It’s been two years since Dreamy Life Records and Music – the twinkling gem embedded in the center of Cowtown’s underground crown – released its last Group Therapy compilation. Since its inception six years ago, the weighty collection has consistently provided an impressive avian view of just how densely populated our burg is with boast-worthy musos of all stripes, especially those of the garage-y, pop-edged punk-rock flavor.
Many of the usual suspects – beloved artists on the label’s roster like Pearl Earl, Loafers, and War Party – are offering new material alongside a spattering of anticipated first-time appearances from the likes of Steve Gnash, Trauma Ray, and All Clean. As has been the trend over each of the past four installments, with Group Therapy, Vol. 5, label-runners Robby Rux and Jennifer Rux, Britt Robisheaux, Cameron Smith, and Jim Vallee have stretched their ambitions to the point of snapping, packing 25 tracks onto the tiny spools of magnetic tape.
“It just keeps growing,” Robby said. “But at some point, you’ve got to cut if off. There’s only so many bands you fit on the darn thing in the first place. I really wanted to get to, like, 40 or 50 bands, but you can’t really go much past 25, or it’s not going to fit on a cassette.”
The Group Therapy series began as a collaboration between two separate labels, The Ruxes’ shoegaze/psych-centric Dreamy Soundz and Smith’s slack-rock outlet, Lo-Life Records. On the first iteration of the album, each label chose half the artists from their own rosters, which were then brought together for a marathon recording session held at the now-departed Where House. That successful first experience ultimately led to the merger of the two labels.
“The whole Group Therapy thing is really what created us,” Robby said. “After the first one, [Dreamy Soundz] started doing a lot of work with Lo-Life. Then a couple years later, we decided to do the record store,” a small record-and-tape shop that shares the label’s name and is now in its third location, inside MASS. “We eventually decided to just merge and form Dreamy Life.”
The second year, the label bosses moved the sessions into their own Cloudland Recording Studios, where it’s stayed since, with the basic premise remaining: Each band is given one hour to track a previously unreleased song, mostly live. Then Cloudland’s in-house engineers – the Ruxes, Robisheaux, Rubio Narcótico, and Joe Tacke – split up the songs for mixing. With more than two dozen artists, it’s an enormous undertaking.
“It’s a lot, a lot of work,” Robby said. “The original sessions take 48 hours. Then if you add the evening sessions” – a few artists, like Steve Gnash, were booked outside of the original two-day marathon held last November – “that’s another 24 hours. Then mixing – not to mention all the work Cameron does beforehand lining up all the bands.”
All told, Rux estimates that close to 500 hours of work goes into the process from beginning to end.
As in the past, the work pays off. It’s another remarkable collection of a rich and diverse swathe of artists. The chimey pop of Ting Tang Tina’s “D-D7” and the rambunctious punkiness of War Party’s “Negative Consumer” – the last song that the now-defunct five-piece will likely release – snuggles comfily alongside Juma Spears’ sativa smooth “Glow” and Wrex’s blissfully lazy “Nothing Day.” The frenetic tension of BULLS’ “AA” and the industrial dirge of All Clean’s “Failing in Full” seem appropriate in the same space as the subtle dream-pop of Summer Job’s “Feel it Now” and the Air-esque electro-soul of Andy Pickett’s “Ghosts.” First-time contributions from the full-tilt ’60s psychedelic experience of Johndavid Bartlett & Acid Carousel coupled with the anguished R&B of A Michael E push the genre-abandoning ethos even further.
“We try to mix it up as much as possible every time,” Robby said of the varied musical styles present. “We’re also kind of trying to unite the scene. Like we always try to include two or three hip-hop artists, though we’re not really a hip-hop label. But we want to represent them because they mean so much to us and [to] the scene. We do it because we love the scene and we want to showcase it, especially to outside of the scene.”
Locals will get a chance to experience that showcase live on Saturday at the Group Therapy, Vol. 5 Release Fest at MASS. More than 15 artists will grace two stages for an all-day extravaganza. Performers include All Clean, Same Brain, Johndavid Bartlett & Acid Carousel, Trauma Ray, War Party, playing what will likely be their last show, and a dozen more. The parking lot will be fenced off to allow for a second stage as well as food trucks by Four Sisters – A Taste of Vietnam. There will be a skateboarding display by Magnolia Skate Shop and an art show as well. As if that’s not all, the $15 cover will earn the first 100 attendees a cassette copy of Group Therapy, Vol. 5. A portion of the proceeds will benefit RAICES, a non-profit that defends the rights of immigrants and refugees.
Group Therapy, Vol. 5 Release Fest
2pm Sat w/Sealion, War Party, The Fibs, Johndavid Bartlett & Acid Carousel, Ting Tang Tina, and many, many, more, at MASS,
1002 S Main St, FW. $15.