Tommy Plural of GTG Records Talks GTG Fest, Michigan Music + More

2021-10-21

Black and white photo of Michigan folk band The Wild Honey Collective.

The Wild Honey Collective – Story by Anne Erickson, photo by Michael Boyes Photography

Local Music Beat: Tommy Plural of GTG Records discusses what it’s like running an independent record label, what’s in store for GTG Fest and more in this edition of the column

GTG Records has been a staple of the Lansing, Michigan, music scene for years. The independent, DIY record label and community started back in 2005, well before the Internet was packed with indie labels, and has flourished throughout the years, offering a bevy of high-quality releases from Lansing bands and beyond.

GTG Records’ annual GTG Fest returns this weekend, with shows Friday (Oct. 22) and Saturday (Oct. 23) at The Avenue Café and Saturday (Oct. 23) at The Record Lounge, both in Lansing. Tommy Plural – who is the head of GTG Records and performs in bands such as The Wild Honey Collective (pictured above) and The Plurals – caught up with Audio Ink Radio to discuss the label’s journey and where it’s going. For more information, visit GTG Records’ website.

Anne Erickson: GTG Records has been going strong for years now. What inspired you to start your own record label? What’s really cool is that you started GTG before there were a lot of options for indie bands and releases, like there are today.

Tommy Plural: The Plurals started GTG way back in 2005 as a way to help promote our first demos as a high school band. We basically read somewhere that this, as in forming your own label, is what classic ’80s punk bands like Minor Threat, Black Flag and Misfits did, so we just went into it ourselves with absolutely no idea of how to do it. We always wanted to help other bands we were friends with, too, so the whole idea was that if we co-operatively formed a label with friends, we would all basically promote each other when we did anything.

What would you say is the mission behind GTG Records, and how has it evolved over the years?

The core mission has always been to elevate independent musicians and foster an ethical community around the music, and this has never changed. What has changed is that when we first started, it was the tail end of the CD era, and digital downloads were still new, so we’ve been around for the rise of streaming. Around 2011, we started focusing on manufacturing vinyl for the hard-working touring bands, as that’s the best physical format you can actually sell these days.

Tell me about the upcoming GTG Fest. What acts do you have lined up?

This year’s GTG Fest will take place in Lansing over two days: Friday, Oct. 22, with an 8 p.m., 21-and-over show at the Avenue Café; Saturday, Oct. 23, with a 3 p.m. matinee, all ages show at The Record Lounge; and Saturday, Oct. 23, with another 8 p.m., 21-and-over show at The Avenue. In past years, we’ve had dueling stages, a lot of traveling bands and in general just tried to pack as many people as possible into the venues. Due to the continued presence of COVID, we’ve scaled things back this year. Each show will feature five to six bands, and it’s all fairly local. In addition to longtime GTG mainstays The Plurals, Narc Out the Reds, The Hunky Newcomers, Jeremy Porter and Drinking Mercury, we’ll also feature newer acts Rodeo Boys, The Wild Honey Collective, Bloody Butterflies, Kind Beast, Cutlass Supreme, A Rueful Noise and more. It’s three shows of eclectic indie rock and alternative rock with an undertone of punk.

How does it feel to bring back GTG Fest and live music after more than a year without concerts?

It feels amazing. We did a livestream fest last year that was a lot of fun, but there’s nothing like an actual, in-person show, even if it’s intentionally scaled-down.

The pandemic was rough on independent music venues across the U.S. GTG Records is based in Lansing, Michigan, which recently lost Mac’s Bar and The Loft. What does the loss of Mac’s Bar and The Loft mean to the local music scene?

I know Matt Carlson (of Harborcoat) alluded to this in his recent interview with you, but Mac’s hadn’t been a strong venue for many years due to general mismanagement of every aspect of the bar and venue. Some good shows would still happen, but I’ll put it this way: I’ve been to amazing shows in vacant lots and nearly-condemned basements. If you have passionate people behind the show, you don’t need a state-of-the-art venue. We’ll always need variety, though, and newer bands need opportunities, so I welcome any and all venue spaces. Not having The Loft is a big blow to mid-level touring acts, but I’ve heard rumblings of other venues of that size being in the works, so fingers crossed that something comes through soon.

Tell me about the importance of The Avenue in Lansing as a local, independent music venue that has kind of filled that void.

The Avenue is a very ethically run, community-oriented bar, venue and restaurant that has been a hub for the scene for many years and is now essentially the center of it all. Full disclosure- I work there. But, I got involved with it, because it was the type of venue that both GTG and I, as a whole, advocate for. But, the last thing I want is for The Avenue to just monopolize the scene, so I’m very supportive of any other spaces hosting shows in Lansing. We need each other!

What are some local, independent bands that you think should be on people’s radar in Lansing, throughout Michigan and beyond? 

The GTG Fest bill is full of artists that I strongly support, which is essentially the point of the festival, and there are many other great bands in town: Harborcoat, Cavalcade, Foxgrave, Dasterds, Marsha… A newer band that I really like is PET ME, and I’m glad to report that longtime alt-country band Flatfoot is still kicking around. This is just a quick list off the top of my head, no slights intended!

What are your thoughts on the Michigan music scene? Do you think it’s strong?

The more I talk to folks, the more I realize “strong” doesn’t even begin to cover it. There’s always been a great community for experimental and weirder music throughout Michigan, with ties to the origins of punk rock in Detroit, Flint, Kalamazoo and Lansing. Then, the folk world centered around the Wheatland Festival community has been around for just as long and has threads throughout northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. (There’s) so much great metal from Detroit and Lansing, I’ve got to say. Grand Rapids is always trying to keep things fancy, and there’s room for everyone at the table.

What’s the most fulfilling thing about running GTG throughout the years?

The most fulfilling thing is any time anyone tells me that they felt the support to pursue the music they truly wanted to create. That justifies any unsold records in the back of my closet.

Tell me about the bands and concerts that you’re currently involved in.

I’ve been diving deep into folk and country music with my project The Wild Honey Collective. We’re doing a tour of New England and the East Coast just before the festival. This was a project that was the result of lockdown and quarantine. We took music back to its roots! The Plurals are tinkering with an album, too. Progress on that slowed significantly with the pandemic, but we’re looking forward to getting more music out there, as always. I’m also very involved with shows at The Avenue. The monthly events are posted on The Avenue Cafe’s website. Also, I run a newsletter and post events at the GTG Records website.

Anne Erickson’s column appears regularly in Audio Ink Radio. Have a band or concert to share? Contact her at anne@audioinkradio.com.

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