On Valentine’s Day of this year, four locals who are proud to be in Murfreesboro had the brainchild for Culture Cringe, an all-encompassing media outlet through which local artists, including themselves, can release their creative endeavors. Thus far, those projects have mainly focused on music and film, the latter of which will be Culture Cringe’s first official release. On May 11, Girls Night Out, an independent film inspired by the eighties slasher genre and created with help from Culture Cringe’s The Hand, will be sold at an all-ages show at 3 Brothers featuring Kelly Kerr & the Distractions and Epic Ditch.
The Culture Cringe founders who go by Cringey, The Hand, DD Driver and The Teacher know what an artistic mecca the ’Boro was and still is, and everything they do through CC is in tribute and support of it. Here, three of the Culture Cringe folks talk about the Girls Night Out release and their first three months of existence.
What does Culture Cringe do?
Cringey: We want to be a media group that covers several facets of the media realm. A lot of people just put out records of bands or just do podcasts. We want to do podcasts. We want to put out movies that are filmed by people in Murfreesboro. We want to put out records of bands from Murfreesboro. We want to put on shows and get bands to play release shows when we have products coming out. We have a zine…
The Hand: We did an old-fashioned cut-and-paste zine and put it all over Murfreesboro.
So this is like an all-encompassing label?
The Hand: On a pretty lo-fi level.
Cringey: We’re not doing anything in mass production. Everything we put out is going to be limited.
The Hand: And we’re using lo-fi methods of putting things out. We’ve got flexi disc, seven-inches and cassette tapes.
Cringey: We really like where we live, so we wanted to help exploit it and create stuff in the process and show people there’s a lot of cool stuff going on here.
DD: And try to form a community of creative minds.
When did you get the idea?
The Hand: Myself and The Teacher recently started buying houses here in town. Cringey said, “We’re all going to stay here, so let’s do something to help make the scene something special again.” Years ago, Murfreesboro was a pretty happening place with Spongebath Records, and that stuff kind of died, and a lot of people gave up hope on this town and what the possibilities were.
Cringey: A lot of people skipped town, and that’s kind of where the name came from. “Cultural cringe” is the term people use to describe when you don’t like where you live and you want to live someplace else, because you feel like they have more culture. We commute to Nashville every day for work, so we have a lot of time in the car. It’s basically where we spend 50 percent of our week. That’s when we started talking about doing something.
What was the first thing you did as Culture Cringe?
The Hand: The podcast was the first thing we did under the banner of Culture Cringe, but the first release is the horror movie I made with my friend Meredith Kotas called Girls Night Out. That was made beforehand and was just made in the spirit of what we do, so we wanted to put that out through Culture Cringe.
Cringey: In the meantime, we can work on other things and hopefully have stuff coming out monthly.
The Hand: The podcast keeps the whole thing circulating so people know we’re around and don’t’ forget about us.
Why did you decide to release Girls Night Out on VHS?
The Hand: It’s kind of a throwback to the eighties-style slasher horror genre. We love VHS tapes and are just nostalgic about it.
Cringey: For me, it was a love for physical media. I’m not really down with the whole digital revolution. People are saying in the next few years, DVDs and Blu-rays will be gone, that it will all be downloads and streaming. Well, I’m a collector of physical media—the bigger, the tackier, the better. A lot of people like vinyl records; they don’t buy CDs, they buy vinyl, and they get the download code. It’s kind of like that. Vinyl doesn’t sound as good as CD, and everybody knows that. And VHS doesn’t look as good as DVD, and everybody knows that, but it’s kind of the same mentality. I like a big box you can open up. The cover art’s really big; you can read it, it’s got pictures. It’s kind of a throwback to physical media, which unfortunately seems to be going away.
The Hand: Also, it just reminds you of when you were a kid and got to go to the video store and pick something out. That stuff stands out in my mind.
DD: It’s so much more fun having a big box with artwork in it than a little CD.
Cringey: We premiered the movie in our backyard. We have a drive-in movie screen that the three of us built one extremely hot day. We almost killed ourselves. It was last Halloween. We had a big party, and we premiered it back there. Most of the people who were in the movie came; it was crazy.
The Hand: It was a big crew. We did a showing a little less than a month after at The 5 Spot. And now Cringey’s working on a film called The Stench.
Cringey: I’ll be shooting it on VHS at the end of May. I’m going to edit it digitally then transfer it back to VHS. We’re going to shoot it in our backyard. We’ve got a building back there, and it’s where I got the inspiration for the whole story. It’s going to be a short, about 20 minutes.
