The Interview Section: Black Barrel Records Founders James Howard, Nick Howard and Zach Stout

Shelton, Connecticut is the site of our latest foray into this ever-exciting phenomenon we call music. And today is particularly fun because A: I love a good interview, and B: I love getting to speak with artists doing things I’ve never had the privilege of highlighting on this blog before now. We’ve already featured the band The Inside Out a few posts ago in their superb show diary at Beeracks, but now we’re gonna focus on something else two of the members (Zach Stout and James Howard) are involved in along with Nick Howard.

The trio are owners of the Connecticut-based indie record label they’ve dubbed Black Barrel Records. I immediately jumped on the chance to ask these guys a couple of questions about owning/running a record label as the workings of one have always been fascinating to me. And while I’ve never viewed music as a sort of conveyor-ed factory floor process, it’s a curious thing to see how the sausage gets made at every stopping point. From the first notes at a band practice to how each melody gets out there to the masses.

Luckily, Zach, Nick and James were kind enough to answer some of my questions! Check out the interview and once you’re done head to the links below to find out more about Black Barrel and what they’re up to!

So how does a record label like Black Barrel get started, how do you make it come together?

James: We’ve put a lot of our mutual and different experiences in the music scene together, and we wanted to create something we can really stand behind that places the artists’ needs at the highest priority. We wanted a homebase for everything we were trying to accomplish. We hand designed and built our HQ and in-house recording studio. It all comes together with help from other peers of ours in the scene, friends and family, and most importantly the musicians we surround ourselves with.

As musicians first, what was the biggest adjustment about heading up a record label compared to focusing solely on the musical side?

Zach: Owning and operating a record label is a clearly completely different ball game than being solely a musician, but the latter greatly aids me in the former. Working in this new capacity has allowed me to further hone my communication skills with fellow artists and has allowed me to gain a deeper appreciation for different styles artists use for song development. Aside from the musical aspects of running a label, there’s always a lot of organization, innovation, and general upkeep involved to keep things running smoothly.

What’s the process like scouting/signing new talent and running your day to day? Especially with three of you and three different voices in the room?

James: We are really looking for professionalism and raw talent when we’re prospecting. Running our day to day has become a part of my full-time schedule here, especially with running our in-house studio.

Zach: We’ve started building our team with some interns, and hopefully in the future we’ll be bringing on some more and continue to keep on growing!

Now I’ve read that you have a recording studio rolled into this endeavor as well, what is a recording experience like for a band coming into Black Barrel? What is that space like to give our readers an idea?

Zach: I’m proud to have hand-built a thoughtfully designed recording studio utilizing years of theoretical and applied acoustical knowledge. It’s safe to say that we swing well above our weight in terms of sonic quality, equipment selection, and engineering expertise compared to many other local studios. The experience of recording at Black Barrel from an artist or band’s perspective has been described as a welcoming, custom-tailored, productive experience. Aesthetically, our four rooms have a unique feeling to them, each designed with an intended range of functionality. Our live room has woody tones with two shiplap walls, a custom SJC drum kit, and a high-end PA system. Our lounge sports a chesterfield couch, natural lighting from windows, and a large TV with a soundbar and sub perfect for playing music videos on. Our control room is the most modern looking room with its angled walls and ceiling, a beautiful desk filled with state-of-the-art outboard gear, and Focal monitors. Lastly, our acoustically-dead isolation booth provides an ideally articulate environment for vocalists. Of course, we have a couple full-sized barrels lying around in our lounge and live room.

Where do you see Black Barrel heading going forward, what projects are on the horizon?

Nick: I see the future of Black Barrel Records being focused on multiple endeavors that anyone artistically interactive can find personal vision in. In regards to music specifically, we intend to branch out into different locations down the line, but treat Shelton like our main objective area as it is growing in its current state. With other areas in the CT scene popping up, we want to be able to transport artists that work with us to concerts at the corners of our state and across tour-bound distances. That way, the music reaches an abundance of audiences. As BBR expands as a brand in the artistic space, people can surely look to it as a place to help them achieve their goals.

And what’s next for The Inside Out?

James: What’s next for the group is constantly changing with our schedules and how busy we can get, but I can definitely say we have new music and a tour lined up for this year. We’re looking forward to only getting busier!

Thanks again to James, Nick, and Zach for answering my questions for this interview! Check out our Beeracks post I linked to at the top of the page with The Inside Out, and check out the Black Barrel Instagram and website below!


Instagram: @blackbarrelrecords

The Inside Out Give Us “Inside Out” Show Stop at Beeracks

Since the COVID-19 pandemic first made landfall in my neck of the woods sometime around March 2020, the landscape of the world around me has irrevocably changed despite the efforts of many to refocus that now-warped glass. And this effect has also swept up concerts, which isn’t exactly surprising when they tend to consist of large, huddled together groups of sweaty people. But the slight germaphobe in me digresses.

