LABEL PROFILE Feel It Records Preserves the Essence of Punk By Jesse Locke · January 09, 2024

In 2010, shortly after graduating high school, Sam Richardson made the transition from publishing a fanzine to launching a label. Feel It Records emerged as an extension of Got Myself, a DIY print publication that explored the roots of homegrown punk by reviewing releases from Richardson’s hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia, and interviewing touring bands. Launched after he moved to Richmond to study small business management, while also touring with his bands and living in a punk house that hosted shows in its living room, Feel It was initially a “hobby label” with a regional focus. Releasing only a handful of records each year, Richardson didn’t imagine the project could become a full-time job until he received “the dreaded 1099 tax form from PayPal.”

Since then, Feel It’s roster has grown considerably. Higher profile releases include post-punk duo Sweeping Promises, reissues from power pop hero Tommy Marolda aka The TOMS, and the catalogs of both The Cowboy and The Cowboys. With a mix of artist submissions and his own discoveries, Richardson has expanded far beyond Virginia state lines to include a wide range of international releases. “I’ve definitely embraced the post-punk side of music alongside the hardcore-leaning things that I released in the earlier years,” he says. “Garage rock, psychedelia, and soul have become whole other veins of interest. I’m getting away from the abrasive stuff that interested me when I was younger.”

From its current home base of Cincinnati, Ohio, Feel It has continued stepping up production, seemingly announcing a new release every other day. Yet, as a musician and fan first, Richardson maintains firsthand connections with his signees, whom he regularly joins on the road. “Sam is fair and generous with his bands and seems to really have an appreciation for the unique vision of the artist,” says Jackie Blenkarm of Private Lives. “His enthusiasm for what he does is palpable and makes working with him both a breeze and a pleasure.”

Montréal’s Joe Chamandy—who released Protruders’ Poison Future LP with Feel It in 2019, and currently plays with Theee Retail Simps alongside running his own zine/label, Celluloid Lunch—heartily agrees. “Feel It is essentially Sam working as hard and effectively as a big label with tons of staff, bringing precision and meticulousness to a game typically reserved for slack-jawed delinquents,” says Chamandy. “But he of course preserves that slack-jawed charm, the essence!”

Offering the label’s digital releases on Bandcamp as “name your price” downloads is just one of the many ways Richardson keeps things grounded. He believes that digital music is so easily available that charging a fixed price limits accessibility. “A lot of people are struggling with their finances right now,” says Richardson. “If they have a dollar and still want to enjoy the album while throwing some support in, that’s more than cool with me.”

While the label continues picking up steam—Sweeping Promises’s second album Good Living Is Coming For You topped many year-end lists and earned Feel It widespread coverage in 2023—Richardson has also maintained a hands-on approach to vinyl releases. “I don’t do things the easy way,” he laughs. “I still handle a lot of the layout and printing myself. I like being in the studio with bands and being very involved with releases, rather than sending everything through a broker to do the production and hiring everything out on the promotion side. I just hope I can continue to find a good balance with all of the records we have coming out.”

Additionally, Richardson is excited to announce the opening of a physical record store. Located in Cincinatti’s Clifton Gaslight District in the former home of Torn Light Records, the new Feel It headquarters is scheduled to open its doors in early spring. “My goal is to highlight what’s happening locally and regionally, but also be a true destination shop,” says Richardson. “The kind of place where you can find something cool to take home regardless of whether you’re adding to a collection or building one from scratch.”

With an eye to Feel It’s hardcore origins, here are ten contemporary and archival releases selected by Richardson to help you dig into the label’s discography.

Lackey Die

Lackey Die didn’t make major waves during their existence from 1982 to 1985, but they have the honor of being Charlottesville’s first hardcore band, as well as the first release on Feel It. With one of their two studio sessions recorded at Arlington’s infamous Inner Ear Studios—where Minor Threat, Fugazi, and Bad Brains cut their teeth—Lackey Die blasted out blistering songs that get in and out in under two minutes.

“That was such a cool thing to unearth from my hometown, and it taught me how to release a record from scratch,” says Richardson. “Archival releases don’t come in like a submission with templated artwork and mastered audio. You really have to go through the process to build things up from nothing, or in some cases from bad sources. I hand screen-printed the covers with friends and started sending them out.”

The Landlords
Hey! It’s A Teenage House Party!

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

The Landlords’ 1984 debut LP was also recorded at Inner Ear, kicking off the musical output of singer/drummer John Beers and guitarist Charlie Kramer, who later formed the Homestead-signed experimental duo Happy Flowers. Hey! It’s A Teenage House Party! stands out from other hardcore releases of its era, even among The Landlords’ Charlottesville peers, thanks to their semi-improvised noise rock sound, effects-heavy guitar solos, and jokey call-and-response lyrics.

“It was cool to get to know the guys in The Landlords because they’re people who have seen the world of music from lots of different angles,” says Richardson. “I even got them to do a one-off reunion in Charlottesville, so that was really special.”

Pleasure Leftists
The Gate

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)

Aside from moving Feel It’s sound beyond hardcore, Cleveland post-punk band Pleasure Leftists’ second album became an important nexus of activity for the label.

“Pleasure Leftists hit a pocket of interest that the label hadn’t gotten to yet and also opened up the door for a lot of things to come my way from people who heard it,” says Richardson. “I mastered it with Bill McElroy at Slipped Disc Studio, who has done a bunch of my releases and taught me about that side of things. My friend Brandon Gaffney did the art and has gone on to do some of our other projects, so there was a lot wrapped up in one album.”

