While most music groups retreated to online platforms during the COVID-19 pandemic, Stay Positive? Records returned to the classics with a seasonal, handcrafted band magazine. The music label is Denton-based and primarily represents local punk, hard-core and rock groups. Its mission is building positivity through a music community connected by more than just technology, and it will release its third magazine issue in early October.
Headman Jameson Richter started the label in June 2019 because of his love for music and desire to promote local creatives. The label now represents nine bands and expanded this past spring to produce a DIY “Stay Positive? Magazine” where Richter is editor-in-chief. Other main contributors to the project are second-in-command Alex Green and assistant contributor Michael Zamora.
The magazine carries a throwback, cut-and-glue style inspired by 70s and 80s amateur fanzines, Richter said, where the team designs and copies each page by hand. He also said paper media plays a vital role in connecting creatives in the scene.
“We like to be more personal and analog about it,” Richter said. “Just kind of old school to have it in your hands to be able to read and put more of a personal touch. It’s kind of a break from technology and something for people to open up and see all these bands, and they’re not scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, so I feel like we provide an easier and better way for people to find music.”
Each issue incorporates small art pieces from local creators and interviews from bands on and off the label. Because the band features always change, the magazine expands the community of the local scene and promotes each group’s projects to a wider audience, Zamora said. They go beyond decentralized social media pages to create an active network of musicians and artists.
“That’s one of the things that struck me about Stay Positive,” Zamora said. “Even before the magazine, Stay Positive was organizing shows and reaching out connecting people. That’s something I feel like has been a lost art in what a label should be. A label is designed to create a community. That’s why whenever Jameson pressed the first magazine, I realized the importance of it because nobody’s making anything tangible for the community anymore.”
The first issue of the magazine went out after the pandemic started. All of the venues were closed, but the project was already a distanced form of promotion. Now, the team invests more time and creative energy into the magazine to keep highlighting artists through their retro and hand-crafted alternative. What makes their project unique, Zamora said, is the personal connections the magazine creates despite the challenges brought on by the coronavirus.
“The pandemic restructured our focus,” Zamora said. “For the first year and a half, we mainly promoted people by getting shows for everyone to play. Even now our internet presence isn’t that big, so we really strive to do things the old-fashioned way. It’s a bummer that we don’t get to do shows, but it’s made us buckle down on everything else we want to do, like with the magazine. We put way more time into it.”
Richter said the magazine encapsulates how the label persists through uncertainty by emphasizing music and community — it’s a theme central to the record label and hinted to in its name. Richter originally created the name as a mantra he repeated through his history with Hodgkin’s lymphoma at 17.
“They didn’t know how long I’d have to live,” Richter said, “‘Stay positive,’ it was just kind of an idea, something that I would always tell myself. After all that was over, as I kept doing music, I wanted to create more of a community. ‘Stay Positive?’ with the question mark is because sometimes you’re like, ‘I could stay positive and this is something I should definitely do.’ And there are other times where you’re like, ‘Oh, man,’ and it’s a question. You don’t know if you’re able to stay positive, and you want things to be okay but you don’t know.”
Hesitant positivity, Zamora said, is especially poignant as a message for musicians during an era with no in-person shows. The label encourages community as a way to foster optimism through the uncertainty.
“I think that is a message we need to keep at the forefront,” Zamora said. “I think our generation, in general, has a tendency to just slip into nihilism when there’s a lot that you should be grateful for. Just being a part of a community is what we as people are supposed to be doing, and I think that that’s something that we’ve lost in the isolation of technology.”
They continue the practice of traditional, personalized mediums into their newest project where Richter and Green press cassette tapes for local bands. The pair reaches out to groups in the Denton scene and offer to press copies of records for no extra cost.
“Everything’s streaming which is fine,” Green said. “But it’s always nice to know that you supported a band by spending the $5 to have something they created.”
The team behind Stay Positive? said they are committed to aiding community projects and providing groups a way to bypass large distribution companies.
“We’re still really small,” Green said. “We have lots of things planned, and any time money comes back to us it automatically goes right back into the next project. We’re still trying to grow the business side so we can do more for people because we want to help everyone in the community as much as we can.”
In the upcoming magazine issue, readers can look forward to more album reviews and band interviews, including the main story about Scum Pop, a high-energy punk band they represent, and their new record that was five years in the making.
Copies of the third issue of “Stay Positive? Magazine” will be available for mail delivery in early October and are reserved through sending a direct message on Instagram.
Courtesy Stay Positive? Records