Q&A: Steak and Cake Records turns 5

Local record label to celebrate fifth anniversary in style


Brandon Schlia, founder of local record label Steak and Cake Records, will celebrate his birthday as well as the fifth anniversary of the label this Saturday at his Lafayette Avenue basement venue, Curly’s.

Started in 2011, Steak and Cake has spent the past five years producing local indie, alternative and even hip-hop groups, including Schlia’s own rock band Red Heat. His Bandcamp page has a discography of almost 100 different projects and collaborations with musicians from across the City of Buffalo and beyond.

The fifth anniversary show will begin at 4 p.m. with ping-pong and live music set to start at 6 p.m. Featured local acts include Shelly the Cat, Anthony Del Plato and Bradley Kujawski, Jacob Smolinski of Local Onlys fame, Mal.a.Mute, Hop Hop & the Noize, Red Heat, L.A. Times and Laube’s Old Spain. The lineup spans genres including indie pop, hip hop, rock and electronic.

General entry is $7 or $10 entry includes a limited edition Steak-book commemorating Steak and Cake’s five years of music production.

The Spectrum got a chance to speak with Schlia about producing, performing and the milestone of reaching five years as a label.

The Spectrum: How did Steak and Cake records come about?

Brandon Schlia:

The label started as a distraction to studying for grad school. I convinced friends of mine who were sitting on recorded material to let me release it ‘on my label’ which was really just a Bandcamp page that I made up one day in the Canisius library.

In the first year or two, it facilitated the recording of solo artists who wanted to get that full band sound but didn’t have the band members to achieve it.

I acted as a session player on almost all of the stuff during that time period. Around the third year it became clear that the label was more of a vehicle for my compulsion. I was addicted to the satisfaction of completing records and sharing them, and in this way, it was a good tool for reaching a deadline and gave a prolific impression.

Nowadays, I’m more of a traditional producer/engineer. I bring in real bands, they record their records [and] we send them off to get mastered. It’s pretty legit – but the success of the label has led to more work and more work has led to break-neck speed for production of new material.

Right at this very minute, there are five records just sitting in the wings waiting to be released because the schedule is so backed up.

TS: How does it feel to celebrate your fifth anniversary? What’s changed since you started in 2011?

BS: If anything has changed since 2011, it’s my willingness to accept the reality of the label as my drug of choice.

People do what they have to do to get by, to survive the existential dread of reality. Alcoholics, drug addicts, cigarette smokers, and, for me personally, music.

TS: Do you like playing or producing better?

BS: I like playing and producing pretty equally these days because I love my band, Red Heat.

In the past, I leaned more toward production because there’s more opportunity to turn the dials and fine tune the songs. Playing live is never perfect, but I’ve come to value engaging with the energy of the audience more as I’ve gotten older.

TS:What's your favorite thing about making music?

BS: My favorite thing about making music is making the music. You’re pulling it all out of thin air. It didn’t exist before the moment you caused it to exist. That’s some cool sh*t.

TS:What are some of your favorite things you've done since the start of Steak and Cake?

BS: The Bidwell Indie 5000 [a 2011 music festival run by Steak and Cake Records] was pretty dope because it showed me that, really, anything is possible. The three year anniversary show was very emotional and awesome because it showed me that I can’t do this alone, and it’s the people that love and support my work that make that work possible.

And lastly, becoming a homeowner and having the space to run a basement venue and a recording studio – it was always a dream of mine and now I’m living that dream every day.

TS: What’s in store for Saturday?

BS: What’s in store for Saturday? Ping-pong, beers, something like 10 bands, more beers, more ping-pong and a raucous dance party DJ set to close it out.

TS: What's the best thing about basement shows?

BS: The best thing about basement shows is that everyone there came to see the music. There’s no Joe-Regular slumped over the bar throwing up on the attendees because he’s been drinking there since noon.

There’s no coke-head bouncer to go all macho man on some kid who’s having a good time. Basement shows are policed by the community that created them and that’s what makes the equation work.

Grace Trimper is a contributing arts writer and can be reached at arts@ubspectrum.com.