Authenticity is one of the more enduring qualities of Savannah. It seems to draw tourists to become either permanent residents or frequent visitors, and keeps its citizens in place.
After 38 states, three countries and millions of miles on the road, I've never visited nor lived in such a place. Bellowing from its history is a rich conglomerate of sound, scene, taste and culture that is not only unique but all too alluring for the creative mind.
In the ever-growing music scene, Graveface Records & Curiosities is at the vanguard of perpetuating business ideas centered on authenticity.
The record store, music label and now live venue in the Starland District has managed to stay open for three years now as other small business in Savannah have come and gone.
Built on the DIY notion, owner and namesake Ryan Graveface has centered the brand around his unusual attraction to the macabre, but has favored quality over quantity and authenticity over the bottom line.
Graveface's products are mostly hand assembled. Everything is done in-house that can be - from T-shirts to buttons, from cassette tapes to the beautifully packaged vinyl releases of bands adjoined to the Graveface label.
The pressing of the colorful vinyl albums are handled by outside companies, for now. The artwork for the albums produced on the label are done by artist he knows, and even the marketing for the entire brand is done by Graveface himself.
Graveface approaches the running of his label in the same manner. As is common with record labels, a band might sign anywhere from a one to three record contracts. Graveface doesn't sign contracts with his bands. Instead, they work on a project-to-project basis.
"Essentially, I facilitate the recording, mastering, sometimes production, manufacturing and distribution of artists," Graveface said. "It's a million facets. Some people don't have anything written. Some people will have a set of songs written or even an album finished.
"I intervene at different points in the game. Depending on what is already done, we'll have several meetings and decide whether things need to be rerecorded or mixed. The manufacturing side of it is what I love. The artistic aspect."
The general public that visits the store will only see the neat rows of records and oddities in front, as well as the real human skull with markings of turn-of-the-century occult on display in a case.
The office side of the building is a proverbial Santa's workshop for audiophiles. On a wall facing Graveface's desk is floor-to-ceiling shelving filled with the finished pressings of recent projects from the label. All around his desk is what seems likes miles of cardboard holding products ready for the store and shipping.
Behind another wall that separates the long room into two distinct spaces is a small recording studio and a bungalow of sorts for traveling bands. There are, of course, an assortment of musical instruments strewn throughout the back room.
"That's where we record some of the Casket Girls stuff," Graveface said.
It's not a very lucrative business. Graveface admits that on some occasions, he will recoup some money on an album release, and then on the next one, he'll lose money.
"The reason I started this with another friend is I didn't want to trust someone else," Graveface said. "I want people to know that I am doing the best I can for them at all points and time. "Like I said, I don't know if anybody is happy working with me. I have done multiple albums with the same artist. So I have to imagine there's got to be some satisfaction."
As the store celebrates three years in business with a month-long to do, including a first-rate list of quality bands playing the store, Graveface will begin to charge a door fee for the live shows. But it's not about his bottom line. The money is for the bands.
"I want it to be something that bands make money," Graveface said. "Even if it's $35."
For seven years, Graveface has found a way to survive and build a brand focused on selling a product of the highest standard.
At 30 years of age, he uprooted his life in Chicago and moved to Savannah. He loves it here, but misses a true autumn, his favorite time of year.
"It's autumn in my head," he says.
Despite the loss of his favored meteorological conditions, Graveface's mentality has thrived through his business in a city that seems to incubate the authentic.
Joshua Peacock is a writer and musician. He has been involved in music since the age of 5 and studied music theory, jazz and playwriting at the University of Iowa. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @JR_Peacock.