Recently, I had the chance to ask Stefan Beham, a graphic designer and the head of the Austrian punk rock record label SBÄM Records, a few questions about his beginnings as an artist and leading his own record label. We also discussed what he looks for in artists he signs, what starting bands should do to get signed, and even the 2022 edition of his SBÄM Festival. Which just this week announced its first wave of acts that included Millencolin, The Bouncing Souls, A Wilhelm Scream, No Fun At All, Make War, and The Venomous Pinks.
How did you decide to go from a graphic artist and designer for punk bands such as NOFX, Pennywise, Sum 41, and more to heading your very own record label?
S: This was never a plan. And I have never thought about starting a label. It all kinda started when we did this benefit sampler for SBÄM Fest. After that, the band Consumed hit me up and asked me if I wanna release their new EP. At this point, I didn't really have a clue about running a label, but I love to challenge myself, and I also felt flattered. Consumed is a great band. I love their songs, so I said yes, and the rest is history.
Over the last few years since the label's inception, who are some of your favourite artists you've worked with so far? S: There are heaps. I really enjoyed working with Pulley, Bad Cop/Bad Cop, Frenzal Rhomb, [and] Bracket. But like I said, there's a lot. I enjoyed working with most of our artists so far. Who are some of the newer signings you have on SBÄM Records you are working with that you’re excited about? S: We got a lot in the pipeline. I'm really excited about the new album from The Venomous Pinks -they're awesome! Then there's the new solo album from Russ Rankin, a new album from DFL, Love Equals Death, Swallow's Rose, and hopefully a new album from Not On Tour and Pulley. And there's this new band from Vienna called The Rumperts -they're fucking great! You should definitely check them out! We also signed this pop ska band from California called Victory Kid -it could be the soundtrack for the Summer. But this is just a brief insight. There's much more on the way.
What advice would you give to emerging artists who are trying to break into the music industry? S: Be pushy to labels, festivals, [and] promoters. Try to play as many shows as you can. And believe in yourself no matter what others say, unless you're a real shitty band. If so, get a job or another hobby.
What's your signing process? Do artists/bands need to be developed and established before you sign them? Have you ever taken any risk with a signing? S: I just have to like the songs and the band. There's not a real process. And I also need to see potential in the band. We got heaps of cool submissions, but I can't release every band. That's sometimes a bit sad, but that's how it is. Bands don't really have to be developed or established to get signed by us. And we're taking a lot of risks. I always wanna support young bands, there's always a risk, and we often lose money. But I love taking risks, and it's worth every penny.
What do you look for in new artists? S: Difficult question. As I said, I have to really like their songs. And they should also be ambitious and love what they're doing. It's also important to me that they play a lot of shows. We also want to focus more on female bands. I think female acts should be heard and seen much more.
Swaying topics, you're working on the next installment of your annual SBÄM Fest next year. What could festival-goers expect for 2022? S: Oh, it's gonna be a blast. Really! I've put so much effort into the 2022 edition. We're gonna have a new venue. Three stages. SBÄM talks with some famous guests. An art exhibition. We're gonna stream the festival worldwide, a documentary and much, much more. Believe me, it's gonna be one of the highlights of 2022. One of the best lineups I've ever seen. More soon!
You're also working on a North American tour that combines punk rock and art. Could you elaborate more on what this tour is about? S: I have had this idea for four years now. The plan is to travel through the US, bring a band from my label and do an art show in selected cities across the country. And I wanna add a local band from every city where I'm gonna be doing an art show. The plan is also to film it and do a documentary. But nothing's fixed yet. We're aiming for a 2023 tour.
Thanks for taking the time, Stefan. Hope you’re staying safe out there. Is there anything you would like to add before you go? S: Thanks for having me! I can't wait to see any of you again at a show or at SBÄM Fest. Take care.
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