“I was in a coffin in Houston,” coos Mark Ritsema of the androgynous Minneapolis-based project Suzie during his Chicago debut. He’s sheepishly singing amidst a billowing flood of fog, wearing a thrifted grandpa sweater, giant bejeweled bangle and brushing his red-dyed hair from his face. Like the blithe closing song of a grainy ’80s film, Suzie’s sound is familiar, warm and nostalgic. It’s pervading the Empty Bottle with bright, beachy guitars and fuzzy, lo-fi vocals.
Ritsema’s dreamy solo effort fills an indie-glam void in Minneapolis—a freaky post-gender, cosmic code that’s been largely untouched since Prince first broke out in the same community decades ago. Suzie alone is evidence that Minneapolis’ music scene is a silent killer. It’s the rising underdog brewing a slew of standout acts, many of which have emerged from a new, independent label called No Problem Records.
Co-founded by best friends Alexander Uhrich and Jordan Bleau, No Problem Records was formed with a DIY mentality and mission to elevate their local artists’ music through cassette tapes. The two collectively manage all label operations from start to finish with Uhrich overseeing art direction and Bleau recording bands’ music when he’s not working on his own.
“We dub all the tapes ourselves,” Uhrich said, whose label office takes shape at a local coffee shop called Bob’s Java Hut. “We design, print, fold, assemble and distribute ourselves, and we are responsible for our own social media and PR.”
Since its recent conception in June 2014, the label has successfully released five tapes, including one from Bleau’s personal project, Frankie Teardrop. Between the garage-pop outfit Teenage Moods, muddy, psychedelic effort VATS and chill, Howler side-project Dee Dee Mayo, No Problem Records has assembled an impressive lineup of sunny, coastal soundscapes.
“Tapes are a great medium because they’re cost effective, tactile and novel,” Uhrich said. “The truth is, most people don’t buy a tape for the quality of sound—they buy them because they’re little, collectible objects.”
With this in mind, the label kicked off December by creating a bi-weekly “cassingles club,” where subscribing members began receiving short, limited-edition “tapes to keep you warm at night.” By the end of February, No Problem Records will have released ten tapes featuring a selection of unreleased Minneapolis-based music projects. There are three tapes remaining in the series with a fresh, new cassingle from Real Numbers that they released today. While a majority of their demographic is local, Uhrich said he’s recently begun shipping tapes to the UK, Australia and Japan.
Throughout 2015, No Problem Records plans to continue expanding their breadth by releasing vinyl, creating zines and hosting community outreach events fittingly called “No Problem Nights.” Uhrich said he hopes his label’s work will eventually connect the diverse niches of Minneapolis’ art scene together.