Ian Cunningham: Drummer, Designer, Boss

Photo by Lauren Max

Age 24
Vancouver, Wash.
Personal Motto 
“If the fuck don’t feel right, don’t fuck it.” (Grace Jones)
Unlikely Influence 
Mötley Crüe
Kryptonite Olives
Song on Repeat “Redbone” 
by Childish Gambino

Rock ’n’ roll will never die because of fanatics like Ian Cunningham. Consider the moniker he chose for his burgeoning record label: Freakout Records, namesake of Freakout Festival, the multi-day local-music blowout that celebrated its fourth-annual incarnation in December. Each year Freakout has hosted one of Seattle’s darkest, rawest, stoned-est psychedelic garage-rock bands: Acid Tongue, in which Cunningham plays drums.

For further weirdness, check out the imagery Cunningham creates for his band’s visual branding: promotional photos defaced with inky, melting drips and dribbles; T-shirt illustrations of similarly gooey tongues and lips and eyeballs.

Given Cunningham’s predilection for unhinged rock music and overt drug references, his low-key, professional demeanor comes as a surprise. But as he says about his work at the label, “This is not a lark. I’m excited about being my own boss before I’m 30.”

Acid Tongue is fronted by Guy Keltner, one of two other partners in Freakout. Skyler Locatelli, the label’s third principal, is a sales manager at Caffé Vita, while Keltner has close ties to Neumos, where he worked as a booker before moving to Brooklyn last fall. Between the three of them, they cover all the responsibilities of a traditional record label—booking shows nationally and internationally, PR (which Cunningham handles), licensing songs and images (including Acid Tongue T-shirts sold coast-to-coast via Zumiez). The label’s roster is small, diverse and tightly curated, including indie rockers Smokey Brights, psych-pop quartet Moon Darling, electronic experimentalists Newaxeyes and, for her upcoming debut EP release, witchy chanteuse Maiah Manser.

“I don’t wanna act like we’re senseis of the music industry,” Cunningham says. “We haven’t been doing this that long. But we’ve made mistakes and learned things along the way, so now we know how to do it a little better. We wanna help bands we love avoid those potholes.”