Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Labeled - Fort Lowell Records' James Tritten

We've known Jimmy for what seems like forever. he's one of these guys you don't envy, but definitely got a little bit of the jealousy for. He used to book bands (Candy Gram Booking). He was in an awesome band (Audio Explorations... check out the sonic Florida summer that is Ginnie Springs). he's married to a beautiful and awesome musician (Tracy Shedd. And that line from High Fidelity about being married to a musician is totally true. You want that life).

So when Jimmy (or James... who the hell calls him James?) said he was starting a label, one that only did 7 inch singles no doubt, I felt that little twinge. But mostly I was excited. Cos everything this guy does is cool.

We Singled Out Fort Lowell Records first release a few days ago. Young Mothers is good. And for $5 you should totally order one. The best damn podcast in the entire world, Shifted Sound, played the awesome B-Side Good Swords on Episode 194

Jimmy was kind enough to answer some questions about Fort Lowell Records for us, which again, was very awesome. You gotta love this guy. But you will definitely love the music his label is putting out.

Pre-Order FLR001 and check out the rest of the Fort Lowell Roster

Name and age: James Tritten, 34
Title: El PatrĂ³n
Location: Tucson AZ
Years running: 0.25 Years

Shimmy Shake: So how did this all start?

During the first weekend of December 2009, I was home sick all weekend, which actually ended up extending into having to call off of work on the following Monday. Most people in the world are able to curl up in bed, zoning out to the television or a movie when they are sick. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective), I don't own a television, so I curl up on the couch and zone out to music. Something came over me to dive into my 7inch collection, pulling from collections of Sarah Records, Figurehead, Pop Narchotics, SpinArt, Decorder Ring Records, and some favorite bands from back east like Common Thread, Jennyanykind, The Damnbuilders, and Charlene. It quickly rekindled my old passion for 7inch records, and memories like when I used to take weekend drives from Jacksonville to Orlando, FL, to go shopping at Bad Moon Records. They always seemed to have the best 7inch records to offer.

There was a time in the early-mid '90s when having a 7inch record out was a really big thing for a young band. In fact, it was a goal that most of us would strive for. It dawned on me that this had gone away on some levels in the music community. I am not saying the 7inch record is dead, because I have been buying them for all of these years since. But that desire to have a 7inch record released for a young band seems to have gone away on some levels. At least in Tucson, AZ, there are very very few bands that have 7inch records out, and no one seems to be pushing to get bands released on 7inch records, or vinyl at that. So, I figured this would be a great way for me to give back to the city of Tucson.

Shake: What's the genesis behind Fort Lowell Records?

Tritten: My wife and I moved to Tucson, AZ, back in 2006. We fell in love with the community here because of how supportive it is of the arts. There is so much activity and support; you sometimes feel you are living in a big city. However, everyone knows everyone, which keep things closely connected like a small town. In many ways, it is truly the best of both worlds.

Tucson is very proud and supportive of Tucson, and for good reasons. There are a lot of great artists, musicians, people, and just things in general happening here in Tucson. I have had it in mind for the past three years that I wanted to do more to give back to the community. So, that weekend in December as I was trying to regain my health as I listened through my own record collection, the idea of Fort Lowell Records came to me and all of a sudden I knew my place in this city. I have always had friends tell me I need to do something that introduced others to new music. I have thought about opening a record store many times. I have thought about DJing at a club or radio station. Heck, I used to be a booking agent and put young bands on the road for others to learn about them. But this idea makes the most sense to me. I love vinyl records, I love music, and I love Tucson!

Shake: Where did the name come from?

Tritten: Fort Lowell is an area of Tucson that I like quite a bit. It was actually an old Army post in an area that was once considered outside the city. These days, Tucson has expanded so much that Fort Lowell is actually now part of the central district. There is a beautiful park around the old fort, and the historic buildings with original adobe are completely unlike any other historic area I have seen before (coming from the East Coast). I also wanted to give some sort of reference to Tucson with the name, and the idea of Cactus Records just made me laugh too hard. Fort Lowell itself was used more for providing supplies and support to others, which is what I see Fort Lowell Records doing for the music community.

