An independent record label, releasing damn good music since 2010
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Saturday, September 18, 2010


Fort Lowell Records showcase
A Q&A with the founder of the vinyl-only Tucson label in advance of its Sept. 25 party

By Billups Allen
Originally posted by Metromix
on September 17, 2010

As good records have found their way almost completely out of thrift stores and onto eBay, there seems to be a newfound interest in vinyl collecting.

While some die-hard record labels weathered the vinyl slump, there is a need for a new generation of labels. Fort Lowell Records is a new label in Tucson dedicated to releasing singles. Label patron James Tritten is taking on the old-style method of running a label by arranging shows, self-distributing product and promoting the bands. It is an uphill climb, but with Fort Lowell’s third release—a split 7-inch with local Tracy Shedd and L.A.'s Wet & Reckless—being celebrated on Sept. 25 Sky Bar, there is hope that music can still be hustled off the computer screen.

Many of your releases are bands are from Tucson. Is it part of your mission to document music from the area?
Fort Lowell Records was started with a mission to release music by bands that have roots with Tucson.  So far, all of the bands, with the exception of Wet & Reckless, currently live in Tucson. Wet & Reckless live in Los Angeles, but have ties back to Tucson. This town generates some of the best music I have heard in a long time, and from many different genres. I want to try and document as much of it as possible and share with the world. People need to know what is happening here. 

Do you feel like you are going to focus on documenting a certain genre?
My personal interests lie mostly with indie pop/rock, but that does not mean I am not open to ideas. I collect a lot of music from hip-hop to classical to country. As long as it is something I would have bought in the store, then I would consider putting it out on Fort Lowell Records.

I have explained this to many bands before... deciding what bands I want to release is really no different then buying music in a record shop. The money is extremely limited with Fort Lowell Records, so I honestly can’t release everything I would want to. Imagine if you had $20 to buy new music, but there were over 200 different records you want to purchase. That is the feeling I have with trying to decide what record will come out next.

Fort Lowell Records is run as a non-profit. I personally invested the money to start the project, and I don’t ever intend to take money out. All of the money made from the sales of the 7-inches simply goes back into Fort Lowell Records to continue putting out more and more music. There are a lot of bands from a lot of genres that have asked to work with me that want to release a 7-inch record. It is very simple... the more support we can receive from the community with purchasing our records, the more support Fort Lowell Records will give back to supporting more and more bands. I would love to see this project grow to be able to support different genres of music outside of indie pop/rock.

What inspired you to start an all-vinyl record label?
I personally only buy music on vinyl, so I honestly can’t imagine releasing music via any other format. We do make all Fort Lowell Records music available through digital distribution, reaching outlets like iTunes, Amazon, eMusic, etc. I understand that there are listeners who prefer collecting music on a digital format, and because there is no cost to us to make this possible for them, we’ve made that available. In addition to the vinyl records, each 7-inch comes with a digital download of the music, so you can listen to your -7inch at home and take the MP3s of the music with you on the go.

For me, vinyl is music and music is vinyl. I’ve been collecting vinyl records since 1994, when I purchased Stereolab’s single “Ping Pong” on 7-inch. I owned the same recording on CD, and when I first heard it on vinyl, it became an entirely new experience. I had owned plenty on vinyl records before that, but never had been able to A/B compare the same song. There was much more of an honest presentation to the music. It was warm, alive, and able to breath on it’s own. I’ve been listening to music on vinyl ever since.

As a musician, I felt my own music deserved the respect that a vinyl record lends to the music.

It’s nice to see your records are getting into stores all over town. Are you doing a lot of hands on distribution?
When I began Fort Lowell Records, I agonized over getting distribution. This is the main advantage for a band to work with a record label. Because Fort Lowell Records is focused on a single community, Tucson, I felt the only way to handle the distribution within the city was in person.

Building relationships with each vendor is extremely important to me. I want them to feel a part of what we are doing. I love going into Bookman’s on Grant and seeing how excited Scott (Landrum) gets I come in, or watching Tasha (Sabatino) at Mast proudly place the new 7-inch on their record player for their customers to enjoy, or reading the weekly report from Bill (Sassenberger) at Toxic Ranch showing what ranking our records are in his Top 10 Best Sellers report. We’ve extended the love to our neighbors to the north in Phoenix, and they are equally as engaged in what we are doing here in Tucson.   

I notice on your website that you seem to be taking on a lot of extra responsibility in the form of putting on shows and doing grass roots promotion for your bands, whereas a lot of labels don’t seem to be doing that sort of thing. Are you using any labels you are a fan of as a model for this dynamic? 
Teenbeat (Records). In 1999, my wife, Tracy Shedd, and I met Mark Robinson, owner of Teenbeat. He became a fan of her music immediately, and asked to release her music on his label. From that point forward, Mark gave a lot of support to Tracy with her music career, more than simply making her music available to the public. I learned a lot with how to run a record label from her time spent with Teenbeat, and have great admiration for what Mark has done with his label in the past 25 years.

I look to create opportunities for the bands and the record label to simply have fun and share experiences together. At the end of the day, that is why I am doing what I am doing ... to have fun. I certainly don’t want to put all of this effort into Fort Lowell Records just to create work for myself; I want to have fun. I love doing the DJ nights with The Vinyl Baron, where the bands themselves join her at Hotel Congress to DJ their own favorite music the week of their 7-inch release. I am also looking forward to the showcase at Sky Bar on Sept. 25 in Tucson, as well as the one at The Compound on Oct. 2 in Phoenix, where all of our bands will be playing together on the same night.


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