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Feature for September 2013

Double Crown Records

Name: Double Crown Records

Interview with: Sean by email on 9/1/13

 


1. What is the mission of  Double Crown Records?
 

There probably isn't one single mission of Double Crown Records. I suppose it's basically to release music I like, created by people I like and admire. However, I suppose another mission is the release the best surf and instrumental rock n' roll that I can find. I've tried to branch out a bit, into rockabilly, swing and even primal blues, but although those releases have been very satisfying to me on a personal level, they just didn't sell very well. Double Crown, for better or worse, is pretty well established as a surf music label, so I usually end up turning off our most loyal customers whenever I try to branch out a bit.

There are several other missions, or goals. I studied international business in college, and although my day job as a sales & marketing manager at a whale watching company does use my education, I do have a boss, so I don't get to make the business decisions for the company. Double Crown satisfies that itch for me, to run a business exactly the way I want to.

People ask if I have sales goals with each release - it's pretty simple. I need to make enough money from each release to fund the next release. As long as that keeps happening, Double Crown will keep going.
 


2. How did Double Crown  get its name, and how long has it been around?
 

The label started around 1997 as an offshoot of The Continental Magazine, which started a few years before that. I received a bunch of demos for review in the magazine, and after talking to guys like Dave Crider (Estrus Records), Lee Joseph (Dionysus Records) and Johnny Bartlett (Hillsdale Records) about their labels, it seemed like it'd be really cool to start my own record label.

The label was originally called Continental Records, and the first release was the "Hit The Jetstream" 7" by The Penetrators. They had sent a demo cassette to me, and they seemed to be the perfect band to start a label with. It certainly didn't hurt to have a talented artist and musician in their lineup - Rip Thrillby. I borrowed a bit of money from my dad, pressed 1200 7"s, and the label began.

I put out 2 more releases under the Continental Records name, then realized that there were two other Continental Records in existence. To avoid any possible legal issues, I decided to change the name. My wife was going to beauty school at the time and had a 100 year old book on early haircutting techniques. There was a section that described different head types - a "double crown" is someone that has two crowns at the top of their head, a somewhat unusual head type. I knew of budget label Crown Records, of course, and there was a Triple Crown Records, but no Double Crown, so that's the name I went with. It didn't hurt that I was, and still am, a fan of Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey, so I've been known to tip back a Double Crown on the rocks on occasion.
 

3. How do you define the genre of surf music?
 

Well that is a simple, and tough question at the same time. To me though, it starts with the sound of the early 60's surf scene. And I know this is somewhat controversial, but I include vocal and instrumental bands and songs in my definition of surf music. The Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, Dick Dale, early Astronauts, The Lively Ones, etc... it's all surf music to me. What I specialize in is instrumental surf music, but I love vocal surf music as well. There just aren't many modern bands that play surf music with vocals (which has always seemed strange to me).
 

4. What sparked your  interest in surf music?
 

I've told this story a zillion times, but it's okay that you asked! I first heard surf music as a teen - my parents had a double LP that I can't remember the name of, but it folded out to reveal a blonde, topless woman laying chest down in the sand. That was enough to spark a young teens interest, but the music on the LP's was killer - a mix of all the top vocal and instrumental surf tunes of the early 60's. "Surfin' Bird" was my fave.

However, that alone didn't spark the creation of magazine or record label. In my early 20's I moved to Bellingham, WA to attend college, and really wanted to get involved with the local music scene. I went to a few shows and found out about a local label called Estrus Records. This was before the internet, so I sent a self-addressed stamped envelope to their PO Box to request a catalog. I seem to remember it only having about 5-10 items in it, mostly stuff related to The Mono Men. However, there was an LP/CD by Man Or Astro-Man? - "Destroy All Astromen". I saw the cover and bought it right away - the cover alone was cool enough for me initially. However once I got it and put the needle on the record I was hooked. I eventually bought just about every other item in the Estrus catalog, which expanded my enthusiasm for surf and garage rock. I then began to seek out other similar labels, and started picking up stuff by Dionysus, Hillsdale, Norton and other, smaller labels.
 


5. How do you market Double Crown and the Continental Magazine? What do you find to be your best marketing tool (such as social media, direct mail, etc.)?

 

You have to do all of the above these days. Probably the best marketing tool I have is our monthly e-newsletter, but social media (mainly Facebook) is becoming more important. I also do some print advertising in surf-friendly publications, postcards, stickers, and a little bit of online advertising. Co-sponsoring festivals is also becoming more important.
 