Shake: What's your mission/belief statement?

Tritten: Music sounds better 7 inches at a time.

Shake: What do you hope to accomplish?

Tritten: I want to document what is going on here in Tucson and show it to the world. There are a lot of great artists in the city of Tucson, but more importantly, there is a great community here. Those who have been to Tucson know it and understand it. But unfortunately, Tucson is a little out of the way for everyone to come visit and learn about our great city. Fort Lowell Records will make the great music of Tucson available for everyone to experience without having to leave their living room, or car, or desk, or wherever they choose to listen to music.

I want to create great art and design with Fort Lowell Records. I am extremely particular with this, especially with records. Some of my favorite artwork for records has been with Command Records and Blue Note Records. I love the fact that you can honestly pick up any record on either of those labels, and you know what label it is on without having to look. That is branding; that is style. 4AD is the same way. This is a goal of mine with Fort Lowell Records.

To achieve this, I decided I needed to find one photographer for myself to work with for all artwork. I personally will be managing the graphic design for each release, which will begin to keep the look very similar. Alaina Brownell, a local photographer from Tucson, has signed on as our official photographer. We will be using her imagery for all releases, establishing the similarity between each release that I am looking for. Alaina's style of photography goes hand in hand with my style of design. I also love the fact that she is a Tucson native, and she only works with film... "analog photos!" This is very appropriate for a Tucson-based vinyl-only record label!

A close friend, Loreto Echevarria, who is a local fashion stylist here in Tucson, introduced Alaina to me. We have also decided to bring Loreto on board with Fort Lowell Records as well, to help coordinate the selection of photographic imagery with each release. Loreto's energy really contributes to the creative process. In addition, her and Alaina's friendship, along with our artists and myself, has already established a family element to Fort Lowell that I was hoping for.

I personally reached out to clamdiggin, simply for admiration of what they do. They are a design company that produces their own clothing, posters, artwork, personal accessories, etc. They work with Urban Outfitters on various projects, as well as host their own art openings from time to time for their own work. I simply offered clamdiggin the opportunity to manage the artwork for the B-side label on the vinyl record itself for each release. I gave them full control over this because I trust and believe in them. I want to promote what they are doing and give them another outlet to do more. I simply love their work, and I am proud to have them as part of the Fort Lowell Family.

Lastly... I simply want more vinyl to be produced in the world, especially to be a part of my own personal record collection, so... I figured I would just put it out there myself!

Shake: Why only vinyl?

Tritten: The act of listening to a vinyl record is an interactive experience and it does not allow for the music to simply be background ambiance. The limited time length causes the artist to truly focus on the arrangement of their music, and what songs work best together and fit on each side. In the case with 7inch records, the focus is even tighter, limiting the artist to only one or two songs per side, as well as the traditional emphasis on side A being the "hit" and side B being the "left over" track. I also find that the warmth of a vinyl adds a mysterious third party production element that is a final touch of magic to a record that the artists, engineers, or producer can't replicate. Lastly, the large format art work is much more complimenting to all of the hard work that went into writing and recording the music within. Vinyl records are a work of art, and anyone that appreciates music as art, and not just something to fill a silence, understands the significance of everything that vinyl records represent.

Shake: What do I need to know about vinyl before digging in?

Tritten: I think the only thing to truly worry about is that your electric bill has been paid in full so your turntable will work! :)

Seriously, there really isn't anything to "know" that will keep you from enjoying records. One of my favorite things to do is buy a record from a band that I have never heard of. This really puts the emphasis on the overall vinyl packaging itself, which can be very rewarding. I personally have a tremendous amount of respect for packaging. I have been introduced to new sounds / new music many times with records that I normally would not have thought to buy, just because of their packaging. I remember a Bluetip 7inch from Dischord Records (No.111) I bought in 1998 just because of the beautiful blue vinyl and the vellum packaging. I kind of knew what to expect since it was on Dischord, which was not a label I frequently bought from back then, but then fell in love because of the entire experience with the release. I guess I would advise that you go into purchasing records with an open mind. Sometimes it is not just about the music, and that is okay. You may find yourself appreciating a new sound because of other elements of the release that attracted you. That is one of my favorite experiences with vinyl records.

