New Label Introduces “Night Bus”

Alex Ruder makes his own opportunities and he makes a lot of them.

When he’s not managing an independent video store on Upper Queen Anne, Ruder DJs a monthly music event at the Living Room on Capitol Hill, hosts a weekly show on KEXP and works as assistant to the station’s music director (a position he carved out for himself), reviewing the profusion of CDs and MP3s that come into the station. This month, Ruder adds another bullet point to his resume with the launch of Hush Hush Records.

With Hush Hush, Ruder taps into the unquenchable post-millennial appetite for multitasking, social mediation and music discovery—an appetite fed by his own talents.

“I geek out about being able to share music,” says the 29-year-old Seattle native.

So when he came across the moody, minimalist beatscapes of Kid Smpl, aka 21-year-old Seattleite Joey Butler, he was compelled to expose them to the world. Ruder played tracks from Butler’s Soundcloud page on his Saturday night KEXP show; Butler sent him more.

“I like all kinds of music, but there’s something about sad, beautiful melancholy-type beats I’m particularly drawn to,” Ruder says. “I kept bugging [Butler], ‘Is this gonna get released? Is there an album ready?’ I tried to get him hooked up with labels outside Seattle but nothing came of it. I told him, ‘You make me wanna start a label to get this music out there!’ And he was like, ‘Let’s do it!’ It just felt right.”

Butler’s music, like Ruder’s KEXP show and his sets at the Living Room, spans a burgeoning genre tagged “night bus”—slow, minimalist electronic beats, deep with reverb, expansive with empty space, “late-night travel, introspective music,” according to Butler. Ruder cites DJ/producer/label/promoter collectives in Portland, Los Angeles, San Diego and Chicago as night bus-inflected kin. Working with artists from around the U.S., Ruder plans to keep the music on his label in the night bus style. His release of Butler’s debut EP Escape Pod presages a full Kid Smpl album coming this fall.

“That’s something I like about night bus,” Butler says. “It’s a label I can embrace and not worry about being limited by.” Same could be said for Hush Hush. 

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