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Keep up with Louisville subscription-based label Deus Marginalia

Syd Bishop

Throughout history, artists have always found a way to create. Whether juggling the personal responsibilities of family and everyday life, or experiencing the worldwide trauma of a global health crisis, the need to make art never ceases. Louisville's Syd Bishop is familiar with these obstacles, and created Deus Marginalia, a digital subscription-based record label, to overcome them. The label offers new releases every other week on their Bandcamp page, most recently The Work from Bradley Coomes. I talked with label founder Syd Bishop to learn more about Deus Marginalia, and what more we can expect from them.

What prompted the beginning of Deus Marginalia? Was there a defining moment that began this journey?

I've been a musician since I was in high school. When I was a teenager, all I wanted to do was pursue music. Unfortunately, music isn't the easiest way to pay the bills, especially when you specialize in niche genres. I love a lot of music but have usually gravitated toward noisy indie, ambient, and experimental genres. That's not exclusive, but that defines a lot of my output. So money, or rather the fear of poverty, kept me from doing what you have to do to make money off of music. Instead, I held down mundane jobs that allowed me the schedule to practice, but not quite enough liberty or financial stability to tour.

In my late-20s, I went back to college. A year or two after graduation, my family of two became three. Holding down a career and parenting aren't the best times to revisit my desire to travel the world with music; I want to be able to take care of my kids and watch them grow, to hold my wife at night. But music never went away. I've always pursued some project on my own, even when things were busy. I always will. That's the real secret now: I have to keep going. It's a compulsion to make music, an itch that has to be scratched. Now, everything I do for art is in the margins of my responsibilities, which prompted the name of the label. God is in the margins. It's not religious, but a way of expressing that drive for myself and everyone else. We all pursue our dreams on the periphery of capitalism.

That all led me to this summer. I had a lot of my own music backlogged and a community of friends that are non-traditional musicians, by which I mean we're just a bunch of art nerds that would stick out in an indie festival. The world was on fire, between the amazing work of the BLM movement against injustice, the pandemic, and the rising tide of nationalism. Since I'm not religious, I believe today is it. We only have this moment and nothing more is promised. So I decided to start a small, digital-first label and invite friends and beautiful weirdos to join in with me. Now we have 14 releases out, starting July 31st, with much more on the horizon.

How would you describe the genres of music represented on Deus Marginalia?

Whatever I like. There are a handful of projects on the label that I participate in, but they all vary pretty wildly from one another. All Glass is probably the most thoughtful, pop-friendly project I've ever been in, in no small part to my collaborators Guy Kelly and Zack Stefanski. I recorded with an outfit called The Joy Center over the summer to capture some of that punk fury during the protests. Elsewhere, I do a project called Hueón, which is instrumental indie with some jazz leanings. Finally, I have a long term solo project called Tauri Sb, which is mostly ambient and drone-based, albeit cinematic in scope.

Fortunately, it's not just me, and I wouldn't want it to be. We currently have shoegaze, electronic, and post-rock releases on the album. Next week, we're releasing the newest from Cut Family Foundation, which is a lo-fi funk project that in my opinion has vaporware elements. We have a psych metal project coming, some jazz, and I've been in talks with a few friends that make hip-hop to pursue that. I wouldn't have it any other way. To me, it's all in the spirit of community and friendship, which is integral to my philosophy.

The label seems to operate as a collective of fairly close-knit people. How did the creatives involved get to know each other?

At the moment, I'm the common denominator. Not only have I played in bands since last century (jeez), but I've spent a lot of time writing about the works of others. I find the craft of music endlessly fascinating. When I started going to shows, I was a relative outsider looking in. I went to high school in Bullitt County, so from my perspective, I just wanted to find a community that was inclusive. That wasn't easy —it never is— but if you look, you'll find your tribe. Initially, that was with people that made hardcore/punk music. It wasn't really my scene musically, but the socio-politics and relationships I built were great. It also taught me to appreciate things for what they are, not what I want them to be. So I made friends for the most part pretty easily. I love to talk and get a good story.

That's a long-winded way of saying that community is important to me, and I'm lucky to have some pretty great and talented friends who get where I'm coming from.

Tell me about the most recent release.

Like myself, my friend Bradley Coomes has played music for a good long while now. He has a family and a job and all the bullshit that the rest of us have so that we can afford whatever streaming service we have and some decent beers or whatever. Bradley has the bug. He's already released something on Deus Marginalia, which was a duo with the incredibly talented Sheri Streeter. Bradley took Sheri's vocables and cut them up into this beautiful electronic pastiche. He's also prolific and has taken the quarantine seriously. That means he has plenty of time and incentive to get into his music lab and tinker with the good stuff. Last week saw the release of The Work, so named for exactly what I mentioned. An entirely solo project, Bradley put his own anxieties and concerns to music, here in the form of an instrumental shoe-gaze record. The songs are melancholic and glacial, meditations on guitar designed to transport listeners to someplace better, and, hopefully, warmer. It's such a pretty record and great to write to (that's my day job) or to just relax with in the evening and zone out.

Every other week is a very prolific music schedule. As a subscription-based label, do you plan to slow down any time soon?

Ha! Never. The purpose of making it a subscription-based label was to force me to stay on my toes. So far, I've written two records that I recorded in the two-week interval before they came out. I've been involved in projects that are perfectionist in nature, that toil over minor details, and I wanted to liberate myself from that. Committing to a bi-weekly release schedule relieves you of those anxieties and frees you to embrace the beauty of imperfection. I realize that sounds like an excuse to not take things seriously, but that's not it at all. Think about it like jazz, about living in a moment and letting it live as it is, not as it could be.

Of course, that's not my sole interest, nor will it be. I want each project to live and breathe on its own. If something takes a year or more, fine. If it takes a week. Fine. All that matters is the process and embracing the moment. Right now, the schedule is already set into about mid-July, and I have no doubt that I'll be able to continue to build that. I have SO MANY super talented friends that love making music and count my good fortunes whenever possible. So no, I don't think slowing down is in the cards. Plus, as I told a friend earlier, I want to leave some kind of musical legacy behind. Kind of an "if-you-build-it-they-will-come" thing, where I just push myself to constantly release interesting, community-oriented things that are built with love. I think that will resonate with people, even if it's not immediate. I'm confident in the goodness in people to find your art and hear it for what it is.

Listeners can keep up with Deus Marginalia with a $4 subscription. Stream their most recent release, The Work by Bradley Coomes, below.

Otis is the late morning host on WFPK. Email Otis at ojunior@lpm.org