In the Blood

He’s a radio guy who used to work for record labels in California. She’s a bartender who used to play drums in a band called Frogpond. They’re both single parents, and together, they have one kid. It’s called OxBlood Records.

I never expected KCUR 89.3 music programmer and Sonic Spectrum host Robert Moore to suddenly start a record label. I guess I figured the 40-year-old was happy twisting knobs at the studio, DJing once in a while and being a dad.

But I stand corrected. “It’s always been my dream to own a record label, since I was on one as a kid,” he says. His punk band, the Grim, was on Mystic Records. He worked for IRS records (R.E.M.’s early label) in California in the ’80s, then wound up as an A&R man at Virgin, which became the job that would alienate him from the industry.

His partner in the Blood is Megan Hamilton, a platinum-haired, tattooed 35-year-old who works the bar at Buzzard Beach, Karma and the Beaumont. Like Moore, Hamilton got out of the music biz because of the way labels treat bands. In Frogpond, she got a taste of big-label ugliness from a band’s side of things. Meanwhile, at Virgin, Moore watched artists he had befriended get screwed by his bosses. “They used them as a tax writeoff, basically,” he says.

As with many local ventures, the idea to start OxBlood was hatched one night at Harry’s in Westport. “We were talking about our lives in the industry,” Hamilton says, “and about how labels could treat bands better.”

Their business plan includes a bit of the Golden Rule, and the first band to benefit from that approach is American Catastrophe, a group that Moore and Hamilton both adore — and for good reason, because AmCat kicks ass.

As of this writing, the contract is still being revised to make all parties happy, but everyone expects it to go through just fine. Once it does, Catastrophe will begin serving its 90 days a year on the road, and Excerpts From the Broken Bone Choir, which the band released itself last year, will be remastered and reissued with new tracks in late January.

As great as that is for everyone — especially those in other cities, who will be seeing AmCat for the first time — it’s nothing new. One more Kansas City band on the road and on music-store shelves isn’t likely to incite national buzz for our scene. However, OxBlood’s other project might.

First Blood is a compilation CD made up of 16 tracks by 16 local bands, each recorded at Run Riot studios by Paul Malinowski. (Make a note of that — most comps out there are slapdash productions with songs thrown on from disparate studios, unevenly mixed.)

The roster includes, among others, White Whale (conveniently blowing up nationwide), Ghosty, the Architects, Olympic Size, Namelessnumberheadman, Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk, the Republic Tigers, and a couple of unfamiliars: Acousma (Malinowski’s little-known band) and Softee, a girl band made up women who are new to town (one of whom plays cello). What’s more, no song on the comp has ever before been on record, anywhere.

In short, it’s the ultimate KC-Lawrence indie-rock mix — all-new songs from elders and young guns — and at the beginning of next year, it’ll be everywhere (along with American Catastrophe’s CD), thanks to a deal with Carrot Top Distribution out of Chicago. And thanks to OxBlood, our town’s relevant sounds will be heard across the country.

“That’s initially what we wanted to do — promote the scene,” Moore says about the comp. “And what better way to do that and get our name out at the same time?”

What if this takes off?

Individual bands (i.e., our current biggest export, White Whale) can only rep so much. But what if the comp generated hot press on the Internet and in a few glossy music mags, leading prestigious indies such as Sub Pop or Merge to offer a couple of the bands tasty deals, placing Kansas City and Lawrence alongside Montreal as an unexpectedly vibrant and high-quality music town — something us locals already know?

Wouldn’t that feel good?

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