"Don’t call me experimental": Eclectic musicians band together to wage war on ‘labelers’

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With its communal setting and diverse student body,  New College has the right environment to become a popular hub for musical events. Due to groups such as the Student Allocations Committee (SAC) and the Council of Academic Affairs (CAA), it’s easy for students to acquire the funding they need to set up their own concerts and shows. Drut’s Roofless Utopia is a music series on campus that thesis student Matt Cutler and Roofless Records founder Matt Preira (‘04) began last spring. The series continues this fall with four more performances spanning from early September until mid November.

“[During] my first year I went to plenty of shows but I wasn’t connected, I wasn’t the one who putting on the shows — it was other New College students,” Cutler said of how he got into organizing music events. “I became friends with some of the people who were doing this stuff, and now here I am in my fourth year as one of the people who is trying to put on the events and get bands to come through.”

Drut’s Roofless Utopia, a mashup between Roofless Records and Cutler’s musical act Drut PD, was organized in order to promote bands and give students something different to do on-campus.

“I liked seeing bands, seeing what people were up to [and] looking for something to do on a weeknight or weekend that wasn’t going to a Wall or something,” Cutler said.  “I loved when there was a show on campus [and I’m] hoping to continue that.”

All of the musicians playing in the series hail from the Eastern Seaboard, including local Sarasota musicians such as Vasectomy Party and Lovebrrd and Tampa-based New College alumnae Diamond Hymen. Though the artists’ music styles vary from one another, they mostly come from the same music scene and share similar interests, values and lifestyles. None of them want to be labeled under any particular music genre. But, for the most part, the artists compose music that is against the grain, and is in no way “radio friendly.”

“[The shows are made up of] lots and lots of different people doing different things,” Cutler explained further.  “Some of it is more melodic than others [and] some [of it] is more dissonant than others — it’s just hard to put a finger on generalizing this whole aesthetic.”

Cutler mentioned when he first came to New College, another student explained that there were good bands on campus but there were also “noise shows”, a mix of unconventional sounds and instruments, which he should stay away from. These shows just happened to be the ones that Cutler enjoyed the most.

“This person avoided these shows, they don’t go to these shows and they label them as ‘noise’ but they don’t even know [what they are] because they don’t go to them.” he explained, somewhat indignantly.

Though the shows are sometimes negatively labeled, the music series has accumulated a strong turnout of about forty students per show, an ideal number for Cutler who aims to keep the events small and intimate.

“A great crowd comes out to all of [the shows] and it’s definitely built up around a lot of the student acts on campus and people with different ideas of what music could and should be, you know, going back to that sort of punk idea… and just creating what they think is interesting.” Cutler added.

Matt Preira (‘04) is the founder of Miami-based Roofless Records and has been collaborating with Cutler to organize Drut’s Roofless Utopia. He started the label at New College in 2007 and has since expanded the label to include bands from all over south Florida and surrounding areas. Before coming to New College Preira had been booking shows in Miami and had created a database of musicians that he would book shows for in his area. After he moved to Sarasota he was still getting emails from those musicians. He was able to persuade some of them to play at New College instead.

“When I started at New College there was a jam-band called Stone Soup and there was a jazz fusion thing called Fallopian Tuba and those were the only two bands on campus,” he said. “And [then] for some reason the demographic of people that ended up going [to New College] from 2003 to 2009 produced a lot of music and a lot of bands. By 2007 there were just so many bands on campus and the bands that had been around for a while had gotten so good that it became clear that it was time to put out records.”

When Preira first started Roofless Records it was primarily composed of New College musicians and, because the company is now located in Miami, has grown to produce records ofMiami-based artists as well. The musicians on the label, like the musicians playing in the music series, can’t be put under one specific genre of music. Preira refers to the label as “open format” or “freeform,” meaning that it produces a variety of music styles and doesn’t limit or put boundaries on what kind of albums they record.

“You know I think that ‘experimental’ is a little tired and I don’t know if anyone is exactly experimenting per se,” he explained. “I’m hesitant to call it ‘weird’ too because it’s almost like you self-identify as weird– are you that weird? But I’d say it’s not ‘normal,’ generally speaking… it’s pretty eclectic.”

Though Preira graduated from New College four years ago, he was eager to organize performances for students, like he did when he was still attending school. Because Preira had done events like this before, he helped Cutler put together a presentation to show to the SAC in order to convince them to give out a large allocation.

“It’s cool to be able to do it because I cycled out completely. I graduated in 2008, so I don’t know anybody [at New College]… so it’s exciting to have that kind of bridge.” Preira said of his collaboration with Cutler.

Roofless Records recently received a $20,000 art grant from the Knights Foundation, a foundation which funds innovative projects that create a more cultured community. But, before acquiring the money, Roofless has to first raise the same amount.

“It’s kind of cool because any income we make is doubled towards that project,” Preira explained. “So we can meet up with a collaborator and they can throw down $100 and we would then have $200 towards whatever project we would do with that collaborator.”

Mat Rademan, a Philadelphia native who is also known by his stage name Newton, performed on Sept. 13 at the Four Winds and has played at New College multiple times since 2005. Rademan has been recording music since the mid 1990s and has been performing under the name Newton since 2000.

“My sound works are a singular blend of electronics, pedals, voice, cassette recorders, contact microphones and occasional nonmusical devices,” Rademan said of his music in an email interview. “Seamlessly incorporating various techniques of musique concrete, performance art, noise music, turntablism, Fluxus, anti-music and glitch into my work, the result is a tightly composed sonic assault steeped in both theory and practice.”

Rademan has toured with New College alumni Skeleton Warrior and Diamond Hymen and is a long time friend of Preira and a supporter of  what he calls “the Roofless cause”.

The last two installments for the music series are still to come, one on Oct. 6 and one on Nov. 10. The October 6th show features Miami artist Body Garden and Georgian Jeff Zaggers who Cutler describes as “weirdo pop” with “varied instrumentation.”

“It’s not like there is someone booking these shows, it’s the artists themselves and their connections with other musician-friends getting bookings for the shows they play,” Cutler explained. “It’s not for a manager, it’s just themselves and their car and just doing what they can. Most of these people do not play for money and that’s not what they want to do either.”

“We are making this as official as we can,” he continued. “I’m just a student [who’s] just going to the SAC asking for money. I’m not here to call myself a promoter or something, I just like going to shows so I help to put them on. That’s just pretty much what I’m doing.”


For more information on Roofless Records go to http://rooflessrex.com

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