With the music industry continuing to shape-shift at warp speed, boutique-y record labels have started to pop up all over the country. Some are genre-specific, others focus on one medium (vinyl, digital, tape), and even more are operating on the hyper-local level, looking to bolster their music scene by promoting the people in it. It’s with this last credo in mind that KCSB 91.9 FM is launching Bank Burner Records, a small-run vinyl label geared toward highlighting and helping out Santa Barbara’s best up-and-coming acts. This Saturday, November 9, Bank Burner unveils its inaugural release at Del Pueblo Café with a free, all-ages live show by the flagship act on its roster: S.B. surf rockers Dante Elephante. It will be the band’s first vinyl release, as well as a kick-off party for the all volunteer-run station’s yearly fundraiser drive.
The Bank Burner backstory started around this time last year, following a KCSB field trip to 2012’s CMJ Music Marathon in New York. “We came back to Santa Barbara after that and were high on the whole music-industry thing,” said Kyle Trager, the station’s current general manager. Together with recent alums Michael Kenney and Bertie Magit, Trager and Development Coordinator Ted Coe started drafting a concept for the label, looking to a similar model run out of UC Davis’s KDVS 90.3 FM. The foursome quickly decided on a solely not-for-profit business model and came up with the name; a direct reference to the 1970 Isla Vista riots and the burning of the Bank of America building where Embarcadero Hall currently stands. “The whole vision really ties in with our history as a station and the history of the community and how those two intersect,” said Trager. “The name pays tribute to the activist spirit and the youthful energy that’s such a big part of KCSB’s mission.”
Next up: choosing the release that would get the ball rolling. Initially, Trager and Coe tossed around the idea of doing a compilation album filled with performances from KCSB’s Storke Tower studio, but the group eventually decided that individual recordings would better benefit both the bands and the station. “This release is in the interest of promoting Dante, but also putting KCSB’s name out there,” said Trager.
In discussing how they settled on a band, all agree that Dante Elephante was kind of a no-brainer. “The first time I ever heard their band was on [Eric Wolff’s show] The Green Room,” recalled Coe. “Then I did Ted’s show, then Josh Redman’s show. Then we opened for Poolside at the Hub,” laughed Dante frontman Ruben Zarate. “We’ve done ‘em all.”
In truth, Zarate and his bandmates (guitarist Kevin Boutin, drummer Tommy Devoy, and bassist Chris Lopez) have been mighty busy of late. In between recording sessions, the band has been traveling in between L.A. and San Francisco to play, and their fan-base numbers are rising with each trip. Most recently, the guys had a strong showing at August’s Echo Park Rising festival alongside bands like Big Black Delta, White Arrows, Sir Sly, and The Soft Pack. Recently, the band scored a massive shout-out when their song “Couple Apples” was named Converse’s Track of the Week. And later this month, they’ll head south to record a their full-length with Foxygen guitarist Jonathan Rado.
“There’s a reason they’re getting attention,” said Coe. “This industry can move really fast, so we want to work with individuals that have a good sense of their roots and want to maintain ties with us. That was a lot of the reason we thought Dante was a really good fit for Bank Burner’s first release.”
The 7-inch single that comes out on Wednesday contains two Dante tracks, both recorded in Goleta’s Orange Whip Studios. A-side “Never Trust a Junkie” is the most recent (and arguably most infectious) of the two. “It’s just a great song. It’s catchy, it hooks you, and it’s got real feeling to it. There’s nothing fake about it,” said Trager. “Kogi” is the album’s B-side, recorded in 2011 and filled with the band’s signature bright guitar chords and breezy, SoCal-channeling vibe.
As for what’s next, Coe and Trager are eager to see where things go from here and adamant about doing more releases on Bank Burner, though they don’t know who (or what) will follow the Dante single. “We’re taking it seriously,” said Coe. “It’s the kind of thing we believe in strongly, and we want to keep it around and keep working on it.”
More importantly, though, the KCSB team is looking forward to kicking off their annual fund drive with such an exciting milestone. “It helps when you’re organizing ambitious fundraisers to have something fun to do,” said Coe about Saturday’s record release party. “We definitely feel like KCSB is worth investing in, and fundraising is the way we can do things like Bank Burner Records. The show is definitely going to put wind in the sails.”
Bank Burner Records hosts a free, all-ages release party for Dante Elephante’s self-titled 7-inch this Saturday, November 9, at Del Pueblo Café (5134 Hollister Ave.) at 8:30 p.m. Sun Daes and That Ghost open. KCSB’s annual fund drive runs through November 15. For more info, visit kcsb.org.