Category Archives: 15 Questions For

15 QUESTIONS FOR… Darla Records’ James Agren

darla-logo

 And… here’s the fifth installment in the BLURT series in which we profile cool independent record labels. What are the criteria for inclusion in the “cool” category? Hey, ’cos we say they are cool, that’s what! We’re making the rules around here, kids. Keep your eyes peeled for the next installment, coming soon, and meanwhile, go HERE for entry #1 (Slumberland Records), HERE for #2 (12XU), HERE for #3 (Saint Marie), HERE for #4 (Trouble In Mind), HERE for #5 (Fort Lowell), and HERE for #6 (Chunklet). (Below: 2008 photo of the staff; go HERE to read the Detour magazine article it originally appeared in.)

darla-staff

BY TIM HINELY

On the web: http://darla.com/   /  https://www.facebook.com/Darla-Records-58278349712/

When did the label form/ what was your original inspiration?

August, 1993 when I received a DAT tape master from Grifters. “Holmes” b/w “Junkie Blood” with cover art by Grifter, Trip Lamkins. I absolutely loved this band. Still do. I asked to do a 7″ single because they were unique and strong enough to stand apart. The single was released October, 1993. I’d intended to do my own label since 1985 (age 22) when a friend who worked at Virgin said, “Y’know what you should do? You love music so much. You should work in the music business.” A light bulb literally went on at that moment. Like duh. Of course. Before that it may have occurred to me abstractly but it was her suggestion that literally set me in motion. I just wanted to learn as many aspects of the business as I could first. So, I was the Energizer Bunny on the path then. KUSF, I-Beam, BMG, RCA, Geffen then Darla. I have always had my head immersed music and surfing. When I was 13 I’d skateboard around Laguna Beach garage sales on Saturday morning, buy records for .10 cent to .25 cents, then skate with an armload downtown to The Record Shed and trade in or sell (what I didn’t want to keep) for $1.00 or more. I started building my collection then and learning. On day the owner, Sam, asked me if I knew how to make change and left me with the cash register drawer open because we didn’t have time to learn me how to work it and split for lunch for more than a half hour. I worked for Sam at The Record Shed on weekends that Summer. What I do now is a natural extension of that first start. I should have been a professional surfer though!

drl285_front1500pixrgb300dpi

Who designed your logo? Do you only have one?

I did it myself – freehand with pen and ink. Appropriation was big in the early 90s y’know. The primary Darla logo has elements of two classic American labels from the golden age of stereo, lovingly appropriated. The spiky frame is from the Jubilee Records logo. The D is from the Dot Records logo. There’s a secondary logo, which we haven’t used as much in the past 10 years – the Darla girl in the little black dress dancing on a record. She’s appropriated from the Hula Records logo where she has on a grass skirt, lei and hibiscus. I just changed her clothes. I love classic record label logos.

What was your first release?

Grifters – “Holmes” b/w “Junkie Blood” 7″ (Darla: DRL001).

Were there any label(s) that inspired you to want to release records?

Oh yes. So, many. Capitol, RCA, Editions EG, Rough Trade, Beggars Banquet, 4AD, Factory, Creation, KLF Communications, Touch & Go, Sub Pop, Merge, Matador, TeenBeat, Simple Machines, Kranky, SST, Dangerhouse, Posh Boy, Frontier, Slash, Alternative Tentacles, GNP Crescendo. Endless list y’know.

If there is one band, current or present, you could release a record by who
would it be?

Neil Young. I’d love to work for soul daddy. The Beatles and Neil Young are my top two all-time favorites. Fela Kuti if he were still with us.

drl111

What has been your best seller to date?

My Morning Jacket – At Dawn (Darla: DRL111) by miles, however, Darla does have a strong, active catalog of over 300 titles now.

Are you a recording/touring musician yourself, and if so, do you use your
label as an outlet for getting your stuff out to the public?

No, however, I do have a concept album in mind to make one day…

Does your label use and/or have a presence on any of the social media sites?

Oh yes. Every day. Required now y’know.

Is the Southern California/San Diego music community supportive of the
label?

Yes. Amoeba is good about stocking titles! Our #1 distribution partner AEC is in Irvine and they seriously are the best ever. Whenever I meet local music people they share stories about their favorite releases on the label & etc., however, we’ve always looked globally more than locally. We didn’t emerge with a roster of local talent exclusively. We are supported locally but California-wide as we began in San Francisco and still have strong ties there (Sweet Trip and MCM And The Monster), then moved to Sacramento where we have a ton of good friends we don’t see enough (Holiday Flyer, The California Oranges, The Sinking Ships, Avaleya and the Glitterhawks). And in LA: Lowlights, San Diego: Maquiladora, Tijuana: Static Discos, Fax. So, that’s the big picture locally speaking…

Have digital sales been significant or nominal?

Very, very significant. More significant since digital overtook physical by a hair in Spring, 2015. Digital sales have grown steadily since while physical sales continue to shrink, for everybody.

Has there actually been a vinyl resurgence the past few years?

Yes, however, we still see more CD sales by far. Mucho mas.

What is your personal favorite format to release music?

CD. Reasonable profit margin. Practical.

What new(er) labels these days have captured your attention?

Serein, Carpe Sonum, American Laundromat, Saint Marie, Elefant, Les Disques du Crepuscule, Orange Twin, Factory Benelux, Deep Space Recordings, Essence Music, Seksound, 12k, Aloha Got Soul… Always someone new.

Do you accept unsolicited demos?

Yes. Every day.

corky

What releases are upcoming?

Corky Carroll – Blue Mango CD/DD. Corky is my hero. The California sound with a core crew of stars in their own right who’ve been his band for decades. So stoked on this project.

MCM And The Monster 2xCD/DD. San Francisco’s ultimate party band (80s/90s) retrospective including the demos and an unreleased third album.

Peyton Pinkerton – Rapid Cycler CD/DD. Guitarist/songwriter from New Radiant Storm King, Pernice Brothers.

Momus – Scobberlotchers CD/DD. It’s actually on his own American Patchwork label manufactured and distributed by Darla. Nick Currie’s perspective/world view/filter is my absolute favorite of all artists today.

In closing…

The label is me and Chandra Tobey, my wife and partner of 26 years. I couldn’t do all that we do alone and it is A LOT. In addition to the label we provide physical and digital distribution service to over 150 labels. We manage a digital catalog of over 15,000 songs. We provide publishing administration for a small handful of Darla artists. Chandra does all the bookkeeping, accounting, receivables/payables. I do the creative and marketing. As physical distribution declines for all, I look forward to focusing more on the label as I enjoy that part most of all.

drl285_front1500pixrgb300dpi


 

 

 

Tim Hinely: 15 Questions For… Chunklet’s Henry Owings

Untitled-9_400x400

And… here’s the latest installment in the BLURT series in which we profile cool independent record labels. What are the criteria for inclusion in the “cool” category? Hey, ’cos we say they are cool, that’s what! We’re making the rules around here, kids. Keep your eyes peeled for the next installment, coming soon, and meanwhile, go HERE for entry #1 (Slumberland Records), HERE for #2 (12XU), HERE for #3 (Saint Marie), HERE for #4 (Trouble In Mind), and HERE for #5 (Fort Lowell).

BY TIM HINELY

I think it was about 1995 when I saw my first issue of Chunklet and I believe it was issue 11. Wait, how did this ultra-cool zine exist for 10 previous issues and me not knowing about it?! The mag got better and better and it was obvious that editor/publisher Henry Owings was some kind of mad genius graphics whiz (self taught, I believe). The empire of Chunklet Industries then began expanding as Owings began selling Chunklet t-shirts (I’ve got a few) and then came the record label. While the releases seemed pretty sporadic early on the past few years have seen a blast activity with a bunch of excellent releases by old favorites Tar as well as (more old favorites) Man or Astroman?, Don Caballero, Obnox, Olivia Tremor Control and, a forthcoming release from Athens’ favorites, Pylon, a live recording of the band in ’83 (along with a limited edition 45). In between one of his 587 projects that he’s currently working on, Owings took some time out to answer some questions about his very active label.

When did the label form/ what was your original inspiration?
It was inspired exclusively by my inability to sit passively back during the first Clinton administration. My interest in money and/or success has been secondary to just getting a few things out that, without my assistance, would never see the light of day. Simple as that.

What was your first release?
My first “real” release was back in’ 93 with The Oblivians and the “Go! Pill Popper!” 7”. However, the label was called Drug Racer and that feels like an eternity ago. The first release on “Chunklet” per se was Les Savy Fav’s “Let’s Stay Friends” LP forever ago.

chunklet4

If there is one band, current or present, you could release a record by who would it be?
This answer could go one of two ways…

The first answer would be that I’ve been incredibly lucky to have put out records by some of my all time favorite bands: The Jesus Lizard, The Olivia Tremor Control, Tar, Man…or Astro-Man?, Thee Speaking Canaries, and that’s just the bands that I can muster off the top of my head without sounding full of myself. The fact that I’m putting out a 2xLP with Athens band Pylon this year is still something I think of with utter disbelief, so, yeah, I’m absolutely humbled by the company I keep.

