I pull up to a picturesque suburban home inside a cul de sac in Huntington Beach. It’s so nice that I’m convinced that my janky car parked on the curb brings down the real estate value a couple thousand. I’m here to meet Lucas Nyhus, co-founder of Slam Jam records. As we meet at the front door for the first time, a giant, fluffy dog greets me, curious about a new person. Lucas guides me to his room/makeshift studio where a couch, a television, a record player, a shelf full of LP’s, and scattered recording equipment occupy most of the claustrophobic space. Just on the other side of the window, there is a huge screen press they use to make band t-shirts.
“We record in the house,” he says. “It does get toasty in here.”
The label began as an extension of his band, Those Pretty Boys, last July. Four of the five members of Those Pretty Boys are involved with the label in varying aspects. They fund their label by using money from their minimum wage jobs and the couple of cents they get from Spotify. Those Pretty Boys got together while in high school. Channeling a DIY ethos, they recorded their own music — which is in the style of punk, ska, and garage rock — themselves. Once they started navigating the local music scene, they realized there were other like-minded bands scouring the OC scene that needed help recording music, making music videos, and releasing music and merch. Nyhus and his neighbor/co-founder Jake decided to make a legit business out of it.
He admits that he initially created the label as a joke when Those Pretty Boys released their debut album. Although to me, it seems more deliberate. Nyhus is very well-spoken and chooses his words carefully. Joke or not, they’re setting themselves up for a shot at something bigger. As of now, there are 11 bands under their label which include The Beachstones, Beachmont, The Calicos, Fockstail, Lefties, Narc, Palm Sugar, and Panacea.
Slam Jam Records has helped bands play at places like Sanctuary Sound in Santa Ana, Gothard Sound Studios, DIY spots in Fullerton, and even a relative’s warehouse space. However, their main performance space is Surfdogs Bar and Grill. “There is a sports bar down the street called Surfdogs Bar & Grill that we play at that is just a tiny little place where people go watch football and drink some brews,” says Nyhus. “We always try to get bands to play with us there on weekends because it’s fun and people will come since it’s nearby.”
Not only do they record and produce music and run shows, but also help bands release music through Spotify, create merch, help with PR, and even make music videos. After every music release, they buy digital ads on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, putting down 100 dollars towards a single to hype it up. Nyhus is meticulous and sends out material for press only after studying their market. “I have a whole list of radio stations, music critics, and blogs from all around the world,” says Nyhus. “I usually spend a few hours after every release emailing.”
A film major, Nyhus wants to focus more on making music videos. He splits the workload between his partner Jake and himself, letting his partner focus more the music side of things. He is fascinated by film and poignantly points out directors who got their start making music videos.
“There is one director I don’t really like but he does good music videos…” he pauses. “Michael Bay!” shouts out Lucas, when the name hits him. “He did a lot of music videos and commercials to get his start which is what a lot of filmmakers are doing now. You can see he has a visual eye and he knows what works in a music video.”
His biggest goal is to have a full office space by 2019. “I was actually looking at some before you got here. Just because there is so much we can do with this space. When we have 11 bands booked it can get a little hectic just because it is my actual house.”
I like to stare at my computer. Occasionally I type words to pass the time. Those words are usually about music.