Richardson would go on to release records from bassist Steve Peffer (The Cowboy, Fashion Pimp And The Glamazons) as well as the dark synth-pop band Disintegration, fronted by Pleasure Leftists’ singer Haley Himiko.

Sweeping Promises
Hunger For a Way Out

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Cassette, Compact Disc (CD)

After releasing close to 50 records, Richardson was considering pulling the plug on Feel It. But at the height of the pandemic, then-Massachusetts-based duo Sweeping Promises submitted their debut album; Richardson says it arrived at the perfect moment. Recorded with a single mic in the classic DIY punk tradition, their urgently catchy songs caught on with listeners and critics, bringing a new level of attention to the label.

“I didn’t know Lira [Mondal] and Caufield [Schnug] at that point, but they had been tuned into what Feel It was doing and wanted to send the album over,” says Richardson. “Sweeping Promises brought a lot of new people into the mix and definitely led to other cool bands submitting things. It was the gasoline on the fire that the label needed to take a step forward and become a full-time thing for me.”

Spread Joy
Spread Joy

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

Spread Joy’s debut album zips by with ten songs in 14 minutes, but the Chicago quartet pack in more hooks than most bands do on a double LP. Like Suburban Lawns’s Su Tissue fronting Pink Flag-era Wire, the squealing vocals of singer Briana Hernandez are propelled at top speed by razor wire riffs. For fans of minimalist punk on the egg side of the spectrum, Spread Joy’s music is impossible to dislike.

“This album was one that I immediately fell in love with,” says Richardson. “It just makes me feel happy. Sometimes, the simplest things are what I enjoy the most. Spread Joy has a lot of style, but their songs are also very direct. They’re lovely people, and I’m really glad that I was able to do another record with them as well.”

Crime of Passing
Crime of Passing

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD), Cassette

Cincinnati’s Crime of Passing mark the start of the current era of Feel It. Richardson describes the gothic post-punk band as “a great bridge” into the city’s scene, thanks to their shared membership with fellow local groups The Serfs and The Drin. Crime of Passing’s cold, cavernous music has more electronic elements than you might expect from the label’s roster, but their dramatic intensity makes them a perfect fit.

“Crime of Passing had all these songs that they had recorded with John Hoffman, who is a dear, dear friend and a bandmate of mine now,” says Richardson. “This album was a really strong, stylish one to put eyes on what’s happening in Cinci. Their record release show was a week after I closed on my new house, so it felt really good to be here.”

Why Bother?
A Year of Mutations

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

Richardson highlights Why Bother? as the most prolific band on Feel It. He sought them out to release a proper record after first coming across the Iowa group’s music on YouTube. A Year of Mutations collects songs from the band’s first four EPs, originally issued on hyper-limited cassettes and 7-inch lathe cuts. With a focus on recording and no plans to perform live, Why Bother? stand out in many ways. Their synth-y horror-punk with lyrics about eating brains and re-animation conjures Cough Cool-era Misfits with the boneheaded fury of The Spits.

“Why Bother? were a little bit elusive at first, and we still only talk via phone calls, which for me is refreshing,” says Richardson. “A lot of people want to text my head off, but they approach things differently than most bands. I’m just about to announce their fourth LP in two years, and they already have another album and a half recorded. They’re very singular, which is why I love them, and I’m going to keep doing records for them.”


Merch for this release:
2 x Vinyl LP

From his home in New Jersey, Tommy Marolda not only played all instruments in The TOMS, but also self-produced and self-released his 1979 debut album. His music is the definition of classic power pop with catchy, lovelorn songs and nods to the Beatles (see: “Liverpool Girls” and “Revolver Days”). Feel It’s expanded reissue includes 11 bonus tracks, plus a previously unreleased recording of Peter Noone from Herman’s Hermits covering “The Flame.”

“Tom is a pleasure to work with and kind of an unbelievable songwriter,” says Richardson. “When I first got in touch to release the 1979 Sessions LP, which is basically the rest of the songs from the self-titled album that got recorded, I couldn’t believe how easy it was to hit it off with him. We’ve been working on a few more things from his archives, so there will be more Tom-related goodness to come.”

Svitaye, Palaye

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Cassette

Morwan is a one-man band from Kyiv, Ukraine’s Alex Ashtaui. He initially envisioned his third album as a lighter, danceable follow-up to the project’s previous releases, but when the Russian invasion began, Ashtaui shifted course. Even without a working knowledge of Ukrainian, the feelings behind his throbbing post-punk songs are deeply moving. The album’s description on Bandcamp accurately pinpoints Svitaye, Palaye as manifesting the “pain of loss, sadness, fear, hatred, anger, and aggression.”

“I think it’s pretty incredible to not only work with somebody doing contemporary music in Ukraine, but also release their album after they had experienced the war,” says Richardson. “In the realm of punk, I don’t know how many other people would have been in a spot to release something this powerful that has so much emotion. Alex is a very interesting musician who has a different approach to rhythm, and he incorporates his roots into what his project does. I’m very honored to have released this album.”

The Cowboys
Sultan of Squat

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

The Cowboys were the first act Richardson approached to release an album on Feel It, and he describes them as “a quintessential Midwest band.” Their sixth LP was written, recorded, and mixed in just three weeks after the group’s original lineup reunited from their homes in multiple cities. Sultan of Squat toys with the timeless sounds of country rock, power pop, and garage punk, knocking 13 hooky songs out of the park.

“I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a more natural group of guys who have been doing this for at least a decade now,” says Richardson. “I’ve been happy to get to know them better since moving here because a couple of the guys in the band have Cinci roots, and Bloomington [Indiana] is just down the road. Bands on the creative end of rock ‘n’ roll really resonate with what I’m doing. Everything I get from them I’m excited to have on the label.”

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