Independent Record Label | Est. 2009
Wilmington, North Carolina



Saturday, December 16, 2023

Pressing Concerns: Common Thread – Fountain (30th Anniversary)

Release date:
 December 8th
Record label: Fort Lowell
Genre: Noise rock, shoegaze, 90s indie rock, post-punk
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull Track: Template

This year, Wilmington, North Carolina’s Fort Lowell Records have put out new music from a couple of longtime indie rockers in 
James Sardone and Summer Set, but for their final release of 2023, they’ve gone even further and grabbed a lost southeastern-U.S. indie rock record to hoist from relative obscurity in Common Thread’s Fountain. Common Thread originated in the late 1980s in the suburbs of Jacksonville, Florida, putting out Six Marbles and a Bowl of Mud in 1990 and following it up with Fountain, released only on cassette, in 1993. The band–guitarists Joe Parker and Travis Taylor, bassist Joey Zimmerman, and drummer Craig Parlet–toured the East Coast extensively, making an impression on the co-founders of Fort Lowell Records with their noisy but melodic mix of 1980s post-punk, noise rock, and shoegaze. The label’s James Tritten and Tracy Shedd have made it clear that this reissue campaign is especially personal for them–but, as someone who hadn’t heard of Common Thread at all before this year, I can confidently say that one didn’t have to “be there” at the time to appreciate their sophomore album. 

Last month, I wrote about 
The Veldt, another band who was making loud, layered indie rock at the same time in the same part of the country. It’s enough to suggest that the American Southeast is an underappreciated part of this era of underground music–not the least of which is because Fountain sounds so different from The Veldt’s Cocteau Twins-indebted sound. Common Thread were certainly influenced by Sonic Youth, as they had a similar attitude with regards to wringing noise out of their guitars, but they also brought a British sense of dour melody to their music that Parker, Taylor, and Zimmerman (all singers and songwriters) hid underneath their instruments. At the same time, the prominent, rumbling bass that marks songs like “Sesame” and “Digit” feels very American noise rock–coupled with Parlet’s tireless drumming, Common Thread boasted a rhythm section that a lot of contemporary “amplifier worship” guitar-heavy bands didn’t really have. Fitting of a band with three different leaders, Fountain feels like a lot–it’s absolutely a statement worth shining some more light on after three decades. (Bandcamp link)

Friday, December 8, 2023

OUT NOW: Common Thread 'Fountain' 30th Anniversary Edition

Common Thread’s sophomore album Fountain is a holy grail of northeastern Florida indie rock. Originally released in 1993 on cassette tape, Fountain breaks sonic barriers. Melding influences from Echo & The Bunnymen to The Flaming Lips to Ride to Sonic Youth, Common Thread delivers a wall of dazzling dissonance unto their own. “Lydia Elle” and “Smoldering Black” convey astute lyrical poetry backed by extraordinary melodic hooks that set in deep. Fountain is a time capsule that has preserved nine incredible audible gifts, commemorating Common Thread’s ability and authority.

Originating from Orange Park, a suburb of Jacksonville, Common Thread came to the scene first in 1990 with their debut Six Marbles and a Bowl of Mud featuring Donald Kilpatrick on drums. Shortly after, Craig Parlet would replace Donald, joining guitarist Joe Parker and Travis Taylor, along with Joey Zimmerman on bass. Not too long after, the quartet documented their newly formed union with Fountain. Common Thread toured up and down the east coast, sharing the stage with counterparts such as Agent Orange, …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Crowsdell (Shannon Wright), The Grifters, The Knack, The Smithereens, Sonic Boom, They Might Be Giants, and The Veldt. Their national outreach provided a roadmap for Floridian musicians who followed suit.

Parker, Taylor, and Zimmerman all took stake in songwriting and vocal responsibilities on Fountain. Parker spearheading six arioso tunes, including both singles, while Taylor has a trio of sui generis numbers, and Zimmerman closes out Fountain with his own haunting denouement “Polka-Dot-Frock”. The common thread that fuses their talents together lies somewhere between their outlook, grit, and acute tone bending desires; altogether revealing one unified voice known as Common Thread.

James Tritten and Tracy Shedd, owners of Fort Lowell Records, were not just in the audience at those Common Thread shows three decades ago, they were both close friends with each band member and fortunate to witness Common Thread’s conception. To this date, Fountain is one of the couple’s greatest influences, and continues to provide inspiration for their own various musical outlets. To celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Fountain, Fort Lowell Records has made this landmark album available on vinyl record and all digital music platforms for the first time, allowing Common Thread’s magnum opus an opportunity to excite many generations to come.

Common Thread Fountain is now available on 12inch vinyl record, as well as all digital music platforms.

Monday, December 4, 2023

'This Water is Life': Wilmington record label uses music to do good


[Repost from Spectrum News 1; by Natalie Mooney, November, 30, 2023]

An independent record label in the Cape Fear region is using music for good.

Fort Lowell Records is releasing its third record in the series "This Water is Life," something that not only highlights local musicians’ work but also gives a platform to organizations promoting clean water.

Fort Lowell Records was started in 2009 by James Tritten. Since then, he’s released an impressive collection of records, highlighting both local artists and artists from all over the country. Now, he’s using records to raise awareness of important issues in his community.

“In 2020, we did a compilation called 'Grow,' which featured all Wilmington Indie Rock bands,” Tritten said. “And we used that as a fundraiser to raise money for the New Hanover County’s chapter of the NAACP.”

Since then, he’s started a series called "This Water is Life," which not only highlights new music from the region but also gives a platform for environmental organizations — like Cape Fear River Watch and the Coastal Plain Conservation Group — to speak on the health of the Cape Fear River Basin.