Shake: What's the deal with the weights and colors?

Tritten: There is a school of thought that the colored vinyl is actually not as good of a quality as the black. I honestly don't know the answer to this, nor do I really care. In fact, I am always more excited when I get a record on colored vinyl. It adds to the overall excitement, presenting an attention to detail that you can't experience with any other form of release. As for the weight, heavier is better, but it would not stop me from buying a record if it was not released on a heavier weight vinyl. I have seen some record labels actually give options of different weights with a release. When this is the case, I would recommend going for the heavier weight. But I have also seen where they give options of heavier weight or colored, and in that case... I would go for the colored!

Shake: Young Mothers sound fantastic. What sound are you looking for?

Tritten: I am more interested in documenting the scene of Tucson than a particular sound. I suppose overall I want to stay near by the Indie Rock/Pop sound, but I am open to almost anything. The music does need to hit me, though. I do need to actually like what the band is doing. But fortunately, I like a lot of different styles of music, and different sounds. That is another goal for Fort Lowell Records: to introduce people to new styles of music they had never heard of. I feel there are a lot of great styles of music being represented in Tucson that not everyone is aware of. Someone may decide they like the first few releases from Fort Lowell Records and want to start buying everything in the catalog. Somewhere down the line, I may choose to put out something that is much harder in style than previously releases, and that record alone could end up introducing that listener to something that would not have normally invested in; much like the Bluetip record for myself back in 1998.

Shake: What are some other bands on the horizon?

Tritten: FLR002 (Fort Lowell Records #2) is going to be with a band called ...music video? (their name includes the "..." and the "?"). ...music video? is about to put out their third full length album, and I thought it would be a great compliment to have a 7inch record go along with the full length. Fort Lowell is not involved in releasing the full length, but we are releasing the first single from their new records, called "I'm Afraid of Everything." It is a sweet jam with a killer beat! It is the kind of song that is going to get the kids off their seats and onto the dance floor! I frequently put it on early in the morning when I am ironing my clothes and dance around the living room listening to it! And the best part is, the B-side does not stop! It too has an infectious groove!

Young Mothers, who will be the first release for Fort Lowell, has decided to use the 7inch to release two exclusive tracks. They too have a new release of their own coming out that coincides with the 7inch. Young Mothers' front man, Zach Toporek, told me the 7inch record release came at a good time for them. They had a handful of songs they were going to record, and out of those songs two of them just did not fit with the others for their EP. Zach came to our home to demo the two songs, "Come On, The Cross" and "Good Swords," for my wife and I, solo acoustic. We all agreed immediately that these songs from Young Mothers would be perfect for a 7inch Record, and for the first Fort Lowell Records release. The music is already at the manufacturer, and the test pressing should be arriving in a few weeks. We all can't wait to get this out!

In addition to Young Mothers and ...music video?, I knew that I wanted to include Tracy Shedd with the Fort Lowell Records family. When her best friend, Emily Wilder (cover star of Tracy Shedd's last Teenbeat album, Cigarettes & Smoke Machines, and director of the latest music video for Tracy Shedd's song "City At Night" from her new release on Eskimo Kiss Records called EP88), gave us a copy of her new band, Wet & Reckless. Immediately, we knew that Tracy Shedd and Wet & Reckless needed to do some sort of split release together in the future. So when the idea of starting Fort Lowell Records came about, we immediately decided that Fort Lowell would be the ones to release this split. Tracy and Emily have been collaborating together for many years with their art, and we are very excited to make this release part of the Fort Lowell catalog.

Other than that, I am actively listening to bands around Tucson and going to see as many of their live shows as possible. However, being that Fort Lowell is a 'Record' Label, even if I am excited about the band's live performance, their recordings need to capture my attention as well. I am very happy with the opening line up for Fort Lowell Records, so I need to direct my immediate attention toward getting these records out first. There are plenty of great bands in Tucson to work with, and if I could release everyone of them, I would. So, spread the word about Fort Lowell and help us sell these records. The faster we sell the first few releases, the fast we will start putting more out. The more records we can sell, the more bands we can support. It's that simple.

