Submerged in stories for a decade
The small but mighty publication that’s covered Sac’s music and arts scenes
When Jonathan Carabba and Melissa Dubs co-founded their arts and culture magazine back in 2008, they weren’t sure it’d last a few years, much less a decade.
With Submerge, they thought they’d have fun, cover some music and art and then move on.
Soon, though, it became much more. Officially, Dubs was editor-in-chief and art director while Carabba handled advertising and marketing. In reality, they found themselves doing it all: writing and reporting, photography, design and layout and even distribution.
The dedication has paid off. Since its launch, Submerge has reliably chronicled the city’s ever-changing arts community. And, although slim in size, the biweekly maximizes space with not one but two covers and an edgy stuffed-to-the-brim aesthetic. Be it music, visual art, comedy, film, sports or, honestly, whatever, Submerge doesn’t skimp on the details.
Now closing in on 260 issues, Dubs and Carabba will commemorate their publication’s 10-year milestone February 3 with an all-ages show at Holy Diver. The married couple recently took a moment to reflect via email about the last decade, their favorite shows and Sacramento’s ever-changing scene.
What was the impetus for starting Submerge?
Melissa Dubs: The whole concept wasn’t so much about the void of local coverage, but more so just being young and passionate about music, art and print.
Why two covers for every issue?
Dubs: We didn’t have a lot of advertisements when we started, so we thought it would be a cool way of utilizing the back page. Then we kept rolling with double covers because after seeing publications lying back side up at coffee shops or wherever, it was less about selling the space, and more about doubling the chance for people to hopefully notice the awesome coverage and just pick us up.
How has Submerge’s role in the community changed?
Jonathan Carabba: Submerge has become more ingrained in the local music and art communities. People see Submerge everywhere, and they see Melissa and I out at events setting up our own banners, physically doing magazine distribution all over the area every two weeks; they see our passion.
Did you ever imagine you’d be here in 10 years?
Dubs: It started with little goals, really. Like, “Let’s see if we can get to two years,” then it became a personal challenge after hearing most businesses fail after the first five years. We had to make it to at least five. After that, it was really like, “We’re doing this!”
Biggest changes in the scene over the last decade?
Carabba: These days there is more overall focus on it, and I think that’s both a good thing and a bad thing. I definitely miss the old days when Second Saturdays were actually about the galleries and artists, but Sacramento currently has some really exciting things going for it when it comes to music, art and culture.
How has social media had an impact on what you do?
Dubs: Clearly, with the shift people are less dependent on publications, like they use to be … I feel like people are maybe too dependent on social media, and because there’s so much information at your fingertips, it’s almost too much. It makes it easy to miss things. I see it all the time, where people are complaining online like, “How did I miss that so-and-so was playing in town?” When I see that, I obviously think people should be picking up things like Submerge, or SN&R. Perhaps it’s the shorter attention spans that come with social media dependency, which is the ultimate curse. But at the same time, social media is a great tool because it’s a way to reach a ton of people, since they’re all on the same platform.
Carabba: I would say my favorite cover was our 200th issue when we collaborated with local artist Shaun Burner, who created a piece of art for the cover. We still have the original painting hanging up in our office.
Best show you’ve seen in the last 10 years?
Dubs: !!! (Chk Chk Chk) at the Townhouse in 2010? It was hot, sweaty, everyone was dancing. It felt like the floor was going to collapse, which wouldn’t have been cool, but yet it was so cool to experience.
Carabba: Despite the festival eventually folding, TBD Fest’s lineups in both 2014 and 2015 were pretty amazing.
Best local trend in the last decade?
Dubs: Resurgence of artisan culture. I love all the local makers and marketplaces.
Carabba: I’ve loved seeing more public art pop up, and that free community-based events like R Street Block Party, THIS Is Midtown and Concerts in the Park are really thriving.
Worst local trend?
Dubs: Not so much local (sorry), but more of a trend everywhere: Cellphones at concerts. Especially filming videos. It’s going to be shaky, it’s going to sound like shit. It ruins the experience for the people who are behind you who have to stare at your shitty phone. Take a picture, sure, but move, put it away and enjoy the show after a few clicks. Live in the now!
Carabba: Luigi’s Fungarden and Witch Room closing. I still miss those venues.
Best thing about still working together?
Dubs: That we still somehow make magic happen each issue when we complement each other by pulling together each of our strengths, and our differences.
Carabba: We get to constantly put our heads together to make sure we’re creating the best product possible. We thrive when we are working together.