Do you find yourselves gravitating to one form of media over another?
Cringey: We want to keep it balanced.
The Hand: It’s a little unfortunate that The Teacher’s not here. He’s sort of the driving force on the music end. He’s worked out this whole series we’re going to start doing at Smoopy’s Bike Shop on June 2. We’re going to have bands play there, and it will be like a matinee thing and all-ages show where you go see a band and then pay a small fee to get a cassette tape of the show.
Cringey: That’s sort of torrent-proof. It would take a lot more work to put online for free. If somebody wants to do the work to put it online, more power to them, but I don’t think they will [laughs].
DD: The Teacher is really into the record part of it. He collects records, like really collects records. We all have record collections but he is all about collecting rare vinyl, and he’s really into Third Man and stuff.
The Hand: He’s a Vault member for sure [laughs]. I think he went up at 10 p.m. on Friday night [for Record Store Day] for water-filled vinyl.
Do you have a lot of bands approach you?
Cringey: It got out really fast. When people found out what we were doing, a lot of people contacted us and said they wanted to play one of our shows. Tennessee Scum asked if they could be involved, and I like their band so that was a no-brainer. That way we’ll be bridging the film and music part of Murfreesboro. The response has been really cool. It slowly but surely is getting there.
DD: I think after the release it’s going to really pick up.
Up to this point, have you just been doing promotional stuff, or have you been working on a lot of projects?
The Hand: Mostly, it’s been dealing with the logistics of getting this release ready and doing podcasts. Talking to people on the Facebook page and getting the music series at Smoopy’s planned out. That’s taken the most time right now.
Cringey: Oh, and our first release, Girls Night Out, is going to be packaged with the theme song, “Girls Night Out,” sung by Kelly Kerr & the Distractions on flexi disc. That’s the only way you can buy it. There’s only going to be a hundred of them and they’re going to be hand-numbered. Twenty of them are going to be limited-edition and they’re going to come in red VHS cases and have some extra perks, but we’re not telling people what they are yet. They’re going to be a few dollars more, but they’re going to be the ones that, 20 years from now, you’ll be able to sell for a little more on eBay than the ones in the black cases [laughs]. The black case is cool too, but it’s the blood-red case that we think people will like.
This sounds like Third Man Records.
DD: On a much smaller scale. Low-budget. They have all the money in the world to do the coolest shit ever.
Cringey: We can’t really make a liquid-filled VHS tape.
The Hand: The only rule behind this whole endeavor is to have fun.
DD: And make enough money to put toward the next thing, not to have tons of money.
What would an ideal project be; what would you love to do through Culture Cringe?
The Hand: I’d love to do a feature centered around Murfreesboro showing what I love about this town.
Cringey: One thing I’m going to do is called “Cringey TV” where we have volumes of it, maybe 30 minutes long. Basically, my character is sitting down at the TV, putting in a VHS tape and just channel surfing and watching videos of local bands and shot-on-location stuff in town and random footage, and I’ll put those out maybe on the first of each month. Public-access TV has sort of gone away. It’s not like it used to be where you can just show up like, “I wanna do a show.” So maybe Volume One will be out in June.
DD: I know I always thought it would be cool to do a magazine. I really like doing the zines and I think it would be really cool to expand on it more, where it could be a fanzine you have to subscribe to and be more in-depth and become a magazine someday.
Cringey: This might be a little ambitious, but someday I’d love to put together a coffee table book of the history of live club music—to an extent—in Murfreesboro. I always thought that really needed to happen, because there have been so many legendary shows here between the Red Rose and Sebastian’s and Grand Palace and even Murphy Center. Back in the seventies and eighties, that was the place to play in Tennessee. All the big bands played here.
The Hand: I saw White Zombie there.
Cringey: People forget this was a very musical town what with the Recording Industry program, though I know that’s kind of in the tank right now [laughs].
The Hand: Tour de Fun, I think that’s amazing, because it’s the one time of year people can really see there are a lot of bands here. That’s why I’m really excited about Culture Cringe—to kind of keep that going year-round. I think there’s more diverse music here than in Nashville by far.
Cringey: The house scene is really big since there’s not a place for bands to play. Not a lot of people in Nashville want to cover it, and I don’t blame them, because it’s someone’s house, but there’s a lot of great bands. Maybe between our podcasts and our cassingles we can help get something out. If someone brings us a movie they made or a record, and we love it, making money isn’t an issue. If they’ll let us put it out, we’d be honored.
