Everybody knows what happens when rock ‘n’ rollers get hitched and have kids: their bands split up, they quit going to shows, and their instruments gather dust in the basement. But Bill and Lisa Roe of CoCoComa, happily married for five years and the proud parents of five-month-old Veronica “Ronnie” Moon—named for Ronnie Spector and Keith Moon—haven’t “moved to Berwyn,” to borrow the Chicago scene’s favorite euphemism for this process. Not only do they still live in the city, but CoCoComa has been playing out steadily since wrapping up a few months of family leave with a Memphis gig on June 20. What’s more, the Roes have just launched a garage-pop label, Trouble in Mind, and plan to put out eight singles from eight bands by December. The first, CoCoComa’s “Ask, Don’t Tell” b/w “The Anchor,” came out two weeks ago.
Both of the Roes work day jobs: Bill, 35, is production manager for Chicago Independent Distribution (formerly part of Southern), where he oversees the manufacture of CDs and LPs. Lisa, 33, is a librarian at the Chicago Public Library’s Logan Square branch. But CoCoComa’s second album, Things Are Not All Right, is due October 20 on Memphis label Goner Records, and they’re going on a European tour in December and January—hoping their bassist’s girlfriend will nanny for plane tickets. They plan to make weekend trips around the midwest as well. How will they manage all this on top of the full-time task of raising a baby?
“Precariously,” says Bill, and they both laugh.
Lisa says starting a label just after Ronnie’s birth was a way to make sure they didn’t let music fall out of their lives. It’s easy to neglect a band when you and your husband are the only two constant members. But when you’re running a label, even if you don’t do a thing, you’ll still be hearing from artists, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers.
“Our families are very supportive,” Lisa adds. Her mother looks after Ronnie while the Roes are at work or playing a show—in fact, she moved to Chicago from Ohio to help. When CoCoComa plays Goner Fest in Memphis in late September, Ronnie will be coming along, and Bill’s mother plans to drive the 300 miles from Chattanooga to babysit during the festival.
Music runs in both families. Bill’s father turned him on to Chuck Berry and Jimi Hendrix at an early age, and Lisa’s dad was a DJ at Kent State University who briefly managed Devo before they left Akron for Los Angeles. “Bill’s biggest fear,” says Lisa, “is that Ronnie won’t be into music like we are.”
Trouble in Mind has three singles on deck for September 22: Ottawa’s White Wires, who play surfy doo-wop punk; San Francisco’s Fresh & Onlys, who make psychedelic garage pop; and the Sonic Chicken 4 from Perpignan, France, who Bill describes as “the Archies on acid.” In November the Roes will follow up with four more, by Albany’s Cave Weddings, San Francisco’s Ty Segall, Chicago’s Tyler Jon Tyler, and Wheels on Fire from Athens, Ohio. Each will contain download codes, redeemable at the CID site.
“We like to start things out by going one hundred miles per hour,” Lisa says. “It’s a good way to show we’re serious about this, and hopefully establish ourselves as a label where people will trust our taste.” She describes Trouble in Mind’s aesthetic as “every band’s take on the two-and-a-half-minute pop song.”
“We want this to be the way singles used to be,” Bill says, “with one song only on each side.”
Trouble in Mind singles won’t have cover artwork, or rather they’ll all have the same artwork: a radial blue-and-green design, “like a square record executive in the 1960s trying to do something psychedelic,” says Bill. The only way to tell the releases apart is by the center labels, which change color from one to the next.
“We’re trying to reduce the collectibility,” Bill says. Each record comes out first in a pressing of 500 on “trash” vinyl—a swirled-together mix of colored scraps—and after that on plain black, with unlimited repressings. “We want to keep these records in print, something to enjoy instead of resell a month later.”
The Roes do most of the label grunt work after Ronnie’s asleep—during other people’s TV time, as Bill puts it. Sometimes friends, paid in pizza and records, come over to help put records in sleeves or hand-stamp pressing numbers.
The Roes’ life doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room, but they’re excited to be doing what they want to be doing. “It’s not a chore to take care of Ronnie,” says Bill, “or to put out records by bands we love.”