Pylon 45

The second version of this answer is a bit more nuanced…

1) I’d love to be at the helm to release an authoratative MC5 box set. Not like the unimaginative garbage that has been put out, but rather, done by fans and meant for fans, but also intended to suck in new fans and preserve their legacy. As much of a fan as I am, everything other than their three ‘proper’ albums all seem pretty warmed over garbage.

2) I have been sniffing around the Atlanta band Smoke for the better part of five years to have their legacy championed. Trying to find a “real” label to springboard it to, but that’s another dream.

3) Another that I’ve been pursuing is the band Synthetic Flying Machine, which preceded both The Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel and was probably one of my FAVORITE bands from back in the early days of living in Athens in ’92 and ’93.

4) I’d also want to release as much of the Camberwell band Part Chimp as I possibly could. One of the truly outstanding noise bands that refuse to break up.

5) There’s a local band that just started called Mutual Jerk that I’d love to be involved with somehow.

6) There’s Endless Boogie. God, I absolutely love them and would do anything they asked me to do.

7) And, of course, the band The Bar-B-Q Killers is another that I just would love to see presented to a modern audience. But as you might be able to surmise, the pace is glacial on this stuff.

chunklet5

What has been your best seller to date?
Probably “Dusk at Cubist Castle” by the Olivia Tremor Control. But saying “Best seller” makes it seem like I’m doing this for the money which, let’s be honest, couldn’t be further from the truth.

Does your label use and/or have a presence on any of the social media sites?
Not really. Just an occasional tweet or Facebook post. Bandcamp. Mailing list.

Is the Atlanta/ Athens music community supportive of the label?
I’ve never given it any thought. Perhaps?

Have digital sales been significant or nominal?
They’ve been significant-ish. Thanks for asking.

Vinyl is Killing the MP3 Industry" - Henry Owings (www.chunklet.com)

Vinyl is Killing the MP3 Industry” – Henry Owings (www.chunklet.com)

Has there actually been a vinyl resurgence the past few years?
Google it. I hear it’s happening.

What is your personal favorite format to release music?
I’d love to put something out on human skin, but I’m sure that Jack White guy has already done it. Bastard.

What new(er) labels these days have captured your attention?
I still think Siltbreeze is one of the most consistent labels of the past 25 years. Gerard [Cosloy’s] ear over at 12XU is absolutely sterling. Bill and Lisa Roe’s Trouble In Mind is hitting home run after home run. Ever/Never out of NYC is doing a great job. Mostly “smaller” labels always pique my interest. Homeless out of Australia is cranking out the best jams. Goner, of course, is killing it. Deranged, Ektro and Blackest Ever Black’s catalog are really inspired. However, I’ve never been motivated/interested in a label’s commercial success. To me, it’s all about finding new jams and celebrating them.

Do you accept unsolicited demos?
Sure. But other than a polite “thank you,” it’s usually followed up by hitting the delete button.

41LISsTADbL

Please tell us the story behind the Tar 2x LP. How did it come about.
I’ve known Tar since ’91. They were probably the first band that I became actual friends with when I was in my early 20s. We always remained friends over the subsequent years since their break up in ’95. When the band emailed me about doing a 7” for their PRF BBQ reuinion gig in ‘12, I jumped at the chance. It started a dialogue about uncovering all the tapes from their AmRep and T&G 7”s and comp tracks, their ’91 Peel session and the bits and bobs that make up the 2xLP “1988-1995.”

As a super fan, I was also shocked by how many other super fans (or for them, friends that are super fans as well) that offered up to help get this release done. Without their help, it never would’ve come out. Those people are, specifically, Steve Albini (who went back into the studio and remixed some mixdowns that had gone MIA) and Bob Weston (who did a superior job of mastering and cutting the lacquers). In addition, and it can’t be stressed enough, Drew Crumbaugh was a great digital sleuth and editor to get the live digital component together. His contribution wasn’t necessarily celebrated on the vinyl portion, but the audio he polished/mastered really pushed the release over the top. But to back up for a second, this release took well over a year, but would’ve been impossible without all of the goodwill that Tar generated during their career. So for that, I’m indebted to Mike Greenless and John Mohr (specifically) but the band (entirely) for their interest and time. To have my name on one of their records is a true badge of honor.

chunklet1

Contact points:
www.chunklet.com / @chunklet

1694 May Ave SE
Atlanta GA 30316

——————————

Artists on label:

Pylon
Man…or Astro-Man?
Mugstar
Salad Boys
Les Savy Fav
Harvey Milk
Torche
Part Chimp
Floor
Honey Radar
Tar
Cuntz
The Jesus Lizard
The Corporate Office
Thee Speaking Canaries
Don Caballero
The Olivia Tremor Control
Obnox
Survival Knife
The Rock*A*Teens

 

15 QUESTIONS FOR… Chunklet’s Henry Owings

Untitled-9_400x400

And… here’s the latest installment in the BLURT series in which we profile cool independent record labels. What are the criteria for inclusion in the “cool” category? Hey, ’cos we say they are cool, that’s what! We’re making the rules around here, kids. Keep your eyes peeled for the next installment, coming soon, and meanwhile, go HERE for entry #1 (Slumberland Records), HERE for #2 (12XU), HERE for #3 (Saint Marie), HERE for #4 (Trouble In Mind), and HERE for #5 (Fort Lowell).

BY TIM HINELY

I think it was about 1995 when I saw my first issue of Chunklet and I believe it was issue 11. Wait, how did this ultra-cool zine exist for 10 previous issues and me not knowing about it?! The mag got better and better and it was obvious that editor/publisher Henry Owings was some kind of mad genius graphics whiz (self taught, I believe). The empire of Chunklet Industries then began expanding as Owings began selling Chunklet t-shirts (I’ve got a few) and then came the record label. While the releases seemed pretty sporadic early on the past few years have seen a blast activity with a bunch of excellent releases by old favorites Tar as well as (more old favorites) Man or Astroman?, Don Caballero, Obnox, Olivia Tremor Control and, a forthcoming release from Athens’ favorites, Pylon, a live recording of the band in ’83 (along with a limited edition 45). In between one of his 587 projects that he’s currently working on, Owings took some time out to answer some questions about his very active label.

When did the label form/ what was your original inspiration?
It was inspired exclusively by my inability to sit passively back during the first Clinton administration. My interest in money and/or success has been secondary to just getting a few things out that, without my assistance, would never see the light of day. Simple as that.

What was your first release?
My first “real” release was back in’ 93 with The Oblivians and the “Go! Pill Popper!” 7”. However, the label was called Drug Racer and that feels like an eternity ago. The first release on “Chunklet” per se was Les Savy Fav’s “Let’s Stay Friends” LP forever ago.

chunklet4

If there is one band, current or present, you could release a record by who would it be?
This answer could go one of two ways…

The first answer would be that I’ve been incredibly lucky to have put out records by some of my all time favorite bands: The Jesus Lizard, The Olivia Tremor Control, Tar, Man…or Astro-Man?, Thee Speaking Canaries, and that’s just the bands that I can muster off the top of my head without sounding full of myself. The fact that I’m putting out a 2xLP with Athens band Pylon this year is still something I think of with utter disbelief, so, yeah, I’m absolutely humbled by the company I keep.

Pylon 45

The second version of this answer is a bit more nuanced…

1) I’d love to be at the helm to release an authoratative MC5 box set. Not like the unimaginative garbage that has been put out, but rather, done by fans and meant for fans, but also intended to suck in new fans and preserve their legacy. As much of a fan as I am, everything other than their three ‘proper’ albums all seem pretty warmed over garbage.

2) I have been sniffing around the Atlanta band Smoke for the better part of five years to have their legacy championed. Trying to find a “real” label to springboard it to, but that’s another dream.

3) Another that I’ve been pursuing is the band Synthetic Flying Machine, which preceded both The Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel and was probably one of my FAVORITE bands from back in the early days of living in Athens in ’92 and ’93.

4) I’d also want to release as much of the Camberwell band Part Chimp as I possibly could. One of the truly outstanding noise bands that refuse to break up.

5) There’s a local band that just started called Mutual Jerk that I’d love to be involved with somehow.

6) There’s Endless Boogie. God, I absolutely love them and would do anything they asked me to do.

7) And, of course, the band The Bar-B-Q Killers is another that I just would love to see presented to a modern audience. But as you might be able to surmise, the pace is glacial on this stuff.

chunklet5

What has been your best seller to date?
Probably “Dusk at Cubist Castle” by the Olivia Tremor Control. But saying “Best seller” makes it seem like I’m doing this for the money which, let’s be honest, couldn’t be further from the truth.

Does your label use and/or have a presence on any of the social media sites?
Not really. Just an occasional tweet or Facebook post. Bandcamp. Mailing list.

