In this week's print issue, we spent some time with Delia and Hannah Rainey, the twin sisters of Dubb Nubb, and older sister, drummer and Special Passenger Records owner Amanda Rainey. Below is some of our interview with Amanda, in which she provides the label's history and philosophy, reminisces about her time living and working in Jackson, MS, and gives some news about upcoming projects. Catch up with the whole Special Passenger family at the label's website, or download some songs for free at Special Passenger's and Dubb Nubb's respective Bandcamp sites. Or see Dubb Nubb for free at Great Harvest Bread Company in Olivette this Friday, August 12, at 7:00 p.m.
Riverfront Times: When and why did you start Special Passenger Records? Were you inspired by any other labels?
Amanda Rainey: In April of 2009, we released a compilation called The Special Passenger Project . A few months before that, a friend of ours called his date for the evening his "special passenger," and the phrase caught on in our small arts community of friends in Jackson. Several bands, including [my band] The Bachelorettes, wanted to write "special passenger" songs, so we decided to do a compilation. Our friends were really excited to have a bit of inspiration and we ended up getting 17 songs! Around the same time Dubb Nubb recorded their first album in Jackson. The Bachelorettes recorded an album at the same studio,and our guitar player Lizzie started playing solo shows as Lizzie Wright Super Space Ship. So after we got back from Bachelorettes tour that August, we decided to start a label to have an umbrella name for all these projects.
Are you from St. Louis originally? What is your relation to Jackson, MS? I grew up in St. Louis and went to undergrad at Mizzou. I moved to Jackson in May of 2007 because I got a fellowship at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life. It was a two-year position in Jewish education. I traveled around the South and worked with religious school in small Jewish communities. My second year in Jackson, we started The Bachelorettes and I got involved in the DIY space One to One Studios. When my fellowship ended, I loved Jackson too much to leave, so I stuck around for another year, worked at the art gallery at Millsaps College, and did music stuff.
Are you from a musical family? Obviously your twin sisters are perfomers, and your dad is clearly a music fan. Was music always part of chez Rainey? I love that my parents' house focuses on the stereo more than the television. Our living room features a piano, guitars, mandolin, and shelves of CDs and records. For a while too when I played percussion in the school band, we had a 4.5 octave marimba. My parents always had music playing in the house, which was mostly awesome except for when it was Phil Ochs at 8 a.m. on a Saturday and i was in middle school.
With what bands besides the Bachelorettes and Dubb Nubb have you performed?
I play percussion with Lizzie Wright Super Space Ship, who also moved to Columbia. Last summer the twins, our cousin Jessica and I had a garage-pop band in our parents' basement called Teen Room. We had one show - in our parent's basement. Also, I am in a band in Columbia called Comfort Zone that began as part of a 48-hour band competition and we kept being a band afterwards. We have been described as art-punk, and the most interesting band people have seen.
What inspired Feels Like Coming Home? How far along are you with it?
Feels Like Coming Home was an idea I had with Annie Blazer, who used to run the label with me. The name came from the old welcome sign, "Mississippi, it's like coming home." Annie is a religion professor and is interested in musical communities as meaningful communities. We wanted to inspire people to write songs about their hometowns and musical communities. The album will have 16 bands from around the country. I am still waiting on two of the songs to come in, but am hoping to release the album by the end of July. We asked bands to participate who are in our network of family, friends, bands we have played with, or bands we have seen and been moved by. Tell me about the video component of Feels Like Coming Home.
Since we started the project, Annie has left the label to focus more on her academic life, She is finishing a fellowship at Princeton University, and is starting a tenure track professor position in the fall at Centenary College in Shreveport. I still plan to travel the album around to each city or town where the songs are from and do a release show with that band and other local bands. I will film the show and conduct some interviews about the band and community, and then produce short webisodes that highlight the experience. This will take place throughout the next year. The original idea was to make a documentary, but I think that the webisodes will be more accessible and will highlight each town better than making one film. It will also be easier for me to do by myself since I do not have any experience producing films! Special Passenger is clearly dedicated to DIY culture, yet you're also connected to each other through computers. What are the pros and cons of that? Does the Internet hurt or help these various pockets of creativity?
I actually love the Internet. It has been amazingly helpful to promote events and releases through Facebook and to connect with friends and fans. I really think that Facebook events have boosted show attendance and Facebook pages have helped independent bands promote themselves. I do think that we could utilize the internet better in connecting with other musicians and record labels, and am in talks with a friend who runs a tape label in Lawrence, KS to start a network of Midwestern labels. We want to have a website and Facebook group to help promote each others' releases and hopefully plan a conference for small regional labels. I also try to remember not to rely only on the Internet, so I hand out flyers, sell things at the local vintage store and at art markets, and of course produce physical copies of all our releases.
What other projects does SP have on tap? What are some of your other creative projects?
We have a Lizzie Wright Super Space Ship album ninety percent recorded, waiting on drums and mixing. That will come out by the end of the year. Also, we are co-releasing the Comfort Zone/Task Force record called 12" Pizza Split later this summer with another local label called Distro Sux. Dubb Nubb album too! I also make greeting cards and postcards, fabric necklaces, quilts and clothes, and buttons with my beautiful new button maker. I have been dreaming of having a button maker for 10 years, so to buy one with money from the record label was a pretty cool thing that just happened. I think I have already made about 800 buttons in the month and a half since I got it. From your Facebook page, I get the impression that Judaism is important to you. Does that bleed into your label/music/creative projects from a philosophical view, or otherwise?
I have always been very involved in the Jewish community, from going to preschool at my synagogue to earlier today, when I gave a Bar Mitzvah lesson. I think that Judaism has taught me to have a deep connection to the community and I bring that to the label and the musical communities of which I have been a part. We did a Hanukkah compilation and released it at a huge Hanukkah party in Jackson, which taught many people who had never celebrated Hanukkah about the holiday. (Yes, there was a Manischevitz shot bar.)
Is Missouri a good base for all these projects? Where would you live if you had your absolute pick?
I am really happy in Columbia, and am so excited for Hannah and Delia to move here for college. Columbia is great because it is cheap to live, so I can work part time and afford to spend the rest of my time doing projects that I love that bring in no income. I won't live here forever, but I'm going to enjoy it for a while. Also, I just got hired by True/False Film Festival to be a part of their music team for the 2012 festival. Dubb Nubb and Lizzie played last year; it is a great experience for musicians and really everyone in the community. Eventually, I would like to live in a big city for a little while and think about spending some time in Seattle or New York Also, I just really loved the time I spent in Durham, NC last month and could see myself living there. And St. Louis will probably draw me back one day. That was my first home!