As the world feels locked in an endless spiral, everyone grapples with despair differently. Some folks get along by tackling creative projects, finding solace in humor, or helping those in need. Justin Weir, frontman of Celebration Guns and head of Lumberjerk Records, has a coping mechanism that checks all those boxes.
"I'm releasing a new comp called Cheap Comp and Carry On," he says. "The title now seems relevant somehow. It's a statement usually made during hard times, so it made sense to use those kinds of words."
The $5 comp is Weir's way of "doing something great even if I can't raise a ton of money." Proceeds from the release will benefit Homeward Bound, which aids the homeless population across Arizona. Weir planned to raise additional funds through a series of release shows in June, but following current health restrictions due to the coronavirus, he’s focused on selling as many albums as possible.
"I didn't want to just sit on this for six months, he says. "It's an inexpensive way to help out and get something extra valuable in return."
Weir's got a history of comps featuring dad jokes with his Straight Outta Comp series. His interest in these unique collections dates back to the mid-'90s with the I'm Your Biggest Fan comps by Tooth & Nail Records, which exposed Weir to bands like MxPx.
Yet his early efforts paled in comparison — both in final tracklists and eye-rolling puns — to the two-CD, 55-track Cheap Comp. It's representative of Weir's commitment to Arizona's diverse musical offerings, and it joins a class of releases like the When in AZ series.
"I am always discovering new music," he says. "I'll get a local band in my head and want to get them out there. I spent a few months on Bandcamp, looking at punk and emo groups, really doing a targeted search."
The end result is two volumes representing two "sides" of Arizona’s music.
"The first is more about indie and chillwave, with some electronic music," he says. "Basically, artists using every electronic on their computer to make stuff as opposed to just four dudes with guitars. The [other] is a lot of punk and hardcore, stuff I really fell out of touch with. I think I was trying to bridge the gap."
Weir admits that a lot of the comp's offerings appease a certain middle between the hype permeating the state's many music scenes.
"There's a lot of bands that could be classified as just rock, and they're very interested in how they look on stage or putting on an air of swagger," he says. "At the same time, I could have gotten weirder, and I did have one band respond they weren't interested. To them, I might be too generic. Those bands are happy to be in their own bizarre, abstract space, just like some of those super huge rock bands. So, that kind of narrows down the music."
At the end of the day, it was about Weir distilling his broader tastes as an Arizona native and someone with genre-spanning musical chops.
"It's about if I enjoyed the music, and if something really stands out," he says. "I wanted something that was ideally made in the last year. I looked to see if the band was active on socials. If they haven't posted in a year, it's not a good look. I also thought about the length of songs. There were songs that were better, but sometimes I went with the shorter ones to be able to put more songs."
It hasn't been a perfect process, though. Weir admits he only made an accompanying Spotify playlist after it was suggested. But as he explains, "People in high school now don't know about comps, but they're still very much happening with playlists. If people are only sharing the Spotify playlist, it's still going to get these bands heard."
Weir managed this ambitious project all on his own to show that someone cares about the music being made here. Much of that is a DIY work ethic that he (mostly) self-finances.
"I didn't want people to think it was made by some guy with money," he says. "I have to plan a lot of these comps around tax returns. A lot of it was also from [royalty] payments because Celebration Guns had songs featured in a TV show. I didn't want it to go into our [band] fund, but I wanted it to go to music somehow."
Yet because of that singular vision and approach, Cheap Comp is as much a gift for music fans statewide as it is Weir’s celebration of his own musical heritage.
"What surprised me a little was moving into more of the hardcore, which I played in the 2000s and never looked back," he says. "There's songs on there, like from American Standards, that really gave me a chance to open myself up to that music. Branching out really got me back into punk rock again. This comp is really more representative of subcultures, and I think it's also a way of feeling more nostalgic."
Weir's also looking toward the future for Lumberjerk Records. It turns out there are always more people to help and songs to praise.
"I did 12 songs for the first one, and then 23 songs for the next one," he says. "Now 55 songs. I got way more bands than I expected. I wish I could've done more — guess I'll have to save them for later."
Cheap Comp and Carry On features songs from Like Diamonds, Floral Canyon, MRCH, Civilia, Foreign Bodies, James World, Actual Baby, Hollywood Slasher, and Heptagon Heaven, among many others. For more info, be sure to visit the Lumberjerk Records’ Facebook page.