Is the Atlanta/ Athens music community supportive of the label?
I’ve never given it any thought. Perhaps?

Have digital sales been significant or nominal?
They’ve been significant-ish. Thanks for asking.

Vinyl is Killing the MP3 Industry" - Henry Owings (www.chunklet.com)

Vinyl is Killing the MP3 Industry” – Henry Owings (www.chunklet.com)

Has there actually been a vinyl resurgence the past few years?
Google it. I hear it’s happening.

What is your personal favorite format to release music?
I’d love to put something out on human skin, but I’m sure that Jack White guy has already done it. Bastard.

What new(er) labels these days have captured your attention?
I still think Siltbreeze is one of the most consistent labels of the past 25 years. Gerard [Cosloy’s] ear over at 12XU is absolutely sterling. Bill and Lisa Roe’s Trouble In Mind is hitting home run after home run. Ever/Never out of NYC is doing a great job. Mostly “smaller” labels always pique my interest. Homeless out of Australia is cranking out the best jams. Goner, of course, is killing it. Deranged, Ektro and Blackest Ever Black’s catalog are really inspired. However, I’ve never been motivated/interested in a label’s commercial success. To me, it’s all about finding new jams and celebrating them.

Do you accept unsolicited demos?
Sure. But other than a polite “thank you,” it’s usually followed up by hitting the delete button.

41LISsTADbL

Please tell us the story behind the Tar 2x LP. How did it come about.
I’ve known Tar since ’91. They were probably the first band that I became actual friends with when I was in my early 20s. We always remained friends over the subsequent years since their break up in ’95. When the band emailed me about doing a 7” for their PRF BBQ reuinion gig in ‘12, I jumped at the chance. It started a dialogue about uncovering all the tapes from their AmRep and T&G 7”s and comp tracks, their ’91 Peel session and the bits and bobs that make up the 2xLP “1988-1995.”

As a super fan, I was also shocked by how many other super fans (or for them, friends that are super fans as well) that offered up to help get this release done. Without their help, it never would’ve come out. Those people are, specifically, Steve Albini (who went back into the studio and remixed some mixdowns that had gone MIA) and Bob Weston (who did a superior job of mastering and cutting the lacquers). In addition, and it can’t be stressed enough, Drew Crumbaugh was a great digital sleuth and editor to get the live digital component together. His contribution wasn’t necessarily celebrated on the vinyl portion, but the audio he polished/mastered really pushed the release over the top. But to back up for a second, this release took well over a year, but would’ve been impossible without all of the goodwill that Tar generated during their career. So for that, I’m indebted to Mike Greenless and John Mohr (specifically) but the band (entirely) for their interest and time. To have my name on one of their records is a true badge of honor.

chunklet1

Contact points:
www.chunklet.com / @chunklet

1694 May Ave SE
Atlanta GA 30316

——————————

Artists on label:

Pylon
Man…or Astro-Man?
Mugstar
Salad Boys
Les Savy Fav
Harvey Milk
Torche
Part Chimp
Floor
Honey Radar
Tar
Cuntz
The Jesus Lizard
The Corporate Office
Thee Speaking Canaries
Don Caballero
The Olivia Tremor Control
Obnox
Survival Knife
The Rock*A*Teens

 

15 QUESTIONS FOR… James Tritten of Fort Lowell Records

Tracy James

And… here’s the fourth installment in the BLURT series in which we profile cool independent record labels. What are the criteria for inclusion in the “cool” category? Hey, ’cos we say they are cool, that’s what! We’re making the rules around here, kids. Keep your eyes peeled for the next installment, coming soon, and meanwhile, go HERE for entry #1 (Slumberland Records), HERE for #2 (12XU), HERE for #3 (Saint Marie), and HERE for #4 (Trouble In Mind). Coming soon: Chunklet. [Pictured above: James Tritten and Tracy Shedd, presumably in earlier days…]

BY FRED MILLS

As the editor of this fine publication and website, I am frequently surprised and delighted by the gems — obviously gleaming and in the rough — that my crew of contributors unearth for us. Longtime writer Tim Hinely, also a blogger for us, has frequently been the source of such riches, and his ongoing “15 Questions For…” indie label feature has yielded more than its share. Around the time he launched the series I met James Tritten of the Fort Lowell Records label; James and his wife, musician Tracy Shedd, had recently moved from Tucson, Arizona, to Raleigh, North Carolina, where, coincidentally, I was living and working (in addition to doing BLURT) at indie record store Schoolkids Records. We hit it off — not the least of reasons being that I had lived for 10 years in Tucson myself during the ‘90s and we had a number of friends and plenty of landmarks in common — and I always looked forward to our in-depth music conferences whenever he and Tracy would drop by the store to put Fort Lowell items in the bins or just yak about stuff.

(As an aside: My abiding love and respect for indie labels runs deep, as I’ve been writing about their bands and their releases pretty much all of my adult life, at least since the late ‘70s when I was doing my own series of indie rock magazines. I also used to contribute to Magnet magazine’s monthly feature in which an indie label was profiled via a template of more-or-less stock questions that served to get the word out about the label and also to give the readers and consumers a sense of who was actually working behind the scenes to get the label up and running — and of course ongoing. That, then, has gone into what Tim Hinely and I are trying to accomplish with our own series here at BLURT.)

Ergo, this “15 Questions For…” James and Fort Lowell. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve dug, literally, every piece of wax he’s put in my hands. How do I count the ways? From our feature on Saint Maybe, erstwhile Patti Smith Group Oliver Ray’s project, as well as the feature on Tracy Shedd, to reviews of moyamoya (glom onto that sweet colored wax!) and La Cerca and the Good Graces, that’s how. Among many. A couple of ’em also landed on my Top Albums of 2015 list, recently published here at BLURT as part of our 2015 best-of roundup. Yeah, you might say I’m biased. But that’s what love is, ya know?

I’m also pretty damn chuffed about his and Tracy’s new collaboration, Band & The Beat (they’ll be touring in January; dates started in Charlotte on Jan. 9 HERE or after the main text), so in a final flourish of pure unbridled subjectivity, I’d like to kick off the feature with their new single. Enjoy…

BLURT: When did the label form / what was your original inspiration?

JAMES: It was November 2009 in Tucson, AZ, when the idea popped in my head to start up a record label.  I was home sick with a Man Cold, sleeping on the couch next to our record collection.  The 7inches caught my attention, and I took a sharp turn onto Memory Lane, listening to all of the old singles from my youth of growing up on the East Coast; bands like Common Threat, Greensect, Gizzard, The Raymond Brake, Mercury Birds, #1 Family Mover, Jennyanykind, etc.

Back in the ’90s, everyone released 7inch singles because it was cheap and easy, and it’s just what you did.  You’d swap them with other bands on the road like business cards.  I remember it costing close to about $1.50 a record to produce, and most of us just recorded the music in our homes.  Black and white photocopied covers usually manufactured at your place of employment without your boss knowing; the whole project was very low-fi, and those records are some of my favorite to date.

When my wife Tracy Tritten, otherwise known as singer-songwriter Tracy Shedd (who has released albums with Teen-Beat, Devil In The Woods, Eskimo Kiss Records, and New Granada Records), and I moved to Tucson in 2006, we noticed that not many of the younger local bands were releasing their music on vinyl.  Usually they would have a CD-R at best, but most would just tell you to download their music… for free, off of their website.  (Music for free?)

It’s not to say no one in Tucson was releasing vinyl.  Golden Boots was probably putting out some of the best packaged records, along with Naïm Amor.  And yes, of course, Howe Gelb, Giant Sand, and Calexico releases were coming out on vinyl.  But the kids, the new bands in town, playing at The Red Room (RIP) or The HangArt were not quite there yet (the whole indie / punk tape craze hadn’t even happened yet).

At that same time, I was coming up on a year anniversary for me driving a Vespa scooter to and from work each day.  I had bought a 1976 CJ-5 Jeep with 35″ tires and a 4″ lift a few years earlier when we first moved to Tucson (featured here in Tracy Shedd’s video for “Whatever It Takes”).  It was a real “Rock Crawler”: something to do for fun on the weekends.  However, with only about 8-miles to the gallon for gas usage, driving that beast to work every day was not the most economically sound choice, so I bought a scooter to handle that daily trek and save some money.

One day as I passed the Jeep that had been parked, unused, for countless weeks, I had a vision of selling the Jeep and putting the money to better use: starting up a record label.  I remember standing next to that Jeep and calling Zach Toporek from Young Mothers to pitch the idea of releasing his band as our first record.  He said yes, and the Jeep went on the market immediately.  The rest is history, as they say.

Who designed your logo? Do you only have one?

The only Fort Lowell Records logo is actually a silhouette of the statue that stands in Fort Lowell Park in Tucson AZ.  Fort Lowell was the neighborhood that I lived in while in Tucson, so for me (personally) it made sense to call the record label Fort Lowell Records, to mark that time in my life.  I also knew that there was only one Fort Lowell in the world, in Tucson, and I wanted something the city itself could own: a record label that was obviously tied to Tucson (and I believe Cactus Records was already taken).

