By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Though Direct Hit Records hasn't quite been the same since Kelly and Sean Handran were forced to close their store in Exposition Park in July 1995, the mom-and-pop label's catalog reads like a history of Dallas and Denton music over the past 10 years. After all, Direct Hit released Bedhead's debut single ("Bedside Table"/"Living Well") in June 1992, as well as the first records by Baboon, The Dooms U.K., Brutal Juice, UFOFU, and The Grown-Ups. It's a list unequaled in talent or diversity by almost any label, here or anywhere. For a few years, it looked as though Direct Hit could have been to Dallas what Sub Pop was to Seattle or Twin/Tone was to Minneapolis-St. Paul.
And it probably should have been. Direct Hit always worked because the Handrans thought with their hearts and their ears instead of their bank account, releasing records by bands they liked just because someone had to do it. Since forming the label in 1989, the Handrans have also put out discs by the likes of Slowpoke, Mess, Lithium X-Mas, Fury III, MK Ultra, as well as U.F.O. Psychic Experiment, which featured, among others, Bedhead's Bubba Kadane (who briefly co-operated the label), Lithium X-Mas' Chris Merlick and Mark Ridlin, and John Freeman. Even the projects that didn't pan out -- the Funland-UFOFU split single, for one -- were more interesting than many local labels' actual releases. No other label in town boasts the impressive history of Direct Hit, and it's likely no one ever will.
In the next month or so, that history will end, at least as far as Dallas is concerned. Sean Handran relocated to San Francisco a few weeks ago, looking for work and a new house for his family. Kelly and the couple's two young sons -- 5-year-old Jacob and 4-year-old Daniel -- will soon join him, hopefully before it's time to enroll Jacob in kindergarten. Whether the label and its distinctive Kennedy-in-the-crosshairs logo will follow the Handrans to the West Coast remains to be seen; Kelly says she has been trying to pull the plug on Direct Hit for the last few years. The label is little more than a back catalog and some good memories now, its new releases in the past few years so few that even young Daniel Handran could keep track.
But there has always been another band knocking on the Handrans' door, asking for a little help. And more often than not, Kelly says, she can't turn them down, even though she admits that she has tired of dealing with bands on a regular basis, especially now that she has two children running around the house. Yet even as the Handran clan prepares to move across the country, Direct Hit is readying two new projects for release: singles by New Jersey's The Secession Movement and a "sentient cybernetic organism" from Little Rock, Arkansas, known as Exit Human -- the first non-local records in Direct Hit's existence.
"I said after the Grown-Ups that that was it," Kelly says, referring to the disc Direct Hit released early last year that collected every song the now-defunct Denton ska band ever committed to tape, including the 10-inch single the group recorded for Direct Hit. "And then [The Secession Movement] sent me their stuff. And now, Brandon Curtis and his band [Captain Audio] want to do something with us. So, never say never, I guess."
In addition to the Captain Audio release (which Curtis recently said will likely be a double seven-inch), Kelly says, the label may also put out the long-delayed debut by Pleasant Grove. But she doesn't want to speculate too much about upcoming release schedules. The Secession Movement and Exit Human singles could be the period at the end of sentence the Handrans began a decade ago, or the beginning of a new one. It's too soon to tell, and Kelly has given up planning for the future, at least when it comes to Direct Hit.
"I tried to do that a long time ago, but everything always changed," she says, laughing. "Now, all I can tell you is what I have in my hand right now."
Unfortunately, what we have in our hands right now is the end of an era. So, send your goodbye notes and best wishes to the Handrans at firstname.lastname@example.org. After all they've given us, we owe them that much.