On January 17th, Old Main Records celebrated the launch of their label at Saint Andrew’s Memorial Episcopal Church aka that church on Wayne’s Campus that I forever assumed was a mummy building that never opened.
And, so, as a very much adult, it was a treat to enter this relic. And, a bigger treat to find this wooden cathedral lit up with neon bar triangles like the rock vampire venue of MY DREAMS. They even had a coat check!
The sound was clear. The bands played on time. The room was full and enthusiastic. There were outfits—more Gold Dollar, less City Club. Famed sound engineer Chris Koltay, of Corktown’s High Bias Recordings, made an on-stage cameo to welcome the band Mac Saturn with an inexplicably heartfelt introduction, “…they saved an old man’s life.”
A bit much, but I feel you Koltay: Mac Saturn is undeniably one of the greatest bands in Detroit right now, and Old Main Records has renewed my faith in the power of institutions.
In something of a coup, a few rad AF music students have harnessed the resources of their department to support musicians they admire, by giving them access to state-of-the-art recording equipment, student and faculty knowledge and university venues like the rock vampire church of my dreams.
Fantasies aside, these students have a very real vision for a multi-genre label that serves as a hub for all the needs of local musicians.
Right now, the label is run by a collective of 25 students, encompassing a variety of positions from art direction and marketing to sound tech and distribution. Essentially, all the varied and intricate pieces that comprise a record label. Contracts are currently in the works for four bands, Craig Garwood, MouthBreathr, Ohly and Norton’s band, Dirt Room.
It’s a slow process, explains, Old Main’s Creative Director, Patrick Norton, over post-show coffee, right now they’re “testing the waters to see how much work it is to promote these artists, and then we’ll expand from there.”
The labels’ launch party was organized in collaboration with Norton’s Nice Place Productions, with a lineup including future labelmates Dirt Room and Craig Garwood plus Detroit favorites at large the Stools and Mac Saturn. Old Main’s first official release is out now: a limited edition, singles tape by Dirt Room—
“This tape features some a newly released single ‘Jacks Progress’ as well as a single that will be available February 27th, just before our next show at Hamtramck Music Festival titled, ‘Headroom.’…Each tape has been hand-painted and includes a recording unique to each tape.”
Norton and I continued our conversation over email with Old Main’s President, Brendan DeRay.
CVh: ORIGIN STORIES—HOW DID IT COME TOGETHER?
Brendan DeRay: The idea has been floating around for years within Wayne State’s Music Department. Over the summer Wayne State music business students Brendan DeRey and J.V. Arniego were able to get about eight people together in a small classroom to begin building the framework of Old Main Records. In our first meeting, we were able to gain key people such as our Head of Technology, David Jackowicz, and our Head of Marketing, Chris Simpson.
We continued to meet every week and started slowly seeing growth in our membership, eventually enlisting Tyler Sykes a graphic designer from College of Creative Studies and Patrick Norton the founder of Nice Place Detroit. We spent our first semester building a strong foundation in order to give the artists we sign the best tools for success. Faculty advisor and director of Music Business at Wayne State Professor Jeremy Peters has supported us with his experience from working at Ghostly International and Quite Scientific Records. We are proud to say that after much hard work, our label launch party was a major success.
CVh: WHAT’S THE MISSION?
BD: We have two separate but equally important missions.
The first mission is to share our resources at Wayne State with the larger artistic community. These resources include our trusted team of advisors, professional recording/live equipment, and the different backgrounds and expertise of all of our members.
The second mission is to provide an outlet for our members to gain experience in event promotion, album production, marketing, A&R, and other fields in the music industry. Old Main Records is a way for people who are interested in working in the music industry to create their own practical experience.
CVh: WHAT’S IN A NAME?
PN: A name is all about sincerity and aesthetics. Being honest about what you represent and what your values are. With Old Main Records we find inspiration in Wayne
State University’s mission of meaningful engagement in its urban community. It’s also the building we work out of.
CVh: WHY DETROIT?
PN: Detroit is home. The city has so much potential to blossom into the grassroots cultural epicenter of the world. The people of this city are extremely collaborative, and we wish to bring that notion to the forefront of everything we do. We want to make the act of creating more accessible to the people of our city.
CVh: PLAYERS—WHO’S ON THE LABEL?
PN: We have not finished our final contracting work, but we plan on working with Dirt Room, Craig Garwood, MouthBreathr, and Ohly as our first round of artists.
CVh: WHAT’S THE VISION? WHO DO YOU WANT ON THE LABEL?
BD: We want to work with artists who are interested in growing their own brand and expanding their reach.
We want artists to use our platform as a stepping–stone to reach whatever career goals that they’ve set for themselves.
Some artists we’d love to work with are Mac Saturn, Who Boy, Ahya Simone, Saajtak, and Summer Like The Season.
CVh: VISION BEYOND RECORDS?
PN: We want to provide our artists will all the works. Not only do we want to focus on physical releases and distribution, but we really want to become an important institution for the community. We want to host more events, book for our artists, and utilize our recording studio.
CVh: DETROIT MUSICIANS & ARTISTS WHO’VE SHAPED YOUR TASTE?
PN: Teener, Krillin, Saajtak, Mac Saturn, Onyx Ashanti, Summer Like The Season, Zac Bru, Shigeto, Ancient Language, Ahya Simone, Lizzo, White Bee, Marcus Elliot, Mark Whalen & The Buttermilk Boys, and MouthBreathr.
CVh: THREE DETROIT MUSICIANS OR BANDS I NEED TO BE LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW?
PN: Well we gotta shout–out our own Dirt Room, Ohly and Craig Garwood, but, it if we could add a fourth, I would have to say Teener.