Label Profile: Slovenly Recordings

Evan Minsker

By Evan Minsker

on 01.06.12 in Spotlights

File under: Loud, trashy, fast and sloppy garage punk with firm roots in ’60s rock ‘n’ roll
Flagship Acts: The Spits, Subsonics, The Okmoniks, Acid Baby Jesus, J.C. Satan, Thee Oops
Based In: Reno and Amsterdam

In 1994, one year after launching his successful sticker business, Pete “Sticker Guy” Menchetti decided to start releasing music. Why not? He’d been hosting shows in his basement and talking to bands, and thanks to the sticker income he finally had the scratch to press some records. And that was that — he casually released music under the name 702 Records (after the area code in his hometown Reno, Nevada), but eventually decided to focus his energies on a proper label after “eight years or so of putting out records.”

The distinction between “putting out records” and “starting a label” is an interesting one — 702 was a means to an end, but with Slovenly, Menchetti wanted to develop an aesthetic. “I noticed that my favorite record labels were all ones that you could sort of just buy their albums based on the label and not necessarily have to know the band,” he explains. “You’d still have an idea of what you’re getting.”

He’s right. With Slovenly, you absolutely know what you’re getting — unclean and untidy rock ‘n’ roll. It’s going to be trashy, it’s going to be loud and it’s going to play nice with your collection of Goner, Crypt and In the Red records. With Slovenly, Menchetti developed a look — a red and black logo with a smiling skull and crossbones — and stuck strictly to garage punk. One of their earliest bands was seminal Seattle skate punks The Spits. From there, they put out records by garage stompers like Subsonics and the Okmoniks, the latter of which features a pre-Nobunny Nobunny on drums.

In recent years, they’ve gone international. Menchetti moved to Amsterdam, and has co-released albums like ¡¡¡Viven!!! by Spanish wild men Wau Y Los Arrrghs!!, and three of their best releases of 2011 — LPs by Acid Baby Jesus, J.C. Satan, and Thee Oops — are from bands that hail from Europe. They also released Get Fruity! by the Apple Brains, a scrappy kids album featuring the guitar work of King Tuff’s Kyle Thomas.

eMusic’s Evan Minsker spoke with Menchetti about the label’s evolution and his ambition to release music from each continent.

On changing the name from 702 to Slovenly:

I was doing basement shows in my house in Reno, and I had started Sticker Guy, so I actually had a little bit of money saved up for the first time. I was talking to one of the bands playing in the basement. They were letting me hear some songs they recorded and we decided to make a record. So it just started from there.

When I started the label, I didn’t give it all that much thought. I just started putting out records, really — I didn’t really start a label, you know? But I had to give it a name, so it was 702, which is a horrible name. I had sort of refined my tastes. When I was going to shows and putting out records, I would just put them out without a thought at all. I like all kinds of music. A lot of shows I was doing were [dissonant hardcore subgenre] powerviolence shows — bands like Spazz and Capitalist Casualties. But I also had bands like The Queers — more garage punk bands, which is more along the lines of what I ended up focusing on with Slovenly. So I decided to focus on that genre a little bit more.

On whether or not Sticker Guy is the “Sugar Daddy” for Slovenly, as the label’s website suggests:

Yeah, definitely. At least historically. In the last year or two, Slovenly is starting to pay for itself, more or less. It’s more of a break-even deal. I’ve been able to take risks that other labels wouldn’t be able to because I’ve got Sticker Guy to back it up. [Risks] like flying the Spits to Europe three times and flying Davila 666 over twice. Now, the risks are more like hiring people to help run the label as a real business.

On how he finds artists for the label:

Well, that’s changing. It used to be that I would only put out a band if I saw them play live. Nowadays, I prefer to actually have a good solid recording before I agree to put something out. And a lot of bands are just sending me links and emailing MP3s. But most of the bands, there’s been some contact beyond just an email submission. Like with Acid Baby Jesus, on this Davila 666 tour I booked in 2010, they just happened to be playing the same show. The tour brought us to Greece, and they actually traveled with us from Greece all the way up to Poland. So the process with them was more than just getting some cool songs.

