Quit Your Day Job

Quit Your Day Job: Valet

Valet is Honey Owens. She was recently on tour as a member of Atlas Sound, but if you want to hear her own unique approach to homegrown ambiance, check out her beautiful sophomore album Naked Acid. I posted one of its standouts “Keehar” in the Outsiders a few months ago, and have the beautiful album closer, “Street,” after our discussion. Our “discussion” because, yes, of course, she has a job. As she told me:

Basically my job is co-owning a vintage and handmade clothing/record store here in Portland called Rad Summer. We’re about a 8 to 9 person collective. We all take turns working the store. The other time “working” is shopping at estate sales and Goodwill utlet stores to bring in fresh and delectable items … basically the work part is driving and carrying heavy bags around town/digging through garbage, etc. Picking (what we call it in Portland) is kinda like an addiction or a mania.

I wanted to know more so I asked.

STEREOGUM: What are the hours of the shop?

HONEY OWENS: Every day from 11am until 6pm.

STEREOGUM: How long has Rad Summer been around? Who founded it?

HO: We just opened the end of October 2007. It was founded by Charlotte Reich and Jacob Lavalley.

STEREOGUM: Who came up with the name?

HO: I wanted to have a store someday called ‘Rad Summer.’ An old friend of mine, Dave, use to always tell me to “stay cool and have a rad summer.” It was this sort of in joke we had teasing about the old skater days when we were teens. It became this sort of catch phrase … Anyway, Charlotte asked if she could name the store that and so it was/is.

STEREOGUM: You said all members of the collective take turns working the shop. Do you have fairy regular shifts? Or are people switching around a lot? Are any of the other folks in bands?

HO: It started off with four and now there are about eight or nine people that contribute things to the store. Four of us work the shifts during the week. Sometimes we trade off depending on who’s on tour/traveling, etc. Tom is in Jackie-O Motherfucker, Jacob is in a band called Hrak Ryam Hral, Dewey is in a band called Eternal Tapestry and also plays in JOMF sometimes, Brux is in a band called Snakes, Valentine is in a band called Get Hustle, Charlotte and Ruth are clothing artists (designers), Zach is in a band called Ghosting, and Ashby is in Valet now with me. Ummm, I guess everyone either plays music or makes art/clothing … or both. We sort of all fell into this sort of work because it was a good way to make money and still have a fairly free schedule to do other things.

There’s a consensus among us that our treasure hunting has a profound effect on our art. There are things we run into constantly whether fabric/rug patterns or National Geographic/Whole Earth catalogs. Weird hand-made freaky things, old dirty teddy bears. When staring at those things so many days of our lives, you can’t help but become influenced by it. It’s almost like, the things that drop into our line of vision are symbols that we must heed. Ya know? Not even necessarily pick up. And the things we do pick up get to have a whole new life with new adventures.

STEREOGUM: You mentioned doing monthly shows/events. How you decide? Who’ve been some of your favorites?

HO: So far it’s been all friends of ours who do the art shows. Erock aka Eric Mast did the first mural on our back wall. It’s this huge smiley face with green slimers and crazy, monolithic creatures crawling out into the sea. The music is mostly local unless a friend of ours is in town and wants to do a mellow in-store show. We have neighbors that live upstairs so we have to keep the volume to a minimum during the wee hours. Little Wings was one of my favorites, although we had to quarantine Kyle and his girlfriend who had just gotten back from the woods with poison oak.

STEREOGUM: What have been some of your best finds at real estate sales/Goodwill? I imagine you find a bunch of things you’d want to keep yourself. Or do you sacrifice for the good of Rad Summer?

HO: One time I found diamonds in this old ’70s Nike jacket. That was pretty sweet. These Italian diamond dealers downtown were straight outta Meanstreets or something. Trying to sell them diamonds and explaining how I wasn’t a cop was quite enjoyable in this sort of sketchy kinda way. There were lots of locked doors and security henchmen in brown polyester suits to get through before finally arriving at the top floor to deal with ‘Tony’ the diamond cutter. Hilarious for sure.

I found a Moog Opus III once. Another time, Maria (Dixon who painted the Valet cover, graffiti artist in town [Note: That’s only the front of the cover]) found a cage full of live mice! Someone opened up the cage and they all came running out hopping all over the clothes. One of my biggest regrets was selling an Opal (the band) t-shirt … that was a long time ago and I still pine over it.

