High Plains Underground Archive

High Plains Underground Archive: The Indie-Pop Ethos of Still Soft

Over the years, Denver has birthed more than its fair share of DIY labels, including Local Anesthetic Records, Gift Records, Soda Jerk, Suburban Home, Relapse, Best Friends Records, Long Spoon and Elephant 6, which have proven to be important locally and beyond. More recently, Sailor Records, Black Box Tapes, Heart in Box, Greater Than Collective, Moon Magnet and Hot Congress have continued this longstanding tradition.

One of the labels that left an indelible mark was Still Soft. The guiding principle of Still Soft was wrought in the ethos of '90s indie pop and inspired by the fierce DIY ethic of '80s punk; its name suggests the moment after cookies are out of the oven but haven't yet hardened or settled. Still Soft brought noise, ambient and a beautifully raw pop-music world under its umbrella in true Denver fashion in the first decade of the 2000s.

Nick Houde and Brittany Gould started the label in fall 2005, and it reflected the shows happening in Le Crunk Manor near 12th and York streets, where Houde was living at the time. These days, it would be very difficult to make that happen in that neighborhood, but in 2005, Capitol Hill was still a somewhat dicey and very affordable place to live. At Le Crunk, crowds took part in the shows and sang songs together. Within a couple of years, Houde moved out and held shows at a house in Baker and also at Rhinoceropolis. In 2007, Still Soft reached its strongest presence — even though it would end that summer.
According to Houde, Still Soft made between fifteen and twenty releases, including the Denver compilation that featured tracks by notable indie-pop/underground-rock acts of the time like Bad Weather California, Pee Pee, Hunter Dragon, Gould's Married in Berdichev, Houde's Transistor Radio Sound and Littles Paia, the solo effort of former Navy Girls guitarist and current Meep Records head Adam Baumeister. Still Soft's releases had a homemade aesthetic that recalled the loving care of making a homemade pie — which was the label's logo. Each release was presented as though you were getting a gift from a friend, with excellent silkscreened covers (a benefit of Gould's art-student background), something that was never meant to be mass-produced. Every album was limited-run and is very difficult to track down now. Two of Still Soft's releases are documented on Discogs: TRS's Squares EP and the final Tudaloos record, Houses. At last check, former Witch Doctor drummer Mike Zorman was selling a copy of the former.

Beyond the quality music it distributed, Still Soft represented a snapshot into a Denver that is gone but whose spirit still lives on. Working with Gould and Hunter Adams, Houde helped to create a scene within a scene that embraced the possibilities of punk, musical experimentation, an unpretentious accessibility, and a sincerity that probably seemed quaint to some people but always struck me as inspirational.

What follows are more scenes from the shows of that time with some of the artists involved, as well as scans of some of the artwork from Still Soft releases.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.