Charlotte software developer Josh Higgins started Refresh Records in 2015, but it wasn’t his first dive into the music business.
He booked his first metalcore show at Tremont Music Hall when he was only 13, and explored promoting shows and creating a label while living in Pennsylvania during college. But it wasn’t until he moved back to Charlotte and saved some money — thanks to a day job working for Toyota Racing Development — that he gave it a second go.
Hence the name: Refresh Records.
He’s had hits and misses, but momentum is currently building with the summer signing of Old Faith (formerly Bombardier) and Echo Courts’ recent full-length, “Room With a View,” which broke into the North American College and Community airplay chart. Higgins spoke to The Observer about his goals, successes and what he’s learned over the past three years.
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Q. What were your goals for Refresh in the beginning?
I didn’t really have goals, initially. It was always meant to be a fun thing to do on the side, but it’s become more over the past three years. It’s more than just a hobby. In the last year, I’ve finally started coming up with goals for the next few years.
Q. Echo Courts’ new album is enjoying airplay. How does a young indie label secure that kind of exposure?
I don’t really have a good answer for why it succeeded at radio, beyond the quality of the music. We’ve only sent four or five releases to radio now. It’s a formula we’re still trying to figure out. We did delay the radio launch for this album a bit, which allowed it to garner more press before it was sent to stations, so that may have helped a good bit.
Q. How did they connect with the label?
Echo Courts actually approached us first. The band is friends with ET Anderson (another Refresh artist), and reached out to us blindly. It was one of the few times a band came to us with a complete vision of their album release. After giving it a listen, I was excited about the dynamic the band maintained, splitting their sound between the two core writers, which gives a lot more depth and variety to their sound. I drove up to Winston-Salem to catch them live, and they played a few of their new songs that night. After chatting for a bit, we felt they were a great fit for the label, so we all decided to dive into this thing together.
Q. What do you consider a high point for the label?
Junior Astronomers was one of the bands that made me buckle down and launch this thing, so working with them from concept to release on (the full-length) “Body Language” was a very high point for me. Also, heading out to SXSW with Junior Astronomers and Young Mister was a wild experience that I hope to do again in the future.
Q. What have you learned over the last three years from maybe not-so-good experiences?
To slow down and dig deeper. I am much more conscious about the lyrics and histories of the bands we are looking into.
Q. What do you think Refresh does well, and what do you need to work on?
The answer to both sides of that question is the same. Every time I meet someone familiar with Refresh, I hear how professional the label comes off. This has been a huge positive for the label and our artists as we’ve built a network of connections and opened up our bands to solid opportunities. On the flip side, no one recognizes that Refresh is still a DIY label run by a single guy out of my home. It’s made it harder to connect to some bands that value that DIY aspect. We’re very DIY with a lot of things and professional with other things, and trying to find that balance between the two.
Q. Do you have an ultimate vision for these bands?
It’s my ultimate goal for any of our bands to grow beyond the limits of Refresh. Nothing would make me happier than seeing a label like Polyvinyl, Joyful Noise or Topshelf take notice of a band we’re working with and sign them.
Refresh Records 3rd Birthday Pre-Party
With Modern Primitives, Gull, Daddy’s Beemer and Known Ghost.
When: 9 p.m. Friday.
Where: Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St.
Refresh Records Birthday Showcase
With Junior Astronomers, Cuzco, Old Faith and Echo Courts.
When: 8 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Visulite Theatre, 1615 Elizabeth Ave.