BUFU Records

Ben Katzman and Chris Collins

BUFU Records is the Boston-based label run by Ben Katzman and Chris Collins, but its trajectory has really been shaped by bands like Free Pizza, Designer, and Dylan Ewen. Here, Ben and Chris talk about the history and ethos of BUFU, and share a mixtape featuring The Lentils, Gracie, Tall Juan, Littlefoot and more.

Ben Katzman: I’m a pretty passionate person. Whether it was Power Rangers as a kid, or KISS as a teenager, I had to know everything, and own it all too. Growing up in Miami, I wasn’t popular by any means, because I was so out there. I was into cartoons and rock bands that my other friends thought were really uncool. By the time I was in high school and playing in bands, I had teachers tell me the bands I like sucked and that the music I wrote wouldn’t get me anywhere. Promoters thought my friends and I were too young to play their clubs so we decided to book all our own shows. By the time I was like 16 or 17 we were booking shows at any place that would have us. We were throwing shows at the most ridiculous places. My old thrash band Acidosis played our local temple, grocery stores, record shops, comic book shops. YOU NAME IT.

When I got to Boston there were so many sick bands, labels, and local support. Everything was usually all ages and DIY and super communal! I just wanted to help out and contribute in my own way. So in a way it seemed only natural to start a label and document what my friends and I were doing.

The first release was ‘You’re Welcome’ by Slugage. The Slugage kids were all freshmen when I was a senior in high school. They use to come out to every local show they could, and buy all the music and merch they could get their hands on. By the time I had come home from my first year at college all these kids had started a band. They weren’t the tightest musically, and they weren’t exactly the most popular kids but in my eyes they knew what was up. These kids were doing everything that the Acidosis/Free Pizza crew was doing years before. They were booking their own all ages DIY shows, and promoting themselves and their friends.

The idea of putting out their album really came together on the night I got banned from Churchill’s Pub in Miami. Acidosis was headlining a show, and Slugage had booked it. There was something like 150-200 kids at the show before the doors even opened. Some underage kid got caught with booze and everyone was kicked out. Even the kids who were like 18-20. It was so fucked up. It went from being a packed show at 9:00 to being empty at 9:15. That night everyone felt screwed over, the kids and the bands too. I tried pleading with one of the people running the venue to at least card the people and let them back in, but it just escalated into a pissing match and a few details later I was kicked out of the show too. That was the night I decided to start BUFU. I felt like I was representing all of my friends and all of the people at the show that night.

I was used to booking and promoting shows. I thought I might as well do that with the music we were putting out too. The kids in Slugage were so bummed, but I was like, “Hey y’all wanna rock sometime? I’ll record your album.” If you listen to that album now though, you hear how innocent everything is. Everyone was young and figuring out how to shred and record.

Those first months that BUFU came into formation were while I was on summer vacation in Miami. It really got started when I came back to Boston. BUFU has safely been run out of my bedroom the last 3 years. All the tape decks, LP’s, CD’s, Merch and 7” records have been piled up by my bedside. Shoutout to the BUFU bedquarters.

Chris Collins: As of 2015, the headquarters are in a home office space in Boston, but were transitioning into an actual office in NYC later this year.

The ethos of the label is that you are your own boss and don’t need validation from anyone else to be who you are and do what you do.

Ben: Everybody who has ever been involved with the label is responsible in shaping the shred. We couldn’t have really done anything without first and foremost having had Dylan Ewen on the label. We put his first album out, and we just clicked. We were so involved in the booking, the promotion, the packaging, everything really that he joined the label. And that kind of happened with every band we have released. We were all chillin’ every day, partying, cooking, living, and working hard together. From those early releases every band has been pretty involved. Those early shredders like Designer and Free Pizza pushed the label just as hard as their own music. At the core, I feel like with most of the bands there has just always been this good energy that keeps us all attracted to each other, and it becomes this family-like collective where everyone is just glad to be doing this together.

Chris: Exactly, the bands on the label help shape its identity and aesthetic. Were all one big extended family, united by the power of the shred. While I was never a musician on the label, I rolled with the whole BUFU crew from pretty early on. As a director of (website/newspaper/booker) Boston Hassle, I collaborated with Ben on throwing a bunch of shows and hard chill sessions. By the winter of 2014 it just made sense to become an official part of the label. Ben invited me to be a partner (in crime) and we’ve been rockin hard ever since.

Ben: Well we started with nothing really. Those early releases were all handmade and put together on our own, and it definitely looked that way too. We were figuring out how we wanted to present our self and define our message. As we started doing more releases, we strived to make sure the quality and quantities were growing as fast and steady as our bands were. Like Diamond Dave always says, “You gotta roll with the punches to get to what’s real.”

We like to think that even though a lot of the bands don’t sound the same, there is an overall vibe of being yourself, and doing what you love because you want to, and that is what we try and encourage.

The ethos of the label is that you are your own boss and don’t need validation from anyone else to be who you are and do what you do. Our heroes KISS fought for radio airplay, and were rejected by loads of critics because of their appearance and aesthetic but they stuck to their guns and fought hard, and toured even harder and eventually became one of the biggest and totally illest bands on the planet! Rejection sucks, but in the end it  really doesn’t matter what someone else thinks as long as you love doing what you do, and being who you are.

The Boston scene is one of the chillest and friendliest scenes we could be a part of. As we started going on more tours, and putting out more releases, we started making more friends from all over the place. The label is still made up of those earlier Boston bands as well as bands from all over. We like to think that even though a lot of the bands don’t sound the same, there is an overall vibe of being yourself, and doing what you love because you want to, and that is what we try and encourage.

The only specific direction for the label has been chillin mad hard, and keeping it real. The original idea that drove the label is that we wanted to document everything we were doing. For the last few years our lives have revolved around throwing shows, putting out and buying records, forming bands, and living in the moment. Whether it’s our friends, or bands we straight up admired for rockin’ so hard, every record, tape, and shred that we put out is very important to us. BUFU in a way is like the musical scrap-book of our lives.

Our future goals are to keep doing what we do best – work hard, chill harder. We hope to be making new friends and to be spreading our shred from coast to coast. We are stoked to announce a slew of sik shows and new releases in the coming weeks including the brand new Tall Juan 7”, and maybe even a little Lemons record too! DeGreaser and Howardian are touring the West Coast and Mexico next month, Free Pizza is headed to Berlin for the fall, and Littlefoot will be touring too! Everybody is rokin’ and rolin to the max!

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