There’s very little from the 1980s that I’m nostalgic for. The TV, fashion and music almost universally terrible. And the dominant format for music was the cassette. But my antipathy towards the cassette might be turned around by the uke-heavy tape label Lost Sound Tapes. I fired a few questions at LST honcho and uker Jon Manning to find out more.
Why set up a tape label?
I find tapes to be very accessible. They’re inexpensive to manufacture, they are much more durable than CDs + records, and cassette tape playback devices can be found for $2 – 10 at most thrift stores across the country. I sell Lost Sound Tapes cassettes for $3 + shipping and that includes a tape by James Rabbit that contains 86 minutes of music (two whole albums). My goal is to encourage people to release their own cassettes and show them that it is within their grasp as human beings. Every release has elements about them that are handmade: stamped construction covers, stamped or handwritten labels, sewn tape covers, etc.
There’s a high proportion of ukulele acts on the label, was that intentional or did it just turn out that way?
It wasn’t really intentional, it just turned out that my friends and I just happened to be playing ukulele. My father is originally from Hawaii and we always had ukuleles around the house but I didn’t start playing uke until 2004. I loved the fact that it only has 4 strings and how easy it is to hold.
You play the baritone yourself in Blanket Truth. What appeals to you about the bari?
Ah, the baritone ukulele is a brilliant instrument. It’s usually tuned DGBE, like a guitar, which makes it incredibly easy to play along with guitarists and bassists. It also means that the fingerings for baritone ukulele chords are the same as a guitar, so it’s a great instrument for musical beginners. If you can play baritone ukulele you can play a guitar. The baritone translates surprisingly well to rock music and I even play mine through a big muff distortion pedal often. It also happens to work out the best for my vocal range.
Tell us about the new ukulele compilation you’re putting together.
The ukulele compilation I’m currently working on is called “Ukulele, Mekulele, Wekulele”. It will be released by my label Lost Sound Tapes as a cassette tape. This is actually a sequel to the ukulele compilation entitled “Ukulele and So Can I” which contains 23 tracks of ukulele songs from uke novices and experts alike. “Ukulele and So Can I” features songs from Watercolor Paintings, Jordaan Mason, The Desks, and Tinyfolk, to name a few.
I’m taking open submissions for “Ukulele, Mekulele, Wekulele”. If you have a song that you would like to submit for consideration, please send a wav, aiff, or flac file to email@example.com via a service like mediafire.com or mail a cassette or CD to Lost Sound Tapes / PO Box 45586 / Seattle, WA 98145. I’ll choose the tracks that fit together the best and notify everyone. The deadline is August 31st, 2009. Our first ukulele compilation, “Ukulele and So Can I”, is currently out of print, but I plan on reissuing it alongside the new one. Send me your best or weirdest tracks, originality certainly helps! Don’t be afraid.
Which ukulele acts should we be paying close attention to?
WATERCOLOR PAINTINGS: They are a brother/sister duo who play baritone ukulele, soprano ukulele, and harp. Really unique folk songs in a pop song format, most of their songs are under two minutes. I’m releasing a split 7″ for them on Lost Sound Tapes for their two month long national tour this summer with iji. It’s the first LST vinyl release and we’re very excited about it. The record is available on June 30th, but you can listen to the whole thing online now. If you can’t wait to buy the split 7″ they also just released a 7″ called “With The Light On” on Yay! Records.
ANTARCTICA TAKES IT: Dylan is from Santa Cruz, CA and has pop sensibility like none other. Most of his recordings feature a full band, but you can often catch him playing live shows solo. I was fortunate enough to see him play on a rooftop in Bellingham, WA this past April while Blanket Truth was on a mini-tour with Antarctica Takes It and James Rabbit (with whom Dylan plays drums) and my mind was completely blown. Great voice and sweet sweet melodies. He has a new single called “C + F” and I highly suggest you check it out, there’s also a new album in the works.
BLANKET TRUTH: I have a new album coming out this year called “My Keyboard / My Ukulele”. Half of the songs will be featuring a Casio keyboard that my grandma handed down to me years ago and the other half of the songs will, of course, feature baritone ukulele. Expect songs about ghosts, animals, and washing the dishes. Lately, we’ve been playing as a 3-piece – baritone ukulele, vocal percussion (beatboxing), and bass. We also have a CD, our first full length, called “Indoor Camping” and you can get ahold of it through the Lost Sound Tapes store.