Fish Tales | Music | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Fish Tales 

How SLC label Rippyfish Records got out of the jungle and into the big pond.

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Time and wisdom may have convinced Jerry Allen not to pursue the thankless life a professional musician, but nothing could prevent him from launching his own record label. Two years ago, he decided at long last to fuse his lifelong love of music with his passion for marketing and business.


“The thing I love most about business is coming up with ideas and seeing them flourish. Although, some aspects of traditional business can be tedious … that’s why I finally decided to work with music,” Allen says. “I wanted to be constantly surrounded by things that drive and feed me.”


Rippyfish Records ( is the fruit of Allen’s music business labors. His mission was to build a label staffed by people with good business sense and marketing savvy who still managed to maintain a deep respect for artistic integrity and finely crafted music. Allen and his team strive to seamlessly integrate the disciplined world of promotional, legal and financial logistics with the moody universe of artistic creation.


Label employee Lisa Miller (whose business card title reads “Whips & Chains”) explains that the record company’s odd name is derived from a comic book that Allen and childhood friend Kim Simpson (who is also the singer for Rippyfish’s first signees, The Mad Dukes) used to read obsessively. In the comic, Rippyfish were vicious creatures with sharp teeth and insatiable appetites that made surprise appearances in bathtubs. Simpson and Allen were deathly afraid of the Rippyfish, but they loved the name and vowed to use it someday.


Miller says that Salt Lake City is a great place to run a record label, partially because there’s so much untapped talent: “All of these talented people go unnoticed and undiscovered. There’s so much potential here … it’s just staggering.”


The current Rippyfish roster includes three bands (locals AJ and Causeway, as well as the Austin, Tex.-based Mad Dukes), all of whom have generated favorable buzz in Utah and beyond. The Mad Dukes’ debut album, The Mad Dukes Sing and Play for You, has received heavy college and Internet radio play from Oregon to Australia, and snagged Best New Adult Contemporary Artist at the 2006 New Music Awards in Los Angeles.


Allen notes that each Rippyfish artist has a unique sound, but the thread that connects them is that they all appeal to more than one generation of listeners. There are classic and contemporary influences that will appeal to graying fans of Neil Young, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, or younger hipsters who prefer Yo La Tango, Spoon and Ryan Adams.


Rippyfish gained modest international attention after Allen and his team launched, an innovative online 24-hour music festival. Fans of indie rock can log on, fill out a free user profile, and hear lesser-to-unknown acts (at least half Utahns) from around the world.


Rippyfest is unique in that the site allows music fans to communicate with one another (via “bios” in Friendster or MySpace fashion), offer feedback to featured bands, see a constantly updated list of the most listened-to songs and artists, and receive suggestions about artists that may appeal to their specific musical taste. There’s even an up-to-the minute list of upcoming shows from featured artists in cities large and small from Finland to Utah.


“ has taught us that the Internet is a great way to expose people to music. But we wanted something a little bit more refined and focused,” Allen explains. “MySpace is jungle. Anyone, with any level of talent can post some songs on a music page. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing … but there’s almost a kind of sensory overload that happens. I think there are a lot of people who would agree there’s a need for some kind of filter.”


Or they just need to see and hear a band for themselves: Rippyfish represented at last year’s South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, but the label’s first-ever showcase in Utah (featuring The Mad Dukes and AJ) at Kimball Junction’s Suede on Monday will coincide with'though it’s not officially part of'the Sundance Film Festival in Park City; the show is sponsored by Sundance music regulars Sony and Innomark, a company that assembles press kits for major labels. All of this karmic payback has given Allen a more positive view of the music biz than most.


“This showcase is definitely an expression of goodwill, and our artists are certainly thankful for the exposure,” he says. “If people in the music industry like you, they help you out. They want you to succeed.”


n1612 Ute Blvd.
nKimball Junction
nPark City
nMonday, Jan. 22
n9 p.m.

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About The Author

Jenny Poplar

Jenny Poplar is both a dancer and a frequent City Weekly contributor.

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