Label Spotlight: Total Punk Records

Most indie record labels have an origin story in which a member of some scene is moved to put out records by bands they like. The label grows—sometimes with infamy and sometimes with fortune to follow. For Orlando, Florida’s Total Punk Records—the purveyors of some of the finest gunk punk around—founder Rich Evans, who also drums for Golden Pelicans, had an idea for a label that turned this model on its head.

“I came up with the idea for Total Punk in the summer of 2010,” Evans says. “I went on a solo two-month tour of the U.S. called ‘Everyone Gets Rich,’ setting up shows with bands I liked and slinging records. Sitting in the van by myself all day, I had a lot of time to think about life and soul-search. Instead, I spent the time coming up with a joke label that’s whole mission was to make customers upset by taking forever to ship them their preorders—let the fury build and pour itself out all over the internet. Once everyone was good and furious, send out their records with some lame, super-punk excuse for why it took me so long. Gain forgiveness, then repeat. I wanted a name that matched the concept, so the idea of Total Punk was born.”

“Fast forward six months: Personal And The Pizzas asked me to go on tour with them selling merch,” he continues. “Personal said, ‘Why don’t you put out a Pizzas record on Total Punk?’ I kept the pseudonym I was going to use, Randall, and the idea for crudely-made covers, but the rest of the shenanigans were shelved, and seven years later, this joke label has 73 releases under its belt.”

Luckily, Evans changed his mind and didn’t follow through with the joke, instead opting to put out killer records by bands who trip his fancy. What type of bands? Well, not everyone is cut out to be a Total Punk band. Evans has some “standards” they must meet to become one of the few, the proud, the drunk. “I mean, obviously, I go after punk bands. I like my punk trashy and with big hooks, so I tend to lean toward that stuff,” Evans says. “The typical Total Punk band is always on the verge of implosion. At least one member is borrowing gear from another band on the bill, and they are never satisfied with the number of drink tickets they are given.”

And don’t expect CDs or downloads, because Evans keeps it totally old-school. “Total Punk always has and always will be a vinyl label,” he asserts. He runs the label according to a very simple and refreshing motto: “Do it ’til it’s not fun anymore and then find something else to do,” he says. “My business plan is to try to keep my head above water. Total Punk is a handshake label.”

In addition, Total Punk’s releases all have a very distinct look. Most covers are done in black and white with a very sparse use of color. There are a few full-color Total Punk releases, but for the most part, Evans hews to this minimalist approach. “For the singles, all covers are hand-stamped. I get the stamps made at Acme Stamp [& Sign] down the street from my house,” he explains. “The original idea was that stamping the covers would make it cheap and easy, plus it would make my stuff immediately recognizable. I wanted the label to have visual recognition, so people would know it’s a Total Punk release as soon as they saw it.”

“On the visual front, I think we nailed it, but it ended up being way more time-consuming than I thought,” he admits. “It wasn’t as easy as just pressing the stamp down on paper quickly and moving to the next one. A seven-inch by seven-inch stamp doesn’t really cover correctly, so you end up having to cover the stamp in ink, rest the paper on the stamp, then use your hand to rub while applying pressure ’til you get good coverage. The whole process can take anywhere from 30 to 90 seconds depending on the image. I’ve now done 59 7”s, with many getting multiple pressings, so at this point, I have stamped over 30,000 7” covers. I’m well on my way to terrible case of carpal tunnel.”

The hard work has been worth it, as Total Punk has given Evans a bunch proud moments and successes. “I think getting Action Swingers to play a reunion show in Orlando was a proud moment. Getting to put out a record with Ron House is also right up there,” he says. “I think I’m happiest with the fact that I’ve been doing this for seven years, and it’s just as fun as when I started. We have put out over 70 releases, and, other than just a handful, we have sold through at least one pressing of most of them.”

Evans has also curated a series of festivals—though “curated” may be way too fancy a word to describe Total Punk’s Fuck Off Fest. He ran three fests between 2014 and 2016 at Will’s Pub in Orlando, which brought together a whole bunch of Total Punk bands for some wild music and wild times. Evans has some fond memories of the fest, but don’t expect it to come back anytime soon. “I love Florida and wanted a chance to show off my state and my town,” he says. “Plus, it was a great way to showcase the label, get a bunch of Total Punk bands down to Orlando. It’s like a company retreat.”

“I never planned on doing them forever, and I’m a big fan of the trilogy, so three seemed like a good cutoff point,” he adds. “When you keep doing a festival over and over, at a certain point, you either have to start retreading or compromising. I didn’t want to do either, so I decided to quit while I was ahead. Favorite memories would be Lumpy [of Lump And The Dumpers] socking me upside the head with a sausage then eating all the candy at my house; The Achtungs getting freaked out by Gary Wrong’s sleeping habits; everybody in the Action Swingers continually threatening to back out before the festival, then [Action Swingers major domo] Ned Hayden being an absolute sweetheart in person; and all the last-minute practices at my house by ill-prepared bands.”

When thinking about the future of the label, Evans likes to keep his options open. “I have a bunch of releases lined up for the rest of this year, but I haven’t really thought it out much further than that,” he says. “It’s best to just reevaluate every six months. It’s easy to fall into the trap of ‘Well, I’ve been doing this this long, so I guess I’ll keep going.’”

Total Punk will continue to exist as long as he sees fit, but that doesn’t mean he’s resting on his laurels. Evans has plans to start up another label with a different approach from Total Punk. “As far as what is next, I’m starting a new label right now,” he confirms. “I’m not sure if it is going to be a long-term thing. Right now, it’s just a series of records I want to do that don’t necessarily fall under the punk umbrella. Some of it will, but I don’t want to be pigeonholed into this tight aesthetic. Still hashing out a name, but the idea is pretty much I want to pick out some artists I really respect and love and just let them give me a record of whatever they want. It’s gonna fall on the weirder side of things.”

In addition to starting the new label, Evans has started promoting another form of live event that shares many similarities with his beloved punk rock: pro wrestling. “I think the two have a lot in common,” he says. “I love listening to wrestlers’ road stories on podcasts and see a lot of similarities between the two on that front: lots of time spent traveling across the country in a cramped vehicle for next to no money with a night that ends with sleeping on a floor. Creating and cultivating this persona. It takes a total weirdo to decide you want to be a wrestler.”

“I think punk and wrestling are a great match, which is why I started Total Punk Wrestling,” he continues. “We had our first event in April and have a second planned for Oct. 14. Five or six matches, plus three bands, in the parking lot of Will’s Pub. It’s been so much fun to work on, and we are planning on doing them quarterly from here on out. For this next one, it’s looking like we will even have a full film crew and commentators.”

“I can now add wrestling promoter to my resume,” Evans concludes. “If there’s something you want to do, you owe it to yourself to at least try it.”

Total Punk Records

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