Getting a big package of singles in the mail is always exciting, especially when you're not expecting them. It's bittersweet to open the box and realize that these are the last singles overseen by the late Windian Records' head honcho, Travis Jackson. Jackson died unexpectedly earlier this year when hit by car as he worked on a road construction crew. Looking at the note, which was right on top of the stack of singles when I opened the package, I basically burst into tears. Now, I don't claim to have known Jackson very well, but he'd been helpful with providing some promo stuff for review and play on the podcast, and every interaction I had with him was kind and excited and full of life. It's strange to think that a man who I never met in person would be missed so much, but Jackson's verve for music and excitement for what he was doing with Windian was infectious, and you wanted him to succeed. Eric Brady will continue the label on, and the music looks to be coming strong. Out of this stack of singles, there's not a one that didn't grab me in one way or another. Top of the list has to be Mrs Magician's "Friday Night" b/w "Crosses" single. It was part of the second Windian Single Series, and it's a masterful piece of reverb-drenched surfy power pop. It sounds like summer. Comparisons to the likes of Dum Dum Girls and New Pornographers are inevitable. However, who cares? Because both of those bands are wonderful. I want to put "Friday Night" on a mix CD in my truck and drive around listening to it while drinking lemonade at 2 o'clock in the morning. The flip, "Crosses," ups the surf angle, and jangles its way through three minutes of the catchiest anti-established religion cut you've ever heard. "Crosses" twangs and harmonizes everywhere you'd want a song to do so, and works in girl-group (by way of dudes) "sha-la," "woo-hoo," and every other onomatopoeic vocal affectation in the book. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/windian-records/mrs-magician-friday-night[/embed] While not reinventing their sound with every new release, the Ettes manage to tweak it just enough to sound fresh and interesting. The last thing I'd heard from them was the gothic country of "Teeth," and it was a full switch from their second album, Look At Life Again Soon, which featured the frantic stomper "Crown of Age." I just never know what to expect from the trio, other than it'll be fucking good. The a-side cut's a little more loose and hazy than we've heard from the Ettes before, and it's fucking great. "Girl I'll Never Be" is darker and more ominous than the a-side, with the bass distorted to the point of almost breaking. It pulses, while the guitar cuts right through in counterpoint. The Ettes spin it around in a whirl of declination, going down into a dark hole of contradictory shouts. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/windian-records/the-ettes-cry-on-my-shoulder[/embed] The Ar-Kaics are previewing their forthcoming Windian LP (although neither of these tracks on on it), with these two primitive bangers. Snotty vocals, simple pounding drums, and basic churned-out guitars suddenly give way on "Why Should I?" to a surprisingly catchy chorus, replete with an equally-catchy guitar line. "Slave to Her Lies" is a little less poppy, sounding like a dark mirror image of the Turtles' "Happy Together." It's almost as if the relationship in the Turtles song has long since gone sour, for reasons of infidelity and distrust. It stomps along, nearly dirge-like, punctuated by shouted "SLAVE!"s, for its entirety. Dark, dirty, dirgy, and damned good. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/windian-records/ar-kaics-why-should-i[/embed] This bit of Dictators worship from D.C.'s Killer Bees, Buzz'n the Town, has a lot in common with most punk songs about television. Be it "TV Party" or "Television Addict," the songs have a glee about them, even as they denigrate that about which they sing. The kick drum hits with a flat thud, pegging out the meters, and lending a strange metronomic effect to an otherwise propulsive cut. The guitars rip along, and you know this was a pogo cut in its day. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/windian-records/killer-bees-tv-violence[/embed] The flip's very much in the same vein, chooglin' along like an amped-up southern r&b act, but manages to throw in some nice stop-and-start "I like it! I love it!" breaks, as well as a solid guitar solo for the bridge. Wish the ending "rock & roll hangover" bits could've been more harmony or more shouted, rather than some half-assed middle ground, though. Is there a bad Penetrators recording? I mean, I know they all sound like crap -- seriously, for all of the Mummies' claims, the Penetrators are the real kings of budget rock -- but the band's songs always manage to have something about them. "Shopping Bag" is nasal, and the attempt at a guitar solo is almost laughable, but damned if this tinny piece of schlock isn't going to worm its way into your head almost immediately. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/windian-records/the-penetrators-shopping-bag[/embed] "Everybody Needs Lovin'" might've been recorded in a closet by mentally deranged individuals, but it's still danceable in its own weird way. The guitar solo succeeds more on this side, but Syracuse's finest fascinate in spite of possible displays of technical proficiency. It's mainly due to a spoken word intro and outro that makes no sense, but sounds cool, like an avant-garde take on the Blues Brothers' version of "Someone to Love." All of the singles are available for purchase from the Windian Records store.
