While some music fans may only be familiar with Gainesville, Florida, because of the annual music festival, Fest, the city actually has a diverse community made up of hardworking locals who create music, book their own shows, and even run their own labels. One of these locals is Charles Fehrenbacher, who runs Coolicide Productions and plays in a handful of local bands. On December 11th, Coolicide hosted a showcase at Loosey’s in Downtown Gainesville that also featured a special guest, Davie, FL’s, Woolbright, who are signed to Whelmed Records. I caught up with him to learn more about Coolicide and how the showcase came together.
Can you introduce yourself and state what you do?
Hello, my name is Charles Fehrenbacher, more commonly known as “Charlie Chopshop.” I play in multiple Gainesville, Florida, punk and indie bands, such as Rosemary Kennedy, Insignificant Other, and Kindergarten Cop. I also manage a co-opted DIY record label called Coolicide Florida. I wear a lot of hats in that respect. I help manage the bands I play in as well as many other bands that we work with. I’m a studio producer and recording engineer, a project manager, a videographer, a photographer, and a graphic designer. Starting out as a really small record label, I learned as many of the necessary skills as I could to avoid the costs that come with paying professionals.
Coolicide has a branch in Florida as well as in Illinois. How did the label get started?
The term “record label” is still somewhat new to us. We were more of an art and music collective for a long time. We still work in a collective fashion, only now we have a central means for producing and distributing the music that we make. I went to high school in a small rural town in Illinois, and I come from a very creative, artsy family. The label started out because a few of my like-minded artist friends and I felt trapped by the isolation of such a rural town. My hometown is really small compared to Gainesville, and there were really only about five musicians that were my age in the entire town. It turns out that all five of those musicians were my best friends, and, the more we created together, the more we realized that our endeavors gained a lot more traction when we banded together as a larger entity.
About six years ago, we had a meeting in the infamous “Rat’s Nest” in Southern Illinois, and we decided it was time to give a name to this collective. We had come to a point where we all realized combining our assorted skills on a professional level and getting a unified web presence could really turn around the art scene (or lack thereof) in the area. The founders of Coolicide are myself, Myles McGrady–who has since become a very popular album artist in St. Louis, Jordan Johnson of the band Walloper, and our in-house punk historian, Zack Eckstrom.
When did you first get involved in Gainesville’s local music scene?
Getting involved in the Gainesville music scene happened very gradually for me. I first got involved in the music scene about four years ago, soon after I moved to Gainesville. My former band, Teenage Chopshop, was playing smaller shows around town, but we weren’t making much progress. Through that band, I got to know a local musician and savant, Mike Dorsey. I spent almost three years working on music with Dorsey and co. until we decided to part ways. At this point, I considered myself fully involved.
I decided that Coolicide should have a presence in Florida, so I started booking shows, making videos, and producing records for local bands like Dungeons and Dagrons, Telomeres, Boyfriend Material, and NOMORE. Things started fairly slowly with Coolicide Florida, but, through many failures, low-quality productions, and tons of shows, we finally started to gain some traction with the local scene and have made a lot of friends in the process.
How do you choose what bands to have under your label?
We are finally to the point where we actually chose bands to be on the label. Most of the bands we work with are bands that I played in at some point or bands that are comprised of my close friends. The more music and content we produce, the more we hone our skills and meet other local bands that we would like to share those skills with. I think Quimbly was the first band that wasn’t just mutually understood to be a part of the label. We actually approached them about producing content with them, and they happily agreed. Coolicide will be releasing their first album in early 2017, and we’re very excited to be working with them. We may be announcing another new Coolicide band very soon as well, but it’s a bit too early to speak about it.
Your band, Rosemary Kennedy, recently released the French Exit EP. What was the writing and recording process for that like?
The writing process was wonderful. We kind of let the songs happen naturally as we practiced and gigged over a six month period. I would write some guitar parts, Jen would come up with drum parts, and Collin would help me work out the inspiration for the lyrics. We brought Simona [Morales of Insignificant Other] in a little later, and that really rounded off the whole project thanks to incredible vocal skills and keyboard proficiency.
