Building a Better Label

In early 1996 the Galvezes teamed up with veteran sound engineer Albergaria, who heard the original Space Cadette compilation and was impressed by the brothers' initiative. "I had only heard of one other place, in Providence, that similarly incorporated a gallery, recording studio, and community space," he says. "Bands that come here from the Midwest and everywhere else say there's nothing like this anywhere. That was one of the things that attracted me." A Portuguese-born optician-turned-experimental-musician, Albergaria, age 39, now handles all recording duties and some production. Under his supervision the recording studio has expanded dramatically, upgrading from a lone four-track cassette deck to a multitrack, digital system driven by a PC. "You don't need a lot of stuff to record with," insists Albergaria. "If I were to get two microphones and a tape deck, that would suffice. Some of the best recordings of orchestras used just two mikes. I try to record rock and roll the same way, without using any effects. If you mike everything right, there should be no need for reverb units, compressors, or anything else."

At Space Cadette, creating the right vibe is as important as the right sound. With both Space Cadette bands and outside projects, Albergaria strives to create a comfortable atmosphere that starts with the price -- $25 per hour with engineer, a bargain by industry standards. "The young kids get so tensed up," says Albergaria, a New England transplant who still speaks with a chowder-thick Boston accent. "I give them a little speech, telling them that if they make a mistake, I won't make them feel bad. I joke around with them. I don't have any clocks in the place, so they don't keep looking at them. Most projects go over budget, but I work something out with them and they appreciate it, and they tell their friends about it, so one hand washes the other."

Space Cadette has extended this idea of comfort to its new rehearsal space, which offers four spacious, soundproof rooms -- one free of charge, the other three for five dollars per hour -- plus vending machines and a video-game arcade to occupy waiting clients. Upstairs are the record and book store and a comfy room for chilling out.

While Space Cadette remains a struggling business, it's also become a kind of unintended community cooperative. Last year, for example, Rafael Galvez joined forces with Allyson Kapin (a publicist for the Miami Youth Museum) to found a Miami-based nonprofit, Just Action, which supports social, political, and environmental causes through arts and education. The group's volunteers conduct workshops on reproductive rights, teach free self-defense classes, and work with other volunteer groups, such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Space Cadette musicians also lead hands-on music and art workshops for underprivileged kids.

"Let's face it, we are trying to benefit in a monetary sense from Space Cadette, but there's a lot of work we want do with no money involved, especially when it comes to dealing with children, women's issues, the homeless," Rafael says. "With the workshops, we are trying to show them, especially the kids, something they've never seen, like a viola player or a clarinet player."

Space Cadette has solidified its reputation as a local music hub by hosting a series of live shows. "The shows gave us another dimension," Alfredo notes. "At bars, people don't really want to concentrate on the music; they want to drink and talk, and every once in a while they turn around to look at the band. That's very discouraging, when you realize you're just a jukebox and all that work is gone."

It was the live shows that sparked the idea of converting the lobby into a gallery. "Between bands people just socialize, and I think people could do something more interesting than gossip or stare at an empty wall or try to avoid the person they don't want to talk to all night," Rafael says. "There are people willing to put their art up, and when there's this existing visual arts culture that doesn't get supported down here, I think it's really important to acknowledge that and act upon it. Miami has a few good galleries, but most are geared toward commercializing visual arts. So where do the young artists that have nowhere to exhibit go?" Space Cadette has also been working with the Box, an alternative gallery space in Miami, on gallery exhibitions and CD-release projects.

Space Cadette doesn't have a set number of employees or formal business hours. The Galvezes and their collaborators frequently put in eighteen-hour days. And the brothers are also prolific artists and musicians. Alfredo currently fronts two bands -- the aforementioned A Kite Is a Victim (formerly the Al Galvez Band) and alternative rock en espanol outfit Enemigo Sol (which is set to perform in a Polygram Latino Records showcase at Rose's Bar & Music Lounge on September 5) -- and he continues to paint and draw. Rafael fronts the Spanish-language electronic band 6/6/96 and is working on a CD-ROM/art book project. More work is on the horizon: Albergaria says Space Cadette is planning to create an electronic music division, which will release his own electronic, Brian Eno-influenced soundtrack compositions, and the music of 6/6/96.

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