Interview w/ Spirit Goth


In October I got an email from indie label Spirit Goth yelling into the void that they are on a road trip from New York to California. They noted that they would be stopping in Pittsburgh on the way, so I shot them a quick message back to see if they wanted to grab a coffee. I was familiar with a number of acts they had worked with, but I still knew very little about them. It's just always fun to chat with people doing similar things in music.

Leading up to coffee, I had been in contact with Josh, who also happens to be CASTLEBEAT. I had no idea, so that was quite the surprise, and it made the meeting a bit more interesting. I do not make music, so it was cool to listen in on the dual-facet lifestyle that Josh takes on. I also loved hearing about how internet communities (YouTube and dream-pop culture) play into the label's efforts. His partner Sonia also partakes in the madness, helping steer the BIRTHDIY imprint and releasing her own music. She recently contributed vocals to the CASTLEBEAT track "Telephone." The music video is so tight.


Spirit Goth also has a monthly tape subscription thing going on called Cassette Club, which we briefly covered about a year ago in our review of High Sunn's Our Perception. It is definitely worth looking into.

There was a lot that was discussed off-script, but to give it to you straight, Spirit Goth is sick and you should check out the interview below:

What is Spirit Goth? Are you Goth? As far as I know you are "the super DIY label that puts out," so what is putting out?

J: Putting out is just releasing music, supporting smaller artists... we do not really have to go through this whole process that major labels or big indie labels have to go through, so it is just easy for us to put out music. We are not really ~ goth ~ in the sense that we wear black or are emo... it is just an  a e s t h e t i c word that I like. Actually the first song I wrote was called "Downtown Spirit Goth." I just use that phrase.

I had no idea that you actually are CASTLEBEAT, which is pretty rad... So were you just releasing music yourself and then you wanted to share that experience with other people?

J: Pretty much. I started doing surf garage rock as Jaded Juice Riders in high school. We released one album through a local label, and it was really shitty. I was then like what if... I could do this myself. I was just starting CASTLEBEAT, so I was like I can just release that project myself.

There wasn't really a business plan. I could release my own music. If it picks up, I can release my friends' music. It grew pretty organically. Now it's kinda looking more like a business and I am struggling between working on the label or working on my own music. I like to stay up late and work on music, but I like to work on the business in the morning.


Did you originally start this on the West Coast?

J: I started in college... maybe junior of college. Then I moved to New York two years ago, and now we are moving back to California.

So you miss it (California)?

J: We miss California. I love New York. I like it more than L.A, but L.A. is home. Family, friends are there... I miss the sun too.

When you started working with other artists, was it a regionally thing, or did you connect with new artists mainly over the internet? I know that in the realm that you work in, there is a very big digital presence.

J: It's mostly through the internet. If we are working with one of my friends like Kalm Dog, it is different. He was in Jaded Juice Riders with me... with friends like that is just normal (more in-person, verbal, etc.). Early on in the label we released with High Sunn... we were just talking online. Even with Vansire, that was entirely online.

I was putzing around some of your releases... obviously dream-pop heavy. But, what is that good shit? What do you like now sonically, and what are you trying to dabble in more in the future? I know you recently put out a record with Sports Coach... are you exploring a more electronic heavy potential to diversify the sounds you encompass?

J: We are definitely trying to diversify. We are definitely interested in electronic music. Guitar music is really daunting I guess... it is just refreshing to hear new sounds.

Me personally, I like a full spectrum of sound. That wasn't something I heard before with my early recordings... it was just really raw. Now I want to fill up all of this space with minimal instruments, and really take advantage of the sound space and such.

For the label, we just signed a new act. They are more electronically geared... still a little dream-poppy, but definitely a bit different.


What are some of the notable records from this year? How many records did you put out this year?

J: So far, this year was a really slow year, mostly because we’ve started to be a bit more selective with the artists we’re working with and releasing. We put out High Sunn at the beginning of the year and then Sports Coach. We also put our pre-orders for new artists S.C.A.B. and Zeeland.

Dabbling in vinyl...

J: Yeah... it is a heavy investment for us, but I love vinyl, so it is fun to do. We repressed Vansire's Angel Youth this year. 2020 I am hoping to do a new CASTLEBEAT album, and then we have two releases coming out early in the year. It's going to be a heavy year.