I felt the label’s logo had to represent the area of town, and there is nothing more iconic that the statue that stands on Craycroft Road.  So, I walked outside my house down to the park and snapped a picture of the statue.  Then, got onto Photoshop to make it what it is.

It also reminded me of Vanguard Records’ logo, and I am huge fan of Vanguard.  Not sure if anyone else knows this, but the band Stereolab actually got a lot of their artistic design for their earlier releases from old Vanguard records.  In fact, I am pretty sure that name itself was a term Vanguard used, much like RCA Records’ “Living Stereo” series.

Fort Lowell logo

What was your first release?

It was a 7-inch record for Young Mothers, for a song called “Come On, The Cross.”  The B-side features what is still quite possibly my personal favorite song that Fort Lowell Records has released: a track called “Good Sword.”  I’ll drop the needle on “Good Sword” from time to time, and I swear life just stands still, it is so captivating.  Have you ever heard a song like that; one that just takes over everything within you and around you?  Zach Toporek nailed it with that song.  He’s even got some twelve-part harmony in there; it’s breathtaking.

I knew Young Mothers were going to be our first release from the first time I saw them.  Tracy Shedd (who I play guitar with) was booked with Young Mothers at The Living Room in Tucson.  Zach did not know us, and we had never met him.  Within the first few strums of his guitar and belts of his huge live vocals, we were hooked.  At the time, the music reminded us of our old friends from Austin TX, Silver Scooter; just good old American indie-pop (pure and fun).

The music made me get up and dance.  At that moment, they were the best band in the world to me.  So when the idea of Fort Lowell Records came about, I knew exactly who I wanted to call first.  I think that is how it should be for a label owner: you should be that ‘freak fan’ that just can’t get enough of the band you are releasing.  And that’s what a band should want from their label: an overabundance of enthusiastic support.

Were there any label(s) that inspired you to want to release records?

Sarah Records, Teen-Beat, Pop-Narcotic, Decoder Ring Records, Magic Eye Singles, as well as the band from Boston – Charlene – and their self-released singles on their own label, SharkAttack!.  At the time, it was all about the 7inches, and these labels had it down, especially Sarah Records.  Studying their releases really helped me be creative with presenting a professional design for each record, but keeping costs down and staying under or within budget.  I spent months researching various options and ideas, yet insuring that quality was never compromised. I’d like to think we were successful with this challenge; I’m very proud of the records we’ve released.

If there is one band, current or present, you could release a record by who would it be?

 Two bands… Schooner and Gross Ghost; both bands from North Carolina.  We’ve been fans of each band before ever moving here; we have actually played shows with Schooner in the past when touring through North Carolina. In fact, when we did a show at Slim’s Downtown with Schooner back in 2011, we made a promise to them that if we moved to North Carolina, we’d release a record for them.  The delay is totally my own fault, and I am hoping someday to live up to that promise. [Count the BLURT braintrust among the fans of those two bands, James! –Tarheel Ed.]

Both bands are simply amazing and very much underappreciated; more people need to know about these guys.  Their music is pure, honest, and simply great.   The songwriting is there, the live performance is there.  I would love to have an opportunity to record a record with each of them, and welcome them to the Fort Lowell Records family.

What has been your best seller to date?

Hands down, Howe Gelb’s 7-inch record that was part of Record Store Day 2011.  It was actually a split release between two of his own projects: ‘Sno Angel, which features a choir from Canada, and Melted Wires, which is a jazz quartet made up of members from Giant Sand and Calexico.  Neither track on the 7inch had been released on vinyl before, and they are both simply stunning. “Spiral” is the ‘Sno Angel track, while “Cordoba In Slow Motion” – the Melted Wires song – really showcases Gelb’s Thelonious Monk influence. We technically sold out of the record in three weeks, but then about a year later we had some returns from our distributor.  I was actually very thankful to have a few records sent back to us, since there were so many people that missed out on it the first time.  Now I’ve seen that record go for up to $40.00 on eBay, which I find somewhat flattering (in a weird way).   I’ve bought my fair share of over-priced hard-to-find records on eBay, just because I had to have it.

Honorable mentions for best-selling records go to Young Mothers….music video?, our split between Wet & Reckless and Tracy Shedd, and the Luz de Vida Compilation, all of which have also sold out (from our inventory) over time.  (That reminds me, I need to update our website and take some of those down.)

Who is the most famous artist on your label, and why do you think that is?

With the exception of Howe Gelb, which is the obvious answer, there are three artists that share the limelight:

Tracy Shedd has had a lucrative career all on her own, without any influence from Fort Lowell Records. Tracy has a number of albums out with Teen-Beat, as well as a few individual releases with Devil In The Woods, Eskimo Kiss Records, and most recently New Granada Records.  She has been featured on TV shows such as Dawson’s Creek and One Tree Hill, as well as had her music in one of Catherine Zeta-Jones’ movies.  Having Tracy as a part of the Fort Lowell Records’ roster has definitely helped with developing an audience for the label, which we are very thankful for.  Tracy is also sharing her latest project with Fort Lowell Records: a duo dream-pop / synth-pop project called Band & The Beat, and their debut release “21 [Digital 45]is Fort Lowell Records’ latest release.

Next would be La Cerca.  I learned about La Cerca back in 2001 when Tracy Shedd released her first track on a compilation from The Unlike Label which also featured La Cerca.  During the time I lived in Tucson, I would often go on record stating that Andrew Gardner from La Cerca was one of the most under-appreciated songwriters in Tucson. [Amen. –Old Pueblo Ed.] I was over the moon when the opportunity came up for Fort Lowell to release La Cerca’s latest album ‘Sunrise For Everyone.‘ [Go HERE to read the Blurt review of the album.] So the day Andrew called me to tell me that Xemu Records wanted to sign his band and re-release their album, I knew Andrew had finally receive the recognition that he deserved.  In no way was I upset; I was simply proud of Andrew, and extremely happy for La Cerca. Being picked up by another label to help grow your career, I feel, is a sign of success.  I would never want to hold anyone back from that.

Recently, the Good Graces experienced every band’s dream: having a national artist ask to take you on the road as their opening act, giving you exposure to thousands of people, and not mention an amazing experience altogether.  ‘Close to the Sun,’ the Good Graces’ latest album, just happened to get into the hands of The Indigo Girls, who fell in love with their music and asked the Good Graces to join them on the road for their summer tour.  The Good Graces had an awesome time, and gained a lot of attention from the opportunity.  Since the tour with The Indigo Girls, the Good Graces have been featured on Daytrotter, had a few live television appearances, and are now heading out for a West Coast Tour in 2016.  We are looking forward to share more of their successes in the coming years ahead. [Go HERE to read the Blurt review of the album.]

Are you a recording/touring musician yourself, and if so, do you use your label as an outlet for getting your stuff out to the public?

As stated before, my wife is Tracy Shedd, whom I have been playing guitar with since high school, so I was on her 7inch and Luz de Vida track with Fort Lowell Records.  I am also the other half to Tracy’s new duo project, Band & The Beat, which is the newest release for Fort Lowell.  Band & The Beat is meant to be a “husband / wife” project, while Tracy Shedd was specifically Tracy’s own songwriting.  With Band & The Beat, it is the very first time that I am playing keyboards / synthesizers.   We started the project back in June of this year, and I have been diligently learning the ivories ever since.  I would not object to partnering with another record label for future Band & The Beat projects, if it made sense.  We were simply so excited about Band & The Beat, and the first two recordings: “21” and “Buoy,” we just wanted to get the music out right away to the public.

Regarding social media, which have you used and what to you are the pros and cons of using it?

For social media, I have used it all.  From Friendster, to MySpace, to everything that people can’t live without today. It was four years ago when I stopped using Facebook and Instagram with Fort Lowell Records.  I decided I was going to only use Twitter to promote the record label.  Then, on January 1, 2015, I dropped Twitter as well (I stopped using it, but still have not deleted the account).  On the internet, Fort Lowell Records only exists as our website: http://fortlowell.blogspot.com.  The website is a blogsite, because I like the format of it.  I post things on there, the same way others might do so with social media, and I’ve been much happier; much more focused on what is important.

Is the local music community supportive of the label?

Fort Lowell Records’ success has been the support of the local music communities (note: “communities” being plural).  Tucson is where Fort Lowell Records was born, but Tucson is not where we are personally from.  Tracy and I are from Jacksonville, FL, but now we are making roots in Raleigh, NC.  The local communities of all three areas have actually been extremely supportive of Fort Lowell Records.  Tucson will always be home to Fort Lowell Records, and that is what I would want for the label; that is why I gave it an indigenous name.  I want to continue to support artists from Tucson, and be involved as best as we can.  With the recent release of two bands from Jacksonville, moyamoya and Hey Mandible, the Bold New City of the South has embraced the label with open arms.  We recently hosted a label showcase with moyamoya, the Good Graces, Hey Mandible, and the debut of our new project Band & The Beat; the show was billed as Tracy Shedd, but we performed as Band & The Beat.  All of the record stores in the Triangle Area (as well as all over the state) of North Carolina have shown great supportof Fort Lowell Records with record sales.  Schoolkids Records in Raleigh NC has sold the most copies of La Cerca’s ‘Sunrise For Everyone.’  I think once we get into releasing more North Carolina bands, Band & The Beat  being the first, we will start hosting more live performance with label-mates in the region. [Below: La Cerca]

La Cerca

Have digital sales been significant or nominal?