Point being, despite some changes I don’t get to go to shows and experience the joy of them nearly as much as I used to anymore. So, I’m glad to get swept off into a bit of that nostalgia with this tour diary entry I present to you below from Connecticut-based indie rock outfit The Inside Out. They played a recent concert earlier this March near their home base at a placed called The Beeracks supporting their new album  “No Brains, No Blood.” (Spotify in the hyperlink). But without further ado, let me let them tell you all about it.


Hey, we’re the CT indie/alt rock band The Inside Out! Pictured left to right, we’re Zach Stout (lead guitar/vocals), John Landino (bass/vocals), Andi Wright (drums), and James Howard (guitar/lead vocals). 

We’re here to share our night at The Beeracks in East Haven, CT on Saturday 3/11/2023. It was an album release party for the band Aunts, who we had the pleasure of meeting last year during a When We Were Young-Fest themed show in New Haven, CT. We made a lot of new friends during this Beeracks show, as we met and shared the stage with the artists of Lighthouse, Sober Bill, and Shagohod for the first time. We were hyped to discover new music and play to a fresh audience, and we had such a great time!


We started off our Saturday at rehearsal. We usually don’t rehearse the day of, but our schedules ended up clashing that week so we woke up, had coffee, and headed to the studio for an early (for us) practice at the crack of 1:00pm. We’re lucky to have a sick setup at Black Barrel Records in Shelton, CT to rehearse, write music, and occasionally play shows. We quickly ran through our set to make sure any rust from the past week was gone, and then we packed up our gear and headed to the venue.


We hadn’t played at The Beeracks brewery / local music scene venue since our first time there, which was over a year ago for a Christmas show in 2021. We immediately noticed a bunch of improvements to the sound and lighting that made us extra hyped for the evening. Our first Beeracks show was awesome, so this one was bound to be even better. After loading in our gear and grabbing some food and a beer, we couldn’t wait for our time to play.


We found a perfect place to set up our merch table: right next to pallets of kegs and a gigantic stack of unlabelled tallboys. It was dark af in that corner, though, so good thing we brought our glowing head and tea candles that lowkey turn our setup into an alchemy table. For legal reasons we can’t promise our merch is enchanted with magical powers, but we won’t deny it either… you’ll just have to see for yourself.


We were second to last to play, so we had a bunch of time to just rock out to the other bands. There was a great turnout and the audience had a welcoming vibe. Since the stage was in an actual brewery warehouse, the disco ball stood out and set a cool mood, throwing lights all around the big open space and reflecting off of beer cans and metal vats.

Individual band member pics – credit: @moolignon on IG


From the get-go we were stoked to be playing right before the headlining act, Aunts. Whoever was on lighting tech duty that night was absolutely nailing it, and it was cool to be on a raised stage instead of the warehouse floor like last time we played this venue. We mostly played songs off of our latest album, No Brains, No Blood., namely the title track and our single “Figure Me Out”. We were also able to sneak in our two favorite cover songs as well as an unreleased song that we’re currently writing/recording for our next album called “Mr. Arrogant”.

No show is 100% perfect, but this one went smoothly overall. There were some funny hiccups though, like when James realized he really had to pee right after set up/line check and we had to take a quick breather before starting our first song. Also as we started playing our last song, we realized John was still changing basses and was frantically plugging in as the rest of us played the intro to “Constant Headache” by Joyce Manor. That’s the unique side to live music that can’t be replaced; all’s well that ends well, and we definitely had an awesome time up there.


After our set we ventured over to the bar, where we found terpene-infused beer – aka weed beer. James grabbed the Grandaddy Purps and John got the Tangie strain (yuuum). Andi had a raspberry sour and Zach went for a belgian tripel. We rocked out to Aunts’ whole album start to finish, and then we came back to the bar to play the notorious “ring game”. Andi got it on the first try more than once, but she’s not bragging… 


As we headed out we said goodbye to the last guy at the bar, but he wasn’t looking too hot… The bartender said not to worry, though, he’s a regular. 

At the end of the day we sold some merch, made new friends and fans, had tasty beer, listened to amazing music, and had lots of fun. Successful show in the books! 

Thanks so much for joining us on our day at The Beeracks! To listen to our album, No Brains, No Blood., watch our music videos, grab some merch, or follow us on Instagram, you can find it all at this link: Hope to see you at a future show!

Thanks so much to The Inside Out for offering their time, show experience and plenty of great photos! Again, check out their album  “No Brains, No Blood.” on Spotify and their website listed above. Thanks again!

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