By: Chris Day
Steve Rullman is the founder of West Palm Beach’s alternative-music-magazine PureHoney, the only free paper magazine that is distributed from West Palm to Miami, and which provides an outlet for the South Florida scene and local businesses. Rullman is also the creator of Bumblefest. Bumblefest is a block party of indie bands and performers that take over the 500 block of downtown West Palm every year and bring with them an eclectic mix of sounds and energy. This is the third year of the festival, and Rullman sat down with Lvl to the Room to talk about the origins of the magazine, the festival, and how he goes about selecting the bands each year.
Why did you first want to start Purehoney Magazine?
Let’s see, I’ve been messing with magazine type stuff for a long time. I was a music editor for a magazine called Closer Magazine back in the early 2000’s and I was running and opening a couple different clubs down this way. I went on tour and when I got back I didn’t have a job and wasn’t sure what I was going to do, so I was sitting around and decided I’d start up a newspaper because no one else was doing news print really… in the format that I’m doing it with a giant poster on the inside. It was kind of an inspired thing, sounded like a fun thing to try. So yeah, I’ve been doing it for seven years now.
How did you come up with the name and the look/design of the magazine?
The name came because Purehoney was the name of the regular email blast that we would send out from The Honeycomb. The Honeycomb was started in ’98 and then I basically turned that into Purehoney over the last several years.
Do you like bees? Or just thought it was a cool name?
Uhh… who doesn’t like bees?
Fair point, yeah haha
Yeah, I mean I like honey. The Honeycomb actually came from – there was a crappy mainstream “alternative” quote-unquote station back in the 90’s called The Buzz. I figured at some point we could work together even though we didn’t really have the same tastes in music but there might be ways we could work together. After compiling a list of a couple hundred names I narrowed it down to They Honeycomb.
Was it difficult when you were starting out to get sponsors for Purehoney?
Because I’ve been doing so much in the local scene for the past 20 something years I have connection. I used to run Respectable Street’s [a nightclub in West Palm Beach] marketing a booking for eight years.So, because of all the connections I already had established over the years, I was able to convince those people to come on board and make it happen. We’ve never lost money, we don’t make a lot of money doing it, but we’ve never lost money. I mean, I’ve personally lost a lot of money doing it, but we haven’t lost any money doing it haha
Is it rewarding to know you’re getting the word out for a lot of bands down in south Florida that otherwise might not be known?
What Purehoney’s doing helps get the word out about the shows that aren’t on the radar of most mainstream publications.
On that same idea, I saw on the Purehoney website that you do a monthly downloads section. How do you decide what bands go on the compilation? Are those bands that you personally are kind of jamming to and like?
Originally, yes, I would reach out to a lot of bands that I would discover during the month and ask them if they would donate a track. So, in the early days I actually had a day job when I started the magazine. And I would basically sit around at the job watching videos and listening to Last.FM, so that was pretty much how I chose bands back then. Now I tend to lean towards bands that are actually playing shows in the area or bands that have an album release party coming up or something of that nature.
What initially made you want to start Bumblefest the magazine for a few years?
Well, you know, I’ve been booking shows for twenty something years as well. And every year we have a monthly party and the party has just been getting bigger and bigger over the seven years. We would do all the bands at one venue over the seven years. And so, over the last three years we morphed it into Bumblefest, which is a name I had running through my head for about fifteen years.
Did you feel south Florida was lacking a festival for indie music or for that particular scene?
In the Palm Beach County market, there wasn’t really anything like that happening. Down south there were people doing things. Like Sweat Records was doing Sweatstock. And the Jelly Fish brothers were doing a yearly fest. There were little festivals happening down in the Miami area but nothing up this way.
How difficult was it initially booking bands for the first festival?
Well the first one wasn’t as big as many as this year. This year is a little more ambitious then in the past. Yeah it, it’s always you know, it can be a chore if you have too many stages and too many bands. But we make it work.
