A long time ago I sat down with Joshua Milligan of the Saint Louis Missouri record Label, Waybridge Records ( Brazil, american merlin, something stranger, etc.), and he gave me this interview that I then lost in the confines of my computer. Well I found it and here it is, in all of it's glory minus a question or two that wouldn't make sense any more based on time.
Waybridge is one of those labels that I listen to a lot, and that puts out quality music because they put in quality time and effort. So check them out.
What inspired you to start Waybridge Records, and why the name?
I wouldn't say one single event helped start Waybridge Records, but a collection of three things happening in my life at around the same time. The first one was my exposure into the DIY scene through my work with the Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center. For those of you unfamiliar, the Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center is a DIY venue down here in St. Louis that just celebrated its’ 20th anniversary. 20 god damn years, most all ages venues shut down after a year or so, but the LNAC has not only survived but thrived in the scene and given me a great background to see how bands have been somewhat successful in this scene through what they do and how they act. At around
the same time before Waybridge started there was a demise of a relationship that left me in a pretty bad place. If you’ve listened to the J Michael Straczynski piece that La Dispute did on their Here Hear stuff, this was ultimately where I was in life. Broke, alone and ultimately self destructive,
I needed a project to help bring me out of the depths of what I was wallowing in, so I set my mind more and more into the DIY scene. The catalyst however was definitely an album I got to release called 2303 by a great friend of mine Jimmie (American Merlin.) I am not lying when I say “Holy Sung” is simply magnificent and a lot of the reason Waybridge started. I listened to this album
and thought about how no one really gave a shit about it, and I just thought “hey, all these bands are doing this, I’m going to give it my shot” and low and behold I got to release American Merlin’s 2303 as my third “official release.” As far as the actual name goes, Waybridge is the street Jimmie Atchley of American Merlin and I grew up together on. We fell distant for a while through our teen years but after seeing him perform at LNAC, we got to be closer and it seemed appropriate.
What was the first release you ever put out?
The first “official” release under the Waybridge name was a demo album called Stranger Demos. It was a friend of mine named Aaron’s demo that just so happened to time up with when I wanted to start releasing things on Feb. 7th 2014. We also released a free CDR with any purchase of the band Dog Brain’s two EPs., followed soon by American Merlin’s album. As far as the first release I was ever a part of, I had helped Beau Diamond release his solo EP after having a falling out with a band he was the bassist for. He had all this acoustic music written, we just needed a way to release it. This was before I started Waybridge, but it did help me figure out what to do and what not to do.
(Fun fact: Some of the copies of the Beau Diamond EP accidentally have Tim McGraw’s “When the Stars Go Blue” as the final track. Yeah, I messed that one up. Also, if you have one of those EPs, I will pay you $5 to get one back.)
You work really hard with what you do at Waybridge, no one can ever argue against that, are there any achievements that you're super proud of? That you can just think of and be like "Hey cool I did that."
I guess as far as “achievements” go, hell, still being around is an achievement. We celebrated our 7 month not too terribly long ago, and there was a time where I was “oh shit, this may be the end” right after The 92s release. I was in a horrible spot mentally, and those who trusted me most I ended up breaking. I still can’t forgive myself for what I have done to that person. Not to go into detail and try to get a “oh woe is me, feel sorry for me” reaction, but depression is all too real, there were times where I just wouldn't get up and shower or just lay in my bed for days without doing anything, thinking what is the point. Luckily I have a ridiculously supportive mother who helped get
me the help I needed, and I am doing better everyday, this is my purpose. So, getting through that, and being able to not only have 12 releases under my belt so far, but having an extensive list of upcoming future releases is an achievement to me. As far as a “hey cool, I did that” release, I’m coining a phrase called ‘Proud Dad Syndrome’ where I just go on and on about how good every release goes. I guess I get that way the most with the band called CUTTERS release
called We Are The Quarry, first, they rip easily one of the best bands I've had submitted to me, along with Pierce (Lightning of Cutters) being one of the best dudes I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. He had contacted me and a friend of mine named Trey (Hanawalt, of Lost State Records) about both of us releasing WATQ on cassette, and a third label doing it on CD. I was more than down, unfortunately I ended up having to fall through due to the equipment problems/ health problems so Trey did the release alone, and kicked its’ ass. If you aren’t checking out Lost State Records, go do it now. Solid dudes. A month or so later, I was chatting with Pierce about a different NYC band or something and just randomly asked “hey, so what happened with the CD release” and the third label had also fallen through. This was around the same time I was picking things back up, so I offered to do it and they said yes. I was super proud to be a part of that, and pick myself up after stumbling and falling. I was so proud of this release that I traded some with a guy I had met named Kyle (McCoy, of Close Quarters Collation) who traded me some of his first release. I was thinking “FINALLY MY RELEASE IS GOING TO LOOK BETTER!!!” Nope, Kyle fucking blew me out of the water, that’s another great label that you need to be checking out.
Do other people work at Waybridge, or do you do it all by yourself?
I guess I am technically the only one who “works” at Waybridge all the time, certain releases have had certain help though. Matt Washausen of WH Studios has done a lot of artwork for us, along with Mischa from Galactic Fish, and we just reached an agreement with another artist by the name of Jake Hunn. David Fernandez (of Old State) is my designated “quality control” he’s pretty much the deciding vote on a band if I am on the fence about something Beau Diamond (of Collective Dream Band) and Ben Johnson (of Old State) have also helped do a lot of the physical labor involved in the releases, but as far as being there 24/7/365, it is only me. Would you consider it a full time job?
