that I do have an actual answer for this at the moment.
Any current bands you would love to have on your record label?
Hmmmm that’s a good one! Being a father and family man, working my day job, and the Rum Bar, I have not had much time outside of the bands that I am currently working with to go seeking. Rum Bar Records will be ending 2017 with a bang, we have both CD and LP releases coming from Indonesian Junk and Justine and the Unclean in October and November, and both bands will be playing together in Boston on 11/3 @ Tavern at the End of The World. Ther will also be a limited run of Kris Rodgers album on LP in time for his November tour.
I have a few new signings and releases on tap scheduled for 2018 including: The Laissez Fairs from Las Vegas, this band features Joe Lawless and John Fallon (of psych rock band The Steppes) who recorded and produced the Shanda & the Howlers debut release. The Laissez Fairs are an intoxicating hi-ball cocktail of mod, psych, garage rock. Also on tap is a new pop punk band K7’s from Spain fronted by Luis Reactivo with labelmate Kurt Baker on bass. You can check out both of these bands on our current Fall label sampler which ships with all Rum Bar bandcamp orders. We will also be looking at new stuff from Watts, The Cheap Cassettes, and more…
How do you promote your releases? Do you manage to get reviews in magazines (other than webzines/blogs) since they tend to be rare now?
I do all the promo work myself, along with the bands. For the most part we have been very fortunate with great online press and blog support, also great support from online radio and podcasts. Those supporters out there, you have been very kind, very supportive, and very important in us keeping the label and our bands alive. Thank you. I think there are some physical zines and rags out there that we see reviews in from time to time as well. We are here to send anyone out there that wants to review or spin our releases downloads at any time, just hit me up direct.
Are you a musician? Have you played in any bands before releasing records?
(Just Bill Photography)
I had played in high school through college years in punk and rock bands. My high school band did open for NYC punk/hardcore legends Murphy’s Law at CBGB’s. Jimmy G from Murphy’s Law lived across the street from me. I also played in a band with Ray Parada whose brother Ernie played drums in Token Entry and guitar/vocals in Black Train Jack. Around the time Ray and I were playing out together, a lot of former hardcore musicians in our hometown of Astoria Queens were doing more of a rock n roll / bar rock scene ala Springsteen meets Naked Raygun/7 Seconds early-mid 90’s. When Melted Records started up I started playing again, this time fronting a band and singing my songs so I could open for bands like The Heartdrops and Morning Shakes and play and drink free beer at places like The Continental down on St Marks Place. When I moved to Boston, I was living around the corner from a true, awesome dive bar The Abbey Lounge, they had a kick ass juke box and a lot of the bands I had seen there were similar to those I had been following back in NY before I left. They did these acoustic Tuesday nights so I went out and got myself an acoustic guitar, had a pickup put on it and started calling myself The Punk Rock Balladeer. The photo was taken of me at the Abbey Lounge reunion weekend last year, I had probably not played that guitar in 10-12 years and came out of retirement for the show. I had to re-learn all my songs all over again a week before the show, it was an awesome fun time and I was psyched to get back out there playing again. My schtick is a lot of call and response with the crowd, getting out into it with my guitar, beer in hand and having fun.
One of the partners of Imprint Indie Printing, Walt was the drummer of my high school punk rock band The Ultraviolet Confusion. Walt played drums and I played guitar. Shortly after he moved to Florida and has been running Imprint Indie Printing which prints all of the Rum Bar Records releases, everything we do we press and print with them, keeping it in the family.