“The water problem is an ongoing thing, it has been for decades as well, but we don’t see it going away, of course, it’s not a one-time fix it and be done,” Tritten said. “So we thought by creating a series that would help bring awareness to that through music, it would help educate more people.”

The Cape Fear River is the main drinking water supply for 500,000 people, and it is contaminated with forever chemicals like GenX, which can be harmful if consumed. That’s why Dana Sargent, the executive director of Cape Fear River Watch, is happy to use "This Water is Life" to help spread the word about the contamination and the fight for clean water.

“Everything that we’re relying on in this community especially is built on the water, either on the river or the ocean or both,” Sargent said. “So this is so huge and so great that James and Fort Lowell have kind of brought these two beautiful things together.”

It’s not just the music on the album, Tritten uses every part of the record to get the message across.

“The liner note portion of the record itself here is what we refer to is written by Cape Fear River Watch where they speak to how the water is affecting us as humans,” Tritten explained. “Meanwhile on this side, the Coastal Plain Conservation Group is speaking to the wildlife and how the wildlife is being affected.”

Sargent has been writing liner notes on behalf of her organization for all three records in the series.

“James was like, 'just write what you’re thinking,' and I was thinking about the heaviness of the world, and I wrote, ‘Unless we take the time sit with the heaviness of the world, we become heavy with it, and that’s when apathy bleeds in,'” Sargent said. “And what can we do? For me, the answer has always been to immerse myself in music and nature, and so that’s kind of what this project does.”

That’s also why cydaddy, one of the two musicians on the record, says he wanted to be involved.

“Growing up in the area, you spend a lot of time growing up in wildlife, outdoor habitats,” cydaddy said. “So to be part of an intersectionalist piece of art that can bring both awareness to the local art scene and kind of bring awareness to the health of the wildlife around the community was super special to me.”

Sheme of Gold is the other musician on featured on the record. You can check out more of his work here.

Tritten is excited for the record to be released and hopes that this collaboration can help lead to change.

“The most rewarding part for me is simply bringing awareness to the community and just helping drive more projects in the community with like-minded people for a positive effort,” Tritten said. “And of course, if they can help Coastal Plain Conservation Group and Cape Fear River Watch get their agenda across to a new audience then that’s the greatest success of all.”

Click here if you would like to buy a digital download of the album or purchase a copy of the vinyl record.

You can also find a copy at Gravity Records in Wilmington.

If you would like to volunteer with Cape Fear River Watch, you can click here.

If you would like to get involved with the Coastal Plain Conservation Group, you can click here.

Saturday, December 2, 2023

“Center of Attention”, Summer Set

[Repost from Rosy Overdrive; November 28, 2023]

From Summer Set (2023, Fort Lowell)

The members of Wilmington, North Carolina’s Summer Set have played together in some form for over twenty years, although this self-titled album is the first full-length to have surfaced yet under the Summer Set name. It’s a breezy, timeless collection of indie rock of several stripes–some heavier and spacier than others, but consistently interesting. Opening track “Center of Attention” sets a high bar with its deft rendition of alt-country, folk rock, jangle pop, and power pop–a bunch of ingredients to make a song that sounds incredibly simple and incredibly catchy.

Friday, December 1, 2023

OUT NOW: This Water is Life, Vol. III ft. Sheme of Gold + cydaddy

This Water is Life is a self-sustained and ongoing series of split EPs with two express purposes: to highlight new hip-hop / indie rock music from Southeastern North Carolina, as well as to provide a platform for Cape Fear River Watch and Coastal Plain Conservation Group to deliver up-to-date authoritative reports on the health of the Cape Fear River Basin for both human beings and wildlife.

Ever since our forebears crawled up out of the water and drew their first breath, our – which is to say human and animal (and for that matter, plant) – experience has never strayed too far from its life-sustaining force. This water IS life. It will continue to be. But what kind of life? Threats to that water are, in turn, threats to the very life it supports. 

Inspired by photography focused on water in urban landscapes against a backdrop of the evolving GenX (PFAS) water pollution problem in the Wilmington, NC / Cape Fear region, This Water is Life is a local multimedia, multi-platform project. It takes what Fort Lowell Records does best – put out and promote killer indie music of varied stripes – and fuses it with photography and other visual arts alongside river and wildlife advocacy. The goal is a virtuous circle contained within an intended series of records. Packaged together, musical and visual artists from the Port City combined with a separate, serialized and locally-specific environmental message gives rise to the future promotion of other local music acts and further advocacy.

Volume III features Sheme of Gold and cydaddy.

Hip-Hop: Sheme of Gold

Sheme of Gold is an artist born and raised in Goldsboro, North Carolina, who relocated to Wilmington to attend culinary school in 2019, six months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. His unique style of hip hop is nostalgic and psychedelic, which grabs the listeners attention right away. His stories shed light on the struggles he’s endured and the confidence and braggadocio it takes to make a man of this stature. 

Indie Rock: cydaddy

cydaddy is a solo recording project for singer-songwriter / multi-instrumentalist Cyrus Goudarzi. Cyrus’s musical journey started in high school exploring home recording and sneaking around local shows in Wilmington, North Carolina. After an album release in 2010, his musical journey continued to Chicago, Illinois, where he would fill in rotating lineups for the next several years. Following, cydaddy was a leading member of local salt rock outfit Reef Blower.  Unquestionably, cydaddy is a product of his environment in the wildlife of the southeastern coast and has a heavy heart for the natural habitats that have shaped his years.

Just as clean water helps sustain life on Earth and here in the ILM, your purchase of this record fosters the work of not only hip hop, indie rock and visual artists in Wilmington but advances the advocacy of groups seeking to protect and preserve water and wildlife in the region. This water is life.