AN INTERVIEW WITH DUMPSTER TAPES
Illinois natives Alex Fryer and Ed McMenamin are co-founders of a fairly new Chicago-based cassette label, “Dumpster Tapes” and the name is fitting. They’ve got some of the grittiest and grimiest that Chicago’s scene has to offer with constant releases on the horizon. From organizing shows to putting out compilation tapes centralized around local music, they pride themselves in promoting any and all artists they can along the way. Here to talk about the essence of DT’s magic with me is none other than Alex Fryer!
Have you grown up familiar to the music scene in Chicago or migrated here from somewhere else?
I am from Chicago (Hyde Park, specifically) and became conscious of the local music scene in my early teens.
What is your background in music and what inspired you to start up an independent label like Dumpster Tapes?
At 14, I was a camper in the first-ever Girls Rock! Chicago session, which is where I was inspired by numerous women to become involved in the Chicago music community. In high school, I went to a lot of shows in the city and eventually became a counselor as well as a bass instructor at GR!C. As an undergraduate, I was involved in booking and promoting shows both at Bryn Mawr and Haverford College. I really wanted to start a college record label at Bryn Mawr, but no one else was that enthusiastic about the idea and so it never took off. After returning to Chicago, I was a Rock DJ at WPK 88.5 FM in Hyde Park, where I served briefly as Promotions Director and Interim Rock Format Chief. Around that time, I also interned at The Empty Bottle. It was not long after that I met Ed McMenamin at a Cobra Lounge show. That night, we discovered that our music interests aligned almost perfectly, but it was not until a few months later that our mutual desire to create an independent label was revealed and we decided to found Dumpster Tapes.
I really enjoyed listening to the Monster Compilation mixtapes y’all put out giving that it’s got some of my favorite new bands on it. What can you tell us about the birth of this eclectic Chicago rock assortment, and what might you be scheming for the future? Are you planning to make this an annual release?
Thanks! The Monster Compilation is one of my favorite Dumpster Tapes projects to work on. I don’t remember much of how it first came about other than I knew I wanted to try my hand at making a compilation happen (I love comps) and given that there were so many great garage/punk/psych/surf/pop-rock bands in the city, it made sense to do a Chicago-centric one. I don’t think it was our intention to always keep it that way. We floated around the idea of devoting compilations to other cities, but with two under our belt and a possible third in the works, it might just be. Chicago rules. It would be great to keep releasing one of these every year, with a different set of bands on it each year.
Being a DIY label, how do you operate cassette tape production and distribution?
Depending on the size of our runs, we might dub the tapes at home with our own equipment (Ed is the master at this) or send them off to be duplicated. Our distribution happens mostly online throughBandcamp or our webstore, although you can find our releases in numerous record stores throughout the city (shouts to Bric-a-Brac Records, who have sold our entire catalogue) and in other cities as well.
Do you have a certain vision or aesthetic in mind when seeking out new artists?
No vision or aesthetic, really. Just so long as the music and the people are both good!
Would you say you’ve served as a jumping off point for any bands starting out?
Maybe, but it’s more of a credit to the talent of the artists themselves. We try to put an emphasis on promotion, both for the bands that are on our label and other bands that we support. I love handling promo and booking shows to help bands gain even just a little more exposure. It’s fun and rewarding.
I think the double edged sword to all the great music coming out of Chicago would be that there’s so many events and shows happening on a nightly basis. How do you thrive and compete in that sort of environment?
That’s a great point, and sometimes it’s really hard! We encounter this issue with almost every show or event that we host. However, I do think that the label and our bands attract a certain following and most people know that a Dumpster Tapes show will always be cheap, accessible and fun, which is cool.
In your short time as a label, what milestones can you look back on and where do you want to evolve to from here?
I think everything is a milestone for us, honestly. This will be our third year of doing Dumpster Tapes and that’s huge! I don’t know if Ed and I had any real expectations going into this, but it’s been such an awesome ride. Some favorite moments, though, include: each time one of our bands opens for a big act (like when Gross Pointe opened for The Black Lips or when Jollys open for Mark Sultan next month); putting out our first international release, the Sick Hyenas S/T; co-hosting Words + Music at The Empty Bottle with Curbside Splendor; co-releasing our first LP, Flesh Panthers’ NGC 2632, along with Tall Pat Records; organizing shows for our friends from Argentina, Las Piñas, when they came to Chicago; each time we were featured in Pitchfork’sShake Appeal column, or really any time someone wrote about our releases; and, most recently, Nardwuar following us on Instagram. Who knows what will happen next or where we will go from here.
Lastly, are there any specific projects or artists you’d like us to know about?
So many projects and so many artists. But right now we’ll plug our most recent releases, Glyders’ DIM, Laverne’s S/T, Dumpster Babies’Lost and Found, Cass Cwik’s On the Rock, and Jollys’ Raw Flower. Then coming up soon we’ve got Troy Anderson’s Frankfort, Cafe Racer’s S/T, The Speed Babes’ S/T and an Easy Habits tape. Whoop! Check out our Facebook or Instagram pages for more.
by ALEX MANLEY