Ranch Records: Francisville Home to Cassette-Based Independent Label
Sam Rudich has been living in his house on Vineyard Street in Francisville for 6 years.
“Honestly it was here and it was cheap. I’ve always liked it. I’ve watched [Francisville] get built up, I’ve talked to more people in the neighborhood, I’ve just been around the whole time. I’ve always liked how there’s never really been the swell of punks living in the neighborhood,” Rudich said. “It’s not a hot spot or anything. It just always felt isolated. I just like hanging out with my neighbors.”
Most every surface of the 3 story house is pocked with relics of past projects: old screens from screen printing, show posters from years past, scraps of random paper — and, of course, tapes. Lots and lots of tapes.
“I’ve sort of transformed the house so I can work wherever I am in it,” Rudich explained. “Printing, cutting up paper — now I’m making noise in the basement. Up here there’s a computer, scanner, big-ass stereo and tape machines and all that.”
This is the home of Ranch Records.
Rudich moved to Francisville in 2010 from Easton, Pennsylvania with intentions to go to Temple’s Tyler School of Art for screen printing. While Rudich was accepted into Tyler, he wasn’t accepted by the University itself. In the meantime, Rudich decided to tie up some academic loose ends at Community College of Philadelphia while booking local concerts.
“I got a job on South Street selling falafel, met people there and kept going to shows. I wanted to keep booking because that’s what I did in high school before I moved here.” Rudich booked a show here and there, but was not getting the same satisfaction from it as he did back at his parent’s house in the Lehigh Valley. Rudich felt frustrated, not knowing how to reconcile the sense of community he felt back at home and the relative alienation he felt in his new city.
That’s when Rudich got the idea to start a record label that focus on the production and release of cassette tapes.
“I always liked the quality of it,” Rudich said, “just the personal nature of owning a cassette. Knowing that this person made everything from the music, to folding the paper, to handing it to you.”
“The whole label started because I didn’t feel like I had a place in the scene because all I really had was contacts with the bands I really liked,” Rudich added. “I always had this feeling that if you were hanging out in the scene and you weren’t behind a guitar or behind a table you kinda weren’t worth shit. Everyone [in the Lehigh Valley] always seemed to do something. And here it was all different cliques and niches all over the city and everyone had their own style of what they thought punk to be. I wanted to do what I wanted to do. I was definitely hungry from the beginning to do as much as possible.”
When it came time to get a name for the label, Rudich decided it was only right to pay homage to where it all started: his parent’s basement. “First show I had there when I was 16 or something, I talked to [my parents] about it 6 months before. We ended up calling it ‘The Rudich Ranch’ because I thought that was chill for everybody in my whole house. It’s my parent’s house, it’s their basement. So calling [the label] Ranch just felt like keeping it real.”
Since then, Ranch has released 26 projects from bands hailing from Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Boston, The Lehigh Valley, and Europe.
The culmination of all the recording, designing, screen printing, and booking is Ranch Records’ yearly “Big Gig,” a showcase of about 10 bands involved with Ranch. The first Ranch Records “Big Gig” was in August of 2013 at a small house in West Philadelphia called 4QHQ.
“That was a crazy mess and it went super well somehow, everyone liked it,” Rudich said. “Big Gig” was followed up by “Big Gig Duck” (Rudich assures me the process of naming each “Big Gig” is rooted in total nonsense) in 2014 at the legendary and now defunct DIY show space Golden Tea House headlined by Ranch Records regulars NAH, Gunk, and Spirit of the Beehive.
“I was high for days off of it and so were my friends. So I’ve just been trying to recreate the feeling of being so stoked for a show that goes so fast. If there’s a band you don’t like, you don’t have to watch and in 15 minutes another band will be playing. Essentially just get in, have a cool party, everyone can sort of do whatever they want– get real drunk or real high, there’s gonna be a ton of people there to see 6 out of 10 bands and it’ll happen really fast.”
The most recent big gig, “Big Gig Truck,” might have been Ranch’s, well, biggest gig yet, ditching the humble beginnings of a house basement for the more spacious First Unitarian Church where around 350 people were in attendance. The lineup included Ranch regulars such as NAH, Spirit of the Beehive, Gunk, Marge, and Dogs on Acid. Even Rudich’s family, the original members of Rudich Ranch, are in attendance with Rudich’s mom providing free coffee and cookies in the back of the basement.
“My family being there was great. I don’t get to see my mother much,” Rudich said. “My brother used to play in The Beds and I try to stay in touch with him as much as possible. My dad is one of the most supportive people in my life and also just wants to sip a cold beer and listen to cool music and hang out. I think [Big Gig Truck] went perfectly.”
In spite of Ranch’s new digs, the mood is warm as if the basements Ranch was born in only got a little bigger.
Wanna hear more? Check out the label’s website at https://ranchjams.bandcamp.com/