Very much so. Honestly, I don’t want to factor in how many hours I've put into a release compared to the amount of money I get because I know it can't be more than $1 an hour. I would easily make a lot more money working full time at McDonalds or some other minimum wage job. It is about the intrinsic (is that the word? idk man it’s 2 am) value and knowing that even though I am constantly broke through this project, at the end of the day I would not be doing anything else and I'm giving it my all.
What's your favorite part of running a label?
Too many to count really. This may sound dumb but my Instagram bio literally reads “I get to hang out with my friends for living”. This is true, whenever I say I’m doing work, I’m going to a show or setting up a show or releasing a new band, it’s what I would be doing anyway, but I actually am trying to survive off of it. Also, Kasey and I were discussing this not too long ago just about making the friends you make when touring as compared to making friends in school or through “normal” means. Some of my best friends I’ve met online, they either are in a fantastic band or run a fantastic label.
What is some criteria that a band needs to meet in order for it to get onto Waybridge?
There are many factors, the first one being “do they follow our mission statement?” Which was a document I drafted in August once we started really going balls to the wall with releases after I got through the time when we almost shut down. To give the Readers Digest version, I will just say that what it does is talks about who we are and what we do, along with why we do it. Everything you do as a band/label/artist/human being in general, produces an effect, what effect are you trying to achieve through your actions? At Waybridge we are all about bringing about positive change. Again, this is just a synopsis, and I highly recommend you read it on our Facebook page, or he'll contact me personally and I will give you it. The second being a separate motto called “make it so you’re missed”. This motto came from a conversation with Tom (Hill, of LNAC) talking about a band I don’t even remember the name of, and said something to the tone of “if that band played its’ last show, two other bands would come up and there would be no loss to the music scene.”
This conversation put into words things I had been thinking but just could not phrase right. Whenever I listen to a band I think “what if they weren’t here? Would this be easily replicated?” I am glad to say that the releases I’ve put out, I believe couldn’t be replicated. Does that make it true? Probably not, but as Homer Simpson once said about art, “we can all have an opinion on why something is terrible and still be completely right.”
You go around on tour a lot with the bands that you've signed bands that you play in, is there one memory of a tour stop/ a show in general that you love most of all?
Well first there’s an important distinction, I do not “sign” any bands. I tried for our like first release, but all the contract and law terms were a) flying way over my head, and b) just took the fun out of it. I want to run the label on trust, and being able to back out if need be. I do not want any band forced down to work with me, I want them to be able to go on to bigger and better things if need be.
I now know why pretty much every lifelong musician has written a book or two about their lives, because when you asked this question so many things came to mind. I’ll just mention a few, the first one being the first tour I ever did with my project Death Cab for Ukulele, and Beau Diamond. We had 4 days planned, and on our way to the first stop in Springfield at the OBEC (rip) two of our middle dates cancelled, and after the Springfield show the last day cancelled. Beau and I were homeless in Springfield living off the kindness of strangers, and a band playing at the OBEC cancelled last minute, so we ended up playing two shows at the same venue on tour, that was so nice of
the venue. Being broke and homeless in Springfield for a while, I met great friends (hey, that’s you guys) and now make Springfield, MO a stop on every west tour. I wish I had more interesting stories about blow and hookers, but most of the downtime on tour I just want to play and then sleep.
What does DIY mean to you, and what should it mean to other people?
DIY is a weird term for to describe, I’ve only been in the “scene” for maybe a year tops, I still feel like a baby here and have no authority to define what DIY is by any means. Personally, I do not like the term “DIY” because it stands for Do It Yourself, while that is true, you can pretty much do anything yourself. I prefer the term that came from friends of mine in the band Lion House, where they talk about “DIRT” or Do It Right Together. Just doing it yourself is not enough, I would be nothing without the people I am friends with doing it right, and doing it together. If you have to take a meaning from this interview, DIRT to me just means, whatever you would want done for your
band, do for that band. Last week a band called Temple unfortunately had a show cancellation on them almost resulting in their tour getting cut a little short. Luckily though my friend Dan (Bunetic, of Arsenals) and the band Old State, I was able to get them a last minute show. I’m not a huge believer of karma, but do what you would want someone to do for you, and just give a shit.
How do you think people can get involved in their local music scene?
Again, just give a shit. The band Derive that I had the opportunity to meet on our last tour with Dr. Karate (who blow us out of the water, holy hell those guys are good) regularly publishes a zine called Derive Speaks. Before our show in Springfield I was reading a piece by I think it was their drummer talking about people who go to shows but really just don't give a shit about the bands. Im not saying Im perfect by any means, hell I've slipped up many times and just made a band expendable to me, but at the end of the day, if you are going to a local show, do what you would want other people to do for your bands show.
Do you think anyone can start up and run a record label?
I don’t know about “anyone” but if you have the drive, yes I believe you can. I am no more talented than the next guy but there is a reason that there is a cliche of hard work always gets you somewhere. If you want to start a label, do it or help out your friends’ label, just don’t half ass it and keep going with it.
Anything else you'd like to add
For sure! Again, even if you don’t like my label, there are a ton of other labels doing great things. Our friends in
Close Quarters Collation
Little League Records
Lost State Records
Not Punk Records consistently put out great material, and even if
you don’t like any of my bands you will find something you like there. Thanks again for the opportunity to do this interview!
Check out Waybridge Records at the following links: