Local act Spell Runner has been getting attention in various corners of the internet for their debut record Always On The Cool that mixes rockabilly, hardcore, surf rock, and goth elements to produce something surprisingly aggressive, accessible and fresh.
We thought it would be a good chance to talk to Josh Cotrona of Fuzz Records, responsible for releasing Always on The Cool and wealth of compelling 518-based heavy and experimental acts that include Maggot Brain, they are gutting a body of water, Scum Couch, Bare Mattress and Hellkeeper. Fuzz Records had a physical location on Lark Street in Albany for a few years before Cotrona took the shop exclusivley online.
Why did you decide to open a brick and mortar store in Albany?
I’d been a collector probably for easily 10 years prior to opening the store and I decided I’d try my hand at it. It was just kind of this fun thing. I learned a lot. I’d never had a retail store before. I had to put a lot of time in and it was a very niche thing within another niche. I didn’t just sell anything, it was mostly new and mostly independent underground heavy stuff.
Was the label born out of the things you learned from running the shop?
Well, we opened in 2012 and I started the label around six months into it. The first release was Maggot Brain. August (August Rosa owner of Pint Sized) and I kind of started the label together. We met through the shop—he lived right down the road. We were at a Maggot Brain show one night and we’re like ‘Let’s do a record label! It would be a dream to actually put out a record!’ But it was also really a learning experience and I’m thankful l stuck with it.
I imagine putting out records of Albany-based heavy or experimental artists must have been challenging.
One of the things I learned quickly is that with the popularity of Record Store Day you have to work around it when you’re doing small numbers. It’s hard to be remembered by the pressing plant. So I had to deal with some delays. And then with Maggot Brain we had a delay because there was a licensing issue with a sample on their album that we didn’t think we’d have to worry about. `
With Hush, that record came to us almost a year from when we ordered it. I’m not a pushy person overall but it was like, I gave this company money and they better give us the product.”
Your latest release Always on the Cool by Spell Runner has gotten some attention outside of Albany. How did that come about?
In promoting, I had a lot of help from Closed Casket Activities. Justin has given me a ton of pointers on how to promote. That really was my biggest problem in the past—promoting things. But a lot of the local bands don’t tour a ton or can’t or don’t want to, circumstances won’t allow it. But with this band (Spell Runner) they all are young and trying to play out a lot and the album is awesome. Ryan Slowey from Maggot Brain recorded it.
What are your plans for the label after this release?
I look at the store and label at this point as a hobby. So if I make any sort of money off of it that’s great. I was never one to play in a band so this was my way of contributing to music on any level. I don’t plan on who I’m going to put out but if someone sends an album along and I like it I’ll do it. I also would like to work outside of Albany. That is not to say Albany doesn’t produce anything good.
Would you consider doing a physical shop again?
Running a record store is very hard in a small market. My shop and Noise Annoys closed up pretty quickly. It’s hard because we have kids who are into it but you need like five times more to actually pay the bills. I like what I’m doing now with the label and the website and pop-ups.
Pint Sized in Albany will host a listening party for the new Spell Runner record featuring a Fuzz Records pop up shop on Friday. The band is planning an album release in Albany June 15.