2019 was not the most active year for us. I feel like New York had been like a little bit of a slump... it has been hard to create and stuff. I do not know why.



Did you have the opportunity to meet a lot of artists (in New York) or was it all just too overwhelming?

I did (get to meet artists), and it was sorta a combination of learning more about production and then second guessing myself more (creatively). There are so many options for things... like which snares to use... and it just takes forever. I am writing songs. I am just not finalizing them.

I remember times when I was more naive, and I didn't know as much. Looking back I am impressed with how things turned out with how little I knew. I wish I could just think like that again.

J: Sometimes that is the best. Weird stuff will happen if you are just messing around and you do not really know exactly what you are doing.


So a couple of releases lined up for Spirit Goth next year... What is one bit of advice you can share on a DIY level for artists, labels, etc.? What is something you carry with you?

J: I try to be careful with who I work with. There is a lot of sketchy people. We get demos from people, and then they'll trash talk us if we do not respond to them. haha. It happened yesterday. It's a bad feeling.

Work with good people, and people who bring the DIY vibe like small artists, small blogs who put good work in and do not always get noticed. I really like a grassroots effort type thing, and it really helps grow something organically.

One last thing I was curious about... BIRTHDIY... what is the origin story and the focus with that?

J: We get so many demos. It's all good stuff, but we cannot produce physical content for everything and put it on Spirit Goth. She (Sonia) put out a song on there.  My brother is putting out a song through BIRTHDIY as well.

So you make music as well??

S: Not really. Haha.

J: She sings on "Telephone." The music video just came out yesterday. She just started her own project under her own name. A new song came out last week. The name of the project is Sonia Gadhia.


Where can people go to stay up to date on all things Spirit Goth?

J: @spiritgoth 


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Written by Connor Murray (@craftedsounds)

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Merger - S/T


Hello and welcome back, yes I know it’s been a long time since you all have heard from me, but we’ve been making some changes over here at Crafted Sounds HQ. The focus groups, polling data, and, especially, our corporate sponsors have spoken and I’d like to welcome you all to the new Crafted Sounds Cooking Network. 

As your CSCN host I must disclose that anything concocted here may or may not be edible but the only way to know for sure is by signing a “couple” of papers to ensure your own safety…..yeah sure, your own safety. 

Today we’re going to make Merger Chili, and boy howdy is it going to be dangerous, and delicious. So what are we looking at for our directions? Well it’s about one cup of diced garage rock looseness, three-quarters cup of post-punk potpourri, some grated bass-line funk, a quart of essence of Fugazi, and finally a hint of Slint. Then we’re gonna let that simmer in a nice pot above a campfire that’s near a couple sticks of dynamite whose wicks mayyyyy be to close to the fire if a couple embers decide to travel a little too far from the nest. Smell that? 

God damn, that’s some fine chili.



Merger are a four piece collaborative post-punk powerhouse hailing from Wilmington, Delaware and their first record, released through Impetus Records, is a barnburnin’ rootin’ tootin’ truckload of music. The group has been making waves for the past 3 years of their existence but this record is the starting gun to the race they’re absolutely about to win. Merger have crafted six songs of entropic energy that have had me coming back to it constantly discovering new ways to get excited about these songs. Consisting of Diego Romero-Asos (Guitar, Vocals), Eli Gordy-Sith (Bass, Vocals), Shane Spencer (Drums), Ryan Yoder (Guitar), Merger are able to create a world of composed chaos. Through my umpteenth listen I still find myself getting tense when listening to these tracks because I never know if the ground beneath my feet is going to collapse as I’m running on it, I’m going to fly into the sun, or I’ll just keep moving. Merger have created a sonic environment which always sounds collected while also hinting at any second it’s going to collapse in upon itself. 

