Talk Thursday to Me: Virgil Dickerson

Today we talk with Virgil Dickerson, the owner of Suburban Home Records about The Facts of Life, growing up pop-punk, the appeal of vinyl and the world of craft beers.

Postcard Editor: How’s life treating you?

Virgil Dickerson: It’s kind of like the facts of life (you take the good, you take the bad, and there you have….)

Overall good.

PE: Would you say you’re more of a Blair, Jo, Tootie or Natalie?

VD: That would depend on the day, but for me, Jo was tops on most days.

PE: That makes sense – Jo being the tomboy would probably be most likely to be into the SH bands, don’t you think?

I can see her rocking a Drag the River T-Shirt in the reboot.

VD: I definitely think that Jo would be more likely to like Drag the River and Tim Barry. Blair would probably hate all of the Suburban Home catalog.

PE: Well you know what they say, you can’t please all the girls of Eastland Academy all the time.

VD: True.

PE: So the label is in it’s 15th year…how does it feel to be raising a teenager?

VD: There’s a lot of attitude, driver’s ed, girls, high school, Suburban Home is quite the know it all.

PE: When you first started the label in 95, did you plan on it being such a long running institution? Or did it just happen more naturally?

What was your 15 year plan in 1995?

Besides two girls at the same time.

VD: I never in a million years would have guessed that I would still be involved in music. At the time, I was studying Molecular Biology and was pretty set on making that my career. I started Suburban Home as a fanzine in 95, starting putting out 7″s in 96, and somehow I’m still doing it.

I didn’t really have a 15 year plan (still don’t).

PE: Who/what was on the cover of the first issue of the fanzine?

VD: The first issue of Suburban Home had a picture of Pee Wee Herman on it (not sure why), but some of the first bands I interviewed were Face to Face and Bracket (I was a big pop-punker).

PE: Do you have a copy framed in the office, or has that already been donated to the Smithsonian?

VD: Man, I don’t have any of my back issues. There might be a few at my mother’s house, but I haven’t looked at one in a very long time. It wasn’t that great of a zine.

PE: Ha, ok then. So what was the first 7″ you put out? Was it pop-punk, or more inline with the roots sound that SH has become known and loved for?

VD: My first 2 releases were 7″s with So Cal Pop Punk band, Overlap, and Boulder, CO punk group, the Fairlanes. The Fairlanes were (and are) some of my best friends who introduced me to punk rock. I didn’t start putting out more rootsy Americana until I started working with Drag the River many years later.

PE: Do you still listen to a lot of punk rock? Or have your tastes changed? Obviously the label reflects your taste to a certain extent, but are there bands that you love who just are too outside of the SH brand to be considered?

VD: I listen to a lot of music, not nearly as much punk rock as I used to (but I still love a lot of punk rock). Drag the River were the first band to make me realize Country music didn’t have to suck. Their joining the label really made a huge influence on the sound of the label. I love Americana/Coutnry/Roots music so much. The last few punk rock records I put out didn’t really get a lot of attention as it seems like punk rock fans don’t really connect with Suburban Home anymore. I’ve turned down some really great punk rock acts because I didn’t think I could do them justice.

PE: Makes sense – because up there with Bloodshot, you guys are really the voice of underground roots country and rough around the edges singer-songwriters. I totally understand your revelation about country music too. I think we’re about the same age, and when growing up you heard the kind of top 20 country music that came after the pop-invasion of the 80’s, with the Mandrell Sisters and Kenny Rogers it was natural to write off the entire genre.

VD: Thanks for the kind words; that means a lot to me to be mentioned in the same sentence as Bloodshot. My dad listened to 2 kinds of music, “Country and Western”. He listened to some good Country like George Jones, but he also listened to lots of terrible commercial country. I went through every single musical phase : gangsta rap, hair metal, alternative, and he listened to Country and Western 24/7.

PE: Yeah, my dad was a huge Merle Haggard fan, and I loved that – but somehow in my mind that entire age of country was dead and gone. Because when you turned on the radio or Hee Haw, all you saw was big hair and rhinestones – on both the guys and girls.

VD: I forgot all about Hee Haw; I guess it always seemed so hokey and ridiculous.

PE: I feel like I have to issue one clarification though – I actually love Kenny Rogers songs, it’s just his production and persona were so of that time. Just bad 80’s influence all around. But the songs themselves are actually quite kick ass. He would be a great one for Rick Rubin to rehabilitate.

