Nathan Reusch was a bit doe-eyed and naive, he admits, when he started his record label 10 years ago.
“We figured it was going to be a huge success,” he said. “We never thought it wouldn’t be. We were all so young. My partners were 18 and 19; I was 24. We just didn’t know how much work we’d have to put into it.
“Back then, we thought it would become much larger than it is, but I’m also really proud of what we’ve accomplished and grown into.”
In October 2003, the Record Machine issued its debut album: “Getting Scary” by the James Dean Trio. Since then, it has released 50 recordings from 33 bands and artists. Friday night, Reusch will celebrate his label’s 10th birthday with a show at the RecordBar that will feature two bands from its current roster, Max Justus and Little Legend.
These days, Reusch is running the label on his own, with the help of some volunteers. Asked to mention some of the biggest moments and events over the past 10 years, he immediately says the annual Middle of the Map Fest, which the label and Ink started in 2011. It has featured national headliners such as Daniel Johnston, Fun and Grizzly Bear.
“I’m really proud of how it has turned into a big Kansas City thing,” he said. “It has gotten bigger every year and has really accomplished what we wanted. It’s great to see some favorite bands come to town and see our music scene here and spread the word about it.
“(The festival) has also helped the label sign bands who aren’t from Kansas City, like Little Legend (from Madison, Wis.), who we met through Middle of the Map, and Noise FM, who are from Chicago. We are still very Kansas City-minded, but it’s fun to have bands from St. Louis, Chicago and other places on our roster.”
The evolution of those bands has been rewarding for Reusch, although — like a parent talking about his children — he’s not about to pick favorites.
“Every time I’m working on a release, I get really obsessed with the record so I can really get to know it and know how to talk about it,” he said. “So it’s all good.
“But a band like Capybara, I’m really proud of how they grew into the kind of band we thought they would. It’s nice to see that. And Cowboy Indian Bear is out now on a headlining tour in places like New York. When things like that happen, I feel like, ‘mission accomplished.’”
And as for disappointments?
“It’s always disappointing when a band doesn’t get to the level you think they should,” he said. “And having a band like Capybara kind of stall out. They haven’t really broken up, but everyone’s living in different places, so they aren’t really doing anything right now.”
The label will launch a couple of projects soon. One will be a podcast that will include music and interviews not only of band members but also of other creative types involved in the process, such as graphic artists and videographers. Next year, it will begin a cassette club in which each month subscribers can get a recording from that month’s featured artist. Cassettes will also be available individually.
“One of the most exciting parts of this job is getting to work with so many creative, enterprising, hard-working people who want to create something new,” he said.
Ten years after he turned the key on the Record Machine, Reusch still believes in the label and is still enjoying the ride.
“We never thought about making it 10 years,” he said. “It was more like, ‘Let’s just do this.’ It feels like a lifetime ago. It has been a wild ride.”Friday night show
The Record Machine will celebrate its 10th anniversary as a record label Friday night at RecordBar, 1028 Westport Road. On the bill (in order of appearance): Max Justus, Little Legend, Sleepy Kitty and Rooms Without Windows. Doors open at 9 p.m. Admission to the 18-and-older show is $8.
THE RECORD MACHINE ROSTER
Bands and artists who have released recordings on the Record Machine label:
Ad Astra Arkestra, Akkilles, Sam Billen, Cabybara, Cheyenne, Colonel Rhodes, Continents, Cowboy Indian Bear, Every Gentle Air, Fake Natives, Interstates, It’s True, James Dean Trio, La Guerre, Lazy, Little Legend, Making Movies, Max Justus, Minden, Moaterboater, the Noise FM, Palace, the Parade Schedule, Perhapsy, Saharan Gazelle Boy, Soft Reeds, Spirit Is the Spirit, State Bird, Winston Jazz Routine.