LVL UP

(Photo: Shawn Brackbill / courtesy of the artist)

It’s one thing to start a band while in college, but the members of LVL UP also launched their own label. They used it to release their first album, "Space Brothers," on cassette. 

"We just did like a short run of 100 cassette tapes," singer and guitarist Mike Caridi says. "We bought a cassette duplicator and a bunch of blank cassettes and we used the art building on our college campus to print some nice looking cardstock and went from there."

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Those cassettes reached listeners well outside the art department at SUNY-Purchase, where the band attended college.

And their label -- Double Double Whammy -- became more than just an outlet for their own material. They also distributed music from over a dozen other artists like Mitski and Frankie Cosmos.

LVL UP toured and sold albums, but a D.I.Y. approach doesn’t always pay the bills. 

That changed when the band crossed paths with Sub Pop Records: An established label that’s released music by bands like Sleater Kinney, Fleet Foxes and the Postal Service. Nick Corbo, LVL UP’s bassist, thinks the move happened at the perfect time.

"We were looking for a step forward and a step up," Corbo says. "What happened with Sub Pop definitely, positively affected the longevity of the project." 

Sub Pop recently released LVL UP’s new album, “Return to Love.” The band’s not getting rich -- but that’s OK. It’s in a better place financially, and Caridi says the band still feels like it honors its independent roots.

"We’ve done a lot of releases now. Doing it as a passion project is a better route than trying to do it as a lucrative business, because it’s not."

So while signing to Sub Pop places the members of LVL UP among some big names in indie music, their ambitious spirit that started on a small college campus remains alive and well.

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