I would have to report the digital sales have been a good continuous revenue stream for Fort Lowell Records.   We partner with both The Orchard as our main digital distributor, and we use our own Bandcamp page (which gives direct sales to Fort Lowell Records).  Having the digital outlets seems to work well for the out-of-print records too, or for fans overseas; giving people an economical choice.  I find having the digital option does not hurt us in any way, which is why I have always made it available.  Personally, I don’t buy my music to listen to digitally, but I do understand that there are customers that prefer this service, and I don’t feel we should limit our outlets when it honestly costs our label no extra money to have the digital option available.

For Band & The Beat [pictured below] the release is currently only available as a Digital 45 (or what I like to call a “Virtual 7inch”).  This decision was made simply because of the “speed to market”: the track “21” was written, recorded, mixed, mastered, and released all within the month of October (in less than four weeks’ time).  Band & The Beat was heading out on tour, and we wanted to have a release out for people to enjoy.  I can see doing more Digital 45s with Fort Lowell Records, especially to help bands in similar situations.

Tracy James by John McNicholas

What are your thoughts on the current vinyl resurgence?

I think it is a fantastic thing, although I am also one of those guys (there are a few of us) that find it hard to call a “resurgence;” I believe vinyl never went away.   But I get it; no, Barnes & Noble and Best Buy were not carrying vinyl records 5-10 years ago, and now they are, which, again, I think is great.  I’ve been buying music on vinyl ever since I was a kid, and I am happy that is so much easier to find vinyl records in almost any store; heck, Guitar Center is carrying them now.

It is a fact that this resurgence, or increase in demand, with vinyl has caused a shift with the manufacturing timeline of the records themselves. This is evolution at its finest; those who will survive will be those that can evolve.   You now see a lot of labels going from standard vinyl releases to limited lathe cut releases, simply because they can get a lathe cut record out faster.   Cassettes tapes are also receiving a lot of attention and support these days.  I attribute this to the longer production times (and increasing costs) for vinyl records; again, evolution.  A cassette tape can be manufactured and released much faster, and cheaper (overall).  And if the kids are buying it, and they have the tape decks or Walkman units to listen to the music, then evolution is a success, and this vinyl “resurgence” is driving creativity; survival of the fittest.   For Fort Lowell Records, you are seeing our very first digital-only release for Band & The Beat, as well a sign of the times.

Hey Mandible vinyl

What is your personal favorite format to release music? Thoughts on other formats?

I like releasing vinyl records, as well as making music available for radio airplay.  At our house, this is how we listen to music.  There is only a record player hooked up to an amplifier that has a built-in receiver.  If we are not listening to an album on wax, we are tuning in the airwaves.   We are extremely lucky to live in Raleigh, as Raleigh has what I feel is the best “Indie Rock” radio station in the country: WKNC 88.1FM.    Now, let me add, I believe KXCI 91.3FM in Tucson is the best “overall” radio station in America; they are a publicly supported radio station, as opposed to one that is part of a school, college, or university.  KXCI is very diverse, and open and supportive to all aspects of their community; KXCI is a major part of the spirit of Tucson AZ.   But when it comes to my own personal taste in music, WKNC here in Raleigh, hands-down, spins some of the best new, fresh, solid Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Dream Pop, etc., as well as Hip-Hop, I have ever heard.  Every one of my favorite new bands has come from listening to WKNC via the airwaves.  I am always happy letting the needle rest and dialing into 88.1FM.

So, when I am not listening to WKNC for new music, I am enjoying music on my turntable; there is nothing else like it.  That is my favorite format to use when releasing new music.  I’ve been collecting records ever since I was turned onto Echo & The Bunnymen in 6th grade.  But it wasn’t until purchasing Stereolab’s “Ping Pong” 7inch back in the early ‘90s that I actually understood the difference.  I had already owned their ‘Mars Audiac Quintet’ album on CD at the time, and the 7inch was given to me as a promo.  When I got home and heard the single, I noticed that there were elements of the music that I did not recognize with the CD version.  I turned around, went back to Now Hear This (record store in Jacksonville, FL; RIP) and bought every Stereolab album on vinyl, and have been purchasing all music on vinyl ever since.

I’ve succumbed to the convenience of MP3s.  With Fort Lowell Records, we do offer a digital download with all of the vinyl records, and as a customer, I too enjoying having this added benefit.  I keep my latest favorite albums on my phone, and plug in where ever I am, without having to carry around a CD or cassette case filled with albums.  I get it; it is much easier to take MP3s with you than CDs or cassettes.   Because of this, I’ve dropped all CDs and Cassettes for my personal collection.  I do understand that there are customers that still purchase these formats, so I can’t say Fort Lowell Records will never release either.   But I have stuck to vinyl and digital formats, along with getting music on the radio, for Fort Lowell Records simply because that is how I personally listen to music.

What new(er) labels these days have captured your attention?

I’ve been a big fan of People In A Position To Know (PIAPTK), Captured Tracks, Burger Records, and Trouble In Mind (TIM).   I love everything that all of these labels are doing.   PIAPTK has been releasing limited edition lathe cut records before anyone even knew how to pronounce the word “lathe.”  Their releases are some of the most innovative records cut; I promise you Jack White’s Third Man Records has been taking cues from PIAPTK for years.  Captured Tracks simply can’t go wrong with whatever band / artist they release; their taste in music is impeccable.  Burger Records is changing the game for everyone, and I love it; they are at the forefront of this evolutionary change that we are all witnessing, and they will be the first to survive.  I always admired Trouble In Mind’s direct approach, especially when they first launched their label.  TIM would drop a stack of new releases (7inches) for various amazing new unheard-of bands, with no artwork, just TIM’s standard low-fi produced label sleeve ,and each record would blow your mind.  Out of nowhere, “BAM!,” TIM was on the scene, killing it.   All four of these record labels continue to force feed the world with some of the greatest new music and freshest ideas available.

Do you accept unsolicited demos? 

Absolutely!

[Pictured below: Fort Lowell LP by Tucson’s Saint Maybe, featuring Winston Watson and ex-Patti Smith Group guitarist Oliver Ray. The band was profiled at BLURT in 2013.]

Saint Maybe sleeve

***

Fort Lowell Records Websitehttp://fortlowell.blogspot.com

Social Media: none

 

***

Band and the Beat tourdates:
JAN 17 – Neptune’s Parlour – Raleigh, NC – w/ T0W3RS, Slang, Hotline
JAN 27 – Schoolkid’s Records – Raleigh, NC – w/ moyamoya (ALL AGES)
JAN 28 – Slim’s Downtown – Raleigh, NC – w/ FKB$, moyamoya
JAN 29 – Nightlight – Chapel Hill, NC – w/ Midnight Plus One, moyamoya
JAN 30 – Norfolk Taphouse – Norfolk, VA – w/ Quincy Mumford & the Reason Why
JAN 31 – Galaxy Hut – Arlington, VA – w/ DKvDK
FEB 1 – The Golden Pony – Harrisonburg, VA – w/ Cool Ghost, Humanzee
FEB 2 – Motorco – Durham, NC – w/ Adrien Reju, Elijah Wolf
FEB 19 – The Cave – Chapel Hill, NC – w/ An Occassion For Balloons, TLVS
FEB 20 – Speakertree Records – Lynchburg, VA – w/ TLVS
FEB 21 – Strange Matter – Richmond, VA – w/ Anousheh, Dazeases
MAR 2 – Tin Roof – Charleston, SC – w/ infinitikiss, Sweatlands
MAR 3 – The Erasery – Savannah, GA
MAR 4 – 1904 – Jacksonville, FL – w/ moyamoya*, Tambor
MAR 5 – 529 – Atlanta, GA – w/ Chelsea Shag, Big Brutus
MAR 6 – New Brookland – Columbia, SC – w/ infinitikiss, Grace Joyner

Tim Hinely: 15 Questions For… Trouble In Mind Records

Logo

And… here’s the fourth installment in the BLURT series in which we profile cool independent record labels. What are the criteria for inclusion in the “cool” category? Hey, ’cos we say they are cool, that’s what! We’re making the rules around here, kids. Keep your eyes peeled for the next installment, coming soon, and meanwhile, go HERE for entry #1 (Slumberland Records), HERE for #2 (12XU) and HERE for #3 (Saint Marie).