6. What geographic regions do you cover with Double Crown Records and Continental Magazine?
 

The entire world - with the US dollar as low as it is, we get more and more orders from outside the country. It's hard to market to the entire world on a small budget, which is why it's important to have a strong web presence - a nice looking, yet easy to use website, and lots of social media and e-newsletter work.
 

7.  We have seen your sponsorship of events such as Instro Summit in NC and SG101 Convention in CA. What other events do you sponsor?
 

I know I'll forget some, but there's also the Surfer Joe festival, Viva Las Vegas, and a few others. Also, I always say that Double Crown is a co-sponsor - I've never been the sole sponsor of any festival.
 

8. How would someone get on a Continental Magazine compilation CD or get their music reviewed in the magazine?
 

In the early issues of The Continental Magazine I handpicked all of the music that went on the CD. Issue #9 had a space themed CD, for example. However after that issue it seemed like paid advertising, which I relied on to cover printing and CD manufacturing costs, dried up. So I came up with a different model, creating a package where bands could pay to have a song on the CD, but would also get a 1/2 page ad in the magazine and 12 copies of the finished magazine/CD. Bands can sell the magazine at shows and get just about all their money back, so it's a great deal. We're accepting band submissions for the next issue - details can be found at:
http://www.doublecrownrecords.com/song-advertisement-in-the-continental-magazine-22/

Getting music reviewed is easy - we try to review everything sent to us, as long as it fits the surf/instro rock/exotica/rockabilly/roots rock genres. It has to be a physical release (CD, LP or 7") and needs to be commercially available. So no homemade CD-R's or emailed MP3's. Music can be sent to:

The Continental Magazine
P.O. Box 4336
Bellingham, WA 98227-4336
USA
 

9. You have just released the Continental Magazine #21. How has
circulation of the magazine chanced over the years since issue #1?

 

Well, the first 6 issues were photocopied at a local copy shop, and I probably made about 300 copies of each. Starting with issue #7, we went with a commercially printed format, where the minimum is 1000 copies. Every issue from that point on has been the same - 1000 copies. We started adding the CD with issue #7 as well.
 

10. What types of music and bands does Double Crown promote?
 

Well that goes back to an earlier question, but basically we focus on surf and instrumental rock n' roll. Perhaps a slant towards early 60's style surf rock, performed by modern bands. But the magazine covers more than that - surf, garage, rockabilly and exotica.
 

11. Since the  mid-90s, what kind of growth have you seen in the genre of surf music? Do you  see more original music now?
 

I definitely see more original music now - bands are definitely pushing the boundaries of surf/instro rock more now than the 90's. That decade had more "traditionalists", who basically emulated the sound of the early 60's with vintage instruments, recording techniques and song structures. I think that needed to happen - it reintroduced what was so great about the "first wave" of surf music. Now that that's been done, you see more modern bands going for a fresh, new, vibrant sound.

As far as growth goes, it's hard to say. I'd say surf music was more popular in the mid-90's than today, but it's popularity has definitely grown in Europe, and festivals like the Surf Guitar 101 festival in California keep growing as well. It'd say in general surf music is holding steady these days.
 

12. How did you first hear about the North East Surf Music Alliance?
 

I don't remember exactly when, but it seems like it was a long time ago, back in the early days of the Continental Magazine. It's really cool to have a united group of bands in the same region - it would definitely help with shows/tours and cross promotion. I think something similar is happening in California, although they really don't have a name for it.
 

13. What's coming up next for Double Crown?
 

Well, even though Continental Magazine #21 just came out, I'm already working on issue #22 with Ivan Pongracic, who's putting together part 2 of our extensive interview with Australian surf rock legends The Atlantics. There will be a new CD by The Volcanics coming out in September, and we've got ideas for a new compilation as well, for which I'll be assisted by Jonpaul Balak. Otherwise, I'm kinda looking forward to laying low a bit and enjoying the fall and holiday seasons this year.
 

14. Anything  else?
 

Thanks for thinking of Double Crown for this piece - I really appreciate it! I'd just say to everyone out there reading this - please continue to support surf music by attending shows and buying music from the bands, CDs, 7"s and digital downloads. Like many have written in the news recently, services like Spotify and Pandora really don't help bands or labels much. Itunes, Amazon, Emusic and CD Baby help much more, but for me, I still like to hold something - so CDs, LPs and 7"s are where it's at.
 

     

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