Shake: What are some of your favorite recent releases?

Tritten: I just discovered another new Vinyl Only Label, Us Two Records from Dallas, TX. Alan and John are focused toward putting out splits with various bands. Their first release is with El Paso Hot Button and Lipstick Terror, and I love it! It is a great package altogether, and the music is alive and fresh. Us Two Records' release drove me to purchase El Paso Hot Button's full length, and now they are one of my favorite bands out now. I also recently discovered the label True Panther Sounds, and immediately fell in love with the band Girls and their new album called Album. I am very impressed with the new Fever Ray record, as well as Fin Fang Foom and Mercury Program (both on Lovitt Records). The Flaming Lips' album Embryonic is also a very impressive package; Double Colored Vinyl, one Blue, one Yellow. Japandroids is a great new duet that I am in love with! They are actually about to release a series of limited 7inch Records, rather than a new album. I have already pre-ordered the first one!

Shake: What's an album you find yourself always going back to?

Tritten: Sunday Puncher - For Your Everchanging World (Turnbuckle Records). It's everything I ever wanted in a record. It's thought provoking. It's challenging. It's unique and fresh. There is a passion in the performance you don't often hear / feel. When I am at my lowest point, it's the record I like to put on to pull me out of my whole. When I am at my highest point, it's the record I put on to celebrate. If there were a dream record for me to put out, it would sound like this one.

Shake: Where do you see FLR in 1 year? 5 years?

One year: I would like to have four records released by the end of 2010. I believe this is possible. It will take the support of others to make this happen, but I believe there are enough people excited about Fort Lowell Records and Tucson, AZ, to do so.

Five years: My goal is to be able to release one record a month. At this time, I really do want to keep with 7inch records only, and twelve in a year seems like a reasonable achievement. I have also had thoughts of releasing a series of split 7inch records with one Tucson band, and one national band. I would like to get involved with hosting CMJ or SXSW Showcases for Fort Lowell artists, something I was successful with when I was a booking agent. There are so many possibilities. For now, I will simply be excited to get through the first year.

Monday, March 29, 2010

What We're Listening To - The Bird and Bee's Interpreting the Masters Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates

An album of Hall and Oates covers, synth jazzed out.

There is simply no selling or categorizing this album. It is one where either you're repulsed and won't listen, or find the idea so corny you feel compelled to pick it up. Trust me, pick this up.

I don't even know if Daryl Hall and John Oates are worthy of having their music lovingly and appreciatively covered, but if they do, The Bird and The Bee did it.

Inara George and Greg Kurstin, as they did on their s/t debut and Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future, are making music that is loungey and nice. Indie pop for your mom and dad.

But an entire album of Hall and Oates? The beauty is that you know these songs, so they're comforting in that sense. You immediately sing along. Kurstin never wanders too far from the original music. But it's George's voice. It's jazzy and soulful, breathing some new life into Sarah Smile, turning it into an amazing song. She sounds like a direct descendant of Bonnie Rait and Annie Lenox. You can see why Blue Note signed them. She might be on the sidelines, but she's a direct fit at their roster.

All the H&O favorites are here, and you won't be disappointed. Maneater, Private Eyes, Kiss on My List, Rich Girl. And instead of being karaoke, Kurstin and George were very deliberate. There's no snickering, or oversinging. No kitsch.

Not sure if I'd call Hall and Oates masters. But Interpreting The Masters is a lot of great fun. Here's hoping Volume 2 will keep that spirit alive and is better than some other Volume 2's released last week.

Buy The Bird and Bee's Interpreting the Masters Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Say hello to Tim...

I was hoping to introduce Tim before he started posting, but that's why I gave him the keys to the place.

Tim and I work together, and have developed a decent bon homie over the past year. He's got the same kind of wicked humor, and likes even more jacked up music than I do.

