By Zach Schepis
Photo courtesy of Rubber Brother Records
The next time you start complaining about the burden of taking on too many projects at once, about not having enough time in the day to fulfill your yearnings as an artist, silence your whining and consider for a moment Robbie Pfeiffer. Here’s a young man who cast a shadow over the Valley’s DIY music scene in less than half a year–becoming a household name in the process. Bringing hundreds of bands and fans together through PHX FMLY Festivals at local shops and venues, one might say that Pfeiffer has done more towards centralized community building than most visionary activists of his ilk. Aside from supporting a host of bands (more than I could possibly list here…) on his very own record label Rubber Brother Records, Pfeiffer also plays original music with his own group Playboy Manbaby. Oh, and he’s also ushering in a renaissance for cassette tapes. All of this and more, all in a day’s work; here’s Pfeiffer’s own two cents on staying busy and keeping the music alive.
When did you first have the idea to start Rubber Brother Records?
In the summer of 2013 I had just graduated from College and for the first time in my adult life had free-time on my hands. I’ve been involved with local music for years, but thought that it was time to take that to the next level and really make a group that could help the talented bands I was surrounded with get the attention they deserve. After jumping on a Greyhound and spending a few months working at Burger Records I came back inspired to get things going.
My best-friend & roommate Gage had been helping me throw shows and we decided to team up and create Rubber Brother Records. We’ve come out of the gates swinging with sold-out shows, over 50 releases in our first year and a solid roster of artists that represents a wide variety of sounds that we love.
You’re a recent ASU graduate, what spurred you to jump headfirst into the record label rather than pursuing a job in your field?
I feel like I learned more from the time I spent outside of a college classroom than I did inside of one. I did everything I could to be able to focus as much time as I could while in college on the music and art community in Phoenix. I lived off of roughly $75 a week for more than 3 years in order to be able to spend any free moment I had learning how to build a better music community. It seems like a much more natural progression for me.
It seems like you keep yourself pretty busy, between signing bands and playing with your own group.
I don’t get free time. It’s the enemy.
So tell me a little bit about Phoenix—how does the city play into building a band’s brand compared to, let’s say, an L.A. or NY group?
We are a local label, first and foremost. Phoenix is an integral part of what we do and why we do it. We love Phoenix because you can make Phoenix whatever you want it to be. There’s no precedent, there’s no limitations to what we can do in a city that people generally don’t consider to be a music city. We may not have the same resources that you would in another city, and Phoenix music seems to exist in a bubble that doesn’t garner much attention from the broader national community. But that’s changing and we’re happy to be partially responsible for that shift. In Phoenix you have to earn everything you have. It’s a no-bullshit city. There’s no easy way, you get what you work for.
I’ve heard that the ASU Downtown campus is really starting to support the local music scene.
That’s a fact. The introduction of ASU Downtown campus has changed the landscape of the downtown area. There are more kids going to shows, more kids making art and it’s very exciting. Also, as a city Downtown Phoenix provides a much better system for starting smaller art spaces then Tempe. I love Tempe, but hate how they run the city. The priorities seem to be completely backwards, but football makes a lot more money than local music ever will, so who can blame them?
There’s a unique nostalgia that you honor with your label–making a move towards incorporating VHS and cassette tapes into your releases. What inspired you to do this?
I feel like a lot of the modern technology we have alienates people just as much as it connects people. Not to say we don’t utilize it, but I’m more interested in personal relationships and real experiences. I hate my cell phone, I hate being expected to be constantly contactable. I like to hold things, I like to make things. This label has no lofty goals of fighting any sort of modern system, we just don’t discount the value of getting something a little more personalized than a mass email.
There are more bands signed to your label than I can rightly list here. In trying to sidestep the “mother choosing her favorite child” dilemma, what are some of the groups on Rubber Brother that first come to mind when you think of artists breaking new ground?
Thin Bloods, Boss Frog, Pro Teens, Petty Things, Wavelengths, Best Dog Award, Wooden Indian. The list goes on & on.
Mickey and Mountains, along with Petty Things, are two groups that have been made possible through the introduction of your label. That must feel pretty rewarding.
It sure is. The heads of both of those bands were friends of mine before the label and they’re both incredible artists and people. It’s been great to see them develop even further too.
Artwork courtesy of Playboy Manbaby
What about your own group, Playboy Manbaby? How do you manage your time between Rubber Brother and creating your own music?
Playboy Manbaby has been around since late 2011 and been a huge force in my life. I was never meant to be a musician, I always thought of myself as more of a reclusive comic artist. It’s a testament to the cool things that can happen when you step outside your comfort zone. This has been an insane year for us, we’ve made more music in the last 8 months then in the entire rest of my life. We just put our 2nd album this year and we’ve also put out a split tape and a 7”. The label has really kicked us into high gear.
I have to ask—how did you come up with the band name? It’s hilarious.
What are your plans for the rest of this year?
More music, more art, more fun.