In 2015, the Milwaukee music scene was flourishing.

The first few months saw two inaugural benefit festivals — Riverwest FemFest and Arte Para Todos — and a number of local bands make waves at the South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. 

To top it off, a local label was launched.

Gloss Records was founded by musicians Harrison Colby and Joey Peterson. It was first an outlet to release Colby’s now defunct band The Delphines’ final record, Hush; the debut of his new band, NO/NO; and Peterson’s self-titled, third Rio Turbo record.

As the traditional music industry continues to crumble, small-run (“boutique”) labels such as Gloss are becoming more common. They function more as distribution arms than the well-funded, talent development houses of yesteryear.

However, Gloss does offer support with promotion and touring.

In addition to cassette tapes from NO/NO and Rio Turbo, synth-pop heavyweights GGOOLLDD released their first physical product through Gloss.

“Having the first three releases be NO/NO, GGOOLLDD and Rio Turbo was super strong and it was a lot easier for people to say ‘Yes’ after that,” says Colby.

The Gloss roster grew quickly as Colby and Peterson tapped into the healthiest Milwaukee music scene in decades.

In its first year or so, Gloss released cassettes from Hello Death, Piles, Soul Low, Marielle Allschwang, D’Amato, Iron Pizza, Soup Moat, Lorde Fredd33, Surgeons in Heat, Chicago’s (ORB), and Arkansas’ Pagiins.

“During the first year we had a nice three-week model. We’d have an announcement, there’d be a single, a video, an album drop and a release show,” recounts Colby.

With the label’s reputation established, artists began seeking out Gloss in its second year. But with Peterson touring regularly with Platinum Boys, Harrison writing new music with NO/NO and the label venturing into vinyl production, the pace of their releases slowed.

“There was a lull this past year because we started doing vinyl. Money was stretched thin and there was a lot of waiting time for the pressing plants.”

Among those initial vinyl releases were GGOOLLDD’s Gold+, Soul Low’s award-winning Nosebleeds, and NO/NO’s Sound and Light, which was released in conjunction with the inaugural Gloss Weekend.

Gloss Weekend 2

The first Gloss Weekend was a two-night, sold-out affair. The label’s second birthday party will take place at Cactus Club May 19 and the Riverwest Public House May 20.

This year, they added an early all-ages show at the Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts May 20.

“After seeing The Fatty Acids and Soul Low’s all-ages release shows we figured it was a good idea. There’s not many venues that do it. Plus, Soul Low has a big all-ages following and they were totally down to headline the Jazz Gallery show,” says Colby.

As they did the first year, Gloss is selling a weekend pass that includes a limited-edition compilation tape.

Gloss cassettes will be discounted at $5 during Gloss Weekend, and vinyl will be $10.

Colby originally planned to release a new EP from NO/NO at Gloss Weekend 2, but the project has been delayed.

“It’s sort of a concept EP about social media communication, which sounds really lame, but it works. It’s also our first time collaborating with an outside producer, DASHCAM.

“We recorded the whole thing and it’s good, but it didn’t feel like much of a progression. So we sent him the tracks to see what he could do. I gave him carte blanche and he got really creative with it. There are these sound collages and really strange stuff, but I think it matches the concept well.”

Beyond the new NO/NO EP and Gloss Weekend 2, the young label plans to release new material from Moon Rats, Sex Scenes, DASHCAM and Soul Low.

“We're putting out the new Soul Low record and it’s amazing. Personally, my favorite thing about Gloss is that I get to hear everything months before anyone else.”

The details

Gloss Weekend 2 costs $10 per show or $25 for a weekend pass that includes a limited-edition compilation cassette. Visit the Gloss Store to get your wristband. (Lineups are listed from headliner to opener.)

CACTUS CLUB // FRIDAY MAY 19 // 21+: The Fatty Acids, Rio Turbo, Sex Scenes, Marielle Allschwang, and DASHCAM starting at 9 p.m.

JAZZ GALLERY // SATURDAY MAY 20 // ALL-AGES: Soul Low, Lorde Fredd33, Piles, Soup Moat, and D’Amato starting at 4 p.m.

PUBLIC HOUSE // SATURDAY MAY 20 // 21+: Foreign Goods, NO/NO, Surgeons in Heat, Hello Death, Iron Pizza starting at 9 p.m.

HIGH DIVE // SUNDAY MAY 21 // 21+: Free after-party with a surprise band, plus Harrison Colby and Joey Peterson spin records starting at 9 p.m.

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