Refresh Records talk beginnings, 2017 goals, and Charlotte music

By Lane Claffee

January 26, 2017

Since 2015, Refresh Records have been consistently working hard to shine the spotlight on local talent in Charlotte. Working with artists ranging from hip-hop duo Deep 6 Division, to folk group Holy Ghost Tent Revival, the label is not only musically diverse, but strives to help hard working artists get the recognition they deserve.

Refresh Records owner Josh Higgins started his stint in the music business by releasing 7” records for friends’ bands back when he lived in Pennsylvania. When he moved back to Charlotte in 2007, he had a revelation; “I figured, once I got stabilized, I really want to do this legitimate music-business thing,” said Higgins. After a period of working on his own, he partnered up with Tim Sassanian roughly around 2013, who is officially A&R, but as Higgins puts it, “we don’t really have defined roles… we work on everything together.”

Josh Higgins (left) and Tim Sassanian (right) Photo by Ronald Stewart

The label has since grown to a five person staff, including an intern. With the roster consisting of bands that have been on the festival circuit, like Young Mister and Ancient Cities, the label has already started to make a name for itself and distribute albums across the country. We recently got together with Higgins and Sassanian to talk in-depth about Refresh Records, the music, Charlotte, and what they have in store for 2017.

CLTure: Can you tell me a bit of the background of Refresh Records, and how you got started?

JH: Refresh actually kicked off in 2015, and I started reaching out to local bands trying to find people to work with for a benefit series I was putting together, and ended up working with Holy Ghost Tent Revival, Hungry Girl, and Summer Movie Clubhouse, and that ended up being the foundation of Refresh. Then from there, Tim and I started working together and the snowball just kept growing.

CLTure: The variety of different artists, genre-wise, gives the impression that you guys not only have diverse taste, but that y’all are also giving a lot of artists the platform that they need.

JH: Thanks!

TS: I’d say that the common thread between all of our artists are people that we’ve always viewed people who are hardworking and have paid their dues in the Charlotte local scene. Basically we just wanted to contribute because we respect all of those musicians. Hard work ethic is something that we definitely look for in artists. Yeah, they’re all different in scope, but we don’t view them as that different.

CLTure: It seems that you guys keep a more personal connection with the bands on your roster rather than strictly business.

TS: If you look at either one of our phones… for the first page, it’s gonna be all artists. It’s just every day that we’re talking to people on our roster. They’re all bands we identify with and bands we respect.

Tim Sassanian (left) and Josh Higgins (right) and Photo by Ronald Stewart

CLTure: So, moving forward, are there any particular goals that Refresh has in mind?

TS: In terms of goals, we’re gonna slow down in terms of picking people up so fast, and really focus our efforts on musicians that we’ve made commitments to so far. But we’re always keeping our eyes and ears out for the next good fit for us.

JH: This year, we have a lot of new releases coming out, from Junior Astronomers, Young Mister, and Scowl Brow. Like he said, we’re trying to foster the artists that we’ve already picked up. We want to keep working together, the artists we’ve grabbed so far are some that we really respect, and hopefully as they grow, we can grow with them. Vice versa. One of our next things is that we’re starting to look outside of the local vicinity, like in Atlanta or Nashville. We’re trying to broaden out and expand past North Carolina. We want to stay focused on what’s going on here, but we also want to look towards the future.

CLTure: What do you think of the state of Charlotte’s music scene?

JH: I’m really excited about it. So we are losing venues here and there, We’re losing Amos’, and Tremont recently. But we’ve always been an adaptive city; when something goes away, something new pops up. That may be one of the reasons why it’s hard to focus on here because we don’t have a go-to, but in general, there is a lot of talent coming from here. What’s happening in Charlotte is very interesting.

TS: “I’m sure you guys have both heard people complain that Charlotte has no art or music scene… those people aren’t paying attention. Every year I feel like the scene in Charlotte gets better. Someone is always doing something different, and people are adapting in different ways. And honestly, I know our political climate right now might not be what a lot of us want to see, and that compared with Charlotte losing a lot of it’s landmark venues.. I’m really excited to see the reactionary nature of the music and art scene go against that… Punk rock is going to be amazing in 2017. Venues are gonna pop up, you know Tommy’s Pub closed down, and they were an awesome dive venue where bands got to play on the floor, then The Station started doing shows to answer that. Hopefully we see more venues answering to the devastating losses of a lot of our venues. No one’s gonna fill the shoes of the Double Door Inn, but other things will come along and fill the void.

Tim Sassanian (left) and Josh Higgins (right) and Photo by Ronald Stewart

CLTure: Yeah! I really hope so, at least… fingers crossed. Speaking of 2017, what are some upcoming releases from Refresh?

TS: This year is going to be our biggest year for releases yet. 2017 is really gonna be the biggest year for full-lengths for us. Hungry Girl just released Cool Shots, Young Mister has another album coming out this year, Junior Astronomers’ album is going to be…well, it’s not different from what they’ve done before. It’s just an evolution. Let’s just say, we’re really excited to release it. Basically, all of artists that we worked with in that didn’t release a full length in 2016.. They’re probably going to release one in 2017.

CLTure: Awesome, I’m excited to hear it too! So.. a little off topic, but what do you think about Guy Fieri recently attending a Scowl Brow show at The Station?

JH: It made me so happy! He bought a Hungry Girl sticker for $20. I told him it was free but he didn’t understand.

TS: So, I’m not a fanboy and I don’t get starstruck really, but when I saw him in the parking lot, at that moment I thought I should rip a shot of Jager with him.. so I took a shot of Jager with him. We actually talked and I told him who we were and what we do, and he said that he hadn’t seen a local music scene like that in awhile. He was really taken aback by it. And the second Scowl Brow started, he made a b-line to the front.. And he was blown away, he loved it. But he didn’t love getting covered in beer.

Check out the latest releases from Charlotte record label Refresh Records.

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