by Kelly Fahey
No one knows the Winston-Salem music scene better than Phuzz Records co-founder Drew Braden.
Braden, along with fellow Camel City native and Estrangers bandmate Philip Pledger, started Phuzz Records simply to put out their band’s latest release, Season of 1000 Colors.
“We didn’t shop around for labels much, but we figured since we had the resources we could do it ourselves,” said Braden.
What began as a vehicle for their own production and promotion has turned into one of the newest and most exciting independent record labels in Winston-Salem.
Since then, Braden and Pledger teamed up with Asheville psychedelic rock outfit the Tills and Raleigh’s TOW3RS, whose enigmatic and energetic live shows have created a buzz throughout North Carolina.
Although Phuzz Records represents bands from throughout the state, the focus remains on Winston-Salem, the town that Braden has lived in for most of his life. He believes that Phuzz Records’ first priority is to serve the scene and city that he grew up in.
“The goal is not just to put out records but to put on more shows, and getting more people talking about music in general.”
Before starting the label, Braden moved around North Carolina. During college he attended NC State and Cape Fear Community College, eventually graduating from UNC-Wilmington with a degree in computer science.
Braden moved back to Winston-Salem just over a year ago for a variety of reasons. Among them was an opportunity to play drums in Estrangers with Pledger. The two met in middle school through golfing together, an activity that Braden admits seems out of character for two members of a popular indie-rock band.
Braden picked up the drums in middle school when a different band involving him and Pledger needed a drummer.
“All of the instruments were spoken for besides drums, so I decided to take them up,” he said.
In the time leading up to and after Season of 1000 Colors, Estrangers have gained notoriety all over the country, playing with bands such as White Fence and Yuck. Oddly enough, they were even featured in an episode of MTV’s “Jersey Shore.”
Their 2013 full-length album is just the first of three releases on Phuzz Records, followed by the Tills’ recent 7-inch record “Howlin’” on Aug. 26 and TOW3RS’ upcoming release TL;DR, which is set to come out on Nov. 11.
Braden uses his background in software engineering and design to handle most of the technical needs of the label, while Phillip uses his experience with booking and media outlets to cover the communication and promotion of the label. The two split the brunt of the work fairly evenly.
When looking at the bands represented on the label, there seems to be no connection. The Tills sound like something straight from London’s swinging ’60s and TOW3RS songs tend to vary from theatrical electronica to glam rock. The only similarity between the Tills and TOW3RS is that Braden and Pledger like them.
Braden approached the Tills to join their label after they heard a few tracks off of their new album, which was still in the process of being recorded at the time.
As far as signing TOW3RS goes, “We’ve both been fans for a long time. It wasn’t supposed to necessarily be just rock bands,” said Braden.
If you’re looking for tangible proof that Phuzz Records is injecting a bit of life into the Winston-Salem music scene, look no further than their Sept. 20 record release party for the Tills featuring Estrangers at the Garage, which Braden noted as his favorite venue in town.
Braden seems to be taking the future of Phuzz Records one step at a time. Other than the forthcoming TOW3RS release, he expects to see another Estrangers album to be the next work released on the label.
Outside of putting out albums, Phuzz Records plans to remain dedicated to Winston-Salem and the Triad.
“We want to make the Triad scene more of a scene,” said Braden.