While browsing at Deep End Records last summer, I picked up and fell in love with Wake the Zine, a monthly, Risograph-printed music and arts zine produced by the WAKE collective out of Galveston, TX. I was stoked when they asked if Miss Champagne would be interested in distro-ing the zine. To kick things off, I spoke with Lauren Eddy (founding editor) and Jorja Montgomery (editor) about the collective's origins, their contributions to the Galveston scene, and their plans for the future.
Miss Champagne: How did Wake the Zine start?
Lauren: I made and funded the first few by myself. I would create the content in Pages, have it printed in black-and-white, then fold each and every individual page, one at a time! This was before I met Dan Schmahl, who brought me up-to-speed on folding the entire booklet at once with a bone folder. I think there were maybe twenty of the first issue. I called it Wake the Zine because Galveston was a zine desert; I thought it needed to introduce itself.
MC: Was it one person’s vision or the vision of a group of individuals? How has the zine changed since the first issue?
Jorja: Lauren and I met in February 2016, but I had met her husband, Charles, at the farmers market many months before. I remember talking with Lauren and finding our conversation about her zine super refreshing. She had already made four zines, and I was stoked to know that someone was creating their own publication. I had never heard of zines, and DIY publishing just made sense. After working on a zine together, we quickly grew from a small group to a larger collective that began booking / working shows and making zines.
Lauren: It was individual at first, but it has grown very organically over the last year. There are actually many more people involved than it appears on the surface! The biggest changes happened when I met Jorja and our printer Dan Schmahl last Spring.
Dan originally came to Galveston through Galveston Artist Residency. After his residency ended, he decided to stay and set up a Risograph print shop called Super Hit Press. It has completely transformed the physical zine to have Dan involved! Most people don’t see the work he does at the last couple of stages, but it’s an involved, labor-intensive process. The look of the zine is different when you pick it up. The ink is matte instead of glossy, and each color is printed one layer at a time.
Right after that, I met Jorja. I believe we started meeting for work sessions a couple of months later in April. While I was finishing No. 7 in Pages, she was setting up a template in InDesign for No. 8. I’ll never forget the way Jorja had this very quick and thorough grasp of both the aesthetic and the values of the zine.
MC: Were you booking shows prior to starting the zine? Or was booking more of a response to putting together a monthly show list?
Lauren: Because of the extreme lack of venues and established music culture here, I started booking and bringing in bands as EL LAGO. It made me feel weird though. I wanted to separate it so that I could just bring in bands, no strings. Often bands will still contact me through EL LAGO and want to play with us specifically, but I really enjoy just booking and working a show with the gang. I think as people hear about the WAKE collective via the DIY network and word-of-mouth, we will start having more bands reach out specifically to WAKE.
On the booking end, my key WAKE collaborator is Michael Stuart Allison. He is incredibly resourceful and reliable! Dan Schmahl also has a DIY music background from his days in Tallahassee, and he sometimes will bring in something really cool or connect us with an opportunity at GAR. I do most of the booking, but Michael always slays at it, like when he brought in Crushed Out and the Phantom Royals for our anniversary bash! It was pitch-perfect.
Jorja: I want to point out that WAKE shows are purely volunteer and all of the money collected at the door goes to the bands. Being involved in shows is like throwing a party with our greatest friends while having the chance to see bands you would normally travel to see. Michael Stuart Allison is our venue guru. Somehow he manages to find places for these bands to play in a city that is severely lacking in venues.
MC: What were some of your favorite shows from last year?
Jorja: I can’t pick a favorite show because each one was great in it’s own way, but I do have favorite venues. Galveston is limited in venue options, and after a poor experience with an established venue, a show was moved to the VFW. The veterans were super cool and really supportive, plus they appreciate the business we bring. The Clam is another favorite. This is an old, outdoor bandshell that was basically abandoned by the city. It sits right across from the seawall. The white bandshell is washed in colorful projections, thanks to Live Visuals (Michael Stuart Allison’s side project), and people bring blankets and there’s always food. Lauren and I sliced watermelon at the last one. I think we went through 3 or 4 watermelon!
