A few years back, a pair of brothers, both in their late teens, lit out from Miami to attend art school. One brother, Alfredo Galvez, wound up at the San Francisco Art Institute; the other, Raphael, enrolled at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. Both pursued various visual-arts courses while moonlighting in rock bands. And both soon felt the tug of home; a little more than a year after they left, Alfredo and Raphael returned. In short time, they funneled their passions for music and art into Space Cadette, the label they founded early last year and operate from a warehouse on SW 45th Street.

"We both decided at the same time that we wanted to get more into music," says Alfredo Galvez, a 22-year-old Peruvian born a year earlier than Raphael. "I thought the scene over in San Francisco would be more exciting, but then I realized Miami has such a diversity of culture. When I was on the West Coast, I met a lot of American people who were nothing like the Americans here. They didn't have that spice, you know? In Miami you have all these different people from different countries, and the Spanish influence, the black influence. It's like one big shake-and-bake. I grew up in Peru and spent half my life there and half my life here. That affects my music perspective, and the way things come out is so screwed up that it's interesting."

Much like the kindred spirits at Star Crunch records, Space Cadette is a creative collective designed to aggressively reflect the myriad sounds produced by South Florida's underground artists. The label debuted in June 1995 with the Space Cadette Compilation, a sterling multi-artist assortment that spans the Miami musical gamut, from the shimmering, groove-locked rock en espanol of Pepe Alva and Suende to the avant-pop caterwaul of Kreamy 'Lectric Santa and Galvez's eponymous group. Later releases include CD debuts by local acts Swivel Stick and Ed Matus' Struggle, and seven-inch singles that paired Ed Matus' Struggle with Floor and Milk-Shed with Grass Patch. The label also coreleased, in a joint venture with Threshold Records, the maiden offering by Mike Boudet's Lounge Act. The latest Space Cadette offering is a compact disc by Subliminal Criminal.

"We select artists based on the history of the band and on our tastes," Galvez says of the Space Cadette roster. "We watch bands go through different evolutions, and if they talk to us and let us know how things are going and are supportive of what we're doing, we work with them. We don't like bands that have attitudes, and that's a big problem with some local bands. Our attitude is if you cross out the idea of trying to become a superstar or a big shot and start giving, the faster you'll start getting things back."

The Space Cadette bands work mostly within the substrata of post-punk and arty metal. Both Ed Matus' Struggle and Swivel Stick specialize in dense, moody soundscapes, with abrasive riffs and fractured vocal melodies. Grass Patch and Front venture even deeper into metal terrain, while Milk-Shed's poppy punk gains power through sing-along choruses and naggingly catchy hooks.

The label's catalogue is impressive enough on its audio merits, but even more impressive is Space Cadette's flair for unique and innovative packaging concepts. Both its compact discs and singles are limited-edition, hand-assembled works of art and tributes to the graphics talents of the brothers Galvez, as well as Space Cadette layout whiz Michello Borgo and designers/artists Naomi Fisher, Manny Prieres, and others. The Milk-Shed/Grass Patch split single, titled A Field Guide to Crop Circle Activity, comes wrapped in a varnished booklet crammed with drawings of flying saucers, oval-eyed aliens, bones, skulls, and cryptic data worthy of an X-Files episode; the clear-vinyl disc is housed in a hand-sewn cloth pouch. Entomological Discoveries with Sound and Vibration, the moniker for the Struggle/Floor split, comes in an elaborately folded rice-paper sleeve adorned with hand-painted images of various insects. The most staggering is the Swivel Stick CD, Notes Toward a Mental Breakdown. The disc cover -- designed by Prieres and Fisher -- is a piece of folded corrugated cardboard, held together with twine and emblazoned with paint splatters and ink scribbles. A set of cards is enclosed, containing song lyrics, band photos, and oddball illustrations. You also get a nice pressed flower.

Funding for the label's ornately packaged releases comes partly from money generated by renting out rehearsal space at the Cadette warehouse and partly from sales -- in stores throughout the state and via national mail-order. And Galvez boasts that the care that goes into the packaging extends into the working relationship between Space Cadette and its artists.

"This is like a headquarters," Galvez says of the label, which has just opened a record and book store at the space and is in the process of setting up a recording studio. "We're all working toward the same goals. We're very lenient with the rehearsal space, and people know they can treat the studio like their house -- they can store equipment here for free and use the kitchen and phones. That buys us the trust of the artists. The bands we work with know we're supportive of what they're doing, and vice versa. We're all fighting together in this Miami scene and, we think, within the realm of our own world. We're thinking about the 300 people who give a shit about what we're doing, and if no one wants to buy it, fine. It's no big loss to us. We're still proud of it."

-- By John Floyd


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