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Friday, August 10, 2012

Tricycle Records: The Music Industry Training Wheels for Promising Bay Area Bands

Posted By on Fri, Aug 10, 2012 at 10:43 AM

Julie Schuchard and Don Joslin
  • Julie Schuchard and Don Joslin

Name: Tricycle Records

Headquarters: Lower Haight, San Francisco

Owners: Julie Schuchard and Don Joslin

Founded: 2006

Label one-sheet: Tricycle Records is an independent record label based in San Francisco that exclusively signs local groups and offers such crucial services as press relations, tour booking, graphic design, and other such general management while allowing artists to retain full ownership of their music and complete creative control. Tricycle envisions itself as a launching pad for acts destined for larger labels.

Musical focus: Joslin initially wanted to start a label focused on shoegaze music, but such regimented genre focus left Schuchard lukewarm. Eventually, the duo agreed to eschew genre adherence altogether and instead sign only Bay Area bands. Regional focus replaced genre focus, and Tricycle has released local bands operating in such eclectic styles as electro-pop, post-rock, chamber-pop, and garage.

Creation story: Prior to the label's founding, Joslin hired Schuchard, who also works as a professional photographer, to snap live shots of his band, The Union Trade. After the show, Schuchard pressed Joslin about his band's plans. Joslin revealed that he planned on establishing a fictitious label to self-release the record. Schuchard basically pitched to Joslin her idea for a record label, and he was so taken with it that their partnership was established within days. Schuchard's connections as a photographer were beneficial in the label's formative period. For example, her friendship with the owner of Ioda, a group handling digital distribution that would not normally work with a label of Tricycle's size, allowed the label to effectively distribute digitally while in an early stage.

Stripmall Architecture's "We're Not Cool" EP
  • Stripmall Architecture's "We're Not Cool" EP

Most recent release: Stripmall Architecture's "We Are Not Cool" EP is the most recent offering from Tricycle Records. The steamy, NSFW video for the B-side, "Dusk Drinks" caused a stir earlier this year on All Shook Down, but luckily the music warrants such attention. Its icy synthesizer and swirling, concupiscent vocals are enrapturing.

Future releases: A compilation entitled Friends of Tricycle Records Vol. 2 is slated for release August 28, and a release show will quickly follow. Being so fond of many local groups, Schuchard describes the compilation as an opportunity to showcase worthy bands that Tricycle is unable to give individual releases to, whether they be established locals like Mr. Loveless or completely unheard of. Additionally, a solo recording from Luisa Black, formerly of The Blacks, a staple artist of Tricycle Records' early period, will soon grace the label's catalog as well.

Geographer's Animal Shapes EP
  • Geographer's Animal Shapes EP

Business model: "We wanted to rewrite the script of how to start a record label and what a record label does," Schuchard says. She attributes the failure of so many post-millennial labels to their unsustainable overhead. With Tricycle, she seeks to subvert the traditional record label model by offering signees services instead of money, and thus allowing artists complete ownership and creative control. She believes that navigating the dense, complicated bureaucracy and politics involved with promotion, distribution, and booking should be handled entirely by a third party, allowing artists time to write, rehearse, and record. Schuchard seeks groups that she envisions moving on to larger labels and greater popularity. In the case of San Francisco's Geographer, that's has proven to be true. The band recently signed to Modern Art records, and Tricycle is benefiting as the home of the group's first release. Explain the origin of Tricycle's name, Schuchard says, "We're training wheels for the record industry."

The power of album art: Following our discussion of Stripmall Architecture's racy video, Schuchard asserted that The Blacks single, "The 7-Inch" often sold because of its own raunchy cover art alone: A simple illustration of a rabbit giving another rabbit a blowjob. She recalled peddling the record over the counter to well-known local musician Kelley Stoltz, who also works as a record buyer at Grooves. He planned on buying only a couple outright for the store, until he saw the album art. Then he took five. Schuchard rested her case.

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