BY TIM HINELY

As you can see, the Trouble in Mind record label has only been around a little more than five years. I always lumped it in with other garage punk labels of recent day (the first record I picked up on the label was Mikal Cronin’s self-titled debut). I then recently checked the site and was pleasantly surprised to see recent reissues of not only 80’s UK pop band The Dentists but also a reissue of long out of print 1968 masterpiece from Del Shannon, The Further Adventures of Charles Westover. Now I was really curious. I sent label owners Bill and Lisa Roe some questions to find out just what the heck is going on over there in the Trouble in Mind headquarters.

***

ROEs_byJohnSturdy_8639

When did the label form/ what was your original inspiration?

Bill: My wife Lisa & I (both pictured above) formed the label in the Fall of 2009. Lisa was pregnant with our daughter, Ronnie & our band (CoCoComa) was on “hiatus” at the time (due to the pregnancy & our OG keyboardist/bassist Mike Fitzpatrick moving to NY State). I had always wanted to have a label & (as cheesy as it sounds) it seemed like a great way to – if we couldn’t be IN a band – keep music in our lives… we had originally planned to have the White Wires’ “Pretty Girl” single (TIM002) be the first release, but instead we started with what would be the last 7-inch by our band. We figured our name recognition could sell enough to make that money back & more in order to finance the White Wires record & it just snowballed from there.

 

Who designed your logo? Do you only have one?

I have designed almost everything for the label myself. There have been three different logos: the OG “peacock” logo (designed by me), a very short-lived “slime” logo designed by Johnny Sampson (only used on the Woollen Kits album I believe), & the current “bubble” one (designed by me). I was dissatisfied w/the original peacock logo & had struggled with it for a long time – I wanted something ‘iconic’ a la the Brain logo or Vertigo Records or something… the ‘bubble’ logo finally came about around the beginning of 2013 & we’ve used it ever since. Not sure if it’s reached “iconic” status yet. I’ll get back to you…

What was your first release?

Our first release was (mine & Lisa’s band) CoCoComa’s “Ask, Don’t Tell” b/w The Anchor” single. We sold around 700 copies I think? Recorded & mixed by our pal Kenny Rasmussen at his loft. We did 4 songs that day – those two for the single , a cover of “Messenger” by The Wipers (released on our first Record Store Day covers 7-inch back in 2010) & an as-yet unreleased song.

 

Were there any label(s) that inspired you to want to release records?

Stax, Motown, Brain, Vertigo, Sky, SST, Touch & Go, AmRep, Flying Nun, Crypt. I guess I was enamored by the (what i perceived as) “community” these labels fostered & still strive to do the same with our label. When we started the label I had mounds of (probably) really stupid & obvious questions that a few people were nice enough to humor me with answers to like Larry from in The Red, Eric & Zac from Goner, Gerard of 12XU, Bryan from Douchemaster, & Kevin from Dusty Medical Records. Thanks for not making fun of me to my face, guys.

 

If there is one band, current or present, you could release a record by who would it be?

Oh man, that’s a hard one. I mean if time & space are out of the question? I dunno – Love? (Our son’s name is Arthur Lee, so we’re huge fans). As far as present day, I have to say we’ve been lucky enough to have worked with many of my favorite current bands, so wish granted as far as that’s concerned!

TiM047.JACCO.COC.cover.RGB

What has been your best seller to date?

Probably Jacco Gardner’s “Cabinet of Curiosities” (above), I’d guess? Followed closely by Mikal Cronin’s self-titled debut (below) The first pressing of Fuzz’s debut single sold out in about 5 hours & we’ve repressed it a couple of times. We’ve been pretty lucky…

TIM031.MikalCronin_s-t.1600x1600

 

Are you a recording/touring musician yourself, and if so, do you use your label as an outlet for getting your stuff out to the public?

Only just the one time… and we learned our lesson & broke up soon after that. Ha! We’re better off as advocates & cheerleaders for other bands.

 

Does your label use and/or have a presence on any of the social media sites?

Oh yes – we have both a Facebook & Twitter account as well as a (sorely underused) Instagram account. I think they are pretty valuable tools if used for good (but they rarely are). Facebook has been a good way to communicate with other bands & fans of the label on an immediate level. Sort of how MySpace used to be. That won’t last too much longer I’d guess, & for now we’ll just keep ignoring people’s Buzzfeed quiz results.

 

Is the Chicago music community supportive of the label?

Sure – we definitely have our fans locally. We seem to have a more responsive & growing fanbase overseas it seems. We put out many international artists, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

Below: TIM recording artist Paperhead

Paperhead.VAN.pic

 

Have digital sales been significant or nominal?

Well it all depends on the release, really. Some sell well digitally & some sell better as physical LPs. Honestly I’m consistently surprised that anyone will buy a download of an album in this day & age (and THANK YOU to those who do – you’re the best! KEEP IT UP.)

 

Has there actually been a vinyl resurgence the past few years?

Well the short answer is yes. But in the grand scope of who’s buying albums (those that actually BUY albums) I think vinyl is still a small portion of sales overall. WE do well at it, but we’d always love to sell more (ha!). It’s a weird time to be both a record seller (as a label) and a record buyer (as a fan). “Vinyl” never went away for me, so… still surging!

 

What is your personal favorite format to release music?

Vinyl – always & forever. I fell in love with music as a young child & the first LP I bought of my own volition & my own money was Thriller by Michael Jackson in 1982 – I was 8 years old. I guess my dad was probably the one who instilled the importance of music in me? He’d take the time to point out songs on classic rock radio & explain who they were & talk about the time, etc. it definitely made me cherish music & value it as something more than background noise. But I think 7-inches are probably my favorite – I love the immediacy of a great 2-sided banger of a single. When it’s great, it can be really exhilarating & life-affirming.

 

What new(er) labels these days have captured your attention?

In The Red, Goner, Permanent, Faux Discx, RIP Society, Homeless, Ghost Box, Deep Distance, Polytechnic Youth, Death Waltz, Total Punk, Umor Rex, 12XU, Moniker, Magnetic South, Superior Viaduct… lots more…

 

Do you accept unsolicited demos?

Bill: Yes & no – it’s how we discovered quite a few of our artists (The Limiñanas, Night Beats, Paperhead, Ultimate Painting, Holögrama, & 31Ø8 were all unsolicited). We definitely try to listen to anything sent our way, & we tend to know what we like right away. Sadly we can’t put everything out – that’d be pretty expensive. Bands/Artists are welcome to get in touch thru our website, but no guarantees…

TIM082-DelShannon-FurtherAdv_FRONT_COVER

Please tell us the story behind the Del Shannon reissue. How did it come about? [The Further Adventures of Charles Westover was Shannon’s 1968 album, originally released on the Liberty label.]

Well to be honest I can still hardly believe we actually pulled it off. I’ve been working on this one for about 2 years. It’s one of my favorite albums of all time & after listening to it for so long & recommending it to so many people with the caveat “good luck finding one though!” it just became ridiculous that no one had reissued it. I guess we were feeling pretty good after our Dentists reissue (which was easy to arrange, working directly w/the band) & I thought “fuck it – we’ll do it”. It took ages to even find out who even owned the masters anymore & when we did (Universal Music Group), it took even longer to get it in motion. I’m sure we were pretty low on their priority list, but geez. After that it’s pretty unglamorous – lotsa emails back & forth with UMG employees who could give a shit, but it eventually happened & here we are. It’s significantly more expensive than our normal LP releases, but we wanted to do it right, so we had it remastered specifically for vinyl by Jason Ward at Chicago Mastering Service & housed em in beautiful tip-on jackets with restored artwork by Henry Owings of Chunklet (who also does restoration/design for both Numero & Light In The Attic – he rules to the max & I highly recommend him).

All of that’s not cheap, but all total it’s probably 1/6 of what you’d pay for an OG. Plus I think it sounds fantastic – the remaster brings out so much more in the recordings that I hadn’t noticed before without sacrificing the integrity of the original master. All told it was a lot of frustrating work, but worth it in the end when we cracked that first box & I held one in my hands. I got a lil’ teary-eyed. That’s still my favorite thing to do – opening that first box & seeing the finished album for the first time. I’m an ol’ softie.

Below: the label’s latest signing, Dick Diver, recently reviewed HERE at Blurt

DickDiver.by.Mia_Mala_McDonald

 

email: troubleinmindrecs@gmail.com

website/shop: www.troubleinmindrecs.com

Faceboook: www.facebook.com/TroubleInMindRecs

Twitter: www.twitter.com/trouble_in_mind

Instagram : www.instagram.com/troubleinmindrecords

15 QUESTIONS FOR… Wyatt Parkins of Saint Marie Records

artwork

 

And… here’s the third installment in the BLURT series in which we profile cool independent record labels. What are the criteria for inclusion in the “cool” category? Hey, ’cos we say they are cool, that’s what! We’re making the rules around here, kids. Keep your eyes peeled for the next installment, coming soon. Meanwhile, go HERE for entry #1, Slumberland Records, and HERE for #2, 12XU..

