We have started new series where we introduce indie labels. They will recommend 3 releases from their catalog and share 3 things they have learned by running the label.
The next one is with Refresh Records written by Josh Higgins.
Hit Like A Girl – Heart Racer
As COVID took over the world in 2020, I was going through a rough patch in my life. Personal, family, and music issues were all weighing down on me and I found myself in the ER after my first panic attack, which I mistook for a heart attack. The months that followed were overwhelmed by a newfound general anxiety that was beyond debilitating. I could barely leave my home and absolutely couldn’t set foot in a car without an overwhelming sense of fear that resulted in me putting Refresh on pause for 6 months. I knew I couldn’t serve our artists in the state I was in.
During that time I connected with Nicolle Maroulis of Hit Like A Girl and was sent their new album, Heart Racer. The album was written in response to Nicolle’s own experience with a panic attack and overwhelming sense of dread only a few months prior to my own. The music was sublime and the message of the lyrics hit so close to home that I knew we needed to work together.
Heart Racer will forever be one of my favorite records we’ve released. It’s an indie pop / emo dream of a record, bouncing around catchy licks and poignant lyrics. It’s got guest spots from Bartees Strange and Petal, among others, and was one of the most fulfilling records to work on. I can’t recommend it enough.
Downhaul – Before You Fall Asleep
This record was a sleeper for me. I didn’t know the band before they sent us their debut album, and on first listen I wasn’t sure if I was into it. But it got stuck in my head and I found myself continually coming back to it.
When we connected with Downhaul, I was focusing on steering the label in a sonic direction that I felt we were missing early on. We had released music from other great bands in the DIY realm, like Junior Astronomers and Cuzco, but I had maintained a fairly genreless approach to the label up until that point. Downhaul’s record helped me decide that we needed to narrow down our sound a little and focus on building a community around our releases.
Before You Fall Asleep is a brilliant piece of art and Gordon is a lyricist that not many can touch. The album gives a country flair to modern emo and firmly stands out on its own. It was a pleasure working with the band and Chris Teti (TWIABP) on this record, and it’s definitely a record that helped shape the future of the label.
Young Mister – Young Mister
I can’t recommend a release without mentioning the one that made us a label in the first place.
Young Mister is the moniker of NC songwriter Steven Fiore, and his self-titled debut was the first album Refresh ever put out. Prior to working with Steven, the label had only done three 7″ benefit releases with other NC bands. Steven had just come off a writing stint with Universal Publishing, where he had written music with and for some notable artists over the prior few years. I was introduced to him through one of the bands we did a 7″ with, and in a small world way, quickly learned that Steven was engaged to one of my old high school friends. My girlfriend and I went up to their little farm home in NC and Steven sat down at the piano to share some of the music he was writing for an album. That evening we decided on the name Young Mister, and the rest is history.
Through a stroke of luck, and a truckload of talent from Steven, the debut album caught steam on streaming services over the next 2 years. To this day, Young Mister’s debut album has pulled in close to 25M streams and formed the cornerstone of Refresh. We worked together on a follow up album, Sudden Swoon, 2 years later and recently reunited for an EP and album to come out next year.
I don’t know if Refresh would even still exist today if we didn’t release this record together. While I look back on the mixes with a bit of regret due to lower sound quality — and I know Steven does as well — the music is beyond incredible and a wonderful showcase of his writing talent. I’m very proud of this record and it will forever reside on my top recommendations list.
3 Things I’ve Learned
1. Slow down.
There’s no benefit to be gained from running yourself ragged. You’ll only harm the artists you are working with.
2. Always have a written agreement.
Yea, lawyers suck, but you know what sucks even more? Not having clearly spelled out agreements. If a contract only benefits one party, be very wary of. A music contract should spell out the expectations of everyone involved and benefit all who sign.
3. Don’t spread yourself too thin.
This applies in many ways… Whether it’s taking a genreless approach and releasing music from a wide spectrum of sound or taking on too many releases at one time. You’ll get further if you find your place in the music world and focus on developing it.
Support Refresh Records.