WV’s hardest working indie
Summertime is always crazy for small-time acts climbing their way to the top, but I managed to pry Tucker Riggleman away from Big Bullet Records and its flagship band The Demon Beat for a few questions. Here’s a quick chat with the Eastern Panhandle’s hardest-working indie impresario.
Graffiti: Where did the idea for Big Bullet Records come from, and what made you think it could be done?
Riggleman: I had been tossing around the idea of starting a local independent record label for a little while before taking the initiative to start up Big Bullet Records. A small area like Shepherdstown does not have the resources of, say, Baltimore, DC, or New York, so I always thought that things could be beneficial for everyone if local musicians and promoters pooled their resources and contacts to help out one another—to create a community.
I think the biggest thing to convince me that something like this could work was the response at local shows at the War Memorial Building in Shepherdstown. These shows have traditionally been all-ages, and kids come out in droves and dance and go crazy. Many local bands have had their album release shows there including local legends The Red Oranges, my band The Demon Beat, Rhinohelicopter, and The Fox Hunt, just to name a few. The response at these shows has always been incredible, and the musicians are all passionate about what they are doing, so why not collaborate and make something worth our while?
Graffiti: BBR is small but ambitious. What sort of support network do you work with?
Riggleman:Since day one it has always really been me setting things up and setting the wheels in motion. I have been extremely lucky to have friends such as fellow bandmates Adam Meisterhans and Jordan Hudkins help out with recording and artwork, respectively. Other than a few people helping out when they can, it has remained a one-man operation. I recently sent out a mass message via the label’s Facebook group trying to find some help, specifically a full-time graphic designer, to which I received some good feedback, I’ve just been too busy lately to catch my breath, but hopefully I’ll follow up on this soon and distribute the workload a bit.
The support network really consists of local artists and promoters, as well as people from all over that I have contacts with that help our artists get shows elsewhere.
Graffiti: What does an act on BBR sound like? Does the label have a focus, or is it more of a mentality?
Riggleman:BBR is definitely more of a mentality. We don’t aim for any specific genre, instead focusing on passionate artists who make music that we think needs to be heard.
Graffiti: Who’s on the label right now? What is BBR’s role in their careers?
Riggleman:There are several people on the label right now. I use that term loosely because when I started this up I asked a lot of local musicians to be part of this (and there were others who sought us out) with the understanding that it was basically a vehicle for them to receive booking, promoting, and recording help.
Right now, I have really been focusing on those on the label that are actively doing more. The two acts that take up the most of my time and energy are The Demon Beat and singer-songwriter Greg Loftus from Massachusetts. The label’s role in these two acts entails handling the bulk of the booking and promotion. I also take care of things such as digital distribution. I am the guy setting up the online payment options, and sure enough I’m the guy mailing out the CDs.
Graffiti: Are you looking for more acts to sign? What do you look for?
Riggleman:Right now we are not looking to add anybody else to the label. There is no real act of "signing" anything with BBR. It is more of a "if we like you and believe in what you’re doing, we’ll help you get some good shows and help in any way we can" type of a thing at this point.
We look for musicians who are playing passionate music that we can get behind and that we feel everyone should have a chance to hear.
Graffiti: Being as close as you are to DC and Baltimore, what’s the music scene like in the Eastern Panhandle?
Riggleman:To my knowledge Shepherdstown is the only town in the Eastern Panhandle that is really doing anything right now, which is unfortunate. It’s even more unfortunate that the other two towns that are really doing things (Morgantown and Huntington) are so far away. It’s like a straight line of musical hotbeds that are almost exactly two and a half hours away from each other. However, it is really good to know that the music scene in West Virginia is picking up again, slowly but surely.
Graffiti: What’s the recording process for a typical BBR record?
Riggleman:Typically if a project is done in-house it begins with Adam recording them, then Jordan designing artwork and packaging, and ends with me setting everything up for digital distribution and booking/promoting the shows. At least that’s how our few little projects have worked out so far. Some cases are different, obviously, as Greg Loftus lives in Massachusetts and records himself at his home studio, and then we come in later.
Graffiti: You—as a solo artist, sans the Demon Beat—just put out a split release with Dandelion Snow. How do you juggle your BBR admin work with your work as a musician?
Riggleman:Usually if The Demon Beat is going to have a small stretch where we don’t have much going on (which is rare these days), I try to plan ahead and use that opportunity to do some solo stuff. Case in point: We had a weekend in May off, so I used that opportunity to put out a split with my good friend Roger (Dandelion Snow) and then we did three shows in support of the run. That was a joint release by Big Bullet Records and Lion Tooth’s Records. Lion’s Tooth handled the artwork and pressing of that one.
As for juggling, well, it’s just about being smart with your time management, which I usually am not [laughs]. I just try to get by and make sure that I don’t let my solo work fall completely to the wayside. It’s important for everyone to have that one thing that is completely theirs and that represents them in that way, and for me it is getting up there with an acoustic guitar and singing some original songs.
Graffiti: Who’s out and about right now? When and where can we find BBR acts live?
Riggleman:The Demon Beat and Greg Loftus currently have multiple dates lined up. You can check out the dates at http://www.myspace.com/bigbulletrecords
Greg is even making a small tour run down to Shepherdstown and back up to New England in late August, so be sure to catch him while he’s in.
Graffiti: What’s coming up next? Any top-secret or not-so-secret projects in the works?
Riggleman:There actually is some big news coming up soon. I’ll go ahead and spill the beans on one of those projects, which is the long-awaited BBR compilation, which will be called BBR presents TERMINAL BALLISTICS: Vol. 1.
This will be a strictly digital release featuring many unreleased tracks from various BBR artists and some artists that we are good friends with. The compilation will most likely be up at http://www.virb.com/bigbulletrecords and album artwork will also be available for download so folks can have it on their iPods or whatever. Artwork has already been completed by Tominda Adkins of Clover Studios and it looks great. We only have a couple acts left to receive tracks from, so expect that at some point this summer. I’m sure I’ll make a big fuss about it and post things about it everywhere once it’s up. Oh yeah, and it’s going to be 100% free.
As for other big news that I am currently at liberty to talk about, well, I’ve always had the pipe dream of having a big three-day festival in Shepherdstown that would include shows at The Blue Moon Cafe, Stonewall’s Pub, and the War Memorial Building. I would have varying ticket options that would allow people to go to one, two, or all three shows, with discounts for the larger access passes. I think this could be great for all of our artists and for the venues, but I simply don’t have the manpower right now. It would take multiple people at each venue to make sure everything runs smoothly. Maybe one day I’ll have enough time and help to get the logistics sorted out, but for right now I’m keeping that one on the shelf.
I can also let you know that I am already more than halfway finished with another solo split, this one featuring The Fox Hunt’s John Miller as the counterpart. This one is a bit different in that John and I are engineering the whole thing ourselves. Jordan is still designing the packaging, but I am currently mixing this project and it’s sounding pretty awesome. We are planning a late August release when school is back in, so check in for news about that.
The Demon Beat are making a new full-length album soon, and we anticipate a November release. This will undoubtedly entail my biggest batch of work yet, as we will be sending this one out to any press/label outlet that will take it. This will be the culmination of a long time’s work from all of us, and we in the band are all super excited about it. More on that at a later date.