What’s that selection process like? How early on in the year do you start thinking about what bands you want?
Well, I’ve been running a club called Voltaire for the past year. We just opened, and we just celebrated our one-year anniversary. So that kind of… kept me from starting the process as soon as I would have liked to. I think I started working on this about two-and-a-half months ago.
And Voltaire is one of the stages, right?
Yeah, Voltaire and Respectable Street are the two, indoors at Respectable Street, are the two main stages. Where the headliners will perform.
Now that it’s the third year, what is the mix of bands that you’re asking back or new bands that you ask to come? Do you like having a new sound or do you like having some of the old bands back?
Having some of the same bands back are nice because they know the drill. And they are people generally that I have worked with in the south Florida scene, so I can rely on a few people and not have to be at every single act that is playing. This year leans a little bit more… I don’t want to say mainstream, what would be a better word for that… This year I leaned a little more toward music that is a little more accessible because there were so many bands. And the thought process for that was that we can cast a wider net and attract more people and maybe trick them into listening to some weirder bands. These are all bands I’ve been working with, with Voltaire and they’re all solid, solid musicians. This year there is a wider variety stylistically.
What is the mix of bands seeking you out to play or are there some that you know that you definitely want them to come even if they’re beyond the region or even kind of reaching outside of Florida?
Yeah, there’s a number of bands outside that I have been hoping to get down this way for a long time. There were a few I thought we might get this year, but it didn’t work out. Like I was working on Pink Mexico, Elvis Depressedly, Wooden Shjips , and there were a few others but ultimately, they weren’t able to make the trip during that time frame. So, the ones that were able to, that’s where I started with the booking this year. Figuring out which headliners, which touring bands could come through. Then I filled in all the gaps with the local bands.
So, I guess it’s a lot about coordinating who is on tour and things like that to get people to come down?
Yeah, well all of these were able to route through except for Lumerians. And it kind of worked for them in the sense that they had a show in Milwaukee this past Saturday and then they’ll be down here this Saturday. Yeah, they’re probably going to fly out of Miami or something.
Has it been more challenging having multiple headliners this year?
Yeah, challenging in the sense that I want to make sure they have a good time and also make sure that their slots don’t overlap one other too hard. You know, so that people can actually see most of their sets. And it looks like I’ve been able to do that, as long as everything stays on schedule.
And didn’t you add more stages this year than previously?
Yeah, we’ve done five stages in the past. This is the first time we’ve done six, and it was almost seven, but I nixed that a few weeks ago.
So, you said on the Honey Podcast on the Purehoney website that you may be interest in a second Bumblefest in January? Is that something you’re hoping to have happen in the next couple of years?
I haven’t had a vacation in probably two to three years. So, I’m hoping after this festival wraps I’m going to get a little room to breathe. Kind of reassess my overall situation and right now I’m leaning towards doing multiple smaller fests over the course of the year. You know because, like you said earlier there are different touring bands coming through at different times. Why not try and schedule something regularly and then I can reach out to Orlando, Gainesville, Tampa, St. Pete, Jacksonville, and see if we can route something together and get more of these bands coming through regularly.
Do you want to say anything about the festival or the headliners?
Yeah so Lumerians and Scott Yoder are coming, have you seen any of those bands?
I haven’t, but I was listening to your podcast and I like the songs you played of them. I really liked the Scott Yoder one and the Lumerians one, so I want to check them out.
Yeah so, that was like six years coming, that I was hoping to book Lumerians. And Scott Yoder I’ve been listening to for a long time but never expected that he’d be able to come through, so it’s kind of cool.
How have you seen the Florida scene changing over the years?
Every three to five years it cycles through because of people going to college. Just lots of old people and lots of different ethnicities. So, it’s just one of those markets that’s just constantly in flux. But it seems like every three to five years it reinvents itself. And there’s very few bands that, you know, carry through longer than three-to-five years.