Windian Records, based out of Washington D.C., is a fascinating label. Not only do they put out a seemingly bottomless trove of obscure (yet assuredly worth hearing) reissues, but they've been on the cutting edge of garage rock 'n' roll lately, releasing singles and LPs from everyone from Heavy Times to the Shirks. Label head Travis Jackson was fantastic enough to take time out from following a crawling infant and working to answer some questions via e-mail about the label's releases. The label puts out both new releases -- upcoming stuff from Ar-Kaics, the Hussy, and others -- and reissues of some pretty crucial Penetrators records. How do you decide what new bands you'll release? Is it just a case of what appeals to you, or do some bands seek you out at this point? It's a little bit of both. The majority of releases I either knew from touring or really dug the band and asked if we could do a single. I think the only band I've released through the demo process was the White Faces LP. I plan releases early for the whole year, and sometimes more is added. With the reissues, I've always just reached out to one of the members work from their. Getting to work with The Penetrators releasing their whole singles collection, Testors, Bizarros, and Crushed Butler has been amazing. Definitely learned a lot. I'm more than ever focused on the reissue side of the label, it's a lot more work and research, but it pays off when you put your imprint on some classic sounds. When and how did the Penetrators' connection come about? I contacted Spike a couple years ago about reissuing the "Gotta Have Her" 45 and the hopes of putting together a Fred Records retrospective LP. The single did really well and we decided to just reissue everything from the Fred catalog on 7" just as they came out initially (printed paper sleeves, promo sticker) 30 years ago. We are still working on getting to the Basement Anthology Volume 2, doing a lot of digging. Some labels choose to just say, "Hey, trust us," when it comes to singles series, but yours listed all the acts out in advance. Why do the latter, instead of the former? When I decided to start a subscription series, I wanted the restrictions that come along with most other series to be limited. One of the most important is not signing off on a series you have no idea what you're expecting. Every year you get to choose if you want the next set. So far we've had nearly an 85% turn around for #2, and I'm beyond flattered. I'm glad people were happy with the inaugural set, and I'm working really hard to make sure this years set tops last years. One thing that worked really well was the reserve. I never liked paying a large sum and waiting for it to arrive. Also, pre-selling 200 box sets and getting 200 emails every week asking "where's my records" will drive a healthy man to the brink of blowing their head off. So we decided to take reserves for $1 and when the set was ready to ship, sent an invoice. Their were some that couldn't pay right away, but we held their set for 2 months in some cases until they could. Once reserved, it's yours. What's involved in setting up a subscription series? Packaging and sound. It has to be presented very well for someone to pull the trigger on 5 singles if they are only interested in say one of the bands. The response we received from our subscribers from the art of the factory sleeves, to the booklet, the button, the stamped mailing box it was shipped in was huge. I've been cut, folding, and glueing our sleeves since we started, and I was very involved with the art book as I designed and manufactured by hand. Sound I think is vital with this series as I hired an old friend Eric Brady to do the mastering. He's done everything since for Windian as I was just blown away with his work on the series. Going back to the reissues: your next reissue is a compilation of DC "stompers" called Capitol Rock 'n' Roll Volume 1: Garage Unknowns. Where did you pull the twenty tracks from? This project has taken a lot of time and research. I've been working with Mark Opasanek who wrote a book about DC Rock and Roll a few years ago. A lot of them are from a killer comp that was released in '84 called "Signed DC". Ever since I heard that LP, I wanted to reissue it. The others I found through research or by talking to friends who had some original 45's. This first volume is mostly 60's stuff while volume 2 will focus on the 70's punk scene (not Dischord) and volume 3 going back further to the 50's focusing on early Rock and Roll and Soul. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/windian-records/the-flys-be-what-you-is[/embed] Did you have an idea of what you wanted to included going into Capitol Rock 'n' Roll? Link Wray. In my opinion, he is the most important musician to make music here in Washington DC. He performed "Rumble" for the first time live at a dance in Fredericksburg, Va., the town I grew up in. It's amazing I even have the opportunity to release anything he ever recorded. I named my kid after him! What should people know about Windian if they're not already familiar with the label? Born to lose, out to lunch.