RVA Mag #38 is on the streets now! Here’s another article from the issue, in which Spacebomb Records founder Matthew E. White and his longtime musical compatriot Reggie Pace discuss the label’s path to its current status. Journey into the world of professional record-making with White as he discusses the journey of founding Spacebomb.
The final months of 2019 have a lot in store for local record label Spacebomb Records: from their Richmond Folk Festival album to the Andy Jenkins EP that dropped earlier this month, and with upcoming releases through the rest of the year, founder Matthew E. White has a label that stays busy.
Moving further into the season, Spacebomb Records is releasing Sinkane: Alive at Spacebomb on December 6. Angelica Garcia’s album is set to debut in 2020, along with Nadia Reid’s latest album and plenty more in store for the River City. To learn what’s behind the doors at Spacebomb and ahead in its future, Reggie Pace sat down with White to kick off his podcast (appropriately called “The Pacecast” until its forever-name is settled) and talk local music.
Check out Reggie’s interview with White below, and head over to spacebombrecords.com for more releases in Richmond.
Reggie Pace: You were playing music. But on the other side of town — not together.
Matthew E. White: Yeah, I was playing with The Great White Jenkins a little bit, and then Brian Hooten and Pinson and I started Fight The Bull Trio. And that was my first thing that was the instrumental free-jazz kind of music. And that grew into Fight The Big Bull.
RP: Do Fight The Bull have records?
MEW: Yeah, I guess we did. We did have one record, but that was as homemade as it got.
RP: I mean, aren’t they all in a way? Not anymore.
MEW: Yeah, but that was great. And we put together a tour for Tony Garcia’s music business class. That was my final project — to put together a tour for five people. So we did that, and it was great. That was really the beginning of everything that I’m doing now, it was that moment to decide to make it. It kind of went from there a little bit.
RP: And then Fight The Big Bull was an extension of Fight The Bull. A bigger ensemble?
MEW: Yeah, it was. Originally it was kind of like an extension, but it very quickly became “The Thing.” It was the main thing almost immediately, once that gelled into a group of people. That was cool. It’s funny, you know — those moments where you don’t know it’s happening. You look back and you’re like, “Oh, man. That’s when it happened.” Everything for me happened when Brian and I put together Fight the Big Bull. And I thought, “Okay, I’m going to start writing for this.” We did that first Dying Will Be Easy record, and that got on NPR. Then David Carson Daniels heard about it, and that brought me into the Durham music scene, then that brought us into Sounds of the South. People ask me all the time what happened, but I don’t know, man… for me it was just all about creating energy. Trying to make and do and go.
RP: There’s there’s something to be said about timing.
MEW: Yeah. Good timing. But I think when you look back, me and you — and there’s several other people — that was a special time in Richmond. It still is a special time, but for us, that was our 20s. That was my youth. And there were several people that made the decision to say “I’m going to stay here. I’m going to make stuff from here.” It’s not that we planned it… I didn’t ever talk to you about it, it wasn’t a coalition. It was just in the air. And I think big picture-wise, it had a lot to do with the internet. That breaking down of geographical barriers in the music industry.
I definitely didn’t think about it like that at the time. I just sort of thought, “These are great people. Who’s better than these people?” I still say that, you know? People ask what’s the deal with Richmond — there are better players [here] than anybody. And that is what it is, man. There are more unique musicians here… not even per capita. Just period, it’s incredible. I guess I had an inkling of it then, but I’m rock-solid sure of it now. And I was just lucky to cast my bet.
RP: So, tell me about what you’ve got going on [at Spacebomb Records] right now.
MEW: Right now, Andy Jenkins just released a new EP. Sleepwalkers have just released a record.
RP: What’s the scene with that? Are they on Spacebomb?
RP: Are you releasing records they made?
MEW: Yeah, we had nothing to do with [the recording process].
RP: I feel like that’s a big change. Someone came to you with the finished record.
MEW: Yeah, yeah. And we just signed with Angelica Garcia, she’s released a couple singles and she has a record coming out.
RP: She’s a badass. She’s fucking outta here, bro.
MEW: She’s unbelievable.
RP: She’s got this fighting spirit. Every time I see her, I’m just… I’m happier. You know?
MEW: Yeah, she lights it up. We saw her play when we did the show in Austin for South By Southwest — that was a lot of Spacebomb artists, and people who came in from production that were associated with Spacebomb in one way or another. And it was five hours of music with the house band backing people up, it was sort of insane. But she did a solo set of her loop stuff, and it tore the house down… it was crazy, man, it was crazy. I was just like, “Oh my god, Angelica.” Just effortless. Effortless. It was amazing, so I’m very happy about that. And it’s nice that they’re local — that’s cool, but we’re not signing them because they’re local.
RP: I always thought that that was the thing y’all were missing in a way, local signings. And people who look different, you know? Different types of music in different backgrounds… less beards, less indie-ness.
MEW: Well, to be fair, there’s only one beard [laughs]. Sleepwalkers are really great, Angelica’s really great. What else? Like I was saying before we turned on the mic, we have the Alive at Spacebomb series that allows us to work with friends in the industry who aren’t necessarily signed to the label. So we did something with Hiss Golden Messenger and Sinkane. We did something with Fruit Bats and Vetiver earlier this year.
RP: Fruit Bats. That’s a fun band. They’re definitely out of left field, but they sound so good that it doesn’t matter.
MEW: Yeah, it’s great. And it’s funny, the whole Spacebomb world has grown tremendously. Like I was saying before, we have our own studio. I am involved, but it used to be more like… I was the founder, and I was the driver of it. Now it has its own things rolling. I’m in there occasionally, but I’ve been focused as much, if not mostly, on Matthew E. White as a solo artist. Anything I produce goes through Spacebomb, but Spacebomb is a real record label with people that work in an office from nine to five every day. 106 Robinson. Go see ‘em if you want.
RP: I gotta go by there. They’re a great team, you know? I feel like it works well because you have a team full of go-getters, like Trey. Trey is a go-getter. He’s getting it done. And Alan, and Cameron is a deep artist. Pinson is a very deep artist.
MEW: It’s a lot bigger and a lot more energy, and a lot more work than just me. I think people kind of project it [a certain way]… sometimes in the interviews, I’ll read things as if it’s a Matt White thing. And at this point, it is just partially a Matt White thing. Like Merge.
RP: You got it off the ground. Merge is always going to be Mac, it doesn’t matter what he says.
MEW: It’s the label that goes, man. And that’s cool. I’m proud of that. I’m proud of those guys — Dan, Jesse, Dean, and Trey — and all those guys that work their asses off day-to-day to make it go. And hopefully, the idea is, we all kind of work it. And it all goes a little bit back into the same pot.
Listen to the full interview on Spotify below (or launch it in your app from mobile here) with Reggie Pace and Matthew E. White on The Hustle Season Podcast sponsored by RVA Magazine.
Matthew E. White photos via Spacebomb Records. Interview by Reggie Pace, words by S. Preston Duncan.
Music Sponsored By Graduate Richmond