By Brian Tucker
On Friday, February 20th Tracy Shedd will perform at Ted’s Fun on the River in downtown Wilmington. Shedd returns after a show there last fall with guitarist and husband James Tritten. They relocated to the Raleigh area from Tucson, Arizona.
In Tucson Tritten started Fort Lowell Records, releasing a wide variety of music on vinyl and digital formats. Shedd contributed to a split seven-inch on the label and released Arizona on New Granada Records which featured guests Howe Gelb, Naïm Amor, and Ivan Howard of The Rosebuds.
Tritten has played music professionally since the age of fifteen and in that time released cassettes, records and CDs on labels and independently. He ran an agency called Candy Gram Booking representing a lot of bands maintained a love of vinyl records, long before it came back into vogue.
One weekend during a bout with sickness he was thinking about the days of indie rock bands and the releasing of 7-inch records. It was something new bands weren’t doing anymore so he decided to start a label. That weekend he put his Jeep up for sale for investment capital. Fort Lowell was born in 2010 and focused on artists in Tucson.
“As a guitarist, I am always after that perfect tone. When I am working on a recording of my own guitar work, the vinyl reproduction of my guitar is a calculated step in the long process it takes for me to be happy with the song or recording,” Tritten said. “The song would never be complete if the end result was a compact disc or digital file. The final step in the recording process is the playback from a vinyl record, period. That is why I started Fort Lowell Records, to offer this same experience and understanding to my friends.”
Below is more with Tritten from last fall about starting the label, he and Shedd’s fondness for North Carolina, and plans for Fort Lowell now that its here.
You have an interesting ear for Fort Lowell releases.
Tritten: Friendship and good people that are worth believing in. Hard working people. That is what I hear, more than simply good music that I enjoy, which I would hope would be an obvious point. It would be hard to get behind a record if I didn’t naturally love the music. I tell that to bands all the time, that I’ve got to be their number one fan, otherwise why would I give all of my time to helping them out.
Like most people, I too have diverse tastes in music. My heart and soul lies between good-natured indie rock and pop and shoegaze. Echo & the Bunnymen was the band that got me hooked on music back when I was a kid in sixth grade. But just before that, you’d find me splitting the needle between hip-hop acts like Erik B. & Rakim, E.P.M.D., and heavy metal heroes Iron Maiden and Metallica. These days, some of my favorite artists to spin are classics like Joao Gilberto or Sade, friends such as Maserati or Howe Gelb, or North Carolina rockers Schooner and Gross Ghost.
I wanted Fort Lowell Records to be a reflection of me, not a particular genre of music, simply damn good music that I love. These records are like children to me. My job is to help give birth to them, and then nurture each one in a unique way, helping it grow and do good in the world. Giving back to the world. To me, my friends are family to me as well, so I honestly could not imagine working with anyone else.
It’s been an interesting lesson for me, as a musician myself. For years, I was always trying to get my own bands signed to a record label. Now, I get it. I’m sure Fort Lowell Records is not the only label that works (nearly) exclusively with friends.
Was releasing 7-inchers a means to test the waters first?
Tritten: No, no, no! I love 7inchers! In fact, I’m working on plans to get Fort Lowell Records back to (almost) doing 7-inchers exclusively. 7-inchers are so much fun. You can do anything you want with them as artists and nobody seems to care or judge. Because an artist only needs to worry about recording two songs, you can usually get to an artist much earlier in their career, before they are really ready to record a full album. Those are my favorite 7-inchers to find, or release.
Like Dead Western Plains, a simply amazing band that was captured on 7-inches of wax before they ever had a chance to record a full length album. And thank god we did, because they broke up before they had the chance. If we did not get that 7-incher out for them, I’m not sure anything would have been released. It was easy to get at least two songs from them at that point in their existence. As a bonus, Dead Western Plains gave us one more track before calling it quits – “People Beat,” the opening track to (the fundraiser double album) Luz de Vida.
Why locate to Raleigh?
The people of North Carolina. Friends like Todd Hawthorne, Brad Womack, Reid Johnson, Ivan Howard, and Tripp Cox. The guys have been better than good to my wife, Tracy Shedd, and me for the past twenty years.
I’m originally from Jacksonville, Florida. It was in 1992 that Tracy and I first came up to Raleigh. Todd Hawthorne, of the band Greensect, an amazing shoegaze band from Raleigh, was booking indie rock shows at The Brewery. We fell in love with Raleigh and North Carolina in general, but more importantly we fell in love with the people here. Everyone is so good-natured, and so talented.
Tracy and I immediately said we wanted to make Raleigh home, but life would have other ideas for us. In 2011, Tracy Shedd was playing a show at Slim’s with Schooner, as part of a 30-date U.S. tour. We woke up that next morning, looked at each other, and asked “How is it twenty years later since we first said we were going to move to Raleigh, and we still have yet to do it?” When we returned to our then home in Tucson, Arizona, we began making plans to finally move to North Carolina. It would take until August of 2013, but we are finally here, and extremely happy.
Will you be focusing on, or possibly releasing, N.C. based acts?
Both. I’m interested in releasing 7-inch records of live recording sessions from our own Fort Lowell Studios. That is how they used to do it. The label owned its own studio, and they’d invite bands in to record a couple of songs, then they would release the tracks on 7-inch records immediately. No over-dubbing to worry about, no artwork to manage, just the essence of a solid performance captured and release on 7-inches of wax for the world to enjoy.
There are a number of friends we have in North Carolina that I would love to offer this to, but I could also see doing this with friends as they are coming to town or traveling through. Again, with the benefits of the 7-inch format – two songs would not take long to record, especially being a live session.
performing at Ted’s in 2014: