Refrigerator -

Louder Than Goodbye 7" EP


One of the best articles we've ever seen about Refrigerator appeared in Puncture Magazine #41 from the spring of 1998. It's an absolutely must-read piece if you want to know anything about the band, and author Franklin Bruno has graciously allowed us to reprint it here.

New Times LA 1/14/99


"It's easy to bemoan the state of music when monolithic carbonated beverage-hawking megaconglomerates slurp up record labels every few days; critics can fret about bloated record labels poised to belch out godforsaken knockoffs of...already extant godforsaken knockoffs. Your Jewels, your Sugar Rays, your Korns. But Dennis Callaci--who, along with his wife Catherine Guffey, has spent the past nine years running Shrimper Records--thinks the more bloat, the better. Kind of.

"Music is always better when the powers that be are out of touch," the 29-year-old Callaci says. "And with the internet, the major labels are going to lose control."

Consider his label to be fine supporting evidence of all that. A microscopic two-person indie operation, Shrimper's headquarters can be found on the fringe of the Inland Empire in the sleepy suburban town of Upland. Callaci--who works at Rhino's retail store in Claremont by day and plays in his own band, the perennially underrated Refrigerator--has forged a name for himself by putting out an almost universally impressive catalog, the bulk of which has been available on cassette only. He's been behind an excellent stack of cool indie records by such acts as John Davis (of Folk Implosion), The Secret Stars, Simon Joyner, and Yo La Tengo's James McNew, who records under the concise pseudonym Dump. And though the basic indie-rock aesthetic has long since played itself out, Shrimper continues to thrive; it just released That Skinny Motherfucker with the High Voice?, Dump's surprisingly great collection of Prince covers, and in the next two months, the label will put out another Dump EP (Women in Rock), a Jad Fair three-tape box set, and an Amps for Christ double CD.

All of this from Shrimper's rather unlikely base--Callaci's home, a brick-red `20s bungalow with a white picket fence. "Our version of the suburban dream," he says, greeting me with his idea of a press kit--a paper grocery bag full of cassettes, vinyl LPs, and CDs. The living room is dominated by his three-year-old son's paintings. The house sits in an area best known for being near San Dimas, home of Bill and Ted. It is, in short, highly uncool. But Callaci insists that it's not the kind of ironic uncoolness that once marked much of the indie crowd.

"Indie rock's kind of dead, though many people would argue with me," he says. "I've never been part of that world, the whole scenester aspect, the No Life crowd, the tastemakers. That's because I like keeping the mystery in music, I don't want to know about the personalities--to me, that's just a waste of time. And for any artist on Shrimper, it's important that they approach it with the same directive. And they've got to be people who don't mind selling 200 copies instead of 200 grand."

Shrimper puts out its share of CDs and vinyl LPs, but Callaci has built a reputation for his cassette-only recordings. He favors them ever since he started dubbing tapes of his friends' Upland-based bands like Nothing Painted Blue (which--full disclosure--features New Times contributor Franklin Bruno) and WCKR SPGT back in 1990. "I still like the cassette form better than CD or vinyl," he explains, "It has a throwaway feel--not like a CD, which feels like it's etched in stone." Shrimper has about 70 tape-only recordings in its catalog, including EPs and full-lengths by Creeper Lagoon (Shrimper released its first record), Sentridoh (one of many Lou Barlow side projects) and Paul K.

"Aesthetically, it's been a subterranean operation," Callaci says. "In the shadow of L.A., my wife and I have tried to put out music by folks we love, which is why the label still exists 10 years after the fact."

And also why it's still good; Callaci has figured out how to operate a low-budget mini-industry with passion and commitment (imagine that)--turning away from indie attitude but gravitating toward its assets, namely good songs. Aside from working at Rhino, Callaci has his hands in other music related ventures. When he started Shrimper, he was putting out a `zine called Crump and doing a cable access television show called Nubalicious Cabaret. Now he does a radio show at Claremont's college station, KSPC (where the Dust Brothers got their start), called "Morning Becomes Defective," a direct reference to Callaci's biggest pet peeve: former KCRW DJ Chris Douridas. (Callaci says he's only run into his nemesis Douridas once: He was at a show and someone onstage said that something was "ugly"; the normally mild-mannered Callaci hollered back, "Not as ugly as Chris Douridas!" Turns out the blond guy standing beside him--the one who turned and stared at him, aghast--was Douridas in the flesh.) But despite his bands, his radio show, and his label, Callaci says he has no real desire to turn into a one-man industry.

"I want to keep everything low-key, but I don't want to go through the usual avenues," he says. "With Shrimper, it's all about staying in touch with why I got into this in the first place, just doing tapes of bands I like. I mean, when I'm dubbing every single tape by hand, I've got to be into the music."-Sara Scribner

Jaboni Youth #5 Autumn 1996

"Recorded with Bugskull's Brendan Bell, this EP is considerably less lo-fi than previous outings. It also finds Refrigerator playing songs that rock more and pop less than in the past. Even though they let the guitar feedback take over much of the time, they somehow manage to do it without letting things get out of control or exceedingly muddy. 'Meantime' wins the prize on here because, hey, it's a regular rock anthem but the stop mid-song is gonna make everyone in the stadium accidentally turn off their lighters before the moment has come to fruition. Damn all those post-rockers breaking with arena rock convention. Buy all new Refrigerator product on sight."-Alec Bemis

Bees Make Honey Newsletter #4 Winter 1995-1996

"Every time I hear guitar/drum/voice trio Refrigerator I wonder why most bands can't sound that full with so many more instruments. Dennis continually manages to play a single guitar note that can completely wrap up the melodic end of the sound. Listen to the long fuzzed guitar solo/coda on the song Louder Than Goodbye and wonder why anybody bothers with bass guitar. Meantime is a re-recorded take on one of the best songs from one of the early tapes (Rael?) and the glorious Thinner Than Skin lets us remember that even the cool guys like pop music. Necessary."-Will Simmons

Popwatch #7

"I guess I don't have to explain the utter coolness of the Callaci brothers' band to a Popwatch regular. Not every song they produce is pure gold, but they manage to sneak a few of those on every record; this time they're titled 'Meantime' and 'Louder Than Goodbye', though all four tracks have a heart."-Frank

CMJ 6/25/95

"The latest single from these West Coast guitar rockers starts off with a bang. The A-side's 'Meantime' is surprisingly catchy, becoming indelibly etched in your ears after just a few listens. 'Thinner Than Skin' continues the hook-filled pop theme. The B-side wanders away from that theme, lacking the resolution and focus of the other two songs."-Dawn Sutter