The back and forth between the hard hitting and absolutely sporadic drums and the funk-punk boogie of the bass lends itself to keep the listeners off guard, and then when both guitars come into the fold, everything comes together. As some will hear when they go through this record the vocal delivery on a track or two do have some similarities to Fugazi, but to write them off as a copycat instead of a beautiful homage, would be, in my opinion, lazy and dismissive. The vocals arrive with such energy and pacing with the instrumentation that they refuse to be ignored. “Debris”, the first track, is a great example of Merger laying out their message and giving us an idea of exactly how they’re going to kick our ears’ asses. Starting out essentially giving each musician a curtain introduction before slamming into the tune and then finally by the end leaving us fully certain the earth is going to crack and fall apart. By the time we reach “Doubletime” our adrenal glands have been shot by this track-meet of an EP but this song is exactly what you need to get back into it, starting off fast as hell, leading into a funk-step bass and drum half-time fallout and then the vocals, beckoning to you until the build where the noise comes together, get my biggest HELL YEAH. 

This is your host signing off from the CSCN, don’t forget to buy cornbread to pair with this chili or have a glass of milk after, cause if not your tongue will burn off from the excruciating heat. 

RIYL: Fugazi, The Stooges, Sleater Kinney, “Hey man I dare you to throw this beer bottle at the bank?...How about a molotov instead?”, Going for a run in a hurricane 

Fav Tracks: "Nautical Song", "Sleepwalker", "Doubletime"




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Reagan Cats - "Staring at the Light"


What are Reagan Cats? Who are they? What do they do? Where do they live? My Reagan Cats shirt (see here) has been one of the most consistent items in my wardrobe for close to 2 years now. Most shirts of this nature do warrant comments from people, but it's safe to say their shirt/name has generated an above average response from my peers. Today I can finally say, "Hey... Reagan Cats have new music. You really should listen to it."

Reagan Cats are a rock n' roll band from Charm City that have been playing together for the better part of 5 years now. They have put together some impressive EP's since 2014, and have performed regionally, contributing to the dynamic music ecosystem in Baltimore. Their music comes off a little clean in comparison to a lot of the gritty, more experimental sounds I hear from the region, but they stand out for exactly that reason. Well written, well executed, well produced... Reagan Cats make great indie rock music with a hint of winding western flair. You can hear exactly what I mean in their new track "Staring at the Light," which will also be on their first full-length record (TBA).


On this single Reagan Cats are quick to strike. The track splashes immediately with rumbling bass and streaking guitar, setting the scene for this dreamy hitter. Heavy vocals roll over conveying  thoughts and dialogue regarding a seemingly troubled person at some kind of crossroads, leaving the narrator "staring at the light." Ethereal synth trickles later into sonic frame and emphasizes the weight of the situation as this person determines what they should do. "In your eyes I only see him... Oh the devil in disguise... but it's in my mind..." Warm, calm vocals explode into a raspier shout at the end as the narrator begs this person to make the best decision they possibly can. This shout is quickly silenced as the track fades to nothing, leaving me wanting more. What the heck just happened? I do not know for sure... but it was a damn good listen.

Listen to the song below. "Staring at the Light" hits streaming this weekend (Friday).



RIYL: Broncho, Paul Cherry, The Districts, Palace, Omni, June Pastel
Hot Take: Reagan Cats ring in a new, more powerful era of sad cowboy songs.


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Written by Connor Murray (@craftedsounds)
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Rich - "One"


I’ve been jumping back and forth searching for something to supplant Sam, Carla, and the Cheers Gang; god bless the algorithms, they try, they really do, but it’s been mostly duds and sinkers over here until Hulu decided to shove Taxi right into my face. I’ve heard so many good things about this show, Andy Kaufman, Judd Hirsch, Danny Devito, Marilu Henner, and Chrisotpher Lloyd, so I finally gave it a go. I hit play, and what’s this? WHAT’S THIS THEME MUSIC?! Alright, shit, you got me Taxi, I’m hooked and I haven’t even heard dialogue yet. I did some digging and realized that the theme song for the show (“Angela’s Theme”- Bob James [1978]) wasn’t even the original theme music. It was the score for a one-off character in the third episode. After listening to what was the intended original theme music, it just seems like there was no way that “Angela’s Theme” couldn’t be the theme music. It sets the tone and environment for the entire show; a group of people trying their best and just barely making it through. Dark, neon, sunshine, sorrow, some success, and more failures. Anything made in a vacuum always has a different potential when you see the forest for the trees.



