Last Memorial Day weekend, the second annual Memphis Hates You Fest packed the Hi-Tone Café for two nights and bested the debut turnout in 2009, with more than 500 patrons attending.
In a Flyer article previewing the event, Ben Aviotti, a co-founder of the metal/heavy rock collective, attempted to clarify what Memphis Hates You was: "I'll tell you what it's not. It's not a record label," he said. "Originally, it was just a message board, a forum for like-minded musicians helping each other with shows and promotion. Eventually it expanded to include an online store, festival, and booking agency."
Well, Memphis Hates You is still all of those things, if not more of each due to the collective's profile continuing to gain greater exposure. And while it remains free of the label classification, a label is precisely the reason behind what is more or less the collective's next step.
It was only a matter of time before the growing heavy music scene in Memphis represented several acts ready to debut official releases, with a few already having done so. Although a collective is beneficial on many levels, running a label calls for more organization, easier accountability, and fewer cooks in the kitchen. Enter Good For Nothing Records, run by Memphis Hates You co-founders Aviotti and Nathan Raab, both of the Unbeheld. Using a keen sense of financial caution that is very telling of our times and the state of the music industry at large, Good For Nothing is not a label in the "we want to put out your record" sense.
Call it more of a DIY service designed to aid not only bands within the Memphis Hates You collective but like-minded but unaffiliated acts as well. "We don't have any intention to bankroll somebody's studio hit or pay to press up someone's vinyl. That's all on them," Raab says. "We'll help you do your DIY thing, basically. We'll do or help with the mastering if you need help with that. We have connections and can get discounted studio time for bands. We've got people who can do design work for next to nothing."
That said, the release that inaugurates Good For Nothing, therefore fully justifying this week's rollout celebration, was handled from the ground up by the label. This would be the Unbeheld/Galaxicon split 10-inch, released in an edition of 200 with several colors of vinyl and hand-screened cover art.
What many people don't realize is that a 10-inch is actually more expensive to manufacture than a full-length album because the machinery has to be reconfigured to cut the more uncommon size. Each band contributed one track to each side of the 45 RPM 10-inch, and, at that speed, the maximum amount of good, dynamic audio that can fit is 10 minutes.
Each band utilizes this audio window to its fullest. Higher-profile Southern contemporaries such as Black Tusk, Baroness, Zoroaster, and Kylesa can be heard as influences, but actual '70s Southern-rock influences are only heard on the Unbeheld side, with Galaxicon managing to hit on prog-rock with the shorter song, no less. The Unbeheld track also displays quite the variety when it comes to the vocals (usually the one trouble spot that keeps prospective fans from embracing a lot of heavy music/metal these days), alternating between clean and soaring stadium-rock style to crustier Baroness-ish bellowing and several points in between. Both tracks go way beyond "promising" and showcase two bands that could easily hold their own against any of the aforementioned heavyweights.
In addition to the Unbeheld/Galaxicon split, upcoming Good For Nothing releases will include a re-release of the Unbeheld's debut full-length and albums from the bands Dead-I-On and the Chinamen. Aviotti says the label will also look outside the Memphis Hates You scene, citing a re-release of the local hard-rock trio the Dirty Streets' debut album.
Outside or inside the collective, Good for Nothing is the perfect vehicle to spotlight a scene in Memphis that has weathered serious challenges in terms of local publicity and acceptance. And this week's label showcase at the Hi-Tone will provide a nice snapshot of this emerging scene, with the Unbeheld, Galaxicon, and the Chinamen joined by Tanks and Sauras. Sauras, it should be noted, is a top-shelf amalgam of different heavy styles that could put the city's heavy music scene on the map if heard by enough people.
"What a lot of folks in the Memphis scene don't realize is that there's a lot of great bands right now. A lot of people are active, and it needs to get out there," Aviotti says. "We've been gaining momentum. I think there will be some great things in the future, for us and for Memphis."