📸 by David Lay. Brandtson at Fireside Bowl, Chicago, IL. Sometime in the late 90’s
Steadfast Records is an independent record label & distro from Cleveland, Ohio. Founded in 1995 and relaunched in 2017.
The History of Steadfast Records
I have been obsessed with music my entire life, and found hardcore by way of skateboarding in my high school days. It was the early 90’s and copying tapes and trading mixes introduced me to a whole new world of music. I met some new friends by way of a skate bud who were in a band called Six Feet Deep and started going to their shows. Often held at VFW halls or YMCA’s and commonly stacked with 6-8 other bands, tables of zines, boxes of records, stickers, and animal rights literature.
The DIY hardcore scene of Cleveland at this time was thriving and it all felt like home to me. I was inspired fully by this new-to-me world and its independent and confrontational spirit. Fully observing at this point, it hadn’t occurred to me that I could contribute to and be a part of this world that I loved just by making my own shit.
At some point I was invited to join Six Feet Deep as a guitarist. While I owned a guitar and had taken maybe 3 lessons years prior, I was in no shape to join a band. I am eternally grateful to their frontman and one of my best friends of nearly 30 years Myk Porter. With utmost patience, he not only taught me to play those Six Feet Deep songs, but guitar, rhythm and songwriting basics that I knew nothing of prior.
Playing at and going to shows exposed me to so many incredible and inspiring bands and I had to do something about it. I had to be a part of it. I wanted to be on the other side of the table and decided I was going to make records. A process I knew absolutely nothing about.
It was 1995 and the first release I put together was a split 7” with a band called Zao. Six Feet Deep had played a bunch of shows with them and I was really impressed by their music and intense live presence. The band suggested the release be a split with their pals Outcast, a straight edge band from Dayton. I put together a photocopied cut and paste layout, ordered some textured card stock from somewhere I don’t recall, and got some printing help from my pal Keith who conveniently worked at an all night Kinkos copy shop and SFR001 was born.
Immediately I began planning subsequent releases and enlisted Myk to produce Zao’s first full length album All Else Failed. Released in the summer of 1996. I still remember hearing it for the first time. I couldn’t believe it, my jaw dropped. How my friends had turned a few days in the studio into this brutal masterpiece completely floored me. It was so far beyond what I was expecting and what I had heard previously. I knew right away that this was something special and I couldn’t believe I got to be a part of sharing it with the world. 30 years later and I still feel that gratitude and thrill with every release.
As Six Feet Deep began to wind down, Myk’s side project, Brandtson started to take shape. He had written and recorded 6 songs with his pal Jared drumming in the studio. Initial plans to release this as an EP were scrapped in favor of putting together a band and releasing a full length album instead. Jared and I were formally invited by Myk to join Brandtson, and we needed a bass player. I had recently met this guy John Sayre, who loved DC hardcore and taught himself to play bass to Police records. He was an instant fit and we began writing and practicing immediately. The combined output soon became Letterbox, Brandtson’s debut album. Released by Steadfast Records in 1997 and later signed over to and reissued by Deep Elm Records.
After signing with Deep Elm, we collectively decided to take Brandtson full time and to make it our primary focus. With a couple years of ramping up band activity, it became clear that I couldn’t run the label properly while effectively living on the road. The last proper release before turning off the lights for a bit was Brandtson’s 2000 release Trying To Figure Each Other Out.
Jumping forward to 2017. Brandtson had been done for over a decade. Our post Brandtson band Swam of Bats was done for a couple years. Myk and later Brandtson bassist Adam Boose had just finished an incredible debut album for their newish band Golden Streets of Paradise and had asked me a couple questions about pressing vinyl. One of them mentioned that I should just relaunch Steadfast and release the album. This idea hadn't previously occurred to me, and a lightbulb cartoonishly popped over my head. I was really missing a tangible connection to music at that point in my life and had been ignoring this nagging pull to be building something creative for awhile. It just felt right. In a whirlwind we released the album. I put together a website and turned the lights to the Steadfast Records offices (my basement) back on.
Since relaunching, my vision for the label has remained intact from the earliest days; Share the music that I truly love and feel connected to, and hope that it will resonate with you and others as well.
Thank you for listening.—