A few weeks ago, I was introduced to a few “new-to-me” record labels doing garage rock records. While searching for records from some of these labels, I found several more labels/distos that are doing these sort of releases. There are so many new-to-me bands and labels that are doing really great things. One of the labels I came across is Double Crown Records out of Belling ham, Washington.
Double Crown specializes in instrumental surf rock. I wasn’t really familiar with any of these bands, but I received a few releases from them by The Surfites, The Beechwoods, Boss Fink, and others. I hooked! Some really great music is being released by Double Crown. If you are looking to add some variety to your record collection, Check them out!
Fat Elvis Records Proudly Supports….Double Crown Records!
1.When did you start your label and why did you do it?
Double Crown Records actually got it’s start as Continental Records in 1996. We put out 7″s by The Penetrators and Boss Martians, as well as a CD by The Del-Vamps, but then found that there were already a couple of other labels with the same name, so to avoid legal action, I changed the name to Double Crown Records. My wife, who was in beauty school at the time, had an old haircutting book from the early 1900’s that we thumbed through looking for interesting words and names that might be good for a record label name. We found a page that talked about haircutting techniques for people with a “double crown” – two crowns at the top of their head. It’s not common, but not entirely freakish as well. I knew all about Crown Records, the budget label from the 50’s and 60’s, and liked Crown Royal whiskey, so I thought it was perfect – Double Crown Records.
I live in Bellingham, WA and attended Western Washington University in the early 90’s. As someone new to town, I wanted to immerse myself in the local music scene, so I went to a few local shows and heard about a label called Estrus Records. I got their address and sent a self-addressed stamped envelope asking for a catalog. It was kind of odd I guess, since Estrus was also based in Bellingham, but they didn’t have a store, and I didn’t know their stuff was sold locally, so I got the catalog. It was a single sheet of paper – I think it had a few Mono Men releases, as well as a 7″ by The Phantom Surfers and a 12″ by Man Or Astro-Man? – “Destroy All Astro-Men”. I wasn’t big into surf music, but I was intrigued, and the cover art was amazing, so I bought the 12″. I got it a week or two later and was blown away – my world changed from that day on. I placed a second
order for everything else in the Estrus catalog, joined their vinyl “Crust Club” and was hooked. I soon grew to love surf, garage and rockabilly, and sought out stuff from labels like Estrus – Norton, Hillsdale, Dionysus, Telstar, etc.
Before doing the label I did a fanzine called “Hmmm…” which covered indie rock, but after diving into surf/garage rock, the focus of the magazine shifted. I was added to promo mailing lists of all sorts of labels – all of the labels I just mentioned, plus amazingly, major labels like Capitol and Elektra. This was just a photocopied fanzine, and I was getting tons of great records, everything from surf 7″s and CD’s, to fancy Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra box sets. Lots of great Beach Boys reissues as well. Anyway, I got sick of the name of the zine, and switched it to “The Continental” – it was named after a Frank Sinatra song, but also referred to a Christopher Walken sketch on Saturday Night Live. The first interview I did for the new magazine was with Dave Crider, head of Estrus Records and guitarist/singer in the Mono Men. It was really just a long chat that we had, at the sadly defunct 3-B Tavern, where we talked about the garage/surf scene, making records, Art Chantry, the Mono Men, etc. It was awesome – the best interview ever, and so influential on what I’ve done with the label and magazine ever since. It became clear that with all of the demos and music I was receiving for review, that I should really give the record label thing a shot. So I contacted the Penetrators to see if they wanted to do a 7″ and the rest is history…
2. What format(s) do you release music on?
Mainly CDs, but I like to do a vinyl release every other year at least. Last summer we released the “Double Crown Surf Party” compilation cassette, and there is another cassette release in the works. For listening and collecting, I like vinyl LP’s and 7″s the best, but I have no problem with CDs. Cassettes are fun too, although I have to admit I don’t have anything to play them on at the moment! Digital is fine too – I have a large music collection in iTunes, and just due to convenience I do most of my listening through iTunes or connected devices.