Most of my close friends know that the recording process for French Exit was grueling for me. I absolutely loved doing it, but I was pulling my hair out throughout the entire process. I recorded the majority of the album in our home studio and our practice space. We laid down some simple live takes to get the drum parts recorded the way we wanted. The process of dubbing the bass, guitar, and vocals over the drums was a little more painstaking, but we managed to wrap it up pretty quickly thanks to Dave Melosh at Medusa Studios, who loaned us some awesome microphones. Then came the intensive process of mixing and mastering the album. I mixed the album myself, mostly in the home studio, and got a little obsessive over the mixes… I still think it could have been better, haha. I mastered the record with renowned mastering engineer, Gerry King, at Skylab Studios in Gainesville who really made everything perfect.
The album art was done by one of our favorite Florida artists, Anthony Grasso, and the t-shirt art was illustrated by Coolicide co-founder, Myles McGrady. We manufactured all of the CDs by hand at home. Overall, it was an extremely rewarding process, and we couldn’t be happier about the results.
Can you explain all that goes into putting together a show like the showcase you did at Loosey’s?
Putting the showcase together at Loosey’s made me very proud of Coolicide and how far we have come. It really was a team effort that wouldn’t have been possible without the help of every member of every band that played, as well as many other Coolicide collaborators.
How did you decide on having Woolbright as the special guest?
The idea for the show was a mutual dream between Alu Soto of Alumine and myself. Alu let me know that Woolbright was coming through town on a weekend tour and told me he had confirmed a date at Loosey’s. We talked about which bands we could get to be in the show, and it just kind of worked out that every Coolicide Florida band was free and looking for an end of the year show. We love Woolbright; they have been good friends of ours since before the conception of Woolbright, and, after touring with them and Insignificant Other in the Spring, they were pretty much solidified as our best South Florida friends. They were a natural choice to head up a show with this group of bands.
You also put together a compilation album for Standing Rock. Who was involved in that, and how did you decide what bands to feature on it?
The compilation was a lot of work and took the efforts of many different people, but we really wanted to have it done for the showcase show because we thought it was the perfect springboard for a benefit compilation. I had been flirting with the idea of producing a compilation for a while, but, once again, the stars aligned, and all of the conditions were perfect to make it happen this past month. I had really been wanting to do something to benefit the Standing Rock Sioux, when I noticed a good friend, Rae Nash, had posted about an idea for a benefit compilation on Facebook. As soon as I saw the post, it clicked in my head; I could put together the comp I had been wanting to work on and help the water protectors in one fell swoop. I sent Rae a message, and we started hashing out the logistics that same night. Lauren Leshansky of Alumine and Kindergarten Cop; Pedro Sanchez of Alumine, Kindergarten Cop, Quimbly, and Dagrons; Alu Soto of Alumine; Miels Clifton; and, of course, all of the bands were instrumental in getting the comp put together. Most of the bands were chosen because they are on Coolicide Records or have worked with our bands in the past. Bands like Gouge Away, Woolbright, Heat Rash, and Disgender have been our friends and cohorts for a long time, so they were an easy choice. There are actually quite a few bands we would have loved to include, but we weren’t able to due to time constraints.
You’ve also donated money from the promotional posters that were sold at to showcase to Planned Parenthood. How did you decide on that organization?
We chose PP because we really believe in what they do. Alu has worked with them extensively, and we have some good contacts with them. We know they appreciate all the help they can get, and, in light of an upcoming Trump presidency, women’s reproductive rights are in jeopardy now more than ever. We are a really young, mostly queer, progressive group, and a lot of us have often used our art and music to express our opinions and make strides for equal right for women, peoples of color, and the LGBTQ community.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I guess I would like to say that you can’t have happiness without hard work, and you really can accomplish your loftiest goals if you and the people you surround yourself with really, truly care. Your music and art can make a difference in your community and in the world. DIY music and art is in jeopardy right now, and enriching it is more important than ever. Everyone who has ever supported Coolicide and our bands is a hero to us. We love you all, especially Focus Magazine!
PHOTOS + INTERVIEW: LINDSY CARRASQUILLO