Lauren: Ah!! I could never choose between the bands we’ve brought in, not even in my own head! I recently started a rough playlist on Spotify for WAKE—basically any of the bands we’ve brought in or interviewed—and I was surprised how well it works together. I guess I am into the variety and letting each show take on it’s on character. Each one is a magical creature! I love seeing spontaneous dance parties break out and friendships and bands come out of these shows. Many of the locals who come out know each other, and that makes the energy of the show pretty uninhibited—almost like family, really.
I am also really into the VFW shows. They are definitely closest to my heart. On some level, all of the hip bars are beholden to trends and profit, whereas the VFW is a true community space, and that organization is as DIY as it gets. WAKE and the VFW are still kind of an odd couple, and I think we probably surprise each other! They even recycle, which is not typical in Galveston. (The wall-mounted can crusher is really satisfying to use by the way.) We help keep their doors open, they tell us, and they give us a welcoming space where no one harrasses us or gets in our faces. Plus, I frickin’ love working the door with the veterans!!
MC: David Garrick of Free Press Houston has described your shows as at “legit venues where there’s no BS, misogyny, or hate.” What is your process for finding venues and establishing positive spaces?
Jorja: David Garrick’s description is spot-on. We are really appreciative for being included in Best of 2016 and for the kind and honest words. I am not directly involved in booking, but I can say that disrespect is not tolerated at our events or during the booking process. We protect each other and our scene. Also, we don’t let the lack of venue space make us desperate resulting in “just dealing” with disrespectful, rude people. Shows are a place for our friends and their friends to have fun. I like seeing people have a good time. We are lucky enough to have a community that likes the bands as much as we do. It’s a beautiful thing.
Lauren: Wow, I was so surprised that he included us in his Best of 2016!! I didn’t realize that he was watching so closely, but his description was so on-target! WAKE refuses to work with people in town who, say, punch female musicians in the face… or with bar owners who get in the faces of our bands and cheat artists. I hate to say it, but this is real stuff that goes down. I’m a wildcat over my bands and my team, and I also want to see women coming out to shows and playing shows, because that’s something that has changed my life for the better.
WAKE—and this happened naturally—is the only booking collective currently working Galveston that is gender balanced. That’s one way we create that culture. You’ll walk in and see a woman working the door more often than not. We also will put out signs like the “All Are Welcome” sign Dan recently printed, or the safety pin painting Natalie made.
At this point, WAKE works best when we go into a non-traditional venue and work in an independent way. I do sometimes worry about an incident happening that is outside of my line of sight. You just have to be vigilant. It gives me more peace to have a diverse team working the show that I trust, as well as lots of great people in the audience that I know from the community. We create this culture together and we protect each other.
I personally don’t understand how the idea of “safe space” has become so politicized. To me, hospitality is an ancient, ancient value in human culture. It’s part of what makes us human. I also don’t understand how you could be a person of faith and oppose that value.
MC: I love that each issue of the zine has a strong, striking cover. Who is responsible for the cover art?
Jorja: The cover art is a collaboration between artists and Dan Schmahl at Super Hit Press (an artist in his own right). So far, we’ve had covers drawn by Natalie Villarreal, Mel Mo’ Black, David Feil, Victoria Uribe, and Andrew Maxwell-Parish. We also feature artwork on the inside pages. The collages Charlie Eddy made were great additions, and recently we started running a comic by Pat Palermo, an artist from Galveston Artists Residency. We have really exciting things in store for 2017.
Lauren: Most of the cover art was created by my sister Natalie Villarreal, but I’m really excited to announce that she is heading artist outreach for 2017! People don’t seem comfortable contributing unless they are approached personally, so she is going to start reaching out and meeting local artists to coach them on the process and answer questions. She is the one who approached Melanie Stone (Mel Mo’ Black), who is a tattoo artist / vocalist, about the last two covers. We’ve had friends contribute before, like our friend Andrew Maxwell-Parish used his drawing machine to make the cover of No. 11. Three different collaborators created the surfing skeleton cover for No. 12. Dan Schmahl is always a partner in the cover art, although his magic is behind-the-scenes!
MC: In November 2016, Wake the Zine launched a text based show alert system. I think it’s great that y’all are further embracing other forms of off-line show promotion. How did the idea come up and how has it been working?