3. What has been your most successful release to date, or which release are you most proud of?
Most successful was the Penetrators’ “Locked & Loaded” CD – definitely sold more copies of that CD than any other Double Crown release. I can’t name just one release that I’m most proud of, but “Locked & Loaded” is definitely one of them. Just a combination of the music, the cover art and the working relationship, and friendship, I had with the band’s guitarist, Rip Thrillby, really made that my favorite release to work on. Rip did a bunch of the artwork for our early releases – he was to Double Crown what Art Chantry was to Estrus. There have been other great artists and graphic designers that I’ve worked with over the years though – Johnny Bartlett, Shag, Ferenc Dobronyi, Jonpaul Balak and Fred Lammers.
4. Do you have specific tastes in the music you choose to release (i.e. genres, regions, etc) or are you open to anything? If so, what is your preference?
Well, at this point Double Crown Records is probably the top instrumental surf rock label in the world, so I’m pretty much focused on releasing surf/instro rock at this point – it’s what customers and fans of the label expect at this point. I have tried other stuff in the past – rockabilly, blues/punk and vocal surf, but the bands broke up shortly after release and they didn’t sell very well. So I’m not too adventurous with the releases at this point. Having said that, there is quite a bit of variety within surf rock – some say it all sounds the same (including my wife!), but there is traditional 60’s surf, modern surf/punk, sci-fi surf, Euro instro, spaghetti western, surf/exotica and more. Lots of different sounds, and I try to feature them all on Double Crown.
5. How do you go about finding new artists you are interested in releasing?
Well at this point we’re closing in on 70 releases, and many bands on the label are working on their 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th releases. So the release schedule is often filled by current Double Crown bands working on releases, not leaving much room for new bands. However, sometimes a band will send something in that I listen to and just feel like I really have to add it to the label. The Del-Vipers CD was one that fit that category – I just felt that the label was missing a recent release that had the same sound and attitude of the mid-90’s surf rock scene, so that release fit that perfectly.
6. Anything in the works right now that you would like to share?
Lots of stuff in the works this summer – new CDs by The Madeira, The TomorrowMen, Boss Fink, The Volcanics and The Concussions. I’m also back to playing music myself – I’m in a band called “The Other Timelines” with Jonny Browning, who was Victor Vector in Man Or Astro-Man?, and also had an acclaimed surf combo in the 90’s called Jonny & The Shamen. Our first release, a 4 song EP, is coming out in August on three formats – 7″, CD-EP and cassette. The 7″ is the focus, but there will be bonus content on the CD and cassette formats.
7. Where do you see your record label going in the next five years? Ten years?
I hope it’s still going in 5-10 years. Realistically, I kind of look at the five year window more than ten years – I just don’t know where things will be in ten years. However, I’m optimistic that things will continue as they are for the next 5 years. CD sales are down, but steady enough to make a little. Vinyl does good, but the cost of producing vinyl is so high
that breaking even is kind of the goal there. Since I don’t do the label as a primary source of income, I do have the freedom to do some releases where the goal is just to break even, but overall, I really look for each release to have enough profit to finance the next release.
8. Where is the best place to find out more about your record label?
Definitely the Double Crown Records website – www.doublecrownrecords.com. However, I’d also invite people to pick up a copy of The Continental Magazine – it’s 40 pages filled with reviews, interviews and features, as well as a 20+ song CD included. For $6.95 a copy it’s a pretty sweet deal.
9. What are some of your other favorite small record labels?
Lots of ’em – Estrus, Norton, Hillsdale, Ecco-Fonic, Hidden Volume, Dionysus, Sleazy, El Toro and Part Records are my favorite surf/garage/rockabilly labels. I like Daptone, Third Man and Matinee Records as well for non-surf stuff.
10. Anything else you would like to add?
Thank you for giving me a chance to talk to you about Double Crown Records. It’s great that there’s so much enthusiasm out there for small labels and vinyl again – in some ways it feels a bit like it did back in the mid-90’s, when I first became involved with the scene. Good luck with your label and website – I wish you continued success in the future!