Houstonian Tales: Josh Bosarge
Josh Bosarge. Photo: Uncredited/Facebook
One of the best things about covering a music scene is meeting all of the interesting personalities that make it all up. When you get to know those within it, you should find a bevy of creative people who do more than just be in a band. In Houston it’s definitely no exception that most who make music have other creative endeavors that are worth looking into and exploring. For LACE’s Josh Bosarge, music is just a small part of what he does. With Calico Grounds, he’s published works by established artists like experimental filmmaker Jonas Mekas, to his own writings alongside many others. Bosarge proves that if you’re willing to dig deep into your music scene, those who make it up are usually a wealth of creativity who have more going on than those of the typical day to day world.
Free Press Houston: You’re not technically from Houston, correct? Do you think growing up in a small town shaped who you are today?
Josh Bosarge: That’s right. I’m from Needville, Texas, a small country town about 40 miles outside of Houston. I think so, in a way that I knew it wasn’t the place I was interested in spending my time or life. From early on, it had this kind of overwhelming feeling of “this isn’t home.” It was a kind of tight-knit high school football city centralized around a feed store. You could look around and see families who have been there for generations, the father ran the local business, so now they run the local business, and their child will take over after. Seemed very dull, and I used that feeling to make it a point to create and find my own little corner.
FPH: You seem like a very tactile person, like someone who likes physical items over digital, would that be a fair assessment?
Bosarge: I would agree with that to an extent. I think the digital format is very important, especially for the punk community. It’s something I took for granted for a while for whatever reason. There is a certain comfort in physical formats to me. I love looking at cassettes on a rack, records on a shelf. I have begun minimizing recently, and trying to embrace having less. Maybe a decision I will regret later on, but I am a revolving door of starting things over.
FPH: For those who don’t understand, what’s Calico Grounds and where does the name come from?
Bosarge: Calico Grounds is an independent publishing house I operate. It focuses on small edition runs of booklets, music, prints, and other pieces of work. As for the name, it honestly has no deep meaning. Wish I had a better story. Just something that came into my head one day on a long drive.
FPH: What made you decide to start it up and how long has it been a thing?
Bosarge: I was writing quite a bit and John Baldwin, while working at Domy Books, which was like a second home to me, suggested releasing zines of my own. In 2009 I started to work with one of my closest friends Stephen Ashley and began running it as a curated press. I have continued Calico Grounds on my own since 2010. It’s given me the chance to select and feature artists and writers I enjoy, while getting to print their work with design I would be drawn to.
FPH: As someone who publishes books and zines as well as cassettes, how do you decide who you’ll work with and the run of items produced?
Bosarge: My decision-making is up in the air. I’ve gotten to debut a few people who have never had any printed matter, and further the collection of some well known artists as well. When it comes down to it though, I publish things that I feel like I would like to see. If you look through my “discography” you’ll see that it varies. Everything winds up somehow being linked to the punk community. Sometimes I get the urge to release something completely out of left field, or challenge an artist to put out a format that they have never worked with, or convince someone who doesn’t write but is full of great stories to finally put pen to paper.
FPH: Has there ever been an artist you approached to release something for but it just didn’t work out? Do you have anything planned for release any time soon?
Bosarge: That happens often. For any number of reasons, sometimes ideas don’t pan out. I have never had a negative experience with an artist I have tried to work with. Sometimes the timing isn’t right. Sometimes missed connections lead to beautiful things. I was working on a collective book called “God Is Lonely In His Heavens.” It compiled many different writers into one release. Jonathan Shaw, Ross Farrar, Luc Rioual, Eric Paul, myself, and quite a few more including some Houston writers. There was a filmmaker I am a fan of submitting a story and he wound up becoming too busy for the project. A week before the deadline he got me in contact with Jonas Mekas. Jonas is an experimental filmmaker who started in the late ’40s/early ’50s who is very influential in the film world. Jonas and I would go on to publish “Letters, Etc.”, which is a collection of his personal letters to friends at the turn of the century. It’s very beautifully done and one of the releases I am the most proud of.
In the coming future I am toying around with some ideas. A booklet of selected lyrics from Juergen Gleue is on it’s way. Juergen is one half of one my favorite bands, 39 Clocks. This will mark the second time I have gotten to work with him. There are a few more zine/book ideas, as well as some musical releases, however I would like to move on to bigger and loftier things before I bring this thing to rest.
FPH: You’re pretty heavily linked to the punk and post punk scene. What’s the number one thing people misunderstand about punk and DIY culture?
Bosarge: This is a difficult question for me, because I feel the DIY and punk communities are becoming more “understood.” The lines between genres become less solid and makes it easier for people to explore. More people are grabbing a microphone for their first time and feeling empowered or oppressed enough to speak their opinion. There is something to learn from every performance. I don’t feel like there is anything new I can add to the conversation.
FPH: You sing in the band LACE, who will drop your proper full length with Seattle’s Iron Lung Records. How did that come about?
Bosarge: A series of emails, really. Iron Lung is my favorite contemporary label, and were the first label we sent our demo to. Jensen Ward has been incredibly supportive and was the one to push for a full length. Their roster is unbelievable. Total Control, Diät, Gag, as well as one of the best punk bands I’ve heard this past year, Acrylics. They liked us enough to work with us, which of course is great. It’s very exciting and can’t wait for everyone to hear the LP.
FPH: You seem to really get aesthetic better than most people I meet in music, so much so, that I know a flyer is for a LACE show before I read it. Do you think the fact that you publish things is how you seem to get how something should look better than most?
Bosarge: Thank you very much. I’m not sure what it is. I’ve always been a sucker for design, and I’m heavily influenced by old New Directions or Grove Press book covers, because I think it sets a certain mood. Nothing I design is incredibly original, but I would rather create something that I would like to see. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the art of DIY hardcore flyers. Things that are handdrawn to give a nod to the punk community of the past. It’s great, and there are plenty of people out there doing it now and doing a great job of it. I think the aesthetic we use represents us well though.
FPH: I know you’re a big Alan Vega fan, do you think people would be shocked to find out that you’re into him?
Bosarge: I would hope not! I hope the influence is plain to see. Alan Vega’s impact on me has been tremendous. He exuded this confidence and intensity that I could only ever dream of. I would watch videos of Suicide performances, and Alan is on stage in a shiny sequined coat or some leather jacket snarling like a caged animal. I love it. One of the smartest and most innovative characters in the music world. His death took a real toll on me. I think people would be more ‘shocked’ by my other influences I could cite. Ask me about my love of Tiny Tim some time.
Bosarge definitely proves that Houston’s music world is made up of creatives who take things further than just the notes of their songs. You can find the releases from Calico Grounds here and the music of LACE here. While visiting both, make sure to catch LACE at Summer Breeze Vol. 1 on June 3 through June 4 at Walter’s. The multi-day punk fest features sets from Dress Code, Amygdala, Army and many more for the all ages event.