Rich is a self-proclaimed “Pontoon Rock” group based out of Pittsburgh, and their debut album One is a stellar display of Ambien drenched, groovy-bop, heartbreaking, sunset-driving ballads. The members of this group hauled their rear-ends to a hunting camp away from the city, near Allegheny National Forest, and decided to just go ahead and write and record some excellent music in the span of a few days in March (Minus “So, True I Do” which was recorded at Mr. Smalls Recording Studio). The environment of this album brings the bass tone (Nate Campisi), reverb-twingy, drenched guitar (Rich Stanley), beautiful synthscapes (Ryan Hizer), and smooooooth drums (Kayla Schureman) of the 70’s blended together with a little bit of now. “So True, I Do” slings the same groove as “Down the Line” by Gerry Rafferty with a little bit more tension, while “Let’s Get Real” lets off all the steam of relationship frustration sung with so much sultriness you’d be convinced it was a love song.

Which leads to the vocals and lyrics on this album, Stanley, brings all of these tones together, with Schureman backing his lead to ensure maximum groove, solidifying One. The lyrics bring the light to the disco ball and then you can see what is on the walls, or at least try to, it's pretty damn dim, but here's a hand, Stanley's, held out to guide us through. The production on this album is grade-A as well, and who could’ve guessed it’s Campisi behind the knobs, who’s had his hands on a whole buffet’s worth of great Pittsburgh releases, let’s hope he continues to do so.

My favorite track on this album, “Silver Skin”, rides for almost 6 minutes without you even realizing it. Everything is locked together in rhythm and moving from suite to suite as easy and as effortless as a tide. Overall Rich has created an album that has a multitude of potential coming out of its cabin creation. It’s boat cooler music, it’s sad slowdance disco floor boogie; really the genre rubix cube is for everyone and anyone to solve. For me, “Visions of You” first finished the album out as I was in Deep Creek, Maryland with the sun setting, getting ready to hit the town, pensive but ready to boogie. Whatever you think One, it’s that and so much more.

RIYL: Connan Mockasin, Christopher Cross and Gerry Rafferty slow dancing on Ambien, Aloe Vera
that’s been in the fridge, “you got any more white claws in the boat cooler, dude?”


Favorite Tracks: “So True, I Do”, “Silver Skin”, “Visions of You”




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Gauche - "A People's History of Gauche"


Listen, I get it. Shit ain’t right.

Something feels off; hasn’t this already happened before?
How old is this newspaper?

Oh it’s from today?

That can’t be?
2 weeks... again?

Everything shouldn’t come in cycles.
I can’t go to work and act like it’s just another normal day...wanna play hooky?

“I know! I can’t! Survive like this!”- Gauche



Gauche is a 6 person post-punk, goddess worship, absolute ripper of a doozy, dance your dang legs off, group hailing from Washington D.C. Their most recent album, The People’s History of Gauce, is just crackling with energy; absolutely the most inviting and fun power-punk album I’ve heard in a minute, Idles’ Joy as an Act of Resistance being up there as well. Every song is built to make sure that we all understand how Gauche got here but they never tip their hand to where they’re going to next.

“Flash” kicks the album off and from there we’re on a motorcycle of divinity ripping on a speed run that ends in a crisp, 36 minutes. The rhythm section of keys, percussion, and bass are so locked in together, boogie just oooooozzzesss out. From there, everything else is exactly where it needs to be, saxophone, guitar and lyrics. The LYRICS. Some powerful words, painting some powerful images and, through their delivery, become scripture. The one-two punch of “Pay Day” into “Surveilled Society” is the only rollercoaster your heart and brain need to ride this week, and by the time we get to the second sucker-punch of “Dirty Jacket” and “History”, well hell, the owner came in pissed off about 20 minutes ago; Gauche had simultaneously tilted every pinball machine in the arcade while getting all 3 top high scores and giving all the kids their quarters.

I think the most important thing about this album is that you can be angry and smile and have fun and cry all at the same time. Gauche is here to help you release all your tension with society through the newest Richard Simmons’ exercise video filmed in the middle of a protest. Leg-warmers provided.

RIYL: Disco Patti Smith, The Raincoats, boogie shoes with daggers on them, sax so perfectly peppered you wanna season your eggs with it, No New York

Favorite Tracks: Flash, Pay Day, Surveilled Society, Dirty Jacket, History



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