Lauren: This was a flat-out amazing idea from Michael Stuart Allison! He pays for this service himself, but we decided to fund it this year with some of the Idea Fund grant. Michael has this brilliant head for thinking about a situation in a fresh way. I continually watch him come up with ideas that are quickly emulated by other people.
The text alert works beautifully! There was a last minute pop-up show during a recent ArtWalk, and a surprising number of people showed up after getting the text. Getting the word out is a struggle now with all of the algorithms that are built into Facebook and Instagram. The texts are also great for last minute updates like changes of venue. Michael also has this idea of maybe using it for secret shows in the future!
Jorja: Yeah, thanks to Michael we can offer this text service! It was especially useful when we had a last-minute move because of bad weather. A secret, off-line show will be fun. Stay tuned!
MC: How has the Houston music scene contributed to Wake the Zine? I often see Houston bands playing in Galveston and had the pleasure of seeing y’all at Zine Fest this year.
Lauren: I love Houston!! I see so many amazing Houston bands now that are still a bit underground, and I don’t really understand why the broader population hasn’t caught on yet. Houston bands are a major part of our booking network. We can’t do more than a couple of shows a month due to the size of our scene, but I am slowly working through my list of Houston bands I want to bring in—and it’s always growing! I believe that Galveston is a real asset to the Houston scene. It’s only an hour away but offers a completely different audience! We also have the infrastructure and the track record with locals to make sure Houston bands have a positive experience in Galveston.
Being able to experience more culture (and food!) in Houston is vital to my patience for living in a small town as well. I couldn’t stand it if it weren’t for the cosmopolitan streak that Galveston has through its universities, people coming in for work from around the world, and the proximity to Houston.
Jorja: I love Houston, too! Super cool people and exciting things are happening there. Knowing that the Galveston scene can support and fill a venue in support of a good show with Houston and local bands makes me really happy. This budding Galveston-Houston relationship is exciting to watch develop.
MC: Last month Wake the Zine won a stimulus grant from the Idea Fund. In your project description you indicated a twofold plan of continuing to make Wake the Zine publicly accessible and free of charge and to develop and solidify a collective of volunteers through, for the first time, payment for labor. Can you elaborate on those plans and give an idea of what Wake the Zine will be up to this year?
Lauren: There are two main aspects. The first is to hold steady on exactly what we do already (book shows, make the zine every month). The part about financial strain is so real!! Even though the print job with Super Hit Press is covered by sponsors, any expenses—paper for each cover, show promotion like posters or the text alert, buying drinks for volunteers at folding parties, website costs, InDesign—oh wow, it all adds up and none of us are in a place for that financially! So that will be amazing… as long as we don’t go wild and still try to sink more of our personal finances into it.
The second part of the plan is a big event in November (the second anniversary of Wake the Zine). We will have guarantees for bands, so we hope to bring in a lineup that is next level for us—although our heart still belongs to up-and-coming bands, so nothing corporate or flashy. It will be our most ambitious event to date. We also want to bring in zine vendors from the greater Houston area, almost like a mini zine fest. There are definitely some surprises in the works concerning related programming in November!
Jorja: Lauren pretty much covered it all. 2017 is going to be a year of sustaining the zine by paying staff and contributors. Also, eliminating the need to pay out-of-pocket for materials is welcomed! We are also challenging ourselves to produce a bigger show and zine event in November. The collaboration for this year is growing and exciting things are in the works!
MC: How can people get involved?
Jorja: For the zine, we are looking for people from the scene to contribute articles. Also, volunteers are always needed and appreciated. We will need even more volunteers for our event in November. Also, people continuing to come to the shows is really important. The community support has been so great and the bands have a good time. That’s our goal - that everyone has fun!
Lauren: The most vital thing for us is to have locals come out. We want the bands to have a good time and we pay the bands through the cover charge, so it makes such a difference! Locals in Galveston can contribute content or reach out to volunteer. We do have our local sponsorships covered currently, which is great!
For the big November event funded in part by Idea Fund, we will be looking for zine makers and bands. You can email or message us and let us know you are interested. I respond to ALL messages and emails personally, unless it’s pushy “promote me!!” kind of stuff.
Lauren and Jorja: Thanks for the opportunity to share some of what we do! We hope our paths cross often in the future.