Mostly I put stuff in the store or give to a friend who needs it. I don’t collect anything personally except maybe this one particular 1940’s shoe in my size that hardly exists anymore. Things come and go like water through your fingers. There are so many incredibly interesting things to look at. I just stopped caring to own or possess them for the most part.

STEREOGUM: Can you describe the physical space of the store a bit?

HO: Well, the most common reaction we get is “This place is really overload on the senses.” It’s a 1200 sq ft box filled with jewels and vibe fabric, records, colorful paint. The floor is a piece that a couple of us went to town on right before opening. I guess it’s kinda like an acid trip. Very psychedelic. It closely resembles a Head-shop on Haight St. in San Francisco in the late 70’s.

STEREOGUM: Do you sell zines or books or music?

HO: Yeah, we have a record section as well as an extensive, used New Age section of books. A couple poetry and fanzines, limited edition CDs/CDRs/tapes, etc. It’s not exactly a “record store,” but our section is slowly growing bigger.

STEREOGUM: Do you guys make enough to live off the store or do you need to supplement the income with other work?

HO: We all still have to work other clothing gigs too. Some people eBay, some of us have spaces at this huge vintage mall type of place where there’s like fifty dealers. Zach and Dewey work at a record store in town. It’s kinda like Rad Summer is our clothing/record band or something.

STEREOGUM: The store maintains a blog. How do you decide what goes on it?

HO: We wanted to have the blog just kinda be about whatever we felt like. I mean, clothing is our job, but we all have other strong interests and whims. Whoever wants to can post whatever they feel like. We thought it’d be cool to just be ourselves instead of trying to push any one thing. This way we can have a group blog instead of the responsibility of keep up our own. Some people post on the blog as part of Rad Summer, but they don’t work in the store. The crew is anyone who wants to be in pretty much. We would like to grow as a communal group, maybe make a cafe or something as part of the experience. Totally “The Source” cafe out!

STEREOGUM: In our various backs and forths, you mentioned being in Portland back in the day, bartending at Fellini’s, around the time I was couch surfing there. Lately I’ve been having this nostalgia about the zines and cassettes I was making in the mid ’90s, so I’m interested to know how Portland’s changed and how it’s stayed the same. What you guys are doing with Rad Summer is inspiring to me, how it ties into a community that’s often lacking in the internet-driven world. Can you talk to that at all? This is more a statement than a question, but there are questions in there.

HO: I feel what you’re getting at, for sure. For some reason Portland still has the tape/zine culture. Different people pop-up all the time with new imprints, limited edition-handmade stuff. It’s pretty cool. Glamorous Pat has been making amazing zines, tapes and t-shirts for quite sometime. Tom Greenwood (JOMF) has been doing U-Sound. Pete and Gabe from Yellow Swans, along with Erock (Audio Dregs) did Collective Jyrk for the past couple years. Erock is always putting out art zines and DVDs. Tom Blood and Adrian Orange are currently putting out stuff as Supertapes. Whitefang just started putting out Gnar tapes … I guess noise tapes in a way, sort of picked up where Imp records, Union Pole tapes and A-bomb left off. Speaking locally, of course, and I’m sure I’m forgetting tons of other noise rockers.

I think the reason it’s so abundant here is the amount of free-time we have. Since I’ve lived here, Portland has always been in an economic slump. The only jobs really to be had are service industry jobs or the create-your-own variety. Perhaps that environment mixed with the incredible Pacific Northwest landscape breeds this sort of DIY culture. Where people feel that if they want something done, they have to do it themselves. We like to make our own schedules, put out our own art and music, live by our own creative standards.

I’m totally blanketing the scene here by saying this and I don’t mean to, but there is this ecotopic vibe here. It’s like we’re modern farmers. Up until the past couple years, most of the businesses in Portland were run by people, not corporations. This is where Rad Summer comes in. A bunch of us were sick of working for other people or late hours in the service industry. So we decided to open our own store.


Valet – “Streets” (MP3)

Also, not regarding jobs, but regarding the aforementioned Naked Acid artwork, Honey explains:

The cover came about while looking at Mati Klarwein’s work. I am really inspired by his paintings and installations especially. He’s so deliciously psychedelic! Around the same time, my friend Maria and I had been dialoguing about regional stuff, dreams and art … I gave her the album and she made a painting. She gave a shout out to the Bitches Brew cover.

Naked Acid is out on Kranky. If you want some more, check out Honey’s contribution to Ambient Not Ambient, which was put out by the aforementioned Erock via Audi Dregs. You can keep up to date on Valet at MySpace.

Tags: Valet