On having bands more European than American bands on the roster:

The country [of origin for bands] hasn’t been a concern, but I’ve been noticing that most of the bands are Europeans, and it actually works out best for us if there’s a half-and-half split between the two continents. We’re active in both places, so it just helps keep everybody busy and it facilitates an exchange in touring, which is important. The European bands go over to the States to play, and the U.S. bands could come over to Europe and save a shit load of money.

On wanting a Slovenly band on every continent:

I think I prefer to be the guy out there finding the bands. That’s part of why I’ve been hiring people — so they can handle the day-to-day and I can get out there and continue to meet more cool people and good bands. As soon as things are running smoothly, I want to get over to Asia and South America and all the places I haven’t been. We’ve got one single from an Australian band. We haven’t done anything from Asia at all, and I know there’s a lot of shit going on, especially in Japan. There’s probably something going on in China — there has to be. With that many people? There’s got to be something happening.

A few words on some Slovenly bands…

The Spits
My first memory is showing up late to their show. I had some friends who played in a sort of straight-edge hardcore band. They knew I was into more rock ‘n’ roll, garage punk kind of stuff, and they were like, “Yeah, you should come to our show, because we’re playing with this retarded Ramones-sounding band.” “Alright, cool.” I showed up and met the guys as they were loading up the van. Then they came back to Reno a year later and played a fantastic show on the 4th of July with The Briefs and The Real McKenzies. I was totally blown away and bought their first single there. I don’t really know how I got in touch with them — I can’t even remember back that far. I went to Seattle to sign the guys. Sean [Wood] picked me up in a Cadillac and drove me around Seattle. He was talking shit, and we all ended up at this place called [Shorty's]. It’s a bar where they have a bunch of pinball machines.

Apple Brains
I heard that record in a car in Puerto Rico with my friend who started Chacho Records. His 4-year-old daughter was rocking out to it, and I thought that was awesome. Allen [Bleyle] from Apple Brains is a friend of a friend — one of the guys from Davila 666 — so that’s how I heard it. It is kind of strange. In retrospect, I’m thinking about it like, “Oh, that’s on Slovenly? That’s kind of strange.” But it’s a great record. It’s genius. It’s really fun, and I’ll bet we can sell a lot of them.

They’re putting out a new record with us next year. I got in touch with them through Francisco [Santelices] years ago, and he just started working for Slovenly two months ago, which is kind of a coincidence. But he’s in Spain, and he’s got his own label called Rock’n’Roll Incorporated, and he put out their fifth and sixth records on his label on CD. They were one of my favorite bands ever. He told me they were looking for a U.S. label, so I got in touch with them immediately. I put out those fifth and sixth records on vinyl.

The Okmoniks
My dealings with The Okmoniks were mostly with Sam [Claiborn] and Helene [Grotans]. So I didn’t get to know Justin [Champlin] pre-Nobunny, really. I’d met him a few times. He’s a pretty cool West Coast garage kid. But yeah, I don’t remember any underwear or bunny ears or any of that. I was a longtime fan of theirs — I had all their singles when I heard they had an album’s worth of material. As far as Justin goes, we did a tour together in Europe together, as well, with Nobunny, The Okmoniks and the RnR Adventure Kids, and Justin played in all three bands. It was seven days, and seven different countries. We were flying every day. He played three times every gig, which was pretty fuckin’ amazing. It was a full workout.

Thee Oops
Thee Oops is a five-piece from Sardinia. Two of the guys from Thee Oops are also from the Rippers, who we put out a couple years ago, and yeah, it’s really fucking hilarious for anyone who knows them and knows any of their other bands. They’re in a band called Love Boat, and stylistically, they’re all over the place. The Rippers is like a ’60s punk band, and Love Boat is very singalong pop, and Thee Oops come along and it’s like hardcore punk from the ’80s, which they do super well.

J.C. Satan
First, I knew Alice [Ronzini] — she’s the bass player from Italy. I knew her for a few years. We were pen pals, and she told me that she’s been playing in various bands, and I kept saying, “Let me hear it, let me hear it.” Finally, one day she sent me some J.C. Satan after I’d known her for like three or four years or something, and I was pretty blown away. So we made that our 100th release. Those guys are great. They’re definitely one of my favorite bands on the label. I feel like J.C. Satan and Acid Baby Jesus are the most promising new bands on the label.