Tow Jam

Undertow Records is back in St. Louis and better than ever

Despite these mixed feelings, Ray anticipates considering some local bands as potential acts. "I think probably just by proximity Chris and I may end up hiring a few more St. Louis bands than when Bob was doing it, but we're going to strive for it not to be a St. Louis label."

Ray and Grabau are also concerned about being at the center of any supposed scene. "People divert their attention and think of it as a scene, but the people who are really doing a lot of things consider it a community atmosphere. They share musicians, they share equipment, they share resources," says Grabau.

"There are a lot more things that need to happen in St. Louis than just a record label. There's no one catchall. There already is a scene in St. Louis -- there isn't a competitive scene, it's communal. Undertow's role would be to be a part of the community -- the Chuck Berry project is an example of that," says Grabau.

The Chuck Berry project, a CD that Undertow will release later this year, will feature several St. Louis artists reinterpreting their favorite Chuck Berry songs. Artists signed on for the project include Jay Farrar, the Bottle Rockets, Fontella Bass and Murphy Lee.

So while Undertow Records may not be the linchpin to St. Louis' emergence as an indie-rock hotbed, you can expect the label to be an active member in the community and to release interesting, challenging music. For a label that values community over critical acclaim, St. Louis will be a good fit.

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