Monday, 19 April 2010
10:09 | Posted by Then God Is 7 | Edit Post
There's nothing as exciting as seeing how something you've been working for a while is finally taking place and seeing the public light. I imagine it's like giving birth. This is how James Tritten must feel like these days. His new label, Fort Lowell Records has just released its first single after some months of hard work, preparation and love for what he's doing. I've been in contact with him for a while now thanks to this blog and he's a passionate and nice guy who's so excited with what he's doing, completely for the sake of art, and that's what moved me to make the first ever interview for this blog about how's everything going for his label and the vicissitudes of creating a DIY record label. Here it goes:
What moved you to set up a record label?
My life has been involved with music for the past nineteen years. I have been playing in a band, with my now wife, in clubs/bars since I was sixteen years old. I remember saying to myself back then, “When I turn thirty, if I am not making a living off of music, I am going to quit.” That was to be my deadline. In 2004, when I was 29 years old, I went on my last US tour with Tracy Shedd (Teenbeat Records). Unfortunately, I did not come home making money and was still adding to debt that had began when I was able to apply for my first credit card. So, I quit, as I said I would do.
I not only quit playing music, but I also closed shop on a booking agency I was running, Candy Gram Booking. I pretty much cut all ties with the music industry except purchasing music/records; something I don’t believe I will ever quit doing. After one year, my life went completely down the drain, worse off than anything I would have ever imagined. When I was able to get my head above water for a brief moment to breathe, I came to realize that I was not longer living “my life,” a life of music.
After that realization, I started playing guitar for Tracy Shedd again, and decided to start up a record label, something I feel will be more manageable than a booking agency. I want to give others the same experiences I have been blessed with. I want to ensure that other people like me that live a life of music get the opportunity to continue to do just that, and have someone there to motivate them to never stop.
Tucson is a beautiful community with a lot of love and support for its talent. I saw an opportunity to help some of my favorite Tucson musicians by starting a label and using my resources to help make their music available for others to enjoy. I also want to help in populating the world with more vinyl records, a medium I am very passionate about for music and art. 7inch records, in particular, are a medium that not everyone quite understands the benefit of. They provide the listener more direct focus on the song and are inexpensive to produce, making it easier for the band and record label to get more music out to the listeners.
Have you work in one before?
No. The only business close to a record label that I have run before (or worked for) was my booking agency. Both are part of the music industry and share a common goal to promote band, but otherwise are not run the same way. The technical daily operational aspects of each business are completely different.
I am finding that I am pulling knowledge from previous experience working with record labels from being in Tracy Shedd's band (Teenbeat Records, Devil In The Woods, and Eskimo Kiss Records), and my old band Audio Explorations, that worked with Eskimo Kiss Records and Stripmine Records. Both of those bands have provided me with enough experience that I felt I had a clear understanding of where to start.
The rest of my experience is simply learned as I go, something I was very clear with Young Mothers when I first spoke with Zach Toporek about working together. I wanted him to know that I had never done this before and I was sure I would mess something up. Zach understood, and I think it has been a pretty painless (hopefully enjoyable) experience for them so far.
How do you approach the bands?
Tracy Shedd had played a show with Young Mothers back in 2009. We simply fell in love with them, declaring them the best band in Tucson. When this idea of a label came about, it was pretty much a no-brainer as to who I would work with first. I made a conscious decision to not put out Tracy Shedd (my wife) first. I knew I would at some point, but it was very import to me that the music community see Fort Lowell Records as something of its own, and not just another project for me to promote Tracy Shedd.
Young Mothers were exactly what I was looking for: young, motivated, energetic, respectful, and simply great at what they do. Obviously, I have to be a fan of the band I want to put out. In fact, I feel I should be close to their biggest fan… otherwise, why would I want to work as hard as I know I am about to for them?
I don’t feel bands understand what it takes to run a label, even a 7inch Label. I have totally lost all personal time with my wife and with my own interests in life. So when a band asks me if I would be willing to put a record out for them, they are truly saying to me, “We deserve more of your time than your wife does,” which is a bold statement to make! Not to mention, the money that started Fort Lowell Records came out of my personal wallet /debt, so they should toss in, “We also feel that we are more important than you having money to put food on your table!”
