Interview: Justine Covault (Justine and the Unclean/Red on Red Records) -By: Rob Smittix

Written by on October 5, 2022


RRX: So, you are Justin Covault from Justine and the Unclean. 

JC: That’s correct!

RRX: I did have to wonder if that means that you are clean and the rest of the band is unclean? How does that work?

JC: (Laughs) They are all just filthy. Filthy people.

(Both laugh)

JC: I started this band about five years ago. I thought at the time looking around seeing what a lot of people were going through, that it’s so hard to keep a band together and since it’s my songs I thought I’d just call it Justine and the Somethings in case I have to swap people out or whatever. So, the band voted on what they wanted to be called and they all unanimously selected Justine and the Unclean. The miracle is that I have the exact same line up that I started with. I’m really happy about that, we’re great friends and I love the way they play my songs. I feel really lucky to have this band. 

RRX: You have a song called “Scorpion Bowl to Go.” I imagine a Scorpion Bowl is something you can order to go? 

JC: Yeah, it’s funny in Boston everybody knows what a Scorpion Bowl is. It’s a drink that you might get at a Chinese restaurant, and it comes in a bowl that’s shaped like a volcano and it’s mentally terrifying to people. The center of the volcano has a little well in it that’s filled with 151, so you can imagine it’s a very powerful drink, it’s like a rum punch with a floater in the middle. “Scorpion Bowl to Go” is really about how people were losing their minds during the pandemic, just from isolation, boredom, trepidation, stress, loss and all those terrible things we were experiencing during that time. The bright side was that you could actually order drinks to be delivered to your house.

RRX: Yeah, that’s right. I’m glad we’re finally starting to get over that. So, you are actually the owner of Red on Red Records? 

JC: Yeah, that’s right.

RRX: How many different acts do you have under the label? 

JC: I think over 20. 

RRX: Wow. That’s quite a bit.

JC: The label started in November of 2020, so it’ll be two years this November. It started during the pandemic. We started out with seven or eight bands and we have just added bands since then. It’s pretty amazing. I get multiple submissions from artists every week or inquiries from people who are interested in being on the label. I’ve been really lucky, I have some amazing artists, incredible talent, energy, creativity and just great music. 

RRX: Now obviously you have your own band and everything and I imagine that’s how you grooved into the record label but what was it that really made you feel like you should be the person to do this? 

JC: My band Justine and the Unclean was on a Boston label called Rum Bar Records, that’s run by a guy named Louis Mansdorf, we’re really good friends. While I was on the label with them, I started working with a group of women on putting together a music festival called WhistleStop Rock. It all kind of grew organically from us wanting to play shows together, a number of bands that were fronted by women and had strong women players. We worked regionally all-over New England for the winter and spring of 2020.  The atmosphere of working with each other and cheering each other on and going to each other’s shows was a beautiful and powerful thing. I was really into it. From that we ended creating this sort of super group recording a song that two of the women from these bands had written together called “Queen of the Drive-In” and the artist was Whistlestop Rock named after the festival. It did really well, and we did a video too all during the pandemic. It was all done 100% remotely, with people doing their parts and sending them in and having it all mixed together. I talked to Lou from Rum Bar and asked do you want to put this out as a single or on a compilation? He said, ‘you know Justine have you ever thought about starting your own label? You have this set of really talented bands that you’re working with, you’ve learned a lot about the industry, clearly you have the organizational skills to pull people together and get stuff done.’ I was like Lou, you’re crazy. And then I thought about it, and I ended up doing just that. 

RRX: Anything right now that we should let people know about? 

JC: I signed a band called The Morning Line out of San Francisco, but they have Boston roots. The lead guy Stephen Smith used to live in the Boston area and played in a couple of bands here including Salem 66 and God’s Eye. We’ll be putting their record out this fall. The big news is that Stupidity, which is a band from Stockholm, Sweden, are coming over in October to tour. The first half of the tour was booked by my label Red on Red Records and the second half they are doing with Soraia. They are playing in Troy.

RRX: They are, November 2nd I believe. 

JC: At The Hangar, yes! They’re also going to do an in-store at The River Street Beat Shop. I’m probably going to come out for that and check it out, so we’re excited about that. They’re also doing shows in Portland, Maine, Boston area, Providence, New Haven, New York and Philadelphia. 

RRX: Nice.

JC: They’re great and they’ve got Keith Streng from The Fleshtones playing guitar with them.

RRX: I heard that.

JC: Yeah, so he’s on their album “Waking Up the Band” which came out on Red on Red Records earlier this year. He’s doing the tour with them as well.

RRX: Anything else you would like to mention?

JC: The only other thing I’d like to mention that might be of regional interest is that we have all of the Red on Red physical products are at The River Street Beat Shop. They’re a retail outlet for us. We have a deal going now where if you buy a CD or vinyl from one of our artists you get a free Red on Red compilation CD which has 17 songs from 17 different artists, so you can get a flavor for who the bands are. 

RRX: Our Tuesday Tributes on recently played the compilation in its entirety so we’re totally in your corner. You have our support!

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