The nature of DIY collective, tape label, friend group Whatever Forever

It might look old but a old recorder makes a lot of the cassettes. The Whatever Music Collective is a musical collective of artists playing music of different genres that puts out cassette tapes.

From left, Ben Kimbal, Sam Mitchie, Claire Vowels, Maxfield Yoder, Danny Barkofske, and Nicholas Stahl of the band Dean Monkey and the Dropouts practice at the SeedCo Studios as part of Whatever Music Collective.

From left, Ben Sander, and Mark Osman rehearse at the SeedCo Studios.

From front left, Chris Luxem, Mark Osman, Ben Saunder, Rolf Petermann, Brad Girard, 2nd row Joe Gronniger, Bobby Sauder, Andrew Frederick, Claire Vowels, rear, Danny Barkofske, Sam Mitchie, Maxfield Yoder, Nicholas Stahl make up Whatever Music Collective.

If you can’t lure people in with music alone, there’s always pizza.

Rolf Petermann felt strongly about employing this tactic — so strongly that he turned a living room into a space for friends to bring toppings for his fresh-baked pizza, as well as their musical talents. It would soon become a small music venue in the summer of 2010 that housed DIY shows called Pizza Power.

Pizza Power attracted many local artists out of sheer convenience; it seems every band involved lived on the same street or within a block of one another.

“The bands that lived there are still all pretty active, like Karma Vision, Dean Monkey and the Dropouts, CS Luxem, Carey Scott,” Petermann, former Karma saxophonist, says. “OILS lived across the street, and that’s how we got know them. Spook Lights lived across the street the other way. It was just really cool to have all of those musicians in really close proximity.”

The sweet temptation of homemade pizza wasn’t limited to local bands. While in town on their tour, The Head and the Heart decided to stop in for a few slices and to perform a show in this intimate space on their way to the “Late Show with David Letterman.”

“They even did an interview where they mentioned that one of their favorite shows was the pizza show they did in Lawrence, Kansas,” says CS Luxem’s Chris Luxem, one of the Pizza Power organizers.

With such a high concentration of talent in just one area, why not combine forces as a music collective inspired solely by the friendships developed from putting different music perspectives in one room, and playing? Why not document this project by releasing cassette tapes of the music under one name?

Naming the DIY collective would be simple: Whatever Forever.

“It was one of those sayings you remember from when you were younger,” Petermann says. “It seemed appropriate. You couldn’t put all the music in one specific genre. The connection between the artists is more that they’re friends and they work together and encourage each other, rather than a specific type of musical output.”

“All the music that’s happening in Lawrence, whether it’s DIY or at a bar or at the Arts Center or at a church, it doesn’t matter,” Luxem says. “Everything fits under the same umbrella of culture and community.”

Unfortunately, Pizza Power would shut down after eight months because of a noise complaint. Whatever Forever, facilitated by Petermann, Luxem and Bobby Sauder of Karma Vision, would remain, jumping around for a year in different living rooms, local shops like Wonder Fair or Mirth, and even a ditch in the middle of the woods near the train tracks known as The Church of Malt Liquor.

In September of 2012, Whatever Forever artists started renting space at SeedCo. Studios where the collective could now act as an incubator for musicians, providing space for rehearsals, insight on material and recording services. They even host daytime shows for smaller groups of people intent on hearing the bands’ craft.

“That’s another big part of DIY culture,” Luxem says. “Trying to have a setting where the music is the focal point rather than alcohol at the bar. We love playing at the bars. But the tradeoff is that a lot of people just go there to drink and socialize and not listen to the music.”

Whatever Forever has released 15 tapes made by 10 bands that are available for purchase in town at Love Garden, as well as digitally. The goal is to print on vinyl in the future when they have the funds to do so because it provides a high-quality listening experience, closest to how it sounds in the recording studio, Luxem says. But for now, tapes will do.

“There is a warmth with tapes,” Luxem says.

They work with 15 to 20 artists/bands, some artists spread across the country, as a result of networking, touring and making connections with people who do the same kind of work elsewhere.

So, friend group, music collective or tape label?

It gets blurry, Petermann says. But it’s whatever.

“Chris and I were talking about how like, what if we just quit doing music and start playing cards, it’s still Whatever Forever,” Petermann says.

“Or what if we just started projecting science-fiction movies and eating waffles — it’s like, well whatever,” Luxem says.

The upstairs of SeedCo. has recently been transitioned into their permanent recording, rehearsing and show space. Their latest project wrapping up 2013 was the “Family Vacation” compilation tape curated by Petermann, highlighting various artists they’ve worked with in Lawrence, each song providing a snapshot of their world and culture.

“We work hard and we want to document that,” Petermann says. “We’re just doing it because it feels good.”