It’s like Night of the Living Dead, but instead of flesh-eating zombies you’ve got a reanimated band and a reanimated record label.
The former is Mailman, a gritty smart-pop quartet (think: Calhoun meets The Old 97’s) that got together in early 2012 but dissolved peaceably nearly two years later. Even after original bassist Joey Gorman left to form The Longshots and was replaced by Reece Presson and drummer Andrew Stroheker left for Animal Spirit and was replaced by Robby Rux (Dreamy Soundz Records, Year of the Bear, The Fibs), Mailman was not long for this world. Rux became too busy with other projects, and Presson relocated to Nashville. Plus, vocalist/lead guitarist Austin Lee Kroll works full time, and vocalist/guitarist Jon Phillips, who also works full time, got married.
The label in question is The Dead Media, the 8-track endeavor that singer-songwriter Nathan Brown created several years ago but had to put on hiatus a few months back, not long after Brown, his wife, and two kids moved across town. Packing and unpacking more than 10,000 8-track cassettes and multiple 8-track players, cassette decks, reel-to-reel decks, and more, enough to fill one and a half 26-foot U-Haul trucks, left Brown with a peculiar, depressing feeling: “I don’t ever want to unpack these fucking things again.”
Also, Brown said, his business had changed from its original intent –– to record and release local music –– to filling orders from national/international independent labels looking to release their bands’ music on 8-track. “It kept me busy, but I had no time for personal music,” he said. “When we moved to the new place, I had an inbox full of order requests. Having everything boxed up gave me the extra push to say no.”
Somehow, Brown and Mailman maintained the relationship they formed several years ago, after Brown caught a Mailman show and approached the musicians with the 8-track idea. Except for a lone song, Mailman hadn’t properly recorded any music. “They were such a great band that didn’t really fit into the scene, so to speak,” Brown said. “I always thought it was a bummer they never recorded an album.”
Earlier this year at Lola’s Saloon, Rux bumped into Brown and asked him if he was still interested in the Mailman project. Brown said yes, and in April the guys loaded their gear into The Where House one night and performed and recorded until 6 a.m. the next day. Mailman will release the seven-track Terrible People this fall on 8-track and digitally.
“We are stoked about the recordings,” Rux said. “It was cool to get them to tape and to hang out. It was a real pleasure to work with [Brown]. He’s a pro.”
Save for the occasional show, however, there’s little chance Mailman will progress beyond the album. The Dead Media, on the other hand, is not, uh, dead, only “pausing,” Brown said. A repairman to fix broken players and a “dedicated employee” to handle the national projects would go a long way, he said, toward bringing The Dead Media back to life.
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