Ordinarily, Spike McGuire would be hosting Loud As Folk, a monthly singer-songwriter series at Pignic. By now, the event has been dark for more than six months. On Wednesday, McGuire did a sound check at the Potentialist Workshop, where Loud As Folk is making monthly recordings to release to fans via download and snail mail. Photo: Kris Vagner

Downstairs in the Reno multidisciplinary art collective the Potentialist Workshop—underneath a theater, an art gallery, and an artist workshop—is the Loud As Folk studio, the brainchild of local musicians Spike McGuire and Greg Gilmore. The space has wood floors and high ceilings, which produce a warm, magical reverb that lends itself to “raw, authentic, portraits of songwriters,” according to McGuire.

The studio, along with dreams of a one-day record label, always took a back seat to live shows for the pair. McGuire and Gilmore are both touring musicians and actively involved in the Loud As Folk monthly songwriter showcase, which McGuire founded.

However, when live shows came to an abrupt halt at the start of the pandemic in March, promoters, performers, and producers (all buckets McGuire falls into) scrambled to understand what the industry landscape would look like in the coming months.

“We had a bunch of shows booked out for the year, and it was looking like it was going to be one of our best years ever,” McGuire said. “And then all of a sudden, you just couldn’t do live shows anymore. It was time for us to get a little more oriented on the studio aspect of what we do.”

During this time of musical and artistic (and, let’s face it, global) uncertainty, performers nationwide began live-streaming their shows. While McGuire understands that people still want to catch up with their favorite artists, he also knows that “songwriters going through computer microphones and squashed down over the internet is the worst possible option for audio.”

And so, the Loud As Folk Record Club was born.

The record club, which debuts to members today, Oct. 1, offers monthly subscriptions to music recorded in the Loud As Folk Studio. The club’s model is relatively straightforward. Every month, subscribers receive a package, either digital or physical, depending on their tier choice, that includes stripped-down sets from that month’s featured musician or musical group. Bonus items for subscribers include handwritten lyric sheets from artists, pre-sale show tickets, and discounts on Loud As Folk merchandise.

Spike McGuire and Greg Gilmore set up for a recording session at the Potentialist Workshop. Photo: Kris Vagner

Subscription tiers vary. The more you pay, the more you get. Lower-level subscriptions offer a download of each month’s single and access to exclusive interview videos for $1/month, or access to the streaming archive for $5/month. The full-album download tier costs $10/month. Higher-tier subscriptions get you a physical copy of the monthly session on CD or cassette for $15/month, or a lathe cut 12″ vinyl for $28/month.

For the first few months of the record club, McGuire and Gilmore plan to record themselves to allow time to work out any kinks. “We’ve done a ton of recordings, but this is a little different than what we usually do,” McGuire said.

The recording format for Loud As Folk Record Club is unusual. Every song gets one take before it is sent through the studio’s analog gear and straight to a reel-to-reel mastering machine.

But once the kinks are worked out, McGuire and Gilmore said, they are excited to welcome local acts like Dave Berry and Cliff Porter from Jelly Bread, who will record an acoustic set that McGuire is especially excited for.

“I’ve always loved the Jelly Bread full band experience,” he said. “But they have done some stripped-down acoustic sets that are equally as enjoyable, and I’ve always wished I had an album of that Jelly Bread as well. I am so excited that we’re gonna get to make that.”

It’s collaborations like this that will make the record club something truly special.

McGuire has played shows all over, but continues to believe that Reno is an extraordinary town for the arts. “There are few towns that even come close to rivaling the type of music community we have,” he said. “And we’ve got great bands in pretty much any genre you can think of.”

One negative that comes with this type of close-knit arts community—both between the musicians themselves and their relationships with audiences—is that it is even harder to be apart and not experiencing shows together.

The Loud As Folk Record Club is one antidote to this separation anxiety, as it brings quality and thoughtful music directly into the community’s hands. And while we can hope the days of live music in Reno aren’t too far off in the future, McGuire is excited because the project will continue to stand on its own once the pandemic is over.

“Once we go back to doing live shows, we’re still going to be able to keep the record company going,” McGuire said. “At that point, we’ll have more touring acts coming through town, and touring friends to do the record club.”                                                                                     

To learn more, visit Loud As Folk Record Club’s website. Want to get a taste of the music before signing up? The first album, “vol. 1 Early Recordings,” is available now on major streaming platforms including Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play. 

Ally Gravina spends her days advising the students who run UNR’s newspaper, magazine, radio station, and literary journal. By evening, she’s a freelance journalist. Ally is an alumna of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where she specialized in arts and culture reporting. She lives in Tahoe City. More at allygravina.com. Support her work in the Ally.

This article was funded by a City of Reno CARES Act grant and produced by Double Scoop and the Sierra Nevada Ally. Together, these news outlets are working to increase the amount of quality local arts and culture journalism.