Baby Gas Mask Records is on a mission to capture the depth, breadth and quality of musicians from Tucson and across Arizona.
With the West Foot Forward series, the local record label will curate and release a run of 12 split 7-inch vinyl singles, with one song each from 24 bands. The first release, featuring Sun Bones (“Never Going Back”) and Best Dog Award (“Regular Hits”), will be released Friday with a special free show at Club Congress. Opening is Head Over Heart, which will contribute to a future West Foot Forward release.
“Arizona is experiencing a renaissance of local music and our goal is to showcase as much as we can of it,” says Melissa Mauzy, who founded Baby Gas Mask five years ago with her husband Seth. “Our current Tucson and Arizona music scene is such a stunning and amazing and eclectic scene.”
Longtime lovers of vinyl records, the Mauzys–who also play in the rock band Deschtuco–began thinking about West Foot Forward as a potential compilation before settling on the idea of an ongoing series of split 7-inch singles.
“Really what we wanted to do is highlight Arizona, right now. The music scene is super vibrant, there’s so much going on and there’s a lot of diversity among bands,” Mauzy says. “Topaz has done these great compilations, so we didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. And vinyl is the passion that has driven the label from the beginning. We especially love unique colored vinyl. Each one is such a piece of artwork.”
All of the discs are going to be cut on different marbled vinyl and all of the screen printing for the covers will take place at Tanline Studio, with the band members themselves chipping in on the screening and coloring, adding random touches along the way.
In the end, “each artifact will be totally unique, a different looking vinyl plus a different looking cover,” Mauzy says.
Baby Gas Mask invites bands to record at the Mauzys’ home studio (complete with the old sound board from Centennial Hall). Seth Mauzy and Baby Gas Mask engineer Chris Levesque mixed the Sun Bones and Best Dog Award songs, while KXCI’s Duncan Hudson is also on board to mix more West Foot Forward tracks.
“It’s a really relaxed environment. Most of them have been done on a Sunday so people can take their time and hang out and lay down a track,” she says.
After the Sun Bones/Best Dog Award split will come the second West Foot Forward release, featuring Laura and the Killed Men and Rising Sun Daughter (a project of Run Boy Run’s Grace Rolland). Baby Gas Mask just recorded the bands for the third release: Ghostal and Garboski.
“The first one is super indie pop, the second one is beautiful female voices and the third one is way more loud and crazy,” Mauzy says. “We really want to go across the whole spectrum of the diversity. You have everything from blues to garage rock to indie to country, so trying to get that whole spread and focusing on the idea of really promoting Arizona.” Some of the motivation for the series came from the anti-immigrant SB1070 Legislation passed in 2010, Mauzy says.
“All these artists refused to come to Arizona,” Mauzy says. “As a musician in Arizona, we understood why they were boycotting, but there’s all this really incredible stuff going on here and we want to showcase our state and the positive aspects, especially in the music scene.”
Some of the artists Baby Gas Mask has talked to about future singles include Mik and Scott, Human Behavior, Head Over Heart, Tom Walbank and Roman Barten-Sherman.
“It’s heavier in Tucson just because we’re here. But Grace is in Tempe and we’re going to bring in some more Phoenix bands as things get going,” Mauzy says. “The idea is 12, but we could do a volume two. It’s something that really has the potential to grow.”
Bob Hanshaw of Sun Bones (as well as Laura and the Killed Men) says Baby Gas Mask has done a good job of choosing compatible bands to share the split. Sun Bones’ song is a rare recording of the band as a five-piece.
“It was really only a short time where we had both Evan (Casler) and Laura (Kepner-Adney) in the band at the same time and this one features both of them prominently. That’s really something special and captures a nice moment in time for the band,” he says. “And we’ve played several shows with Best Dog Award over the years and the song that’s on the split is the one I’m most impressed with of their recordings. I’m proud to share space with it.”
The eclectic focus of the series is something that will set it apart and draw more Tucson and Arizona music fans into the fold.
“Having a label in town that is comprehensively focused on the best bands that are doing stuff here, across several different genres, is going to be pretty important to the city,” he says. “There are labels here that are focused on a pocket of bands. But what Melissa and Seth want to put on the West Foot Forward series is going to be a ton more comprehensive. If you get into a Tucson band through them, it’ll be easier to find a wealth of different bands.”
The series is an ambitious endeavor for Baby Gas Mask, which has released three full-length LPs (Hymn For Her, Sound of Urchin and Run Boy Run), a split EP from Black Medicine and Denonymns and a Deschtuco single, and also runs label support services, helping bands and other labels with merchandising and shipping.
Baby Gas Mask is pressing 300 of each release, with an undetermined number to be held back for a special box set once all 12 are done. The label plans release shows for each, plus a special showcase at the end. The second and third West Foot Forward releases are tentatively scheduled for the summer and fall.
“I see the time frame between them getting shorter and shorter and shorter as the series progresses,” Mauzy says. “More people are getting excited about it and wanting to be on the series, so now we’re on a roll with recording.”