Local Music Beat: Tommy Plural of Michigan’s GTG Records sits down with Anne Erickson to discuss the culture and community of indie and DIY music
GTG Records is an independent record label and community based in Lansing, Michigan. Founded in 2005, the label has evolved and flourished over the years, offering a roster of bands and artists from Lansing and all over Michigan.
GTG Records’ annual GTG Fest returns Friday (October 21) and Saturday (October 22) to The Avenue Cafe in Lansing. Tommy Plural – who runs GTG Records and plays in bands including The Wild Honey Collective and The Plurals – sat down with Audio Ink Radio to discuss this year’s event and the state of independent music. For more information, visit GTG Records website.
Anne Erickson: GTG Fest is back in 2022! How many years have you been organizing the festival at this stage?
Tommy Plural: We actually had a live stream festival in 2020, so really, we’ve done that every year since 2008 in some form or another. It is therefore the 15th consecutive festival. In 2013 we also held an East Coast edition in New Jersey to kick off. We are truly grateful to have maintained the community around the label and the festival for so long. At this point, it’s a pretty well-oiled machine, so my main goal is just to make sure new people continue to discover the festival.
What is the overall goal of not only GTG Fest, but also GTG Records?
The festival and the label are different sides of celebrating the culture and community of independent and DIY music. Since we are fully independent and active in our local community, the focus is ultimately on Lansing and Central Michigan, but the goal is to spotlight and give voice to local independent artists and others.
I see you mentioned that the festival is back to the two-stage, multi-night format for the first time since 2019. How does it feel to be back to the full festival model?
The festival has gone through several different incarnations, but since 2013 the heart of the festival has been at The Avenue Cafe. There may be additional events, but the main event is at the Avenue and we are building a makeshift stage in the corner of the venue adjacent to the regular stage and hosting live music without a break of around 20 a.m. to 1 a.m. The 2020 virtual festival was obviously a break from that, and last year we were still small, so we didn’t do the second leg. It feels good to return to our standard form and use it as a starting point for years to come. There’s basically been a whole new generation of bartenders since 2019, so this will be the first real GTG Fest experience for a lot of people.
Do you think independent musicians are well placed in 2022? Are there many opportunities for independent musicians to be heard?
The distribution opportunities offered by the internet really give a lot of independent musicians a chance to be heard, but I still firmly believe that live is the best way to be heard and the true test of a band. That said, there is definitely a lack of venues offering indie and alternative music. But, honestly, this should have only been planned after Covid, and I’m aware of a lot of future places in the works. I think this time next year there will be a lot more venues, both locally and beyond.
How did you organize this year’s programming?
The festival formula is essentially still about one-third long-time label regulars (such as The Plurals, Narc Out The Reds, The Stick Arounds), one-third artists with recent label releases ( like A Rueful Noise, The Wild Honey Collective, Harborcoat) and a third of the bands from central Michigan and beyond that we’re excited about like She/Her/Hers (who release their album the week before the festival), Ladyship Warship, Lazy Genius and, playing their first gig in nearly three years, The Jackpine Snag. Our goal is to have a diverse yet complementary roster that really showcases the DIY music community for long-time attendees and people who might just stumble upon it.
Are there any artists this year who have never performed at the festival before?
This will be the first performance of the festival for She/Her/Hers, Ladyship Warship, Sweet Pea, Cameo Headlands and Little Things, the latter being a brand new band fronted by Lansing great Tammy Cook, formerly of Scary Women, Half Watch and more. This is their first show!
What’s the state of Michigan music? Do you think the scene is thriving in Lansing, where you’re based, and elsewhere in the state?
I really think things are in a very solid state of rebuilding right now. There aren’t as many live music opportunities as there should be, but things are progressing. There are new bands starting all the time, so a good base for future scene activity is being laid.
What’s on the horizon for GTG Records the rest of this year and into 2023?
Hopefully we’ll get vinyl copies of Wild Honey Collective’s new album at GTG Fest. We must have them any day now! Another delayed project is to bring together Plurals’ “BEES” EP series into a feature film, so that’s coming soon, in addition to new material from Narc Out The Reds, Jeremy Porter and Harborcoat. A sample of most acts performed is available for free download at via GTG here.