Building a Better Label

Guitarist Scott Nixon sits strumming in the pin-drop quiet of the Space Cadette recording studio. Behind him the blue and beige burlap-covered walls display a mural -- an intricate depiction of human bones and machine gears. In the control booth, as engineer Frank Albergaria adjusts the sound levels, Alfredo Galvez watches Nixon lay down guitar tracks for the forthcoming release by their band, A Kite Is a Victim. The disc, a collection of Galvez's lush acoustic compositions, will be titled Home, which aptly describes what the creators of Space Cadette have constructed for themselves and the bands that rehearse and record music in their Miami facilities.

"This is always going to be a reference point for us," Galvez says. "Even if our bands or our artistic and musical visions change, we know that home is here."

The brainchild of brothers Alfredo and Rafael Galvez, ages 23 and 24, Space Cadette is a lot like a home -- one under constant renovation. In three hectic years the fledgling label has evolved into a veritable multimedia arts conglomerate that encompasses a recording studio, an art gallery, a performance space, rehearsal halls, a distribution center, and a record and book store. Along the way, the Space Cadette offices have become a hub of creative activity devoted to reinvigorating the local music and visual arts scene.

"We're just trying to generate interest in South Florida, to let people know that we're genuinely serious about music," explains Rafael, who oversees the label side of Space Cadette's bustling operation. "We don't really consider ourselves local, because our best sales have been in the Chicago area and in New York. We've gotten letters from people who like our stuff in Italy, Colombia, and Malaysia. But the attitude everyone has here is that we're just local. To go anywhere in Florida it seems you have to make it big somewhere else, which is a horrible attitude to have -- it means people don't take themselves seriously down here."

The Galvezes, whose parents moved to Miami from Peru thirteen years ago, originally left Miami to study visual arts and play in rock bands, Alfredo in San Francisco and Rafael in Baltimore. Three years ago the brothers felt the call of home. "What motivated us in the beginning was the idea of working together, and the idea of coming back to Miami and to start something here, which this city needs," Rafael says. "We weren't planning to set up a business, really. There was just this snowball effect; it keeps on growing and we keep adding different limbs to it."

Space Cadette began in the fall of 1994, when the Galvezes rented a small warehouse space in a nondescript building located in an industrial area off Bird Road near the Palmetto Expressway. Initially, they supported the operation with day jobs. Soon the brothers started renting out rooms and equipment for five dollars per hour. With this revenue and a lot of hard work, the Galvezes began making improvements to the offices -- knocking down some walls, building others, and soundproofing rooms.

Although the brothers share a common vision for Space Cadette, they are easy to tell apart. Alfredo is all restless energy, a diminutive talker with sparkling green eyes. His older brother is tall and lanky, dark-eyed and soft-spoken. They even favor different styles: Alfredo plays mostly acoustic and melodic rock, while Rafael's work runs the gamut from folkloric music to avant-garde electronic.

By early 1995 there were so many bands rehearsing at the Space Cadette facility that the brothers decided to put together a compilation. "It was the first time we could actually plug in the idea of the label," Alfredo explains. "Before that we had no connection to any musicians, and we were too busy just trying to live to make any."

The twenty-track Space Cadette Compilation showcased a mix of hardcore punk, alternative ballads, Latin rock, and Andean pop. While its production was rudimentary (some of the tracks sound muffled), the disc did provide exposure for a slew of worthy local bands. "It wasn't the hottest of releases, because we were new at doing this, but it got a buzz," Alfredo says. "The bands were surprised that we did what we said we would do, and people started getting more involved with us from that point on."

A steady stream of Space Cadette releases followed, among them Swivel Stick's Notes Towards a Mental Breakdown, and self-titled discs by Ed Matus' Struggle and Subliminal Criminal. The label's current projects include Alfredo's own A Kite Is a Victim disc and a compilation of local Latin rock called Cadetes del Espacio. (True to Space Cadette's familial spirit, many of the bands on the label share members; for example, three members of Ed Matus' Struggle are also in A Kite Is a Victim.)

The Galvezes' emphasis on the visual arts has become a hallmark of their releases. The packaging for Swivel Stick's Notes Towards a Mental Breakdown, for instance, consists of corrugated cardboard covered with ink stampings and paint smudges. The Velcro-sealed packages contain the CD (packed in plastic bubble wrap), a pressed flower, folded notes, postcards, band photos, song lyrics, and a mental-ward admission slip. "We like the idea that a record might be a duplicate of a thousand others, but in itself it's unique," Rafael says of the packaging, which was all done by hand. "It has personality and humanity, and it's an important extension of the musical work itself."

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