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Ramping up Philly DIY with Ramp Local label

Very few labels start on purpose. Normally it’s just something that happens, a confluence of circumstances, an accident – but hopefully a happy one. You or your friends are in a band that’s recorded something and you want to put it out but you don’t think any existing label would be interested and so you say, “It’s DIY music so I can just do it myself! And really, why stop with just this release when I can be a resource for others? I mean, how hard can it be?”

The answer, as anyone who’s ever stumbled into running a label, is simple: it’s close to impossible. There are so many pitfalls, so many ways things can go wrong, so many ways to lose lots of money and have little to show for it but a few hundred records tucked away in storage forever. The rewards are equally plentiful, which is why so many people go down that route.

Jake Saunders has been walking that tightrope since being handed the keys to Ramp Local, the label he’s been running for the last couple years. It was started by Trip Warner of Wharf Cat Records in Brooklyn – home to Urochromes, WALL, Flasher, Bush Tetras, and a ton more amazing bands – as “a way for him to release more experimental, obscure stuff” on cassette, according to Saunders. Since taking it over, he’s expanded things to also include vinyl releases, most recently a record for Harrisonburg, VA “industrial blues” two piece Buck Gooter. More on them later.

Saunders explained that he initially met Warner while booking shows in Brooklyn. He was putting together a compilation that included a track from Sediment Club, who Wharf Cat has worked with in the past, and Warner suggested that Ramp Local could release the cassette. They started working together shortly after that tape, called Eclectic Sessions, was put out in October of 2015. According to Saunders, “After a while, I was kind of just getting into it and he said, ‘You can run this shit, man’ and he handed it over to me no questions asked. I think he just had too much going on.” Continue reading →

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R&D Vinyl looks to build community, left-of-center style, in new South Philly digs

R&D Vinyl | photo by David Milstein

Just over a year ago, Queen Village locals started peaking their heads in R&D Vinyl’s original Fourth Street location. At first the curious window shoppers were coming into the store out of earnest friendliness and interest. But quickly things changed, influencing R&D to take their experimental-focused and cassette tape-heavy inventory to a better-suited block of South Philly’s Dickinson Narrows neighborhood.

Now situated only a couple doors off Dickinson Street’s southwest corner at Sixth Street, R&D, which is short for Research and Development, is feeling at home. As a matter of fact, co-owner David Milstein calls that block of Sixth Street home, too. One day he passed the storefront, noticing a “For Rent,” sign on the door, automatically imagining having the store on the same block in which he lives being “kind of like a fantasy.” At the time, he and other co-owner John Mariano, had been considering moving the store for multiple reasons. One of which was the pushback they got from Queen Village residents throughout R&D’s inaugural year in business. Continue reading →