Like many other aspects of the now semi-oxymoronic catch-all that is the modern “Music Industry,” a record label doesn’t necessarily hold the same weight it once did. Instead of waiting desperately for somebody else to swoop in and facilitate a big break (and hopefully still have their best interests in mind once the ink on the contract dries), more and more musicians are taking the direct role in how and when their music is released by starting labels of their own. Following the lead of local musician-run labels like Dusty Medical Records, Kribbers Tiny Kingdom, and various others, a pair of Milwaukee musicians—Joe Peterson (Rio Turbo, Platinum Boys, ex-Catacombz) and Harrison Colby (NO/NO, ex-Delphines)—came out swinging earlier this month with Gloss Records.
The young boutique label strives to specialize in small-run (usually cassette-based) releases that highlight talent from a wide variety of genres both in Milwaukee and throughout the Midwest. Before Gloss releases a GGOOLLDD perfume box set and a NO/NO double EP next weekend, Milwaukee Record spoke with founders Colby (left) and Peterson (right) about Gloss’ origin, upcoming releases, and long-term plans.
Milwaukee Record: How did this all start?
Harrison Colby: When we put out the last Delphines album, a label dropped out at the last second, so in a day we came up with a logo and a name for it. It was just supposed to be a one-off thing. Once we started working on the Rio Turbo album recently, we just talked about expanding it to keep it going.
Joe Peterson: After working on the Turbo album together, we had discussed how fun it would be to play in a band and all that stuff. But we realized maybe that with time and all the other projects we’re in, maybe it wasn’t the best idea. So [Gloss] just became our new band. Instead of the band, we’d focus on the label and work together in that way.
HC: There are ways that it’s better and ways that aren’t as good, because we aren’t performing together, but it’s just a way to put the time and energy into ourselves and into other people as well.
MR: It seems like in the last two weeks, you announced that you existed and right away I noticed all the artists you’re going to work with immediately. You have the GGOOLLDD box set, you’re doing a NO/NO double EP, and a Rio Turbo release in the near future, too. Obviously, both of you are involved in two of the projects, but what’s it like to get off the ground that strong with three releases out the gate? And how did you get GGOOLLDD involved?
JP: We’re going with the Mike Tyson vibe. We’re going to start strong early and just go for the knock out right away. There will be a point where it’s going to slow down a little bit. It’s easier having projects that we’re both involved with right away and we timed it out to be released close together. And with GGOOLLDD, the timing just worked out. We were like, “If we can handle this and make this go smoothly, then we’ll be fine for whatever can be thrown at us in the future.”
MR: What was the initial approach for the GGOOLLDD release? Did you approach them? Did they reach out to you?
JP: There’s a long list of bands that we’d like to work with, specifically in the Milwaukee area and the rest of the Midwest region. They were definitely one of them, and they happened to be putting out something around the time this was ramping up.
HC: So we contacted them to see what their plans were with it, so we came up with our idea of what would be a full package. They had put out $TANDARD$, but I was talking to them and they had no physical releases—no physical copies of anything—so it’s almost like a singles collection and then there’s demos, instrumentals, and remixes on it. It’s like 55 minutes of stuff.
JP: I’ve had a good history with them. When they first started, Rio Turbo played a bunch of shows with them and they’re super-sweethearts. We built a relationship from playing shows, instead of going in cold with a band who maybe we appreciated but didn’t have that familiar vibe with.
HC: Once you get that out of the way, anything business-related becomes a lot easier.
MR: Joe, you were involved with the Organalog tape label. What did you learn from that experience that you’re either doing again or that you’ve improved upon or modifying for this venture?
JP: Working with Isaac [Sherman] is different than working with Harry. I’d say Isaac and I had our heads in the clouds. We didn’t think as much about what was happening. Like “Hell yeah, that band! Let’s put it out!” And then we’d press probably 100 more tapes than we should’ve. I’ve learned to be a little smarter about the ways that I personally plan.
MR: So smaller runs and keeping to less expensive formats like tapes to keep the cost and risk down?
HC: Yeah, that’s kind of our plan. Basically, we only press 100 tapes at a time and when we sell out of that, we repress it with different packaging so every time it’s something new. Maybe we’ll add more tracks sometimes. It’s a way to not press 500 tapes at a time.
MR: Is there anyone you’d really like to work with in the near future?
JP: Bands we would like to work with…we’ve been compiling a list and on the top of that list is Lorde Fr3d33, Dogs In Ecstasy, (ORB), Hello Death.
HC: Just people who we feel have the same compassion for what they’re doing.
JP: We want to kind of create that umbrella for it to live in, something that will be the stamp on this time in Milwaukee that isn’t genre-specific. There are other great labels in this city, like Dusty Medical Records, but we want to do something that’s more diverse in the catalog of it all. That’s kind of the goal.
Gloss Records will release physical copies of GGOOLLDD’s “Boyz” boxset at the band’s Arte Para Todos show at Company Brewing on Saturday, February 28 (and online March 3). NO/NO plays at Club Garibaldi tonight, at Riverwest Public House Saturday, and will release its double EP cassette at their Arte Para Todos show at Tonic Tavern on Friday, February 27 (and online February 24).