While their stickers cling to many-a lampposts and car windows, and they are where Memphis-born singer and guitarist Julien Baker got her start, you may not know much about the local record label called Smith7. Founded in late 1999, local musician and school counselor Brian Vernon felt compelled to combine his musical talent with his passion for reaching out to the community in whatever way he could. Now in its 20th year of operation, it’s about time you get to know them and Pants Tour, which starts today, is the perfect way to do so.
Initially, Smith7 was founded for young musicians in Memphis to get experience playing shows and learn about the music industry while helping to raise money for charities. About six years into the group’s existence was when they formulated Pants Tour as a way to give themselves a more structured means to do it.
“We just kind of made it to where most of the time when we made money at shows, that would go to charities, and the rest would go to the bands,” Vernon says when recounting the early days of Pants Tour. “We eventually helped bands get to where they could put out merch and CDs. Back then we were mostly supporting families that had gone through tragic stuff like fires. This year we’re doing OUTMemphis since learning about the youth emergency center that they’ve been working on.”
Past charities include the Mid-South Peace & Justice Center and Tennessee Refugee Rights Coalition. The process for picking the charity for Pants Tour each year is a collaborative effort of asking friends and discussions amongst key members of the collective such as himself, Josh Cannon, Matt Gilliam, and Ryan Hailey.
Part of Smith7’s goal as a record label has been to build a community for the artists themselves who provide performances and want to connect with other musicians. Brian, who used to work in record stores, recalls how these spaces were more about providing a space for people to come hang out without any extra expectations. They’ve long been known as a clean music scene, and Brian has always been focused on providing a substance-abuse free environment for all ages to enjoy what the local music scene has to offer.
“One of the main points of Pants Tour is that I get to prove that I’m not dead yet,” Brian jokes.
Despite being around for 20 years and weathering day jobs, friends moving, and changes in the scene, Smith7 is far from dead. Recently, the record label has started working in conjunction with Studio One Four Three for various artistic projects, and by this time next year, will maybe even have what Brian describes as, “an actual, on-paper, nonprofit with a physical location for a youth music community center.”
Pants Tour takes off today, June 14, and extends over the course of the next three weekends at 11 different venues with 40+ local and traveling bands including Heels, the Whiskey Wells, Flirting with Sincerity, Good Bueno, Animal Sounds, and Brian’s own band, Wicker, which will be playing at nearly every show.
“It’s crazy that all these bands are cool enough to say ‘Hey, we don’t want any money. We just want to raise money for charities,’” Brian says.
Pants Tour Schedule:
Friday, June 14th @ Young Avenue Sound
- Reverie, Alison Kasper, Super Low, & Wicker
Saturday, June 15th @ Society Memphis
- Jadewick, Good Bueno, Gold Perms, & Wicker
Tuesday, June 18th @ Pagan Mom House
- Flirting With Sincerity, FRENCHIE!, Ellie Badge, & Wicker
Wednesday, June 19th @ Avenue Coffee
- Logan Magness, Sky King, Arthur;, Jim Cannon, & Wicker
Thursday, June 20th @ CANVAS
- Shed, Colin, Sleeping Fit, & Wicker
Friday, June 21st at Hi-Tone
- HEELS, Whiskey Wells, Don Quixote’s Horse, Banana Cartel, & Wicker
Saturday, June 22nd @ Midtown Crossing
- Well Kept, GLAMPER, Drew Garth, & Wicker
Tuesday, June 25th @ Kahmay House
- Cel Shade, KAHMAY, Caraway, Fight Night, & Wicker
Thursday, June 27th @ B-SIDE
- Grandpa Grew Trees, Louise Page, & Wicker
Friday, June 28th @ Growlers
- Schaefer Liana, Shamefinger, Ben Abney, Animal Sounds, & Wicker
Saturday, June 29th @ Rec Room
- XVII Trill, PXLS, Ruzka, House Band 4, & Wicker