If you’ve been to a local concert in Tulsa in the past five years and thought, ‘what a great lineup, this is so well organized, why aren’t there more shows like this?’ chances are Jeff Richardson had something to do with it. Jeff has been a key factor in developing Tulsa’s music scene for over ten years; whether in his role as front man for 80’s electro-pop band Stevedore, or as the idea man and owner of Hardwork Records, Jeff works to shape and groom some of Tulsa’s best bands. This month Jeff lets the Tulsa Project in on his upcoming projects, what bands he thinks we should watch, and where the local music scene is going.
tTP: Well, first things first, inquiring minds want to know, is Stevedore dead?
Jeff: Stevedore’s not dead but I am not focusing on Stevedore very much right now at all.
tTP: Are you planning on Bringing Stevedore back anytime in the near future?
Jeff: Yes. There is new material that needs to be recorded and done correctly and I want to put out a new record. But, right now the only stuff that we have ready to play live is stuff that we’ve played so many times I just want to throw up. I just don’t want to play it anymore. At least not right now, without having a bunch of new stuff to back it up. So the bottom line is I don’t want Stevedore to play live anymore until we’ve got a bunch of new stuff, with a totally new set ready to go. Right now it’s Molly (Jeff’s sister) and I, and who knows what it’ll look like when we do start playing live again. There are plans, but it’s just been on the back burner. There is a brand new song that we wrote about two months ago, so that’s good, that means there’s progress there, but it’s just slow. It’s an unlikely cover song, so it’s going to be fun. But it’s still a ways off right now because of all the other projects I have going.
tTP: Other projects, such as?
Jeff: Well the big one will be Native Lights. Their new 7” Blackwater just came out. We’re trying to get distribution for that because it’s the first vinyl record that Hardwork Records has put out, and there’s a lot of learning in regard to that. Digital is so easy, its like falling off a bridge it’s so easy, and awesome, and efficient, and great. But the vinyl is awesome in a totally different way. It’s a pain in the ass, and its heavy, and it sucks, but it’s the last artistic medium left for music.
tTP: It definitely says something about the band when they go to the trouble to do a vinyl release.
Jeff: It says something about legitimacy and you can’t have a certain feel without it being on vinyl. You can have great music, but there is an element that you will never have unless it’s on vinyl. It absolutely tells you what the band is all about when they release a record on vinyl, and you as a consumer know that other things that you like will be important to them also. That’s not to say that a bunch of bands don’t put out shitty vinyl, and keep it for a million years. But if it’s a good band and they put out a vinyl release, then you’ve got something special.
tTP: You spoke a bit about your role as Native Lights’ manager/record label. That leads into my next question: what is Hardwork Records and how does a band get on the label?
Jeff: Generally, Hardwork Records has dealt with bands that I do shows with. I like them, and I want to work more with them, and they want to work with me. People like El Paso Hot Button or Callupsie. Even newer friends that I work with, its all just about relationships. People who are easy to work with, you love their music, if all those elements are hit then, man, game on. I’ll do everything I can to make them successful.
tTP: What does being on the label include?
Jeff: It means being put on good shows with kick ass poster art, big promotion, PR with the big local media outlets, and digital distribution. I recommend Blackwatch studios in Norman to most of my bands who have a recording budget. That’s who records Unwed Sailor and Native Lights. I don’t personally do any of the recording. If there’s something I can’t do then I have people I would refer a band to. I always want the best for my bands, and I do my best to get press and exposure for them. There’s not a lot of options as far as management and promotions go in Tulsa, so Hardwork is unique in that respect.
tTP: Is there a process a band needs to go through to get ‘signed’ by Hardwork Records?
Jeff: Just get in touch. Hang out and get added to a bill. The first step, if I’ve never heard of somebody and they’re interested, is to send me a link to a recording, so I can hear what I’m working with. If its something I am interested in, I will pursue it. Generally I’m not too impressed with what I hear, but seeing a band live is a much better measure of their potential. If they don’t have a recording, then inviting me to a live show is a great way to get me interested. Seeing you live, and seeing that you’re doing stuff on your own initiative, I eat that stuff up. Doing what you say you’re going to do, and following through is really important to me.
tTP: Do you have any Hardwork shows coming up?
Jeff: Yes, April 2nd at the Marquee is the tour kickoff show for Native Lights, which will also feature Unwed Sailor. Also, I think Fiawna Forte will be a guest singer on Native Lights’ song “Black Walstreet.” That will kick off the Native Lights/Unwed Sailor tour to some of the Northern states, like New York.
tTP: What’s the most important element of having a successful music scene?
Jeff: People getting off their asses. I don’t know if there’s really much more I can add to that. People getting off their asses in whatever capacity that means, if its going to shows and having a good time, or making shows happen. Obviously you can’t have a very good time at a show that doesn’t exist. So, most importantly, people making shows happen.
tTP: What are your thoughts on Downtown Tulsa’s music scene in general?
Jeff: Well, Soundpony has gotten to where it’s so packed you can’t hardly get in anymore. Which in the small picture, sucks because you can’t see the bands, but in the big picture is a good thing because that means things are happening. Crystal Pistol opened up next door, and Soundpony didn’t even lose any business. That means that things are happening and growing, and more people are going to that area, which is what we want. People have more destinations, theyre not just going to Soundpony, theyre going down Main Street. That might be for the Cains, or Crystal Pistol, or The Marquee. Since the Crystal Pistol expanded that gives a lot more flexibility for shows, which is nice.
tTP: What about the Eclipse?
Jeff: Well that’s true, I guess Eclipse is right on the edge of downtown. I’ve done some shows there and I’ve been really happy with it. The size is good. And I like the fact that he’s doing his club there, and Tom and Angie (organizers of DFest) are in the Electric Circus space. So Tulsa netted an extra club out of that deal, and that’s great. Tom and Angie are remodeling Electric Circus right now, and in the future we can expect more touring bands to hit that spot. Since we’re right in the middle of everybody’s touring route, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be getting more mid-level bands coming through. And that opens opportunities for local bands to get on the bill. March is a big month because of the South by Southwest migration, and we should be seeing our venues fill up with lots of touring acts coming through, so that’s something to look forward to.
tTP: So, what’s your favorite band in Tulsa right now?
Jeff: It will be hard to name just one, but for my top 3…definitely Unwed Sailor. They’re the biggest, most legitimate thing in Tulsa right now, and have been for a long time. Ester Drang is an old favorite, even though they’re not really that active right now, but that may change in the future. As far as newer bands, Daniel(s) has caught my eye recently. I am totally stoked about what he’s doing. I knew him when he was in ATL ATL years ago, and I loved him then, too.
tTP:He’s doing something no one else is doing right now.
Jeff:…which is automatically right down my alley. Its hard for me to get excited about bands that are doing stuff that’s been done so many times. Even though they’re really good at it. That makes it sound like I’m talking crap which I’m not, I am glad they’re there, and I am glad they’re doing what they’re doing but if its not really different sounding then its hard for me to get really, genuinely, excited about it.
tTP: Anybody else that’s really sticking out right now?
Jeff: Fiawna Forte is pretty awesome. The best active bands right now, for me, are Native Lights, Broncho, Fiawna Forte and Unwed Sailor, that’s who I want to promote and be involved with.
tTP: Just for fun, what’s your Favorite Band in general, or Top 3 if that’s easier?
Jeff: I would have to go with Mr. Bungle, Swans and Fugazi.