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)