Q: Let’s start with the basics – how did EYE VYBE come to be? Is there a particular focus that people should know about your label?
A: I started releasing music for other people under the name Eye Vybe Records in early 2013. I moved to Chicago 9 years ago this summer and was immediately blown away by the DIY music culture that was shown to me – the existence of bands like Great Society Mind Destroyers (mind-altering psychedelic garage rock) and Rabble Rabble (high energy psych punk) completely blew me away – “people actually like this kind of music??”, my rural upbringing made a lot of this seem totally unreal. I spent the vast majority of my adolescence poring over magazines and websites that focused on bands I was excited about (The White Stripes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, etc) with few “real life” friends to share this excitement with me – so seeing what I had heard so much about right in front of me with people who would eventually become my friends was totally mind blowing. Soon after I moved to Chicago I learned of Burger Records, which was a brand new label at the time, and after a Burger Records showcase at a warehouse party here where I had met their founder and bonded with him over a love of 60’s psych pop I did some research, fell in love with what they were doing, and decided I was going to do it too, as best as I could. Once I was done with undergrad (5 years ago) I was able to fully invest my meager time and money to make it happen, and it’s just been growing from there.
Q: What’s your role?
A: I do everything! Finding music to release, setting up releasing for production, promotion, managing mail order / the web store, selling to stores and at tabling events.
Lately, the bands I’ve been working with have varied from super-high cult status (Acid Mothers Temple) to brand new and unknown projects (Josh Condon [of Glyders]). It’s fun to go to a show and see a friend play a brand new experimental set and dig it so much you insist they put out a tape with you and play shows to support it. That’s the best part about running a project like this completely by yourself – you never really have to compromise with anyone about releases, artistic vision, or how to go about doing anything.
Production has always been a huge part of running Eye Vybe. When I started the label, I was buying blank cassettes from National Audio Company, dubbing releases on a $60 Telex tape duplicator that I got off eBay, drawing on label stickers and putting them on each tape, and then printing artwork at Kinkos. There were so many ways to go wrong here – double sided artwork wouldn’t line up, I’d run out of label stickers, sometimes the tape duplicator would ruin a batch of tapes. Once in a while I’d have friends call me and tell me they’d bought a copy of a new release at a record store and came home to find that it was blank – that was humiliating! In late 2014, I was ecstatic to be given a few home recordings by my friend (and member of one of my favorite bands of all time, The GO) to release in anticipation of a couple Chicago shows he was playing soon – I gave him his copies of the tape at the show, everything was groovy, and then I got an email from him a week later saying ‘thanks for the effort but these tapes are either blank or super warbly’ – he was very cool about it but I also chucked that goddamn duplicator out my 3 story apartment window and never saw it again. NOW I have National Audio Company do everything for me – dubbing, art printing, imprinting (printing on the tapes), and packaging – it saves me SO much time and stress, the tapes sound better, and it’s actually more cost effective than before.
he was very cool about it but I also chucked that goddamn duplicator out my 3 story apartment window and never saw it again
The only time I ever really get extra help is for tabling at Pitchfork Music Festival – that’s kind of the big event for local labels every year – thanks to CHIRP, we all get table space in the vendor tents to sell our releases to the tens of thousands of fest-goers every summer. It’s surprisingly easy to sell a $5 tape to a kid that has a band T on – “hey kid! Cool Wire shirt! Ever hear of Negative Scanner?” and if they don’t flip me off and walk away I get a tape for them to check out queued up in my listening station and if all goes well, they’ll listen to 30 seconds, dig it, and then hopefully I can sell them on a couple more. I always have a friend or two help out with this event, which is a fun but very long and taxing 3 days – being able to get up and walk around without worrying about missing sales or leaving my table alone is so so so awesome.
It’s worth mentioning that I help to run a record label collective called BOCRL – the Benevolent Order of Chicago Record Labels. This has “been a thing” for a while but has really come to fruition over the last couple years. Myself and a couple dozen local labels (Maximum Pelt, Feel Trip, Dumpster Tapes, Midwest Axn, Randy Rex, Dark Circles, Tall Pat, FPE, Hausu Mountain, No Index, 1980, to name just a few) work together to host record label fair events (where we all bring our wares to a local bar – The Empty Bottle has been super supportive of us on this end), share label-running tips and info, and I guess be a platform for mutual support and guidance. We have some cool projects in the works that I can’t really talk about yet, but I am very excited about. I’m not going to get specific here but it bums me out when I see people/places/entities around Chicago who are similarly focused on the musical/creative communities who play politics and get petty and do things that aren’t in the best interest of the art they are supposedly handling – aren’t we all in this to promote beautiful things that the world should benefit from? Getting to work closely with those doing the same work that I am is a real pleasure (not to mention always knowing where to buy the cheapest cassette mailers!), and I’m looking forward to seeing how some projects that are in the works with BOCRL will unfold over the next year or two.
aren’t we all in this to promote beautiful things that the world should benefit from?
