Rob Castellon and Oscar Toledo are the men behind the L.A.-based Wiretap Records, a label that has focused on punk rock since it was founded by Castellon in 2014, almost exactly six years ago.
“When I started it, I didn’t think it would last that long,” Castellon says. “At the time I was working for KROQ here in L.A., in sales and marketing. While I was enjoying what I was doing, working in music, I still felt like I was out of touch with independent music. Both Oscar and I grew up going to punk rock shows. So I told my wife I wanted to put out a 7”, work with some local bands. I put out two releases and they did well, which convinced me to keep going. Here we are still, 75 releases later.”
Indeed. Wiretap has put out records by the likes of Go Betty Go, Audio Karate and Radar State (a side project from members of the Get Up Kids). Toledo came onboard in 2018.
“Rob and I have been friends since 7th grade,” he says. “We have gone to a lot of concerts together. When I came in it was to help out because, outside of him getting help from his wife, he was doing a lot of it on his own which is really the punk rock way. I wanted to come in because I was going to just about every show that he did, showing my support and my love for my best friend but also really falling in love with these bands. Rob and I were the odd kids in the middle school ground.”
So the Wiretap team was in place and the label was established. Things were fairly peachy, and then COVID hit. Some reassessment was required.
“Obviously, without live shows, some of their revenue comes from those performances,” Toledo says. “So they took a hit and we tried to do our part. Even them doing livestreams, doing GoFundMe accounts – any way to get a revenue stream and get our bands up and running. We tried to be as creative as possible. We’re seeing all these troubled times, especially in the entertainment business. We wanted to do something on top of Wiretap, and what better than to do something which goes back to our culture.”
My Grito Industries was born – a new imprint of Wiretap which aims to amplify Latino/Latinx voices.
“Both Rob and I are Chicanos,” says Toledo. “Our parents are Mexican-American, and we grew up in the ‘hood’ if you will. There’s so much love and passion that we have for Spanish music. We wanted to help out minorities with this project, especially in the arts, to have a louder voice. We connected with a couple of different bands, and also other arts. We have a painter that will be announced soon. We’re announcing a well-known celebrity – we’re going to produce his podcast. We’re coming out with our first compilation album on Friday with a lot of bands that aren’t necessarily part of the label but they have the Latino sound we’re looking for.”
It’s important work. All of the proceeds from the new compilation album will go to No Us Without You, a nonprofit public charity providing help to undocumented immigrants working in the service industry that were hit hard by the pandemic and the subsequent shutdown of restaurants, bars, etc. My Grito will offer help to a variety of charities as they go forward, while passionately working to amplify their culture.
“With Wiretap, Oscar and would keep going to shows and the common theme was, if you go to a show in OC, 90 percent of the kids there are Latinos,” says Castellon. “They would tell us, ‘Why are there no bands on stage that look like us?’ There aren’t the same chances to open shows for bands that they want to. That’s not to say we’ll only work with Latin artists, but the common goal is to amplify their voice more than we have been with Wiretap.”
That said, Wiretap has worked with Latino/Latinx musicians, including the aforementioned Go Betty Go and Audio Karate.
“When I saw Audio Karate when I was younger on bills with the Vandals, they were the only band on stage that looked like me,” says Castellon. “As a kid, it was normal to hear different types of music throughout the whole day. From traditional regional music to cumbia that our parents listened to. Some parents listened to oldies – rock & roll and ‘60s soul. I don’t think we have a general sound [for My Grito], but we’d be open to bands that sing in English and Spanish because I think it’s part of our culture. Someone that is gonna follow My Grito is gonna get it. It’ll hit every touch point of what it is to be Latino, especially in California.”
The first band signed to the imprint is 3LH, out of Garden Grove. Nothing is ready for public knowledge yet, but the guys are clearly excited about what they have in store. There is certainly a massive amount of talent for them to choose from here in SoCal.
“It just comes down to, does the music speak to us?” says Toledo. “Does it hit our hearts? We have to love the lyrics and what they represent. As long as there’s that pulse of, they still embrace their culture and they have a passion for their arts. But what’s also important to Rob and I with this imprint is the charity work. What can we give to our community?”
It’s an interesting, challenging time to start a new imprint, but Toledo insists that they’re ready to face whatever the world throws at them, and thrive.
“We have to embrace what’s given to us,” he says. “We do have our challenges with no live shows, but there are virtual performances that can be done. What we need to do as entrepreneurs is embrace the environment that we’re in and figure out a way. Once people feel comfortable getting out there again, we’ll hopefully have an army of artists that are ready to rock, ready to go out there, and we won’t be skipping a beat. Our voice will be one of the loudest out there.”
“We have to keep that positive attitude,” adds Castellon in conclusion. “This is the new way for the next year, so it has to be business as usual. Keep putting out records.”
For more information, go to mygrito.net.