by Jack Downey ’23 A&E Staff
One would not expect a 14-year-old to start a record label. However, one did: his name is Alex Simmons, and he is the founder of Newport-based tape label Youth Distribute. On the label’s bandcamp site, the biography reads, “RI music for goons,” but the scope of the label is actually much wider, representing music from multiple states. The genres featured are also eclectic, ranging from hardcore punk to grindcore and everything in between.
Originating in the fall of 2020, Youth Distribute burst onto the scene by releasing the demo tape of Connecticut punk band Zipper. The tape sold out in a matter of weeks. Building on the success of this release, the label quickly put out “The Fragility of Human Life” by Pillow Over Face, which soon sold out as well. Since then, the label has put out nine releases, most recently, the demos from Alligators on Acid, a self-described “TV static grungecore band,” and Degenerate, a one-man grindcore project started by none other than Alex Simmons himself.
As mentioned earlier, Youth Distribute is a tape label, meaning that all the music released on the label is put out not only digitally, but also on cassette. This might seem like a risky venture since cassettes are widely considered to be an antiquated way of listening to music. However, cassettes have a surprisingly loyal consumer base, with tape labels all around the world. Many of these labels are underground, which excites fans of indie music. However, Youth Distribute has acquired a large fanbase that consists of punk and cassette fans. A Newport newspaper even wrote about Simmons, and he has been interviewed on other sites as well.
On top of running Youth Distribute, Simmons also plays in multiple projects. Not only is he behind the previously mentioned Degenerate, but he also sings for the hardcore punk band Bullet Proof Backpack, who have been making quite a name for themselves since releasing their first demo “Total Lockdown” in May 2020. The EP has garnered a lot of support on bandcamp and elsewhere, with some copies of the tape even being sold at Armageddon Shop, a record store in Providence. The tape did so well, in fact, that a second run was made.
The success of Youth Distribute serves to highlight the burgeoning punk scene that is still alive and well in Rhode Island. Bands such as Bullet Proof Backpack, Boiling Point, and Gel have acquired large followings in the community due to their furious music and honest, truth-to-power lyrics. What also helps the punk scene in Rhode Island is the willingness of venues to book punk bands. AS220, Dusk, and News Cafe all come to mind; over the years, they have held insane show after insane show, providing a home for punks from Rhode Island and beyond. However, these venues are just the tip of the iceberg: house venues are also vitally important. The biggest example of one of these house venues is Al Dios No Conocidos. Run by Carlos Romero, the basement venue has hosted bands not only from Rhode Island, but from all over the country, even outside of it, such as the band Riña from Mexico.
To support Youth Distribute, you can go to youthdistribute.bandcamp.com and buy music either digitally or on tape. They also have shirts you can buy. Also, once things open back up, definitely support your local venues. Places like AS220 provide a home for those who do not always have one, and going there is always a great time. Punk might be more commodified every day, but it will never truly die, and Rhode Island proves it.