Anyway – so back to SH, you have a pretty full roster of active bands right now. You have like 20 bands on the label that are actively touring and releasing records right?

VD: Between 16 and 20 depending if you count Micah and Two Cow Garage, Jon, Chad, and Drag the River, Michael Dean Damron and I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch In the House, and so on. It gets pretty busy.

PE: Which one is your favorite?

Just kidding. That’s a shitty question.

VD: Drag the River will always hold a really soft spot in my heart as they have influenced so much of the direction of Suburban Home, but artists are like kids, you don’t love any of them over any other ones, you know? Yes that’s a shitty question.

PE: What I meant to say is, who is your least favorite?

Just kidding again.

VD: Equally shitty question.

PE: What’s brand new in the release department, and what’s coming down the pike?

VD: Next up are new albums by Michael Dean Damron and Josh Small; also working on Under the Influence Volumes 1 through 10 dbl LP/CD.

I actually have a ton of stuff in the works.

PE: Sounds like it. What about over at your other job, at Vinyl Collective. How is vinyl doing in terms to everything else in the music industry changing? I’ve recently been seeing some bands who are doing a vinyl only release that includes a download card. Is vinyl still holding on due to it’s uniqueness?

VD: To clarify, I recently passed the torch of Vinyl Collective to the good folks at Shopradiocast. In an effort to simplify my life, I am focusing on Suburban Home. That said, I am still putting out vinyl for nearly all of my releases. Vinyl, as far as physical formats, sells really well. The percentage of people who actually buy music is pretty low and of those people who buy physical music, that number is even smaller. but of the people who purchase physical music, more people are likely to buy vinyl.

Vinyl’s successful increase in sales is largely due (in my opinion) to people’s response to the soul-lessness of digital music. Dont’ get me wrong, digital music is convenient, but with vinyl, you have huge packaging, incredible fidelity, collectibility; it’s great.

PE: Congratulations on the handoff – sounds like it was a good thing. It would seem that you will also have more time to concentrate on your other great love: beer.

VD: Craft beer, I am definitely passionate about it. To be honest, I am working on finding employment with one of the many Colorado Craft Brewers so that I don’t have to rely on my livelihood from a business whose main product is easily available for free.

I do love beer, currently trying to visit every brewery in Colorado this year (138 breweries)

PE: How many have you visited before?

VD: I’ve visited lots of breweries over the past year, but I am trying to hit at least 12 a month. I hit 12 last month.

PE: What was your favorite one from last month?

VD: I hit a few of my favorites last month including Wynkoop and Great Divide, but the biggest surprise of last month was Strange Brewing, a really small craft brewer that makes fantastic beer.

PE: Where is Strange Brewing located?

VD: The funny thing is they are located in a small industrial park and at one time, Suburban Home considered leasing the space they are in (so that gives you an idea how small it is). It’s near Invesco field on 13th and Zuni. They are basically a glorified home brewer, but their beer is amazing. They have a Cherry Bomb Stout that is a tasty stout brewed with Cherries that brings a really different dynamic.

PE: Speaking of home brewing, I have to imagine that you’ve tried your hand at it, no?

VD: Yes, I have a few really good friends who brew quite a bit and have helped out. Tbone (Dylan) and I have once made an espresso imperial stout; we called it Terrorist Nation.

PE: So is this passion for the craft (and the product) going to lead you to that next step, say the Strange Brewing level?

Will I be able to get my hands on some Suburban Homebrew soon?

VD: Maybe one day; just enjoying the entire craft beer world. One of my closest friends (Jason former singer of the Fairlanes) is a brewer at Wynkoop; our group of friends have discussed the thought of starting a brewery/venue/restaurant, but if that ever happened, it would be a long time from now.

PE: Sounds like you might have a 15 year plan after all. Ok, so you’ve been gracious with your time, don’t want to keep you too much longer. Just quickly, what are some things that are rocking your world this week? Could be music, movies, personal experiences…anything.

VD: Here is what is rocking me this week:

Louis CK “Hilarious”, WTF Podcast, Skins Season 3, Michael Dean Damron “Plea From a Ghost”, Decemberists “King is Dead”, Builders and the Butchers “Dead Reckoning”, Possessed by Paul James “Feed the Family”, H Burger, Hebrew’s Jewbilation 14th Anniversary bomber, Deschutes NWPA

PE: Thanks for your time.

VD: Thanks buddy.

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4 Responses to “Talk Thursday to Me: Virgil Dickerson”

  1. thanks guys for the interview. I really appreciate it.

  2. Virgil rules!

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