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From The Catalog: #OV001 – ‘Forward’ by 500$Fine

Published on 12.11.23
 

A new thing we are starting here, and hope to keep up with occasionally, is to dive through our catalog, highlighting a release. And to start, we are looking at catalog #001, 500$Fine’s ‘Forward’ record: the record the label was founded to release.

As I was part of this release, as both a band member and the label releasing it, I can go in to a bit of detail about it.

Background

In the summer of 1996, 500$Fine recorded a nine-song session with local engineer Mark Miley, at his Glass Hand studio (assisted by Greg Kusterbeck, of Uphill Down). The songs were aimed for a possible demo tape release, as we had little money for anything else. Then later that summer, the band got offered to record another 3 songs for free at Charlton Studios, then located under Guitar Works in Carytown, as an intern project for a budding engineer who was working there. A few month’s later, our bassist and friend, Patrick Daly, lost his life in a car crash, and the band began the process of coming to an end.

But over the next few months, the remaining band members (Matthew and I) started discussing what to do with, what were essentially, the last recordings of Patrick’s work, both as a bassist, and in songwriting and vocals. Not content to release Patrick’s last work as a ‘Demo’ cassette, an idea was put forth to have a benefit show, raise funds, and release the work on Compact Disc, a format that may last a bit longer, than a cassette tape would.

The benefit show was held, at the St Edward Church venue that the band had played many times before, and the money needed to release the CD was raised. In printing the CD, the pressing plant required a label name to be given, so I gave the name ‘One Voice, One Life, Resist!’. And front that, a CD was made, and a label, at least in name, was formed.

The record was called ‘Forward’, at the suggestion of Patrick’s Mom, we think in hopes the band would continue moving forward, a thing that wasn’t realized until 22 years later.

The Album

‘Forward’, as it was released to the world in late 1997 / early 1998, contained 15 tracks:

  • Tracks 1-9 from the 1996 Glass Hand session. A group of new songs the band had never recorded before, including a cover of the Clash’s ‘White Riot’.
  • Tracks 10-12 from the 1996 Charlton session. This included two alternate versions of songs recorded at Glass Hand, and new version of one of our older songs, ‘Caffeine’.
  • Tracks 13 & 15 recorded by Me & Matthew at Montana studio with Mark Miley engineering, after Patricks’s passing. Of these, one song titled ‘Compassion’, was the last song the band had been working on, and was the last song Patrick had written for the band. The second of these tracks was an acoustic song I wrote for the session. Perhaps hinting at the acoustic punk I would begin making over the next couple years, and for the next couple decades.
  • Track 14, a song written and recorded at the same Montana session, by friends of the band, Norman Roescher, and his daughter Deanna.

The record was originally released with it’s proceeds to be made as a benefit for the ‘RVA Punk Nation’, a local group that was working to open an all-ages club in Richmond, run by punks. Unfortunately, the never panned out. When the band started selling the CD again in the mid 2010s, we met with Patrick’s parents, and all decided that donating proceeds to the Central Virginia Food Bank would be the a good idea.

Listening back to the CD, is an experience. I still remember those sessions we’d do a Glass Hand, one for this record, one for our demo. Mark charged $25 an hour, and we’d knock our session out, with Mix, in one day. Each song was usually the first take, at max, the second take, all playing together minus vocals. All to tape, with no editing. Vocals recorded separately, usually in one pass. I think the first session with him for our demo cost $150. The nine forward tracks, I believe ran around $200 something. Punk fucking rock.

The Songs

As for the songs…

The record starts out with ‘Learning’, which was, if anything, perhaps the best song we ever wrote. And Patricks’ bass line.. JESUS CHRIST.

Let’s talk about Patrick’s Bass playing for a second. First. Yes, we were influenced by Rancid. But ALSO, and perhaps more so, we were REALLY influenced by the East Bay sound that INFLUENCED Rancid. And two bands in particular: Crimpshrine, and Econo Christ. Listen to those records, and you will see where that almost Jazz solo-esque bass style came from. And Patrick just ran with it. He was a guitar player that began playing bass. Partly because we needed a bass player, and partly because it was a challenge to him. Patrick loved challenges. And he was really good at completing them, and succeeding with them. I remember when he really got going with skateboarding, and within a few weeks, he was already better than I was at skating, despite my 4-5 years head start.

What sticks out the most to be about ‘Learning’ though, is the lyrics. Patrick and I were both very hell bent on writing positive lyrics. Lyrics that didn’t ‘punched down’, but rather, tried to punch the systemic structures that were behind all this stuff. And honestly, we didn’t even know that was a concept back then, or have the vocabulary for it. We just knew that the city we loved, that we got to go to, and play shows in, that would be the place of our future, was a black city, with a history of slavery, and monuments to those that enslaved, down it’s main strip. And for every mark of progress, there was a mark of cost. Juxtapose the stark white Ethyl building with the homeless hanging at the old Daily Planet shelter. Juxtapose Food Not Bombs with the VCU dining facilities. Juxtapose Grace St with our suburban streets in the south side. We lacked the vocabulary, but we knew things were not right. And so you get a line like ‘fuck all of their symbols of status, and refine our souls’…

Going track by track through this record would be exhausting, and perhaps excruciating to all but the most invested reader.. so maybe I’ll just sum it up here: To me, as someone who participated in writing and performing the songs on this record, and having served as a custodian of the recording for the past twenty years: I hear my friend in it. I hear the honesty of kids in it. And I hear the beauty of punk rock, not trying to be perfect, but trying. Kids trying to make their voices heard, to rattle society, perhaps change it even, despite the fact that only one of us could drive a fucking car. :)

We were after all, just 16 years old.

– Gary