Part of what makes local music so special is how its sounds and sonic attitudes are so tied to the community that raised it. This is no different for the music coming out of Spokane’s homegrown independent label, CorpoRat Records, where its newest release owes its existence to the community in a more direct way.
“Stop Making Cents,” a compilation album featuring both unreleased and standing songs from the CorpoRat Records roster, is the product of local Spokane businesses banding together to sponsor the release and give the city a new beat in the uncertain time of the coronavirus.
“In hindsight, this is a perfect project considering the times,” said label founder Kris Martin, who turned the label into his full-time commitment in 2018. “It’s all of these great, smaller local businesses that all have their different part in the community.”
With backing from 4000 Holes, HyperTuna Productions, Senator Guitars and more, the label’s latest release, which can be purchased at store.corporatrecords.com, is a testament to putting its many musicians at the forefront of its focus and the bottom dollar second.
“I’m not trying to make money off this thing. I just wanted it to highlight all these bands and all the work they’ve put in. It’s a good statement piece for what the label is and, for two years into it where we’re at, hopefully shows people we’re serious and where we want to go and take everything,” Martin, 38, said.
The sentiment for making sure this local music had the chance to be heard was shared by sponsor Alexandra Tsuneta, whose Vintage Vending business sells local art, pins, patches and CorpoRat music since opening in September 2019.
“I think it’s super cool that people rallied behind Kris and wanted this to be a thing,” Tsuneta said. “It’s cool that the tiniest of us (local businesses) were like, ‘Yeah, let’s back this and throw some money at it and make sure that it happens,’ because it’s such a rad idea and also it’s a really good album.”
Tsuneta also has taken to promoting the album online on her business social media and distributing copies of the CD to her machines, including those located outside Spokane as an ambassador for the Lilac City’s sound.
“It’s a really cool way to kind of get to know these artists a little better and get people more of a feel for Spokane,” Tsuneta said. “We’re not just a quiet mountain town, we’re doing cool stuff.
“I’m a big local music person, and anything I can do to support local music and local art, I’m going to do.”
The new album also marks a milestone for the label’s immense progress in its relatively young existence, said Gary Zanol, vocalist and guitarist for rock-duo Indian Goat and drummer for Bad Motivator, both signed to CorpoRat.
“I tell Kris all the time I’m incredibly proud of him and the progress he’s made with the label,” Zanol, 29, said. “He’s pulling together so many different things. He’s got local artists doing all of the art, he’s got local businesses supporting it. He’s got the momentum right now, and if he keeps it up, he’s going to really bond this city together in a way that it’s never seen with moves like that.”
What’s made the release an even bigger moment for the label’s history is that it comes after weeks of intense coronavirus disruptions that have shaken the music industry, local businesses and derailed original plans for a Record Store Day release.
“Once all that fell through, it was kind of just scrambling for about a month trying to figure out what was actually going to happen,” Martin said. “We had a lot of moving parts to it, and instead of just getting frustrated and letting the whole thing frizzle out and sit in my print shop for a couple months, it just made sense to say, ‘You know what, we got to put this out.’ ”
That resolve not only resonated with the label’s associated sponsors and musicians but also served as a monument to proving its place in the community.
“Everything just kind of fell into place as the circumstances kept changing,” Martin said. “This is kind of a culmination of those past two years of building and having something really tangible and cool that’s encapsulated the city – it’s kind of made it all feel real.”
And if you ask Ganol, “Stop Making Cents” is only an indicator of bigger things to come.
“Just to see how it’s progressed, I think it’s got full potential to be just as big as a Subpop or something huge. … It’s cool to be part of that and have our music on it.”
Still, being able to make the album become a reality may have meant even more for Martin and all of the local shops involved, especially considering the circumstances for their world of local businesses now.
“Everyone was just really supportive,” Martin said. “Despite all the craziness, this thing gave me some hope. It’s really been a bright spot working on it because obviously everybody’s businesses have taken a huge hit.”
It also gave an opportunity for the label’s musicians, who find themselves in their own precarious situation with no live performances set anytime soon, to have their own shot to shine again.
“He let the bands use full discretion,” Ganol said. “He was just like, ‘Give me your three favorite songs, and we’ll throw them on the album.’ ”
That unrestricted artistic freedom means that “Stop Making Cents” is 17 songs that spell out Spokane in sound as much as atmosphere, from the bubblegum-pop blues of “Chaperone” by Vanna Oh! to the smooth grooves from the three as-of-yet-unheard Kung Fu Vinyl tracks arranged with more than a little intent to cross-pollinate fans of one group to another.
“It really makes a lot of sense for the label and what I believe it to be, which is a huge family,” Martin said. “It’s really fun to think about how this started two years ago and where it’s currently at and hopefully has the potential to go.”
Which means that now more than ever, the growth and survival of institutions like CorpoRat depend on the listeners willing to support it.
“If you have the ability and you see the value in it, support it,” Martin said. “Because now more than ever, it might not be there. … It’s been really humbling to have people in the community even acknowledge that it exists.”
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