BY TIM HINELY

Wyatt Parkins takes his shoegaze seriously. Very seriously. As you’ll read below this Texan began his label, Saint Marie Records, just a few years ago, but has amassed a hefty amount of releases in that short time span. This isn’t just American stuff, either — he scans the globe looking for bands that can hop on fuzz pedals with delight. Just recently he’s released records by groups like Seasurfer, Jetman Jet Team, Children Of The Stones and plenty more. Read the interview then go to his website and check out some releases as the label is definitely making its mark.

wyatt3

 

BLURT: When did the label form/what was your original inspiration?
In early 2011, we announced the label, but it had been in the works for almost a year. I guess the music I am into and a few labels were my biggest influences in starting Saint Marie. I knew I wanted to start a label for some time, but I figured it was still going to be in the distant future.  But the stars just aligned, and we went for it.
Who designed your logo? Do you only have one?

I did the logo after many attempts and failures to come up with something I felt represented the name and its namesake. The name comes from a Piano Magic song/EP. Piano Magic had been a huge influence on me. I had been friends with Glen Johnson of Piano Magic for at least a decade at the time, so it just made sense. We would later release a record by Piano Magic, which was hugely exciting for me and is still one of the biggest highlights of the label’s existence.


Just one logo but there are several variations of it. What was most important to me was to make sure it scaled well so it would look good on a CD or vinyl record spine. The teardrop logo does this very well. The original image I had in mind was a silhouette of a saint’s face (basically a nun) with a teardrop, but I just stopped at the teardrop.

smr_logo_text_large_black(3)

 

What was your first release?

Patrik Torrson – At The Line Of The Border. He is actually a huge part of the reason why we decided to go ahead and start the label when we did. He had released the record digitally only, and I felt strongly that it needed a physical release. He agreed, and the rest is history.

SMR001 - Patrik Torsson (Wallet) - At The Line
Were there any label(s) that inspired you to want to release records?

Yes, absolutely! 4AD, Creation Records, Ghostly, Captured Tracks, Graveface, Club AC30, Clairecords just to name a few. I personally know the owners of last two mentioned, and they have been a huge help over the years in label-related matters.
What difficulties did you realize come with running a label?

The biggest headache is just managing the accounting portion of the label, especially as we release more and more records. We’ve recently converted to a new transaction-based system that has greatly improved this process. PR can also be a huge headache, but also gets better with each release. There are still a few of the biggest music sites that refuse to pay us any attention even though I strongly believe we are releasing some of the best records in our respective genres. Physical inventory management is somewhat difficult as well as the number of releases grows, but an offsite storage site has helped a ton.
If there is one band, current or present, you could release a record by, who would it be?

Slowdive, no question, although there are several very close runners up: Lush, Pale Saints,
Cocteau Twins, Locust, School Of Seven Bells… just to name a few.

 

What has been your best seller to date?
Without double-checking, I would have to say Trespassers Williams’ Cast. In fact, the CD itself is out of print and can only be purchased digitally or used via various outlets.

Trespassers William - Cast
Are you a recording/touring musician yourself, and if so, do you use your label as an outlet for getting your stuff out to the public?

No, not at all. I work in Information Technology, 9-5 and manage the label in my time outside of that. I play guitar but never find time to do it since starting the label. I have two kids, a wife, Saint Marie, a PR firm ‘Gas Pedal PR,’ and a music blog ‘Feed Me With Your Kiss’.. .so not sure I could fit in a “creating my own music”. I do, however, handle much of the artwork for the label and have even created several videos for the artists on the roster.
What are your thoughts on having a presence at the major conventions like SXSW, CMJ, etc. Have you done them before and if not, would you like to?

Some of our bands have been showcasing artist at SXSW, but there has not been a Saint Marie showcase as of yet. Maybe one of these days we will do something about that. Hopefully, we will have the opportunity to do the same for CMJ as well.
Does your label use and/or have a presence on any of the social media sites?

Yes, we are very active on Facebook and Twitter.

Have digital sales been significant or nominal?

I believe roughly 50% of our sales have been digital, which is very significant, but we always prefer physical sales. Without digital sales, we would probably not exist, so we have a love/hate relationship with digital.
What are your feelings on vinyl? Have you always offered your releases on vinyl?

Many of our releases are available on vinyl. We hope to get to a point where all releases are available on vinyl. So far, it just has not been cost effective to do so.
What is your personal favorite format to release music?

The vinyl format has the most appeal to me now that digital exists for portability. For me, the vinyl and digital partnership is perfect, but vinyl is definitely my preferred format.
What new(er) labels these days have captured your attention?

Club AC30, Deep Space Recordings, NoYes, Moon Sounds, Marshall Teller, Neon Sigh, Second Language and Secret Furry Hole.
Do you accept unsolicited demos?

Reluctantly, yes… I say this because 99% of the ones we receive are not right for the label, and that is putting it nicely. 😉

 

Contact:
Wyatt E. Parkins
Saint Marie Records
Fort Worth, TX | Seattle, WA | Los Angeles, CA
www.saintmarierecords.com
wyatt@saintmarierecords.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Saint-Marie-Records/164080190305178?ref=hl

Twitter: https://twitter.com/StMarieRecords

15 QUESTIONS FOR… Gerard Cosloy of 12XU Records

12xu buttons

And… here’s the second installment in the BLURT series in which we profile cool independent record labels. What are the criteria for inclusion in the “cool” category? Hey, ’cos we say they are cool, that’s what! We’re making the rules around here, kids. Keep your eyes peeled for the next installment, coming soon, and meanwhile, go here for entry #1, Slumberland Records.

BY TIM HINELY

To most folks Gerard Cosloy is known as being one-half of the Matador Records brass; prior to that he was at the legendary Homestead Records. Matador’s been around for over two decades but close to a decade ago, after moving to Austin, Texas, from London, Cosloy started up another label, 12XU. Named after the infamous Wire song, 12XU now has several releases under its belt by both bands that call Austin home as well as many that don’t. You could call it a garage rock label but then again, Tommy Keene, whose Strange Alliance was reissued last year by 12XU, might taken offense to being called garage rock. Cosloy took time out of his busy schedule to answer our 15 questions and we certainly appreciated his honesty (keep readin’…).

 12xu logo

BLURT: When did the label form/ what was your original inspiration?

2001.  I’ve been involved with a number of labels before and had no plans of starting or working with another. But there were a number of longtime associates (Joel RL Phelps, Spoon, Chris Brokaw) who needed assistance getting records out in Europe and these were all people I enjoyed working with.   The label’s UK operations came to a bit of a screeching halt when I relocated to Austin in 2004, and for logistical reasons things are mostly centered on moving records around North America these days.

Who designed your logo? Do you only have one?

An Arizona graphic designer named Paul Howalt.

What was your first release?

Joel RL Phelps & The Downer Trio (pictured below) – Inland Empires EP (12XU 001)

joel-rl-phelps-and-the-downer-trio-650x400

Were there any label(s) that inspired you to want to release records?

As I mentioned before, I’ve had a bit of experience with labels far more established than 12XU, and those experiences (good and otherwise) have been pretty educational.  But if I have to go back much, much further, certainly labels like Touch & Go, Dischord, X-Claim, Propeller, SST, Ruby, Ace Of Hearts, Teenbeat, Crypt, Siltbreeze, etc. have been influential in a number of ways.  In more recent years, there’s other labels I’d probably call more inspirational than influential, just in terms of their ability to do amazing work, set very high musical standards, etc.   I could go on for a few days but some of those that instantly come to mind are Trouble In Mind, Play Pinball, Goner, In The Red (duh), Homeless, SS, Pelican Pow Wow, Jeth Row, Douchemaster, Urinal Cake, Monofonus Press, Superior Viaduct, Dais, Mt. St. Mountain, A Wicked Company, Thread Pull… we could be here for a while

If there is one band, current or past, you could release a record by who would it be?

Y’know, I don’t wanna get into that. I feel insanely lucky and privileged to be doing records with everyone on the label past and present.  It’s always a matter of what this so-called label can do for them that either they can’t do for themselves or don’t have the resources to accomplish, it’s not about collecting scalps or whatever.   The important thing is that the records come out, sound and look right and someone can find them.  It’s not terribly important that those records are on this label—but if that has to be the way  it turns out, so be it.

What has been your best seller to date?

Spoon’s Kill The Moonlight (12XU 014), however the rights have long since reverted.  BOO HOO.

Are you a recording/touring musician yourself, and if so, do you use your label as an outlet for getting your stuff out to the public? [Austin’s Air Traffic Controllers would be Cosloy’s combo. – Ed.]

Yes/no and no.   I am a recording musician, I rarely play outside of this lovely city and no, I have another deeply pretentious, poorly distributed imprint for that stuff.

Does your label use and/or have a presence on any of the social media sites?

