Stefan Beham is the punk mastermind behind all things Sbam. He is the artist behind all of the reimagined artworks, show posters, and more. He is the festival promoter and the record label owner of SBAM, a record label that has been churning out new releases throughout this pandemic. Contributing Editor Samantha Barrett sat down with Beham to get to know him and all he does for the punk scene in Austria.
You are the founder of SBAM. What made you decide to start a record label?
The band Consumed from the UK asked me if I wanted to release their album, and that was the starting point for the label. It wasn't really a plan to make a label, it was just a fun project but now with the pandemic, it started, we didn't have that much to do because there are no shows and I am not doing any artwork for touring bands so we focused on building the label and it is getting bigger and bigger now.
Yeah, I did notice that. You were picking up a lot of the bands like Pulley to Not on Tour and The Bombpops, now DFL. How do you determine who you want to work with for the record label?
I just have to like the band. There is no other reason but to like them. We were not focusing on a specific kind of music, it can be anything from ska to hardcore, whatever. It just has to be punk.
Most of your releases are in partnerships and collaboration releases with Thousand Island, La Agonia de Vivir, and more. How did that partnership come about?
We are trying to be the main label in the future for all of our releases. We are trying to look for partners in different regions of the world so we can sell more records for the band and Thousand Island is such a good label. We also work with other labels like Smartpunk and People of Punk Rock.
More of a strategic planning on your part right now.
You have been booking the Sbam music festival for a while now. What made you decide to take on that undertaking?
I started booking shows 5 or 6 years ago. It is such a cool thing when you have your own music festival, you book all of the bands you love so that was the starting point of the festival. It was just planned to do a small DIY festival but it evolved and got bigger and bigger where we have more people. The last festival capacity was about 1000 people but we moved the venue to my hometown and now the capacity is about 6000 people. This should be the first time that it was here in Linz but it was canceled last year and this year there will also be no festival so I am currently working on next year's edition and it is getting way bigger than the last one.
I did notice, festivals and summer tours are a thing right now, bands will hit up several festivals all in one shot. Was it an idea to bring punk to Austria?
There aren't any big punk festivals in Austria, Germany there are a lot of festivals. There are tons of smaller festivals but not like this. My plan was always to do a festival more like a club show, with a similar atmosphere to a club show. It should always be like a bigger club show with all the people hanging around and the band not hiding in a backstage room, hanging out at the merch booth, or hanging out with fans. That is the plan. We have a lot of big festivals in Europe, Punk Rock Holiday and Grozrock but my plan right now is to not have the same lineup as them. We're trying to do a lot of one-off shows and fly-in headliners or there will be similar bands to the other festivals but we want another headliner.
How do you think festivals will look post covid?
I really don't know. I am hoping we are going back to normal next year. I do not want to do any festivals with any restrictions. If people have to wear masks and have distance, that is not possible for a punk show. I am really hoping everything is getting back to normal. I think the situation is looking much better in the states. We also had another festival planned for 2021 but that is not going to happen either, maybe we will do it with only European bands. The focus is the main festival in 2022.
What should we be looking out for in the future of Sbam as a record label?
There are so many plans, this year we have 20 or more releases. We already have so many confirmed bands for next year. We are trying to get bigger and bigger. We have a new record coming out from new solo albums from Joey Cape and Hugo Mudie. We have so many records coming out right now, the main focus is to make this big and we hire people to work at our label now. It is going to be good, hopefully.
We are going to turn to you now, you are a graphic artist by trade, what are your artistic influences?
Everything influences me when I go for a walk or hang out. The most important thing is that I cannot design anything without music. I always listen to the bands that I am working for and I look at retro comics and advertising from the 60’s and 50's. I used to work for advertising before I started this. Just books and everything, movies. Everything that comes to my mind or whatever I see. Most of the time when I work for a band I need 5 to 10 minutes to think about their wants.
So you do incorporate the band’s wants. I just went through some of my record collection and realized how many pieces are yours like The Bombpops 7-inch and the Counterpunch 7-inch. I really do appreciate when the album art matches elements of the record even down to the coordination with the vinyl color. I love when people redesign things and it makes sense to me.
As a record label, we do not do black vinyl. We do a lot of colors. There is no black vinyl even for the distro. For distro, we will just do a white or green or something like that. Black is boring. We try to come up with all of the different versions of variants for every record.
It was a choice not to do black?
If we do any black we will do some transfer with black or have something in it.
Of all of the record covers you have designed. Do you have a favorite?
The first album cover I designed for a band was Zebrahead Walk the Plank, the first band that trusted me. I am proud that I designed the NOFX 7-inch series and for Home Street Home. Fat Mike asked me to do so many other covers so those are one of my favorites.
He posted something about the fat wreck compilation covers and I submitted 8 of them and I sent them a short message and he replied and we had a talk about some stuff for him and then we came up with the idea of the 7-inch and he gave me 3 months time but I think I sent him the files a few days later and he really liked it and he asked me to do all 4 covers. I am grateful.
I read in your press release that you are looking to do a North American tour in 2022 merging your love of art and music. Tell me a little about that?
We already had this planned last year. The idea was to bring the band from Europe to the states and to some art shows and galleries of art in different cities like San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. Get some local bands like Bad Cop/Bad Cop and some bands affiliated with the art show and do a documentary about the whole thing. Since covid came, the plans were not relevant anymore so we will try to do this in 2022.
How has covid lockdown affected you and your art?
It was horrible because from one day to another I was not able to create art for the whole thing. I do a lot of work for Destiny booking agency in Europe, the Lagwagon poster was the first poster I have made in like 15 months. That is pretty crazy and it really sucks that I was not able to make posters. I really love doing art and tour posters. I hope to start this now and I am going to do one for Strung Out next week.
What have you been jamming to recently?
Recently I have been listening to Lagwagon, I have been listening to the new Get Dead record, Descendants, Samiam, and Nofx.
SBAM Fest will be happening next year on July 30th and 31st in Linz, Austria. For more information on the fest, you can click here.