The Other Side with Five Three Dial Tone Records' Jim Carroll and Jasper
In this week's Other Side, Five Three Dial Tone Records' Jim Carroll and Jasper discuss their progression from music fans to label founders, reveal why they keep sending faxes to Jack White, and lend advice to musicians who are seeking out label representation.
Exhausted by the digital ways of the twenty-first century, former Eat This City collaborators and resident Detroiters Jim Carroll and Jasper teamed up, emptied their piggy banks, hopped in their DeLorean, and announced the arrival of a boutique record label that specializes in limited edition vinyl pressings and cassette tape releases. Since early 2009 when Five Three Dial Tone Records first opened their doors, Carroll and Jasper have sponsored more than fifteen releases by independent artists such as Phantasmagoria, Ryan Allen, The Satin Peaches, Lettercamp, and Belle Ghoul. They explain, “Our mission is to discover the principles and concepts that will enable society to realize the vision, to design the technologies, systems, and practices that will substantiate the vision, and to educate new generations of professionals who will put the vision into practice, e.g., to make some records.” In terms of what’s on the horizon for the label, Carroll notes, “We’re releasing a Coyote Clean Up/Phantasmagoria split 7” in the near future, along with an Astro Fang single and Phantasmagoria’s debut full-length.” Don’t fret if you sold your boom box years ago, because Five Three Dial Tone Records also offers digital downloads on the label’s website and via iTunes. Jasper notes, “Speaking of the website, we also offer limited runs of release show [recordings], colored vinyl, and we produce alternate artwork. Every [album we have released] has sold out rather quickly, so anyone who is interested in being the first to know about [our limited pressings] has a good chance of landing one by signing up on the mailing list through our website.”
We were able to convince Five Three Dial Tone Records’ founders Jim Carroll and Jasper to step away from their record collections long enough to tell us what it’s like to be on The Other Side.
Green Light Go: Prior to starting up Five Three Dial Tone Records, you collaborated together as writers for the Detroit music blog Eat This City. What was the turning point that caused you to shift from working as music bloggers to becoming the founders of an independent label?
Jasper: For me, [I was inspired by] Randy (of Deastro). I’d go to his shows and fall absolutely in love with his music, but then I’d go to his merch booth because I wanted to buy something, only to find out he had nothing for sale. I make the FUBU (For Us By Us) joke a lot when talking about why we started the label. Being in Detroit, we’re inundated with garage rock 7”s and punk rock 7”s, which is great, but what about the other genres? My involvement came from my own desire to purchase vinyl from the Detroit musicians I was into that wouldn’t necessarily fit on an Italy Records or X! Records roster.
Jim Carroll: I think we both really loved buying records, so it was a natural progression to go from talking about music to participating in it. We’d end up hearing songs that we really wanted to purchase on vinyl, so we [wanted] to make it happen.
GLG: Since label representatives typically work behind the scenes, many people have preconceived notions about what this career actually entails. What is the day-to-day really like for you on the job at Five Three Dial Tone Records?
Jasper: We start out each day by looking at a map of Southeastern Michigan. After studying the geography and plotting the best routes, we’ll split up and try to collect as many discarded bottles and cans as possible. Then, we’ll take them to Kroger and collect the deposit. We do this seven days a week, while donating plasma twice a week, until we raise enough money to put out our next release.
JC: At the end of the day, we’ll go back to the office and take turns playing songs that we know the other will hate. Every once in a while, we’ll both like the same song, so at that point, we’ll fax over a copy of the bottle return receipts to the band to let them know we’re serious. Sometimes they’ll say no (and naturally, we’ll send a reply fax of a black page to waste their toner). Sometimes though, the band will say yes, so we’ll ask the record factory to print up their album.
GLG: Since the inception of the label, you have worked with Belle Ghoul, Human Reunion, Lettercamp, Illy Mack, The Satin Peaches, Deastro, Phantasmagoria, Ryan Allen, and The Kickstand Band, to name a few. Who might you like to work with in the future?
Jasper: We’ve been lucky; I think we’ve ended up working with most of the artists we’ve always wanted to collaborate with. For a while, only Prussia and Coyote Clean Up were on my wish list. Prussia seems to have disbanded and we may or may not have something in the works with CCU. As for the future, I think it’d be fun to work with Electric Six. Between 52 Week High and Belle Ghoul, we’ve worked with four of the six members of Electric Six in one capacity or another and I don’t think any of them hate us yet, so I’d like to work on that. There’s also some great stuff coming out of Chicago from ex-PAS/CAL frontman, Casimer Pascal and his nephew Vincent Casimir called Casimer & Casimir. I wonder how expensive it would be to make cashmere 7” sleeves. Oh, and then there’s David Bowie…I’d like to work with him at some point.
JC: I’ll send Jack White two or three faxes per week, but I still haven’t gotten a definitive answer from him. Other than that, we’re working on a single from a Dayton, Ohio-based band called Astro Fang that I’m pretty excited about. There’s a ton of talent here in Detroit too, but I think [working with a band] often becomes a timing issue. We can hear a song from a band [we’d like to represent], but if we’re working on several other releases, we also can’t get too far ahead of ourselves. I mean, there are only so many bottles.
GLG: What characteristics or qualities do you look for when considering a new artist for the Five Three Dial Tone roster and what things do you have to keep in mind before agreeing to work with a new artist?
Jasper: Most of our decisions have been made on-the-spot at live performances. We’ll hear a song and both say something to the extent of “This could be a hit single in the make-believe world we live in,” and then it is decided...unless the next song sucks, or I hate the singer’s t-shirt, or I get distracted by a text message.
JC: I think we just start out as fans. A band doesn’t have to be especially marketable or cute or anything, although, that helps.
GLG: What advice would you offer to an independent artist that was about to shop their first record to independent or major labels?
Jasper: If it’s really good, send it to us first, please.
JC: If we don’t like it though, don’t listen to us. Don’t listen to anyone, really. Your girlfriend or boyfriend and your brother and your mom are going to tell you that you are the greatest…and that’s bullshit. Then, someone will write about how your stuff is the worst thing that’s ever been recorded. Luckily, that’s bullshit too. If you’re happy with what you’ve done, get it out there. Collect your own bottles and put your music out physically, or put it online so people can hear it. Please don’t “shop your demo” for two years.
GLG: So, what have you been listening to lately?
Jasper: I’ve been listening to a ton of stuff…Trust, Tanlines, John Talabot, Grimes, Evian Christ, and anything Autre Ne Veut lends his vocals to. Anything released on Tri Angle Records or Acéphale Records automatically makes it to the top of my playlist too.
JC: Steal the newest releases from Wesley Wolfe, Grimes, Porcelain Raft, Guided By Voices, Trust, Frankie Rose, Garcon Garcon, Nite Jewel, Young Magic, Eux Autres, TOPS, The Magnetic Fields, and Alex Winston. Actually, buy Alex Winston’s record...she escaped from Detroit and her new album is terrific.
This week's Other Side is brought to you by: Lauren Mercury Roberts