You have no idea what you're missing.
That's the idea behind Dead Letter Office - a local record label launched last summer, helmed by longtime musical collaborators and respective singer/songwriters Brandon Frye and Kyle McBee, both of Ferndale.
Whether it was for the blue collar hero types whose devastatingly beautiful ballads never reached a deserving amount of ears or for the current crop of hipster-chic pop-rockers eager to uncover and flourish a few of their more esoteric or against-type tunes, Frye and McBee wanted their label to be unique by unsealing the lost or undeliverable "letters" (i.e. "songs") of the local music scene.
Dead Letter Office is starting small by featuring their friends' works on cassette tapes. By early December, McBee said, they hope to have their 13th release ready to be heard. But, for now, they're preparing their second month's worth of special songs selected for their Cassette Club for monthly subscribers.
Later on in 2013, hopefully by the end of Winter, their productions will wind up on wax!
The idea, for McBee, was to undermine what he saw as supercilious separations throughout the scene - by way of the cassette club compilations or by way of a Dead Letter Office "label showcase," he and Frye could manifest musical summits bringing disparate bands (folk, electro, punk, noise, or flat-out unclassifiable) to the table (i.e. stage / on-tape) and thus - align their fans and foster new fans entirely.
For McBee and Frye it started from something small but endearing: being so moved by the poignancy in their friends' songs, the folk/blues artistry of local troubadors Mike Anton and Ian Pinchback, that they couldn't rest until more ears could be exposed.
"They're some of the most amazing songwriters I've EVER heard," said Frye. "Period. More people need to listen to them."
(The true origins might lie on the recordings captured by Frye for his 9 Mile Sessions~ listen here).
McBee and Frye met in 2007 by way of guitarist Nick Marshall, the three of them (along with Roy Tousignant and Superbomb singer/guitarist Greg Aubry) forming a fleeting band called, prophetically, "The Dead Letters." They've been discussing starting their own label for years, since.
Turned off by 'the scene'
Whereas McBee would go on to front a few other bands through 2008 and 2009 (most notably a dark, dynamic, post-punk revelation of a quartet called Black Lodge), Frye escaped "the scene," turned off by what he surveyed as its inherent "popularity contests."
It seemed bands had to be on a label, or linked into certain cliques in order "to matter." Frye, respectively, spent 08-09 working on his solo work, including an electronic-projected called "The_Pages."
"Since returning to the scene, I’ve noticed things haven’t changed much," said Frye, who started Superbomb with Aubry in the summer of 2011. "While I recognize the talent many of 'the favorites' have, I also recognize the popularity contest at hand. The only difference is that I’m not trying to make myself matter. This time I’m doing it all for me."
'I want to support the other underdogs'
The summer of 2011 also synced Frye back up with McBee and subsequently led to the former's introduction to savvy blues/folk singer/songwriter Mike Anton. The three of them would go on to form the post-garage-clanged rock-twisting Factory Girls (with locals Eugene Strobe and Scottie Stone).
Now, with Dead Letter Office picking up steam - tallying bandcamp plays and a burgeoning amount of subscribers to their monthly subscription serviced cassette club - Frye and McBee are feeling an enthused resolve.
"Now, I play in these bands because I love the music and I’m running this label with Kyle because I want to support the other underdogs," Frye said.
"Despite the popularity contest, we both have a deep love for the scene and want people to hear the things they probably don’t hear…"
"Anyone who knows Kyle knows he has 1,000 ideas. I think of myself as the guy that says “alright, let’s make that happen”. Others might say it too, half-heartedly, but I’ve backed it up with results. I believe in the guy, even if some of his ideas are bat-shit nuts."
Showcase on Nov. 30
Anton also believes in both of these guys. He, along with Strobe and singer/songwriter Jeff Jablonski are the solo performers augmenting the side-stage at P.J.'s Lager House Nov. 30 for the Dead Letter Office label showcase.
Full electric ensembles fill the main stage, including Ferndale-based acts like Carjack, Crappy Future, Future Slang and Superbomb. Ypsi-based punk-rockers the Disinformants round out the bill.
McBee says - stylistic separations are insubstantial; they all write good songs, why not put them on vinyl together?
McBee, Anton and Frye are currently wrapping up the Factory Girls debut full length (tentatively out early 2013, tentatively on Dead Letter Office).
Frye, meanwhile, recently released his first proper solo album Existential Bullshit. (Listen HERE). These ballads are lo-fi, bare and frank as they come, captured while Frye was "away from the scene." - "It's as D.I.Y. as it gets haha. Just me, my guitar, and an unhealthy sarcasm. There’s a moodiness to the album, as that’s me. That’s me at my core."
Superbomb is also working towards more recorded releases, one of half-a-dozen future projects forthcoming under the expanding tent of Dead Letter Office.
"We’re working with the Axis Mundi guys on doing a festival in the spring too," said Frye. "We’re hosting Axis Mundi Night at the Berkley Front later on in March, next year, which will probably be our next showcase."