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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dusty Medical and The Get Drunk Celebrate Five Years

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As the founder of Milwaukee’s Dusty Medical Records, Kevin Meyer has some advice for anybody thinking about starting their own label: Go for it, just don’t expect to make much money.

“It’s pretty easy to do,” he says. “Once you get it rolling, the label sort of runs itself. The finances can be restrictive, though. For us, we pretty much put out one record, then sell enough copies of it to pay for the next one, and so forth. It’s the record label equivalent of living paycheck to paycheck.”

Granted, Meyer isn’t the most business-minded label owner.

“My only litmus test for releasing an album is if I like it,” says Meyer, whose vinyl-only label specializes in, but is not limited to, regional bands. “Some of our records might not even be from serious touring bands. For instance, there’s The Elephant Walk, which is a side project of a couple people that doesn’t tour or even play out often, but I wanted to put out their record just because I really like them. I had no delusions of selling a ton of copies of a record from a band that doesn’t tour.”

Similarly, the label doesn’t cater to one particular sound. Nobody will mistake The Midwest Beat’s carefree jangle for Call Me Lightning’s fierce, classic-rock-inspired punk, or Sugar Stems’ girlish pop for Drugs Dragons’ confrontational psychedelia. The only thread tying together these Milwaukee bands, all of which have full-lengths on Dusty Medical due this summer, is that Meyer enjoys all of them, and thinks others might, too.

“I think Milwaukee bands are as good or better than any bands the rest of the country has to offer, but I think they’ve historically had a bit of an inferiority complex, or maybe they just don’t care to think about what happens outside the city,” Meyer says. “Either way, there are a lot of bands that never get heard because they never really put themselves out there. I’m happy to be able to give them some exposure outside of the city. We distribute our records all over the world, so there are people in Italy, Australia and Japan that know Milwaukee bands.”

In addition to running Dusty Medical, Meyer also makes up half of the similarly taste-motivated promotions team The Get Drunk with fellow music enthusiast Luke Chappelle. The duo books rock shows of all stripes, and spins between-set music at each as The Get Drunk DJs.

“It was always our goal to create a brand you can trust, The Get Drunk, where if you see the name on the flier, you know you’re going to have a fun time, even if you’re not familiar with the bands playing,” Meyer says. “We’re really picky about what we book, so The Get Drunk is like our stamp of approval.”

This weekend, Dusty Medical Records and The Get Drunk celebrate their shared fifth anniversaries with two nights of music at Club Garibaldi, each featuring five Dusty Medical bands or alums. Call Me Lightning, the label’s most high-profile recent signing, closes the Friday bill, while Saturday’s closing spot goes to The Goodnight Loving, the longtime Dusty Medical fixtures who will release their upcoming album on Portland, Ore.’s Dirtnap Records. Both shows begin at 9 p.m. On Sunday, from 4 to 10 p.m., Dusty Medical weekend winds down with Burnhearts’ monthly Hot Dog! Classic Country Spin event, which Meyer co-DJs with Austin Dutmer.

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