Interviews

Record Label Profile: New Morality Zine

New Morality Zine is on first glance a relatively new "label." I put quotation marks around it because this is sort of a two-pronged project. For several years, the founder, Nick Acosta would put out comprehensive zines, even devoting a whole issue to Bane. It's only been in the past few years that he's expanded to becoming a music label, putting out cassettes and vinyl releases.

Like many others, I became familiar with the label via Axe to Grind’s listening parties, and I wanted to learn a little more about this creative project. New Morality Zine feels hard to pin down, releasing records by bands that are much closer to indie rock than hardcore. 

Down below is a conversation I had with Nick in January that provides some of his personal history, why he started the label, and an introduction to the ever growing discography of New Morality Zine. 

Take me back to 2014. Why did you decide to start the zine in the first place?

I tried to start a band first when I moved here [Chicago]. I met a couple friends that were playing in a straight edge, straight forward, Count Me Out-type band. But then, two of them moved away, and the third one was moving away too. I was like, “alright, I’m not doing a band.” That’s too hard to manage. I was sitting around one summer and was like, “I might as well do a zine.”  

I’d done zines in college, but nothing punk-based, more like social justice zines. I think it was called The Altruist. We would publish a quarterly thing that was about stuff like human rights issues that were going on that we wanted people on our campus to be aware of. 

How were you getting into punk and hardcore in the first place?

Just through Napster and the usual channels in high school. There was that one punk kid who said, “hey check this out. I think you would like this.” When I was growing up, I was definitely more into stuff that my sister liked: The Cranberries, Sade, and Beastie Boys. I slowly got into stuff because of my cousin. It was more like nu-metal, so it was like Deftones and Rage Against the Machine. In high school, I was more into punk.

I remember a kid being like, “yo you should check out this band called Terror. Check out this comp.” That’s how I got into hardcore specifically. Late high school is when I would say I was into hardcore proper. I claimed straight edge like senior year of high school.

Was it not until college until you started doing band stuff? 

I was able to be in bands a lot easier in college. I went to college in Seattle. There were a lot of really good bands during the time I was in college. In Seattle there were always shows. When I was in Colorado, there were shows, but I was in high school. You don’t go to the small DIY shows all the time. In college, I got into playing in bands and also did a radio show. So, I had some kind of experience in interviewing and talking with bands.

What were you going to school for?

Teaching. I was a Humanities for teaching major. I did a teaching program called Teach for America and that took me to New York for three years and then I moved to Chicago.I took lots of writing and history courses and stuff like that. It was nothing I was uncomfortable about or nervous about doing. 

Did you start inserting yourself into the hardcore scene right away when you moved to Chicago?

It was small increments. I didn’t know as many here as when I moved to New York. Also, it’s weird when you’re older. When I moved here, I was already 25, married, and had a full-time job. It was a lot more difficult to be like, “I’m a hardcore kind and I’m going to shows all of the time.”  Everyone else is like 19. The first people that I met all ended up moving away from me. It was like fuck, cause they were also around my age. 

Chicago definitely seems to have more of a fluctuation in the scene than Seattle did. Chicago is also a lot bigger, too. I think there’s a lot of fluctuation [depends on] what bands are around. Also, now especially, hardcore bands, don’t do full US tours anymore. You’re not always guaranteed to be on a band’s route. 

Switching gears. When did you start wanting to do the label part?

I think maybe two, two and a half years ago. When you’re a kid and you listen to music, you’re like, “the one thing I want to do is put out a record.”  I kind of have always had wanted to do that. Hardcore tends to have that formula where there’s the zine first and then the zine becomes a label. Trustkill [Records] was a zine. New Age [Records] was a zine. A bunch of zines then became pinnacle hardcore labels. I thought it would be good to continue to push music in a way that wasn’t promoting music through writing in a zine.

Every now and then people are like, “you should just drop the zine from the name.” [Axe to Grind co-host] Bob [Shedd] has said it. A couple other people have said it. What I want to do is promote music and it doesn’t have to be just my own. I like having the zine as the backbone because then I easily feel like I can do that. This year, my goal is to do more zines, so I can keep the label on the actual title. 

We talked earlier about there not being a ton of touring hardcore bands. Is that something you think about when working with bands? 

No, not necessarily. I think what I’ve decided to put out in terms of music is by what I really enjoy. There’s not been any intentionality behind what I put out. I know some labels will. There’s a label called Extinction Burst, who I’m doing a split release for the Sweet Soul record. They only put out bands from the high desert [area] in California. It's kind of like a Dischord thing. I’m not really doing that at all. I want to put out what I like. 

The last thing I wanted to do is run through some of the bands on your label. If someone is unfamiliar with the label side, what are some bands you’d suggest them to start with?

Sunstroke is a perfect starting point if you’re checking out the label and the zine because they have been a band I worked with early on. I just think they are a phenomenal band and a good representation of what I love about that type of hardcore [Revolution Summer]. It’s great,it’s fast, it’s melodic, and lyrically it's something that provides thought. I just really enjoy that aspect about the band and they’re very genuine people. 

If you’re going for more of the post-hardcore or shoegaze, Downward is a big sweetheart of mine too. It's a very serendipitous story in how I became friends with them and put that out. I was supposed to put out a record from a band from Tulsa called Full Color Dream. We were going to do a 12" EP. They were on tour with Downward, doing a West Coast tour. I hadn’t listened to Downward yet but I got a text from Sam one night. “Hey man, let’s put pause on the record because I think the band’s going to break up. It’s not worth doing it.” 

At that moment,  I was ready and itching to do a record and I had some funds to do it. I had checked out Downward and they had just released their full length. I listened to the shit out of the record for a week straight.  I hit up sam and said, “do you think downward would want to do this?” “Yeah, you should hit them up.” That’s how the Downward LP happened. I think they’re a phenomenal band and they deserve to be huge. 

If you’re looking for straight-forward hardcore with a New York feel, Life’s Question is great. I don’t really love super heavy [bands], but it's not just straight forward heavy. There’s intricacies in the guitar work that make it very different. There’s a lot of grooves. I want New Morality Zine to have a dash of something different. 

The Glean demo is great. Those are kids in high school and the bassist is the singers’ dad. I don’t know if that’s how it will be long-term. After the first Sunstroke LP came out, I got an email from this dude named Mugs. He asked if I had any back issues or copies of zines. We had been in casual conversation via Instagram for the past year. He was like, “hey my kid is starting this band called Glean. I think you should check it out. I think you would really like it.” I obviously did and was super stoked to work with them to put it out because it’s a cool connection I have with them. 

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