Our latest Q&A is with Bryce Kepner who recently started his own indie label called Black Tube Socks.
Bryce has been an Internet friend of The Herd for years, so we were thrilled to learn more about his history and the decision to start a label. Scroll down for a link to Black Tube Sock’s first release!
So what’s your story?
My name is Bryce Kepner, I am 28 and I currently live in Mesa, Arizona. I was born and raised in Indiana apart from a short break from 2010-2012 when I lived in various parts of Peru in South America. This next summer will be four years since I moved out to Arizona with my wife though. When I graduated from college in 2015, we didn’t really have a plan but we had a place set up to live and she had a job opportunity in Arizona (she’s from here) so we moved out and have settled out here. We have a two-year-old and on Wednesday, February 27th we will be having our second son.
I have been really into music and making music since around 13/14 years old when I started playing bass. I played in the school band in middle school and high school and I played in various bands in high school. I played in one of the school jazz bands in college and spent years recording songs and albums at home as well. Music is one of the main focuses of my life. I have a regular 9-5 but I’m always listening, searching, and geeking out over music.
When did you first start getting into indie music? Who were some of the first bands you were really into?
My music tastes have always been all over the place. I would say my first real experience working with DIY or “independent” music would be a lot of small funk and soul labels like Daptone, Truth & Soul, etc. I feel like it’s honestly only been within the last 5 or 6 years that I have really dove super deep into indie rock and bedroom type music.
David Bazan of Pedro the Lion is really one of my favorites and has caused a deeper dive. Lily Tapes and Disks was a big one that got me into more home recorded and indie stuff. Honestly, I’d say platforms like Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Youtube and even Instagram has given artists fantastic outlets to release stuff and that’s how I’ve developed most of my tastes.
There are some great Youtube channels that I frequently check in on (daily) and am always finding good stuff. BIRP!, alona chemerys, David Dean Burkhart, Matt Hall’s channel, Evergreen, The Lazylazyme, and the Worst Taste are the biggest ones for me. Small Albums on Twitter is one of my favorite places to go to for music as well.
How did you find out about us (Herd of Gorillas)? Any other little amateur blogs you follow like us?
I think I stumbled upon the site via Twitter or Facebook. I just really enjoyed the coverage of Bandcamp releases and artists just making their music at home or on their own. Some of my other favorites are Gorilla vs Bear and GoldFlakePaint (which has moved to a magazine format), Various Small Flames, and Portals. I know I’m forgetting a handful of them.
What prompted your decision to recently start your own indie label? What are you hoping to achieve?
Owning and operating a label has been my dream since I really started getting into recording music. I have always recorded myself and friends’ music so I liked producing and just the feeling of discovering and working with artists.
I would say around last November I started moving forward on finishing my album and started with the idea of shopping it around, but decided to start my own label as a way to release my music and help some friends release stuff. I slowly started reaching out to artists that I follow on social media and Soundcloud. It honestly snowballed from there. I shot my shot with a handful of artists that have said yes, so I went full steam ahead with the idea
There is a ton of under-appreciated artists out there and I just want to do what I can to help them.
Are you focusing on just digital releases or also tapes/vinyl?
Right now we are just focusing on cassette releases. Most of the artists I am working with have already released music digitally on Bandcamp, SoundCloud, Spotify, etc. so my label is mainly just the means to releasing their albums physically.
We just had our first release on Feb 21st. The album is bedroom headroom by the booyah! kids out of New York. They are a fantastic trio that makes some of the most fun music I’ve heard in a while. The release is available for purchase on the Black Tube Socks Bandcamp page. It is a limited run of 30 tapes.
We have a full slate of releases set and will start releasing 3-4 tapes a month for a few different artists. You can check Black Tube Socks out on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for more news on when things are coming out.
What’s behind the name Black Tube Socks?
I was struggling to come up with a name when I started the idea of the label. I think the first 5 or so names I tried were already in use. I wanted something that represented a feeling and had meaning behind it.
I started randomly wearing black tube socks when I was a teenager and have only worn them since. People that really know me will point out that they are just a part of me. I’d always wanted to name a song or something “Black Tube Socks” and one day I was reminded of that and the name stuck.
To me, the name Black Tube Socks, represents feeling comfortable, feeling at home, and something familiar and that is how I want this label to be for the artists and for the fans. I want the music and the environment surrounding the label to be a place of comfort and home.
What’s your take on the state of the music industry as we progress into 2019?
I’m really big on platforms like Bandcamp and Soundcloud that allow artists to upload directly. That being said, I’m probably in the minority in that I use Spotify on the daily and enjoy it. It is a complicated relationship because Spotify and major labels have worked together to handcuff artists and their earnings. That being said, I think I listen to even more music, go to more shows, and buy more music since I started to use Spotify.
I have a general rule that If I find myself constantly streaming a certain album or artist, I will buy their music. I buy music weekly through Bandcamp just out of wanting to support the artist and to justify my streaming habit.
Do you make music yourself as well?
I do make music on my own. I am currently finishing up a solo album. I have released a single that anyone can check out at my Soundcloud or Bandcamp. I play all the instruments, sing, and produce it all at home. My album, Transitions, will be finished soon and released in the upcoming month or so.
Have you seen any good shows lately? Whats the scene like in your area? Any small or DIY venues worth giving a shout out to?
The last show I was able to go to was on December 23rd. It was at a local venue in Phoenix called The Trunk Space. It’s definitely one of my favorite places to catch a show because I run into a lot of the same people at each show. The lineup was electrasad, best bits, iji, and Diners. My favorite venues in the valley are Trunk Space, Valley Bar, the Rebel Lounge, the Sunroom.