By Danelle Petersen
The idea to start a record label came in September 2001, when Nick Tarlowski, student at UNL and guitarist/singer for Lincoln punk band JV All*Stars and some friends were hanging out.
They started talking about how difficult it is to get local music out these days. It is not an easy task to get an album made, get artwork together, book shows, sell albums in stores and above all, pay for it all.
It takes some bands months or years to pay for everything. Craig Reier, guitarist/singer from Fatty and The Twins, combined forces with Tarlowski and decided to stop sitting around and do something to help the bands they believe in do what they love.
Their dream became reality in November 2001. After brainstorming names for the label, they came up with Special Olympic Records and Donkey Punch Records but quickly agreed that both were too offensive. It was quickly changed to Suckapunch Records, “because it rolls off your tongue better,” Tarlowski says.
Suckapunch helps bands with booking shows and getting stickers, buttons and CDs made. To record bands, Tarlowski works with Globe Kid Studios in Omaha and In-House Production in Lincoln. Despite all of this, Tarlowski says he doesn’t “know anything about running a record label.”
One problem bands deal with after they put much time and money into making an album is coming up with the money to get it mass-produced. This is where Suckapunch can help out.
“We don’t go about ‘signing’ bands; we ‘team up’,” Tarlowski says. “We are not based on how we can market bands but based on friends who all work together.”
No one has ever signed a contract; they simply go by “handshakes and friendships,” Tarlowski says. The bands realize one day they will need contracts but Tarlowski says, they “don’t want to do that now.”
“Right now we are focused on putting out records that are good and that we like,” Tarlowski says. “Even if a band is not on the label we will help out if they are good guys.”
Suckapunch has an ever-changing roster but there are currently five bands “teamed up” on the label. JV All*Stars Fatty and the Twins, Settle For Less, Same Old Crap and newcomer Fourth Time all contribute to the label.
The label is currently working with Lincoln indie band Mr. 1986. This will be the first CD released by a band not on the label. Suckapunch is helping Mr. 1986 press CDs, distribute them and get shows booked. The label will be paid back after the albums start selling.
Suckapunch has had a lot of good luck with selling albums so far. In August, Suckapunch Records released its first compilation CD, Hit ‘Em Where It Counts.
The 26-track CD features 11 tracks by Suckapunch bands, three courtesy of Omaha’s Indian Burn Records and the rest from some other great regional acts.
All four Suckapunch bands contributed more than just money to the album’s success. Members of the bands designed the album, stickers and buttons, booked CD release parties, got the street team together and did most of the promotion for the record.
“It was no one’s big project, they all did it,” Tarlowski says. “When those CDs came out, we were all so proud.”
Tarlowski made it apparent that if it wasn’t for the Suckapunch street team and the kids in the community who help promote shows and the label, the endeavors wouldn’t have been as successful. There are about 20 street team members in college and high school who go out and promote Suckapunch with fliers. In return, they get advance copies of records and get into shows for free.
Street team member Whitney Shaw, a junior at Lincoln East High School, says, “I like supporting local music because local bands need all the help they can get, especially with Nick as their main man.
“Suckapunch Records is about fun times and rock and roll.”
Suckapunch is about more than just fun — it is a lot of work.
“We are like a community, an army — not one or two people, there are tons of people who help,” Tarlowski says.
Label-mate Pete Bataillon of Settle For Less says, “Suckapunch has taught me more than just about music, it’s also been a good lesson in friendship and business practices.”
Tarlowski says if he could change anything, he would avoid letting labels get in between friends and having people from labels segregating themselves at shows. He wants to keep it all about music, not about “ridiculous label alliances.”
Tarlowski says his goal with Suckapunch is “to stay happy. Once it’s not fun anymore, I won’t do it.”