From the hardcore punk of the ‘80s to the alternative grunge of ‘90s, the Phoenix metropolitan area has been home to a number of underground musical renaissances. Its most recent wave features a gamut of genres, ranging from metal to folk to rap, brought together by an assembly of artists who are dedicated to their own diverse community.
A central focus of this community is local record label Rubber Brother Records, run by enthusiastic co-founders Gage Olesen and Robbie Pfeffer. The duo’s passion for local music has produced albums and shows from an array of more than 60 bands, including up-and-coming names such as Petty Things, Numb Bats and Boss Frog.
This passion took a dramatic turn, however, when news hit that the label’s Tempe-based music haven, Parliament, had recently been ordered to close, which Pfeffer publicized via Facebook on Aug. 25:
“We have received some complaints from neighbors and our landlord has suggested that it would be best if we parted ways,” he said. “It was all done in a very diplomatic manner, and we’re glad to be allowed to part ways on our own terms.”
For those who have been Parliament regulars over the course of the venue’s popularity, the news of its closure came as a shock. While the rise and fall of iconic Tempe locales such as the Sun Club of the ‘90s and the more-recent Sail Inn seem to have become the norm for the evolving Phoenician district, Parliament, though short-lived, was more than just a place for music –– it was an artistic collective.
Parliament’s beginning was synonymous with that of Rubber Brother Records. Soon after Olesen and Pfeffer began producing together last year, the need for a personalized venue developed.
“We ran a coffee shop on Mill (Avenue) that we ran as a venue before, but we ended up hosting nightly shows for random metal bands or for people we just didn’t have a connection to, which kind of left a bad taste in our mouth,” Olesen said. “We decided, ‘I want to reach out to people I trust and people I want to support.’”
And so Parliament was born.
Although it was Pfeffer’s name on the lease, both founders insisted that Parliament remain separate from their music label. The space thus acted as a community-based center, used not only for Rubber Brother Records’s shows but for other groups and non-signed bands to host their own events.
“I think it gave a great focal point for a lot of people. (It was) where a lot of younger kids who had never experienced something like that before could go and where a lot of groups who were able to go there got their name known,” Olesen said. “It’s interesting. We have a lot of Chandler and Gilbert High School kids who are into (our scene). We make it a point to reach out to them. Like, we used to book at bars, but now we make a point to not book anything 21 and over so that younger kids can come and have a good time.”
The label’s appeal to its younger audience has certainly boded well for the similarly young label. Since its genesis last year, the pair has grown into an extremely prominent part of the Tempe-Phoenix music scene, even outside of Parliament’s community. Rubber Brother Records’ most recent show at the Crescent Ballroom sold out for Playboy Manbaby’s and The Thin Bloods’s recent record releases; the record’s popularity is only expected to grow in coming years.
“It’s really cool because, with Parliament, the money we made was stuff we put into the place. Now we can use that money to go to The Trunk Space, Crescent (Ballroom), and our presence at First Fridays to really put that money to the community,” Olesen said.
Even as Rubber Brother Records moves on, however, the culture which centered around Parliament will still bring nostalgia to those who experienced it.
“I have to say that Parliament is, was and will always be just a box. The value of the place was not the box, but what we put inside of it,” Pfeffer said via Facebook. “We created something beautiful; we created something special, and I’ve never been more proud in my whole life.”
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @aimeenplante