Starting an independent record label is never easy. You usually have to keep up with trends, not only in dealing with genres, but how people physically want to acquire music. You also have to have a top notch game plan about how you’re going to promote your releases and get people to listen to what your label is putting out. Things get especially tricky if the label specializes in vinyl releases, with a roster that runs the gamut from metal and punk to hip-hop and weird experimentalism. Providence has a label just like that in Riotous Outburst Records, and starting Thursday it will host its fourth annual Fall-Fest, spanning three nights at AS220 and Firehouse 13.
Label co-owner Josh Marsie shows his passion for underground music with every record he releases, believing in the bands and artists he works with while always creating a buzz. We had a chat with Marsie recently about how Riotous Outburst started right over the border from Rhode Island in the little town of Pawcatuck, Connecticut, getting excited about releases, how much the Fall-Fest has grown over the past four years, why selling vinyl works, and what the label will be putting out in the coming months.
Rob Duguay: What’s the story behind how Riotous Outburst Records started out?
Josh Marsie: I started doing it when I was 15 as a bootleg passion tape distro out of my parents’ house. Basically I would trade tapes with Xerox covers of tapes from other countries, steal designs of albums I liked, use my old high school’s art supplies to make money and that’s kind of how I started doing it. Pat O’Donnell and I wanted to do it as a label but since we were like little kids we would fuck it up and everything we tried putting out didn’t happen. By the time I was 20 I put out the first actual album which was one of my old crappy street punk bands or somethin’. There were some slow releases for a couple years and then seven years ago when I joined the hardcore band David Carradine, I started getting really serious about it. There were more and more releases every year following that and now the label is going to be up to 55 releases at the end of this year.
Looks like you’re keeping busy.
Yeah, that’s how far the label has gone in about seven years. Ten years if you want to count the first couple shitty releases we did [laughs].
For the releases that Riotous Outburst has done, have there been any that right when you’ve gotten hold of the record you were more amped for its release than any other record you were putting out?
Probably Ed Hochuli’s record just because I’ve seen them a bunch of times, I’ve played with them and I just thought they were an insane band and now their on A-F Records so I guess I was right about that. The Power Cup Pizza Hi-Five split because both those bands were really good friends of mind as far as being part of the powerviolence scene when they decided to do a record together I thought “Well, these are my favorite two groups of people” and the record sold out in like a week. So those are the two off the top of my head that I can really think of.
You have the fourth edition of the Fall-Fest starting on Thursday, so how much do you think it has progressed since you started it?
Well it’s three days this year, last year was four days with the first day being a DIY show then the next day at AS220 and the last two days at Firehouse 13. Originally it would just be one day and the first one was kind of an accident because I used to book at El ‘n’ Gee in New London, and basically a bunch of bands hit the club up all for the same date along with a bunch hitting me up for the same date and I figured since all the bands were awesome that we’d make it into a fest.
Next year we had Conflict play which is like one of my favorite bands ever, and in my opinion one of the most influential punk bands ever to exist. Off the buzz of that, last year I was getting asked by so many bands to play and I almost didn’t even do it. I scheduled it only a few months in advance and I ended up filling in four complete days and that wasn’t even with every band that asked to play it. This year I had a vague skeleton of what it was going to be so I posted what was confirmed and I filled a lot of slots based on what bands I thought were cool when I asked. We got Die Choking to play this year who I think are a really awesome band and I don’t even know those guys but they emailed me asking to play it. Because of that Noisey promoted the fest because they’re on it which is pretty sweet.
Riotous Outburst these days does mostly vinyl releases and in 2015 you have all these different ways to access music. You can go on YouTube and listen to a track that’s on a video screen, you can go on Spotify and stream everything or you can go on Bandcamp and stream stuff with the band sometime selling the album for free. That’s all digital stuff and also there’s been a boom in vinyl sales with people digging into crates for vinyl records.
Vinyl sales today are actually higher than they’ve ever been, which has also affected my ability to get a record out in a short period of time because it’s taking four to six months these days.
Because everyone’s buying turntables.
Also all these big labels are repressing things that don’t need to be repressed and their records that they’re billions of copies of and they get priority when it comes to pressing so it kind of hurts the little dude. As far and the digital thing, I do it, too. I usually put up every album as a pay what you want thing on Bandcamp and I put the option to order right under it based on vinyl color, etc. Some of them I have locked so if you order the record you get the download anyway. All my new albums have the download attached to them as well. Usually the person who says, “Well, I dunno I don’t buy records” can have it and still have it digital. People who don’t even listen to records will buy it just to have it as an art piece.
Did you start doing vinyl releases when you started the label or were you putting out CDs?
I did all CDs and some tapes when I first did it and I had really shitty equipment at my house with some old tapes that sounded like garbage compared to the newer ones. As far as tapes right now, some of them I’ll do because I have a pretty pro set up at my house where I can master it but it’s such a pain in the ass that I usually order it from a tape company and have them do it. I used to do all CDs and then I started noticing that when my distro started getting bigger and bigger no one was even looking at the CDs. It got to a point where I did a straight year of selling stuff at shows where the CD box would just be untouched and I’d sell $100 worth of records at every show.
I ended up just selling a whole box to Armageddon Shop on Broadway for like $50 because it was just a paperweight to me. Since that, I don’t really carry them at all because it’s just an inconvenience to have. Especially when you’re at punk and hardcore shows, not that that’s all I work at, most of those people listen to vinyl records. The majority of people in punk and hardcore have a record player at their house, the people that I think my target audience is essentially.
Now what records that Riotous Outburst is putting out in the future are you really excited about?
We got a Hummingbird Of Death record that’s a split with a local band called Beartrap. We’re going to be working on a White Mice LP that’s got two unreleased demos on it, that’s the big one that we’re working on right now. We actually had our first CD in five years come out and that’s one of my band’s CD’s with Cross-Armed Calculator. Right now we just got those three projects we’re trying to wipe off the table and then we’re going to work on new stuff. Probably an LP with Ask The Dead at the beginning of the year and probably a couple releases with the few bands who are playing the Fall-Fest this year who haven’t done a record with me yet.
Check out details for each night of Riotous Outburst Records’ fourth annual Fall-Fest below…