Calling your label Failure Records seems like a way to tempt fate, but for mastermind Matt Swisher, it’s really a clever twist of reverse psychology.
Failure started in 2002 as way for Swisher to release music from his punk-metal band, A Failed Escape – and its philosophy didn’t take long to emerge.
“I didn’t like it when bands acted like what was happening right now was just a prerequisite for the big fortune and fame coming down the road,” recalled Swisher. “I hate the term ‘paying your dues’ – what’s happening right now is it. It’s all about living in the moment.”
The next logical step came when bands started asking Swisher to release their music, which he bases on three conditions that guide him today.
“If you’re part of a band that works hard, they’re touring, you like their music, and you’re passionate about it – you have to have the right project,” he said.
In February, Failure will take another big step with its first vinyl album by Jack Logan & The Roach Brothers – What Is This, Some Kind Of Joke?
The Roach Brothers is actually an alias for multi-instrumentalists Terry and Jamie Rouch, who also backed up Logan on his own releases.
During the late 1990s, the Rouches sent Logan a CD of 15 songs to finish off, “that sat on a shelf for years and years – Jack never got to it,” recalled Swisher.
The project gained new momentum in 2010-11, roughly five years after Jamie Rouch died of Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
“Logan finds the CD, likes the tunes, finishes recording, sends ‘em to Terry,” said Swisher. “He gets ahold of me, ‘cause he knows I run the label. I listen to ‘em, I think, ‘OK, these are pretty good,’ And that’s it.”
On a personal level, the outcome feels especially satisfying to Swisher, who’d actually met Logan “years and years ago, at a recording studio in Royal Center, IN, called Big As A Barn,” he said.
What happens next depends on what kind of reaction What Is This generates, once those 300 vinyl copies come back next month from the pressing plant.
“We want to do a release party – we’d like to get Jack up here,” said Swisher. “He could stay in Royal Center with Terry, and we could maybe try to book some club dates. We haven’t got that far into it yet.”
Two other vinyl releases will follow What Is This -- including a split LP from Pale Horsemen and the Mound Builders (April), and Joe Myside & The Sorrow (July).
The Oklahoma-based Myside had already released a solo cassette tape, one of several that Failure has put out – which, like vinyl records, offer a tangible item for fans to cherish, Swisher notes.
“They’re a cool way to gauge a band: ‘Let’s do a cassette first, let’s see how well these go,’” said Swisher. “I hope that we have a long future working with people like Joe, and the Mound Builders. Those are bands that play a lot of shows, and get things out to magazines be reviewed, and blogs.”
For Swisher, Failure offers a different kind of musical outlet than he pursued in the past.
“I’m domesticated now, man – I got a family, and I don’t wanna go play seedy bars in downtown Chicago, or Indianapolis, or Detroit,” said Swisher. “I’m not into that as much as I once was. But I love being in contact with musicians. I love helping bands put out a project.”
And, as long as Swisher finds music that excites him, that outlet will feel satisfying for a long time to come.
“When I was in bands, if someone had said, ‘I like what you’re doing, I’m willing to invest some money into it,’ it would have sent me to the moon. I’m addicted to the world of DIY music, the Midwestern music scene, and I cannot let it go,” he said.