Yes.  I mean, you could look it up.  Sorry, Tim, this is kind of a terrible question! [Ed. note: Here, Mr. Cosloy failed (or declined) to pick up the interviewer’s ball and run with it. This is a stock question we ask each label owner in order to give them the opportunity to highlight how they use social media, if at all, to distinguish themselves from other labels—or at least how important it is for them to be constantly tweeting, “liking,” tumblng, burping, farting, etc. For the record, 12XU’s Facebook page is right here, while the label’s Twitter page is here and Tumblr page here. Below: label artist Chris Brokaw, a man who knows a thing or two about social media.]

brokaw

Is the Austin music community supportive of the label?

Ahhh, sometimes, sometimes not.  It varies from project to project.  But I honestly don’t care very much, those things only matter to me in the sense I hope the Austin-based bands feel it’s working out ok.  I really can’t get too bothered about local media stuff.

The record stores here have been awesome (End Of An Ear, Trailer Space, Waterloo) and I cannot say enough about [how] supportive some of the local club folks have been.

Beerland is probably most closely ID’d with the label given that’s where many of the bands played their earliest shows (and continue to) but I would be remiss in not acknowledging the support we’ve received from Hotel Vegas and the Transmission venues (Red 7, Mohawk), none of whom have been asked for any favors whatsoever.

Still, given that the label represents artists from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Seattle, Portland, Cleveland, Columbus, Pittsburgh, etc., I do not expect anyone in Austin to embrace 12XU as a local entity. Nor do I expect Austin to be a selling point for the Austin-based bands when they go somewhere else.  I mean, we have terrible bands here, too, just like everywhere.

Have digital sales been significant or nominal?

Depends on the release.  Usually the latter, but sometimes the former. (Below: the presumably digital-friendly Obnox.)

obnox

 

Has there actually been a vinyl resurgence the past few years?

Man, I know you’re a busy guy with a family and stuff but this cannot be a serious question.  Who could you possibly ask this question who’d say “no”? (Below: Tommy Keene, who knows a thing or two about vinyl, pictured on a 45 that the vinyl-friendly label issued.)

Tommy Keene 45

What is your personal favorite format to release music?

Probably 12″ or 7″ vinyl but I’m hearing great things about these little discs you can play in a car stereo that are really cheap.

What new(er) labels these days have captured your attention?

I probably listed a bunch above but the recent Total Punk winning streak has sort of made a mockery of anyone saying “Hey, write about my label”.

Do you accept unsolicited demos?

I prefer not to, but people usually find a way to send them, despite my best attempts to discourage.

Will there be a Casual Victim Pile III? [CVP was a series of Austin underground rock compilations assembled by Cosloy, with Vol. 1 being released on Matador in 2010 and Vol. 2 on 12XU.]

I sincerely hope not. That’s not to say there isn’t a huge crop of newer Austin bands that deserve documentation, far from it.  But I think it’s time for someone else to play favorites/inflict their tastes on the world. Don’t get me wrong, I love those compilations but I don’t feel they did nearly enough to elevate any of the participants.  Vol.1 totally got bogged down in people oohing and ahhing about it being on Matador, and while it’s nice that might’ve opened a door or two, it also created weird expectations for slower thinkers (ie. they weren’t used to listening to music that was so badly recorded).   I think Vol. 2 flowed a lot better as an album, but again, having to explain why it wasn’t on Matador seemed to take up more time than actually talking about any of the songs!

Anyhow, at this point, I think 12XU can do a lot more good by releasing full, stand-alone records by a handful of Austin bands than by trying to take another snapshot of what’s really a moving target.   But if someone else wanted to do a good Austin comp. based on their own take on things, I’d support a good one, sure.  [Below: Cosloy in Austin in 2010, as portrayed by John Anderson of the Austin Chronicle]

Gerard in Chronicle

Contact:

12XU.net

info@12XU.net [please, no demos, unsolicited MP3s, etc.]

12XU.bigcartel.com

 

15 QUESTIONS FOR… Mike Schulman of Slumberland Records

grey-logo-25

Announcing a new BLURT series in which we profile cool independent record labels. What are the criteria for inclusion in the “cool” category? Hey, ’cos we say they are cool, that’s what! We’re making the rules around here, kids. Keep your eyes peeled for the next installment, coming soon.

BY TIM HINELY

For over two decades Slumberland Records has been releasing some of the best indie rock/pop, shoegaze and dream pop. Staunchly independent, the label is—and for the most part (see first question) always has been—a one-man show by its leader, Mike Schulman. He’s gotten by the old-fashioned way, on good taste and hard work. Schulman was nice enough to answer some questions from the Slumberland HQ in sunny Oakland, CA. (Pictured below: Black Hearted Brother, whose Stars Are Our Home was released in October of 2013. L-R are Nick Holton, Neil Halstead and Mark Van Hoen. Read our interview with the band here.)

 Black Hearted Brother

BLURT: When did the label form/ what was your original inspiration?

MIKE SCHULMAN: Slumberland started in December 1989 as a collective effort by people in the bands Big Jesus Trash Can, Velocity Girl, Black Tambourine and Powderburns. We were all total novices inspired by lower east side NYC noise, No Wave, Post-Punk, K Records, Creation Records, Postcard Records, Factory, Rough Trade, William S Burroughs, Marcel Duchamp, The Jesus And Mary Chain, etc. etc. Most of us had never even picked up an instrument before starting the aforementioned bands, but were fired up enough by the fertile mid-‘80s DIY scene to give it a shot. After playing local shows and getting a bit better established it made sense to document what we were doing, and hence Slumberland.

Who designed your logo? Do you only have one?

The current logo was designed by Crayola from Sarandon. We’ve gone through at least 5 or 6 logos over the years; Crayola’s is probably our longest lived at this point.

What was your first release?

A 3 band compilation 7” called “What Kind of Heaven Do You Want?” It featured one song each from Velocity Girl, Powderburns and Black Tambourine. All recorded on 4-track, lo-fi sludgy noise. The engineer at the studio that we went to to mix onto DAT thought we were insane.

Were there any label(s) that inspired you to want to release records?

Definitely: K, Postcard, Rough Trade, Fast Product, Creation, Sarah, Factory, Flying Nun.

What difficulties did you realize come with running a label?

Getting people to pay attention, to take us seriously, to actually buy the releases. Honestly, none of that has changed at all in the last 25 years. It’s still a real challenge. (Below: Withered Hand’s Dan Willson and Pam Berry, whose New Gods album is released March 25.)

 Withered Hand by Pierre Antone

If there is one band, current or past, you could release a record by, who would it be?

Saint Etienne.

What has been your best seller to date?

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart’s first album.

Are you a recording/touring musician yourself, and if so, do you use your label as an outlet for getting your stuff out to the public?

Yes and yes, but I always feel a bit weird about it. I’m not a very serious musician, so I feel sort of guilty spending resources on my own bands.

What are your thoughts on having a presence at the major conventions like SXSW, CMJ, etc.? Have you done them before and if not, would you like to?

I have done them on and off over the years. To be honest I don’t think they’re that useful unless you already have a buzz for the bands. There’s just too much going on simultaneously and too much competition. For a label the size of Slumberland, it’s rarely worth the expense.

Does your label use and/or have a presence on any of the social media sites?

Yep, we’re quite active on Facebook and Twitter. It’s one of the few even semi-reliable ways we have of communicating with the fans at this point. (Below: Terry Malts, whose Nobody Realizes This Is Nowhere album was released in September of 2013. L-R is Nathan Sweatt, Philip Benson, Corey Cunningham)

 TerryMaltsPress01-Web

Have digital sales been significant or nominal?

For the bigger selling titles the digital sales can be significant, but for the most part Slumberland fans are still more interested in physical media.

What are your feelings on vinyl? Have you always offered your releases on vinyl?

Vinyl is and always been our primary interest, and I’m quite proud to say that unlike almost all of our peer labels we never stopped releasing LPs. It’s been quite gratifying to see interest in vinyl bouncing back, though it’s anyone’s guess how long the bump will last.

What is your personal favorite format to release music?

7” single, which sadly is all but dead.

What new(er) labels these days have captured your attention?

To be honest most of the labels that I follow are on the dance music side of things: Wild Oats, Sound Signature, KDJ/Mahogani, Perlon, Sushitech, FXHE. When it comes to rock stuff there are definitely individual bands that I really like, but they tend to be scattered across a bunch of different labels.

Do you accept unsolicited demos?

I do, but with the caveat that we’re a very small label and almost never pick up new bands based on demos. I think a lot of people imagine that since we’ve been around as long as we have and have had some success that we’re some sort of cash-generating mini-major just looking for ways to keep the money moving around, but in reality we’re just a one-man show, hustling to keep things going in a challenging and saturated market. (Below: Tony Molina, whose Dissed and Dismissed album is due March 25.)

 Tony Molina

***

CONTACT INFO:

Slumberland

PO Box 19029 Oakland, CA 94619

URL: www.slumberlandrecords.com

Email: slr@slumberlandrecords.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/SlumberlandRecords

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SlumberlandRecs