Nudie Records was born out of Luke and Elise Gasper’s Coastside home via their deep love of music and pandemic downtime.
Story by August Howell/Photos by Adam Pardee
The basement of Luke and Elise Gasper’s Half Moon Bay home seems fitting for the brand the couple has created. Underneath the exposed pipes and cobweb-covered wood sits a modern music station with drum machines, keyboards and monitors. It’s here where Luke, in this intersection of old-school aesthetics and modern technology, recorded his first album in nearly 10 years. When the pandemic forced him and Elise to work from home, it allowed them to focus on creating a long-sought-after project, which finally culminated last year in the form of a Nudie Records, a record label run out of their house.
The two music lovers released two albums through the label in 2020, “The Electric Lukecifer” by Luke, under the name Dead Luke, and “The Blue Moon Goon” by Mad Max Elliot. Both records are free to stream online, and limited edition vinyl LPs are available for $18 at nudierecords.com.
Elise, a Half Moon Bay native, first met Luke in Wisconsin, where he is originally from. The two moved to the Bay Area in 2014 and got married five years ago. Their record label seeks to fill a gap for independent musicians who want to sell vinyl records of their music. It’s a major commitment of time and effort to get a quality final product, with an estimated six-month turnaround between submitting audio files and holding a finished product. That’s where labels like Nudie Records come in. The artists they work with own all their publishing rights and licensing, Luke said, while the label provides a platform and owns the physical medium.
“I have a creative community in Wisconsin with all my friends who are still making music there,” Luke said. “The idea was to give them a platform as well. We’re also very interested in trying to discover new artists.”
Luke grew up loving music from an early age. He’s savvy on guitar but also an expert on drums and synth machines. As a member of a handful of bands, Luke said his experience with record labels was unsatisfying, and there were certain creative limitations while working in the constraints of someone else’s artistic style and vision. Luke is an avid music collector and has sold his record collection twice over. The house contains more than 1,200 records, all organized alphabetically, spanning genres and decades. And that’s not including his hundreds of single-track 45s. In the corner of the house sits a hulking jukebox from the 1980s capable of holding 200 songs that Luke bought down the street at Vessel Vintage and Thrift. After opening the device, Luke peered under the hood, examining the wheel of seven-inch EPs that more closely resembles a car’s engine than a musical apparatus.
“If you’re into collecting records, I’d say it’s a good investment,” Luke said. “They are always worth something.”
Before the release of this latest album, Luke had not recorded music as Dead Luke for several years. “The Electric Lukecifer” is a return to his passion, where he finds a flow building simple and repetitive melodies that lend themselves to a psychedelic rock quality. The second record Nudie released comes from Mad Max Elliot, the stage name for one of Luke’s Wisconsin friends. Originally a folk musician, Luke said Elliot transitioned to old-school rock-and-roll more recently. Elliot takes on an Elvis Presley-inspired theme with slicked-back hair, soulful vocals and a powerful presence with his electric guitar. For Luke and Elise, the sound coming from vinyl can’t be replicated online.
“There’s never true silence when you listen to a record,” Elise said. “It even has to do with the dust in the room and how long it’s been around. There’s a kind of warmth to it. Digital music can be wonderful, but there’s a kind of sterility to it.”
Luke and Elise feel a sense of responsibility to add a personal touch to their brand. Each sold record contains a handwritten note. This year, they plan to publish three more albums, sell cassette tapes and have popups when live music makes its way back into the world this summer.
“The process touches on all the things we’re interested in,” Elise said. “Design, listening to music and seeking out music. It’s really collaborative from beginning to end.”
That collaboration takes time, however. The product comes from Gotta Groove Records in Cleveland. It’s a good fit for the Nudie because the pressing plant tailors to smaller, more independent labels by taking as few as 100 orders, which allows for a more customized product. By changing the color of the record to slipping a poster inside the cover, “they become objects or experiences of their own,” Elise said. The Gaspers’ vision is manifested in the packaging. Take the first two albums they’ve released. Despite the vast differences in style and tone, there is a uniform aesthetic printed on the covers and on the records. Instead of embellishing each vinyl with the randomized identification code, Luke and Elise print unique messages on each one, usually a string of lyrics.
Elise and Luke both spoke to vinyl’s longevity, both as a physical medium and cultural relevance. Even as digital technology transforms the music industry, they believe vinyl has become a go-to medium for those interested in collecting physical music. While it’s easy to transfer songs from a CD to a computer, a larger record carries its own weight, literally. The discs themselves are durable and there is something about the sound quality on vinyl that sticks with people, the couple said.
“There is a whole generation of people discovering vinyl,” Elise said. “But there is also a ton of people who never stopped listening.”
Elise Gasper cites five records that mean something special to Nudie. Take a look:
On their third record, Lou Reed and company shed much of the dissonance and experimentation of their previous two records while gaining a whole lot of fidelity. The result is a supremely relaxed record that really lets the songwriting shine through and allows for more heartfelt and tender moments such as the track “Pale Blue Eyes.”
Hot on the heels of the hit “These Boots are Made For Walking” that Hazlewood had penned for Nancy Sinatra, Lee released the lush and expansive “The Very Special World of Lee Hazlewood.” Featuring unbelievable orchestral arrangements from Billy Strange and many high points such as “Your Sweet Love” and “My Baby Cried All Night Long,” you’d be hard pressed to find a more solid album in Hazlewood’s extremely prolific career.
A compilation of immigrant folk songs recorded between the years of 1927 and 1948, isolation and longing take center stage on these varied and moving pieces. The names of the artists featured may not be recognizable but the emotions they convey regarding lives and families left behind and holding on to their heritage in a strange new land are universal. Released by the magnificent Portland label, Mississippi Records, this is only the tip of the iceberg in historical folk music they have mined and released over the years.
Cobra Man’s origin is a little unique to this list. Consisting of a male/female power disco duo from LA that was birthed out of a skateboard crew called The Worble, their albums also double in release as soundtracks to skate videos. The songs feel immediately familiar much of the time and the vibe is 100% party all the time. A perfect summer record as was ever laid to wax.
Originally only available on a limited run of cassettes and only recently released on vinyl by Chicago’s Numero Group, Joanna Brouk’s “The Space Between” is a side-long, new age meditation on simple and soothing piano harmonies. It’s a record that can blend into the background of whatever you may happen to be doing or is extremely rewarding if closely listened to. Always a good go-to for mediation and relaxation.
In terms of record sleeve art that inspired Nudie, look to early Sacred Bones records, where all the covers were hand silk screened, and to El Paraiso Records which have a similar template but are beautiful pieces of art all on their own.
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