Scotty Sandwich is the man! Matt and Conor caught up with Scotty Sandwich from Death To False Hope Records and the band Almost People during his awesome event, Death To False Hope Records Fest II in Durham, N.C., on June 30, 2012. Check out the DTFH Records site to download lots of great music!
Listen to the interview with Scotty Sandwich (8:26)
First off, just tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with music in the first place.
I started playing guitar when I was 6, but I had an acoustic guitar and that kind of sucked. And then my mom took me to see Guns ‘n’ Roses when I was 8 and I looked at Slash and said, ‘That’s what I want to do!’ and it was all kind of downhill from there. From Guns ‘N’ Roses, I found out about Sex Pistols and The Clash. And then I went to a Slapstick show when I was 12 and it was over. I’ve been doing all this shit since then. . . booking shows and playing in bands and labels and magazines and whatever I can do.
Awesome. Did you grow up here?
I grew up in Chicago and then I ended up out here about four years ago.
What brought you out here?
Just random shit. You get tired of where you live and want to see a new scene.
Do you like it here?
I love it. At first it was weird because when I first moved out I was living in Fuquay and that kind of sucks. Because there’s like one bar and, not being from the South, I kind of had an idea because of like media and whatever of what the South is like, and I walk into the bar the first night I got here and the bartender was pregnant in a wife beater and sweats with no shoes on, and she was pregnant while she was smoking and doing shots while she was serving shots. And I was just like, ‘Wow, you hit every stereotype out there.’ But then I moved to Durham and I was like, ‘This is awesome.’ I love it.
So tell us about starting the label. When did you first start the label?
Me and Jonathan Minor started it in 2009 and just decided that we had a bunch of bands that we really liked that we wanted to expose. And I was like, ‘Well, everyone’s going to download the music for free, so we might as well give them high-quality MP3s and lyrics and artwork. We started with my band at the time, his band, 10-4 Elanor, which became Elway, and then I think Arliss Nancy was the next band. It kind of grew and now it’s kind of ridiculous how many bands are on the label. I don’t even know half the names of the people in the bands anymore because I think we have around 100 bands and almost 170 releases.
So the point of it was to just kind of provide people with access to free music?
Yeah. We find bands we like and we want people to donate. Sometimes people are going to just take it and if you do, that’s fine. But the biggest thing is that, doing this for so long, I know people at Punknews and AMP magazine. So we want to be a stepping stone. If a band wants to work with us, cool. I can’t give you money, but I can get you record reviews, I can get you interviews with these magazines. It really brings bands out there. A band like Mixtapes, they sent me a demo and they were a joke band and they’re on Jumpstart! now and doing these huge tours two years later. So, it works if it’s done the right way.
It sounds like you’ve been pretty successful doing it, huh?
I mean, I guess. There’s no money in it for me. I’m losing money. This alone is just a party. To get all the bands on the label, they’re bands I’ve made friends with and this event is all just for fun. I’m just trying to give something back to the punk rock community.
Tell me about the inception of this event.
Well, we thought it would be really fun to have a two-year anniversary party, because no one celebrates two years. And it worked really well last year and it was fun, so we decided to keep doing it every year.
And Less Than Jake played last year, right?
Yep, Less Than Jake. Last year was these two stages plus Fullsteam (Brewery). There was 54 bands and it was just too much work. And then the other thing was people were getting really pissed off because a lot of local bands were playing across the street and it was like a touring band on the main stage and that stage and the Fullsteam stage were going at the same time. So you had to pick and choose which band you wanted to see. So this year, we just said fuck it and now you have the potential to see every band that’s playing.
What’s been the biggest thing that you’ve learned from doing the label?
That’s a good question. I don’t know that I’ve learned anything. . . actually, I’ve learned that bands are fucking awesome and not as dickish as I thought a lot of them were. And maybe just the sense of community. Punk rock’s not the biggest thing right now. I mean, it’s not 1994. But an event like this, where you can have all these people in the same room, hugging, it’s nice. Living here, there’s not a punk scene. I mean there’s a few bands, but I mean I brought Smoke Or Fire here and I think they played for 30 people. If that was in Chicago, it’d be like 700 people. But I’ve learned that there are these communities out there. I’m trying to build it here, but I can go up to Richmond or I can go down to Florida and it’s like, ‘Oh, shit! People still like this music!’
What about your band? Tell us about your band, Almost People.
Me and Johnny, we’ve been buddies for about eight years now. He was living in Chicago and just got bored and he was like, ‘I wrote these songs.’ So he sent them to me and I listened to them and he was like, ‘Let’s do something!’ So he flew out here last February and we’ve just been kind of working on it since then. It’s weird. . . doing the label, we’ve been able to get some shows that, if we hadn’t been doing it, we might not necessarily have been able to get. Like, our first show was with Dead To Me and our second show was with The Queers. That’s not really normal. But, at the same time, there’s like three punk bands in town, so somebody’s got to play those shows! So we’ve been really lucky. We’re working on a full length and after some talks last night, I think Joe McMahon is producing the record. So, hopefully that works. We had a meeting this morning to talk about some stuff.
Have you guys been able to balance the label and everything else where you’ve been able to get out on the road at all?
The longest we’ve been out is like four days right now. We have like three demos out, but we want to actually sit down and write a proper full length and then go on the road. We’ve done some weekend stuff, but nothing full-on yet. Plus, it’s hard to tour in a Prius, so we have to actually get a van. That’s the biggest thing holding us back. The zero dollars I’m making from the label isn’t really paying for that van.
What about the future of the label? What’s coming up for Death To False Hope?
The biggest thing is that we’ve kind of been over saturated the past couple years, where we’ve just had so many bands that we want to work with. I think we’re going to do like three more releases this year and then I think we’re done for the year. And then next year, what I think we’re going to do is every four months, we’re going to do just three releases and really push those three releases for four months. We want to get back to where we started, with really pushing a small number of bands instead of just, ‘Oh I like your band? Cool, you’re on!’ It just became too much work where we were doing releases like five at a time and then two weeks later six more. I feel like you start to lose focus and I feel like some of the bands that came later didn’t get the exposure that some of the earlier bands did.
I notice that you have bands from the area and then you have bands from as far away as Washington and stuff like that. . .
We have bands in Australia and Sweden! We have bands everywhere.
Have you found that their exposure reaches that far, too?
Oh yeah, it’s weird. Some of our buddies from New Zealand came around here last year and they were bugging me for e-mail addresses for the bands and stuff like that. It’s kind of like me, I don’t know anything about Australia and New Zealand and I don’t know about their cities over there. But they were asking me like, ‘Oh, we want to go see Gunner’s Daughter. How far is it to Chicago?’ And I’m like, ‘Dude, it’s like 15 hours!’ They didn’t realize. But it’s really spread out. You can see how many downloads each album has on the Web site, but we have downloads from like Japan, Australia, South Africa. It’s working well.
It’s kind of an atypical structure for a record label. Do bands pay for the recording an all of that themselves?
Yeah, since we don’t make any money, we don’t give any money. We’re kind of just a glorified promotions company, in a sense, but it looks good to say you’re on Blah Blah Blah Records instead of just, ‘We’re on Blah Blah Blah Promotions.’