Almost a month after moving from Memphis to Birmingham, Dan Drinkard is settling in and setting up shop with regard to his record label, Fat Sandwich Records.
That’s speaking figuratively, of course, as the analog records he helps put together and promotes are often stored away and mostly distributed through a webstore and at live shows.
“The first release was in March 2010 and it’s just something I do for fun,” Drinkard said. “It initially started as a name to put out my old band’s 7”, and after I put out that record a couple of other bands approached me about doing something for them so I kept doing it.”
Since then, Drinkard has published at least 25 records on vinyl and cassette, mostly acquiring the sounds of pop-punk, garage rock and hardcore bands from Alabama and Tennessee, as well as Latin-American hardcore band La Armada out of Chicago.
After a band gives him a record, Drinkard sends the mastered tapes to a small mom-and-pop plant in Ohio that manually presses the vinyl product one by one. He has the covers and inserts designed and then printed in New York. Once the individual parts are put together, digital versions are uploaded online, and finally the record is released.
“I don’t know if I have an ear or great sense of what might sell,” Drinkard said. “It’s honestly not about that, because at this point, to own a label you don’t get to choose bands that you like and will also sell. But I try to find bands that I know or am acquainted with, and then if the band catches my ear. … The ultimate goal is to put out a record for a band that can’t afford or doesn’t know how to do it on their own, and then promote the band, which in turn sells the record.”
According to Drinkard, that promotion is reciprocated back to the label when fans of one band check out the website and purchase other bands’ releases.
“I don’t make money off of it — personally, at least – because everything I make from releases and anything else I sell goes straight back into the label to keep putting out stuff,” Drinkard said.
“I’m at the point now where I can let it fund itself. It depends on the release, as some sell better than others, but it’s been pretty consistent for the last year so that I don’t have to spend my own money on it, which is awesome.”
In mid-April, Drinkard hosted a two-day showcase at Woodlawn’s new all-ages venue, the Forge, featuring bands that he has worked with or knows.
“From an outsider’s perspective, Birmingham has always had a pretty thriving DIY music scene. I used to come to shows at Cave 9 back in the day, and every show I saw there was incredible and it seemed like there was a real good community and a lot of people working toward common goals.”
While he enjoys his day job in a law firm, Drinkard said that his ultimate goal in Birmingham is to open a record store.
“I would like to do something that’s more focused on bands I would listen to, including new and used vinyl. If I could do that and run the label out of the store, that would be so much fun.”
You can check out new, local music you’ve never heard before at www.fatsandwichrecords.com.