Make-A-Mess Records: Keeping the Punk Rock Spirit Alive in the Sunset

Categories: Label Sampler

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Jon Shade
Eric Butterworth and Jess Scott

Many local labels are offering obscure reissues and innovative new releases on all conceivable formats. Label Sampler is a new column that will profile a different Bay Area record company every other week.

Name: Make-A-Mess Records

Headquarters: Outer Sunset, San Francisco

Owner/Operators(s): Eric Butterworth and Jess Scott.

Musical focus: Jess Scott is quick to describe the label's genre orientation as "punk, or pop made by punks." A strong sense of community is present throughout our interview, as Jess and Eric discuss the label's role within San Francisco's punk scene and their personal group of friends, both of which seem to be intrinsically intertwined. So the musical disparity between Nodzzz's straight-ahead pop, the oblique post-punk of Rank/Xerox, and Culture Kids' effervescent hardcore makes sense, considering the overlapping personal relationships between Jess, Eric, and the band members. Eric even claims that nearly every record Make-A-Mess has released has been by friends of his.

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Creation story, or the great Sex/Vid coincidence: On Eric's birthday, June 21st, 2006, he had lunch with his ex-girlfriend and then went by himself to see Sex/Vid perform. As he recounts, "They were friends of mine, so we went drinking afterwards, eventually met up with more friends, and I got super trashed. I had heard Nodzzz songs, thought they were a really good band, and had an extra two or three grand in my savings account, so I just offered to do their record." A drunken offer to release his friends' music established Make-A-Mess Records with Nodzzz being his first release.

Jess Scott didn't become involved until the summer of 2010, but it wasn't initially as a label partner. First, Make-A-Mess released the debut 7" of her band, Brilliant Colors, and somehow another Sex/Vid show enabled the connection. Naturally, their memory of the connection differs slightly. But Jess does recall that Sex/Vid was playing in her backyard and she missed the show on account of work. Upon returning home, however, she was able to hand off Brilliant Colors' demo to Chris as he was leaving. Jess has helped facilitate label activities since then.

Origin of label name: "The first time I came to San Francisco I was 17 and I came with a friend to skate. We were walking downtown where the sidewalks are brick so when you skate it's really loud and it was in the middle of the day, so there were a lot of assholes around. So, we were walking with our boards and these punks said "Why aren't you skating? Why are those boards in your hands?" We told them that it was bumming people out, and this crusty punk screamed "FUCK THAT! MAKE A MESS!" We were young, so it felt really cool to be skating through all these assholes, crackheads, and crazy people, and that phrase just always stuck with me."

Living with artists on the label roster: Eric's Sunset abode and label headquarters is also home to members of Rank/Xerox and The Traditional Fools, both of which have records on Make-A-Mess. When I interviewed two-thirds of Rank/Xerox earlier this year, it was in the same living room where I chatted with Jess and Eric. It seemed appropriate that I should find myself in the same locale to interrogate proponents of the local music scene, considering their enduring commitment to their artistic community.

Most recent release: The label's newest record is Culture Kids' self-titled LP. It is positively blown-out hardcore from a trio of esteemed locals who've consistently proved their live prowess and now have a solid LP to back it up. Their music is burly with class, and harkens back to '80s hardcore with a knowing glance, while asserting their music's relevance to their own scene and their own era. It's tempting to drop the adage, "recorded in a garbage can," but that wouldn't quite do it justice. This record sounds more like it was recorded in a plummeting elevator, with all the urgency of impending doom.

Future plans: Martin Sorrondeguy, founder of Lengua Armada Discos and singer of Needles, Limp Wrist, and Los Crudos, is also an avid photographer. Outside of a book released in Japan to accompany an exhibition of his, there has been no official collection of his photographs published, many of which illustrate his zealous interest in punk and hardcore. Naturally, Eric considers Martin a friend, and approached him about handling the U.S. release of the Japanese collection, but Martin opted to arrange an entirely new book instead. Featuring over 200 pages of unpublished black-and-white photographs taken by Martin of punk and hardcore bands since 1985, the book is slated for release this summer.

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