The Hand: I think the goal is to eventually just get unending requests to put things out. We have tons of ideas amongst ourselves, but we don’t want this to just be a funnel for stuff we want to do. We want it to be something everyone wants to do.
How long did it take you to make Girls Night Out?
The Hand: This movie was written by Meredith, and she anticipated shooting it all in a weekend. A 25-page script. No one that worked on the movie had ever done any production work except for myself. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. It took about a year total. The people in it are not actors, they’re just our friends. There was a big cast. Making everybody available at the same time took forever. The blood effects, they look really cheesy, but they took some time to set up. Then it took about four months to cut it because there was a lot to go through. With non-professional actors, you burn a lot of video [laughs].
It’s inspired by eighties horror films. Any particular ones?
The Hand: Slumber Party Massacre. That’s a big one. The premise of the movie is I’m this new guy in town, and everybody’s girlfriends are having this girls night out. Everyone’s like, “Oh, what do they do at girls night out? Do they talk about us?” They talk me into dressing up like a girl and infiltrating the party to see what’s going on. There’s this other girl that moves to town, and she’s on meds because she’s kind of crazy, and needless to say, throughout the night everybody takes a little bit of her meds, and they get crazy and start killing each other for their body parts and having fashion shows. At the end of the film, I’m, like, the final girl.
Cringey: We’re hoping people go to the show on the May 11, get the film and on their way home, get a shitty cheap pizza, a six-pack of beer and go home and watch it, because that’s what it was made for. It was made for a late Friday night to watch with your friends.
The Hand: It’s definitely a movie to watch with your friends and get drunk to.
Cringey: There’s this whole subculture of horror conventions and pop culture conventions that’s been getting big for 10 years, since Comic-Con took off in San Diego. We’re going to hit that up this fall, try to pass it off to film fans and gore fans. That could be another way of getting the music out and the films out to people who normally wouldn’t see them. It’s gonna be fun.
To be clear, we’re not actually showing the movie at 3 Brothers because the event is all-ages. We’ll do a teaser on the projection screen and do giveaways on stage. It’s going to be fun. Let me put it this way, I have a gorilla costume.
DD: Which may be utilized. We’re calling it Culture Cringe Weekend. We want it to be festive.
Cringey: At the release, in two of the tapes there will be coupons for free pizza.
The Hand: It’s like the golden ticket.
Cringey: We’re all about giveaways. In our latest zine, there’s a sticker that says “Be kind, rewind.” I stuck two in two of the zines, and put the word out that if you find one of those zines with the hidden sticker, you get to come here and select an item from the treasure box.
What’s the treasure box?
Cringey: Well, it’s a big box . . . well, it actually hasn’t been put together yet. But it will have cool old movies . . .
DD: We came up with that idea thinking of when you were in kindergarten and you were really good or something, there’d be a box where you could pick something out.
Cringey: For one of the items, we’ve got a couple of “Hey, Vern, it’s Earnest!” TV series. Somebody might get that. Opryland playing cards. We go to flea markets and yard sales every weekend so we get all kinds of crazy stuff.
What do you guys all do outside of Culture Cringe?
DD: I work in an office.
Cringey: I paint commercial buildings.
The Hand: I do IT work for the Department of Safety.
Cringey: That sounds a lot more professional.
DD: Mine’s pretty professional.
Cringey: It’s something good to do after that commute when we’re just beat. It gives us a burst of energy. I was in a band for 10 years, Slack, and it was a way of being creative. Then I stopped, and it kind of got stagnant so I needed something new.
The Hand: I play music now in Most Amazing Century of Science.
Cringey: The Teacher’s band, Major Seconds, is playing at Smoopy’s on June 2. He also plays with Kelly Kerr. Then there’s going to be another band, June 2, called Roman Polanski’s Baby.
How did you get the word out about yourselves?
Cringey: It was totally grassroots. We put the zine out, and it came slowly, just through friends. The first zine was very experimental; it felt like we were doing something . . . undercover [laughs]. I don’t know what the right word is.
The Hand: It’s crazy how people have caught on without any formal promotion.
DD: My view is, if we put out cool stuff, people will notice and look into it themselves.
What else do you have on the horizon?
The Hand: More zines coming out. I’m working on a film with a friend called Space Trash. I’m building models for it right now. It’s like fifties sci-fi.
Cringey: We’re putting out a split cassingle with Tennessee Scum and the theme song to our podcast. They’ll be really limited. We’ll make 30, maybe 20 of those.
The Hand: We have a theme song for Culture Cringe in general.
Cringey: The Teacher wrote it.
To view podcasts, events and trailers for Girls Night Out and The Stench click here.