Athens Duo promotes Ohio music with vinyl compilation series

Photo: Kelley Deal (left) and Mike Montgomery (right) of R. Ring will be featured on Aquabear Legion’s newest edition

By Justin Kreitzer

Aquabear Legion is the long-running music promotion project of co-founders Brian Koscho and Todd Jacops. The duo started the project in Athens, Ohio in 2004 and has since released twelve compilations of Ohio-based music, showcasing the best and brightest emerging stars in the Ohio music scene. The most recent installment, Volume 6, was released Friday, Oct. 13 and features 23 tracks from 23 different artists spanning four sides of vinyl, along with striking artwork from Athens native, Tracy Duncan. Notable artists from our region include Columbus glam-rockers Swarming Branch and Adam Remnant (formerly of defunct Athens folk-rockers Southeast Engine) as well as Cincinnati’s Vacation, Leggy, and Andy Gabbard of psych-rockers Buffalo Killers. Dayton is well represented with songs from R. Ring (featuring Kelley Deal of The Breeders) and prolific mid-fi rockers Smug Brothers.

The vinyl can be purchased online at AquabearLegion.com or locally at Dayton’s Omega Music and Toxic Beauty in Yellow Springs.

The Dayton City Paper spoke with co-founders Brian Koscho and Todd Jacops about the project, its Ohio roots, their dream collaboration, and more.

For the uninitiated, why did you start Aquabear Legion?

We started back in 2004, and the idea was pretty loose. Todd and I had both been living in Athens for a few years by then and had immersed ourselves in the Athens music community. Both of us grew up in Lorain, Ohio, but we did not meet until coming to Athens. We both were impacted by the music community in Cleveland growing up, and of course played music and had friends in bands…so the basic idea was to connect those people with each other to promote musicians from Athens and Cleveland…we loved the idea of not just being a record label, or a booking agency, or a media outlet; we wanted to be all of those things at once. —Brian Koscho

The last two Aquabear Legion compilations have been released on vinyl thanks in part to successful Indiegogo crowdfunding campaigns. What made you choose this method and were you surprised by the response? 

We wanted to make these vinyl compilations a reality, which is expensive and involved, so it made sense to see if folks would support it from the outset. It helps going into a project knowing that you have the money to make it…but most importantly it gave it an audience. Todd and I have never made a dime personally from Aquabear, we just want this music and these projects to get out there…plus, we are big fans of collective efforts to make things happen like this, so having everyone pitch in makes a lot of sense…it was exciting to realize that people thought it was a good idea too! BK

In addition to the music, the artwork and the vinyl production is also done in-state. What does it mean to you to do everything in your home state?

It’s not something we take for granted. I think it is part of the whole idea here, we think Ohio is an incredible place with so much creativity, amazing people, and resources. To be able to have a project like this be top to bottom done here in Ohio is awesome. —BK

Over the years, what one track from the compilations is your favorite and why? 

This question is unfair, there are so many. —Todd Jacops

That›s a real tough one…so many good songs…it would probably be an older one from one of the first comps we did, something nostalgic from a band that is no longer around like, Cleveland›s Machine Go Book’s song “Nova Scotia” on the first compilation. —BK

What one band were you most excited or surprised to land?

R. Ring was a big one for us this time. We are both big fans of that project and Kelly and Mike’s other projects so that was exciting. And they gave us a Misfits cover too! —BK

What one Ohio band would you like to feature on your compilations that you haven’t yet?

Guided By Voices, The Breeders, Devo…Sorry that was three! —BK

Bob Pollard is on our A-list. It would be cool to have something from Trent Reznor or Dwight Yoakam. We would like to get something from Pat Dailey; he’s like the Jimmy Buffet of Lake Erie! —TJ

As mentioned in the Indiegogo campaign description, you would like to release archival compilations of older Ohio music. Where are you at in the process?

It’s always been there for me, I have a podcast of Ohio music on the website called The Western Reserve…But we would love to start producing curated collections of older Ohio music. For us that connection to the history is huge and I think there is a need to expose that to a new audience and also to help keep some of it out there. Things disappear easier than you would think over the years. I would love to start a vinyl archival series, but that is also a lot to start with…We just want to do something to share all that great stuff… —BK

What else does the future hold for Aquabear Legion?

I just want to keep connecting with freaks who are interested in this stuff. —TJ

More releases, more records, and more podcasts! We made it 13 years; I want to keep it going for 13 more and beyond. —BK

For more info about Aquabear Legion please visit, http://www.aquabearlegion.com/

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Reach DCP freelance writer Justin Kreitzer at JustinKreitzer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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