Student record label Moonburn Collective prepares for SXSW

Emily Gibson

A bicycle hung from the ceiling of the red bedroom that doubles as a recording studio. At the desk directly underneath the bike, Carlos Ramirez sat in front of his computer and a wide array of beat-machines and synthesizers. He checked sound levels for the ambient guitar track that his band mate, Serge Romo, was in the middle of recording. 

They were hoping the dog would stop barking long enough for them to get a clean take. 

Once they finally did, Romo nodded his head and took off his headphones.

“Could you pass me that beer?” he asked. 

Ramirez and Romo were working on a track for their new band, Tapes, which they formed in mid-February.

Although Tapes is a new project for Ramirez and Romo, this isn’t the first time they’ve worked together. In summer 2014, with the help of some friends they met after moving to Austin, they created a record label called Moonburn Collective.

Moonburn Collective is a conglomerate of Austin-based musicians who write music and record together. Ramirez, a radio-television-film senior at UT, said the group’s varying interests are beneficial to the collective.

“When we all come together, we’re able to do videos, to do photography or music videos,” Ramirez said. “We can write songs, book shows and network. It all blends together really, really well.”  

When asked how they decided on the name “Moonburn,” Ramirez and Romo, an economics major at Texas State University, launch into a dramatic tale of a broken-down car and a mysterious stranger they met in Louisiana. It probably isn’t true. The real story behind their name remains a mystery. 

At its core, Moonburn Collective is just a group of friends making music and throwing shows together.

“We found that through our collaborative efforts, we could work together instead of working against each other,” Ramirez said. “If you just join forces with people who are good musicians, you can get a lot further than just shit-talking people.”

The artists that record under Moonburn Collective said they are reluctant to define themselves as artists of just one genre. Ramirez and Romo prefer to let listeners define the sound — ‘psychedelic beach rock’ and ‘post chill-wave’ are two ways they’ve heard
Tapes described. 

“When we write music with our compadres, we never say, ‘Hey, play this this way’ or ‘Hey, play this that way,’” Romo said. “We kind of just make a canvas and let people paint over it.”

To make Tapes’ music, Ramirez creates melodies on his computer that Romo then complements with guitar tracks. Ramirez said the collaboration between himself and Romo reflects both of their personalities.

“I think it’s a beautiful thing when it all comes together and we play shows together,” Ramirez said. “You can really feel the characteristics of our individual selves in the music. It’s kind of like we’re speaking, but we’re not speaking.”

Although Romo and Ramirez said they aren’t fans of computers, they acknowledge that machinery helps them create their music.

“It’s computers on computers on computers mixed into computers that come out of computers,” Romo said.

Romo and Ramirez are working on Tapes’ first album and preparing for a week of shows during South By Southwest. After that, they said they are interested in writing movie scores. 

“The whole thing behind Tapes is: Do what you want to do, and do it because you love it,” Ramirez said. “Do it with your best friends. Make memories. That’s really the whole point, I think.”