He also doesn't pull any punches, as you can tell with the She & Him review (which I pretty much agree with. I'm pretty sure Ben Gibbard is going to beat him up for that).

If you're on Twitter (and seriously, at this point why aren't you?) you can follow Tim @timtalksnow. Or check ou this blog, Tim Talks Now.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

An Uneasy Feeling: She & Him Volume 2

She and Him, a musical collaboration between Indie-Folk artist M. Ward and singer/actress Zooey Deschanel (The Happening, 500 Days of Summer), are expected to release their second album on March 23rd on Merge Records. It is aptly titled "Volume 2". I never got a chance to listen to "Volume 1", but decided to give this album a whirl when I saw NPR was previewing the album before its release (Check it out here: http://bit.ly/cYMi3S if you're interested in hurting your ears).

Yes. You heard me correctly. This album is painful on the ears. And it also pains me to hear an artist that I enjoy a lot, M. Ward, get mixed up with this Zooey woman. She appears to be a bad influence. The third track, "Don't Look Back", (and pretty much most of the album) sounds like a satire of the all-girl groups from the mid-60's. Except, instead of being a satire, I think we are supposed to be taking this stuff seriously. Note the following lyrics:

"Don't look back - all you'll ever get is the dust from the steps before - I don't have to see you every day, but I just want to know you're there."

I don't have to see you every day, but I just want to know you're there. Awww....how cute! Except it's not. It is hard to take it seriously. Especially when the next song is a cover of NRBQ's "Ridin' In My Car", with lyrics like this:

"And I can't find no true love oh baby it's so hard - and I still think about you every time I'm ridin' in my car."

When you're tossing stuff like "true love", "riding in cars", and "making romance" around, it reduces the credibility of the songs. At times, I thought some of the songs were takes that were too poor to make it onto the Dirty Dancing sound track.

I would highly recommend that you stay very far away from this album, unless you need something to annoy someone else. For example, I was previewing this album the other day for this review, and my wife came in the room, and remarked curtly: "What the heck are you listening to?"

Fuck Spotify

Maybe this is cranky old man talking, maybe it's last night's bourbon.

But fuck Spotify.

And I mean that in the nicest way possible.

Spotify is a European only streaming music service that allows you access to an unlimited stream of ad supported music. You can subscribe and get some sort of iPhone/Android app to listen to off line. And of course, if you like it, you can buy it.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - streaming music is bad for musicians, both financially and artistically. It promotes a singles driven culture, and the royalties you reap (especially independent artists) are very minor.

The problem is that there is no value on content (same thing for newspapers and print media online). And if the consumer doesn't value it, then he'll never give you any money for it.

The big four record companies (who all own a stake in Spotify in exchange for access to their catalog) haven't quite figured out that their sales keep dropping because they put less and less value on their content.

Spotify is just quicking their death. Don't buy in.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Singled Out - FLR001 Young Mothers 7"

Will 2010 be the year we see a revival of the seven inch? God, I hope so.

Is there a more perfect, innovative way to distribute singles, pay artists, and keep people excited about music? Little Skittle-colored pieces of viynl, just brimming with one or two songs. More real than a digital download, it puts real dollars into artists pockets. They're cheap to produce, and if you've spent $5 on a 7in and it sucks, you don't feel like you've lost anything.

Indeed, the money you'll spend on Ft Lowell Records first 7 inch release from Phoenix band Young Mothers, is totally worth it.

With just two songs, you've got to come hard and impress. The first song "Come On, The Cross" is a strong indie pop effort. Multi harmonies, jangly guitars. Kind of reminds me of Weezer (early) or The Decemberists (but with out all that Decembereists weirdness). A wandering coworker said it reminded him of Modest Mouse. So there ya go.

The second, Good Swords, is a slower, more barebones affair. And though I'll probably regret this later, it reminds me of Versus in their more tender softer moments. It's beautiful and serene.

There's plenty of Young Mothers work in iTunes, but I'd wait until April 17 to pick this up. I'm sure the good folks at Ft Lowell will be tossing in some extra goodies with this first release.
For purchase and release information, see: