Shallots

Hunter Arias (front), Cameron Guenter (left) and Gage Shively of Shallots Records pose for a portrait at their music studio on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Editor’s Note: Hunter Arias was previously employed at The Daily Nebraskan.

In 2018, Hunter Arias worked the register at the Hub Cafe while he was studying at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The shallot vinaigrette was a staple of the cafe’s salads, causing Arias to say the word “shallot” dozens of times a day.

One day when he walked out of his building at The Village, he saw a bundle of shallots left on the concrete stairs. He took the repetitive mention of the small aromatic as a sign to name his upstart recording company Shallot Records.

“I came up with Shallot Records because I wanted an outlet to release some of my own crap,” Arias said. “I made one cassette run of a tape … on a four-track deck in the music room under Harper [Hall].”

Shallot Records evolved into a four-in-one studio for the Lincoln DIY music scene, a music community comprising those who don’t want to take their music to a big recording company. Not only does the company record in Arias’s basement — mostly on analog equipment like tape recorders — it also offers groups a chance to be on their record label, runs an in-house cassette duplication service and hosts a podcast talking to local musicians called “Push Record and Run.”

Though he's the founder and owner, Arias doesn't run Shallot Records alone. Camron Guenter and Gage Shiveley’s band Distressed Damsels went to Arias to record their first single. After a successful recording session, the three of them decided to go on together as Shallot Records in June 2020.

Shiveley, a producer and mixing engineer, said he spends most of his time with Shallot Records directing musicians’ minds down different creative avenues. He suggests new ways to play and offers musicians different pedals and effects to try out.

“Once you’re in the writing process, you tend to get stuck into your train route like, ‘this is how the song sounds, this is how it should sound,’” he said. “But once you get other people’s perspective, it’s nice to hear new ideas about a finished project. [I like] having more stuff for me to play with when I take it home and start mixing and messing around with what the song could also be. That’s my main goal: getting more creativity to flow out of [the musicians].”

Guenter, the social media manager for Shallot Records, said her biggest concern is finding ways to get Shallot Records out into the DIY scene.

“We haven’t had many photoshoots, but we’ve had a lot of nice pictures taken, which really helps showing off the equipment and how nice everything looks,“ she said. “On the social media side, it’s really just about taking pictures, but we also have a large dependency on word of mouth. So we’ve definitely benefited a lot from posting about what we’re doing and having [musicians] share that.”

One of the musicians Shallot Records caught the eye of was Paul Swope, frontman of the band Swaul Pope. Swope recently recorded a music video with Shallot Records after meeting Arias, Guenter and Shiveley at various live shows around town. He said he liked how the values of Shallot Records aligned with his own as a musician and that their business relationship grew from friendship.

“A lot of the ideas that I have and that the band has are kind of goofy and hilarious and rooted in having an enjoyable time,” Swope said. “We really resonate with them and what their goals are. I’ve actually been doing a little bit of personal recording with them at their studio, and it’s been a lot of fun.“

Swope had recorded at 10 different studios before going to Shallot Records, and he found that the analog technology the company used, like tape recorders and cassettes, provided him with the sound he craved.

“I really prefer physical, analog, real-room sound, the meat and potatoes of the music, rather than the digital side where you can just manipulate tone,” he said. “That’s the appeal to it. It’s a lot easier, it’s simpler and you need way fewer things. The sound of the music and the feel of it is elevated so much by physical equipment and with the knowledge that comes with that.”

Swope put Shallot Records in charge of distribution of any new music, but he isn't currently interested in joining their label. Shallot Records currently has three bands on their label, including Shiveley and Guenter’s band Distressed Damsels.

“We really just want Shallot Records to be a visible place for people to promote their stuff, for them to be able to use us as a tool to kickstart some of their career,” Shiveley said. “When it comes to getting people on the label, it just means we’re inviting them to be part of this family where we can all help each other and share what we have here in Lincoln.”

Arias, Shiveley and Guenter said they were excited for their company to play a part in sowing homegrown talent and excitement for local musicians.

“We just want to be a catalyst for a lot of local bands,” Shiveley said. 

Guenter said her favorite part of working in the Lincoln DIY scene is the amount of support she, Arias and Shiveley have seen, not just as Shallot Records, but in creating their own music as well. 

“[The DIY scene is] very supportive,” Guenter said. “It’s supportive over competitive, and I think that’s one of the most beautiful things about our town. We’re all so supportive of each other, and we’re always collaborating and building off of each other and learning more from each other.”

culture@dailynebraskan.com