Q: Soooo DIY! Speaking of which, are you aligned with any particular house show-type spaces? I’m not a cop. Or maybe another Good Vybes fest on the horizon?
A: The DIY community has changed and shifted so much in the 8/9 years that I’ve been around – I used to help run Wally World, a house space in Logan Square, that was mainly run by my partner Magic Ian (of Maximum Pelt Records), and have lived at a bunch of other rad show spaces over the years (Ottoman Empire, Animal Kingdom), but sadly, there aren’t really any true DIY spaces that I currently hang out at or work with these days. That being said, I bartend at two of the only spots on Milwaukee Ave in Logan Square that I feel still embody a certain DIY spirit – Cole’s and Cafe Mustache – even though they both have storefronts on a busy strip and all the proper licensing to run a liquor establishment with live music, they are both small businesses owned by folks that genuinely care about helping the DIY communities in Chicago flourish, which is something I am very happy to be a part of. The Empty Bottle is also incredibly supportive and are great dudes to work with on setting up awesome events.
I would love to have another Good Vybes Fest soon! They’re really difficult to book and I always have a million projects going on so I haven’t really been able to think about the next one — but hopefully, sooner or later, I’ll have more news on that front.
Q: Newest release, and an EYE VYBE back catalog item that EVERYBODY should check out?
A: I tend to release tapes 5-6 at a time, and I’m in the thick of that now! (Who knows where I’ll be with this timeline when the article is published)
Ev-059 – Plastic Crimewave Syndicate – Thunderbolt of Flaming Wisdom CS – This is the cassette version of an LP I helped to put out with a UK label
(Cardinal Fuzz) for local freaky space scuzzers PCWS. Heavy and deep.
EV-060 – Sir Plastic Crimewave – Feathered Serpents CS – This is the cassette version of an LP that Steve from PCWS released on a UK label (Sunstone) last year – introspective psych folk.
EV-061 – 20 Guilders – Il Grande Silenzio CS – Experimental guitar soundscape tunes from 2 prominent Japanese experimental musicians – Suzuki Junzo and Tabata Mitsuru (of Acid Mothers Temple)
EV-062 Acid Mothers Temple – The Night He Fell To Us CS – The second live tape I’ve gotten to release for AMT in the last couple years! Heavy, blazing psychedelic rock featuring a new member in the AMT lineup. Out April 2018
EV-063 – Josh Condon CS – Krautrock and hippie groove solo venture from Josh Condon of Glyders. Out May 2018
EV-064 – Nest Egg CS – Heavy no wave – meets krautrock experimental tape from Asheville’s Nest Egg – Eye Vybe’s second release with this band. Out May 2018
Old titles that are out of print and well-missed:
EV-054 – Dre Genevieve – Strangely Free – I still actually have a copies of this one! Dre Genevieve is a solo musician living in Oakland who put this sweet tape together for me after I expressed interest in a heavier 70’s-influenced group that she used to be a part of. Dreamy and introspective. I wish I had the resources to make her famous because she absolutely deserves it.
EV-034 Soft Eyes – Stay Home – Sleepy bedroom pop about getting stoned, listening to the Dead, and laying in the sun. This was solo project that I’m pretty sure is no longer.
EV-025 Balduin – All In A Dream – I worked at a record store a few years ago and came across a new 45 from this Swiss artist – it was super dreamy and well composed Beatles-esque psych pop, right up my alley. I found him on FB and wrote him and long story short I released the cassette version of his upcoming solo LP. Unfortunately I never really hard much from him after the release and the arrangement we made about splitting tapes and costs was never super clear, so I wound up having to give him almost all of my copies of it before letting it properly hatch in America. Despite the weird situation that release found itself in, I still love the album and listen to the MP3s I have of it regularly.
Q: Thanks for the time, Karissa! Best way for our readers to plug into EYE VYBE now that you’ve piqued their interest?
A: Readers can get updates on releases and upcoming shows at our website – otherwise, I post a lot about Eye Vybe and other projects I’m working on via my instagram (@tagomagospaceritual), or find me at a record label fair at the Empty Bottle! (Next one June 10 12-4!)