For me, Young Mothers, …music video?, Tracy Shedd (obviously), and Wet & Reckless are just that… more important to me than my own personal needs and wants. Ask my wife: I have literally sacrificed meals and clothing to make something happen for Fort Lowell Records. So this is what I look for when I approach a band. They have to be that important to me.
As for “how do I approach them,” I think what is most important to understand is that I have to be the one to approach them, not them approaching me. After all of these years of being in a band and wondering why a certain label would not put out my music, I finally get it now. If a band wants a label to be completely supportive of what they are doing, then they should want the label to contact them, not the other way around. I understand there are some cases where a label would need to be introduced to a band, but I think it is important that the label feel they discovered the band. It’s like love at first sight, but in this case it is "listen.' I approach the bands how I would have approached a girl back in high school.
What are the basic steps to follow to set up a label?
First and foremost, as I said earlier… be in love with the bands you are going to work with. You must feel that they are the greatest thing to walk the earth, because you are going to end up working so hard for them; it’s got to be worth it.
Second, if money is something you are trying to get by starting up a label: stop. I am sure on some level there is money to be made with running a record label, but that should not be why you are doing it. I was watching how much money my wife and I were spending on paintings for our house, supporting artists. I love having original artwork in our home, and I don’t mind spending the money to support artists, but the truth is the art itself is only inspirational to Tracy and I, and anyone else who comes to our house and can learn about each piece. With 7inch Records, I am spending about the same amount of money for one release as I would have spent on a painting, and I am able to share the inspiration with an infinite amount of people all over the entire world.
I would also recommend that you surround yourself with inspiring and motivating people, from the bands themselves to others that may help you run the label or take part on some level. Fort Lowell Records has taken so much energy to get started, and there is no way I could have done it without the help of my wife and friends. It makes each record a release for more than just the band to celebrate; everyone involved with Fort Lowell Records feels each record is their own personal release, and truly it is.
What are the next releases planned?
Young Mothers “Come On, The Cross” is the first 7inch record we have coming out. That is due out April 20, 2010, and will be on green vinyl. Our second 7inch, on clear \vinyl, is going to be for …music video?, for the song “I’m Afraid Of Everything.” It is a sweet slow-jam that is simply irresistible. …music video?’s 7inch is due out July 13, 2010.
About the same time I started up Fort Lowell Records, our close friends Wet & Reckless were just starting to release demos of their music. Their bassist, Jessica, is from Tucson, but the band currently lives in Los Angeles. I struggled for a bit of time with the idea of doing a record with them, because I really did want this to be a Tucson-only label. After listening to the demos for about a month, I simply could not resist wanting to put out a record with them; I love what they are doing. Jessica’s connection to Tucson was enough for me, but we did decide that doing a split with Tracy Shedd would help support the direction I wanted to keep Fort Lowell Records going. Besides, Tracy and Emily Wilder, guitarist and vocalist for Wet & Reckless, have been best friends for as long as I have known Tracy. They have done many projects together, so this simply made sense to have both bands together for our third release.
Past that, I have some ideas but nothing written in stone (or that I am willing to allow to be published at this time… HA!). I have personally invested enough money to get the first three records out. Now, it is up to the community to decide if Fort Lowell Records will release anything past that. I am not taking any money back from my initial investment, so every dollar that is generated from sales will simply go back into Fort Lowell Records to fund more releases for more bands. I would love to see my future ideas come to life, so let’s hope we are able to draw up enough support to keep this thing going. There are a lot more great bands in Tucson that I would love to help out. So, if you see me advertise a FLR004… then you know something worked!
So yes, I'm definitely looking forward seeing the FLR004 anytime soon as it would mean everything worked out fine. Meanwhile here you have a song from their first release out tomorrow, the Tucson band Young Mothers, who self-released their first album Arts & Crafts a while ago and perform classic American indie-rock close to Buffalo Tom or Clem Snide. Enjoy the mp3 and get the vinyl here.
Young Mothers - Good Swords.mp3