In 1987, Island Records released a 10-track compilation album titled The Sound of Deep Ellum, featuring original songs from Dallas-based bands such as the Buck Pets, the New Bohemians, Reverend Horton Heat and Shallow Reign. The album sold about 10,000 units, a drop in the bucket at the time.
Thirty years later, local label Field Day Records is reissuing The Sound of Deep Ellum on 500 limited edition vinyl records, with new album artwork inspired by Deep Ellum’s signature black, green and yellow neon signs.
The album is available to preorder at FieldDayRecords.com. It officially goes on sale Dec. 8, and Field Day will host an album release show that day at Three Links with performances by the Buck Pets, Shallow Reign and Jeff Liles, who will open the night with a DJ set of music from the era.
Field Day Records comprises local musicians Rico Andradi and Dillon Anderson. It took shape in 2013, when Andradi and Anderson met in Los Angeles through mutual industry friends and later reconnected in Dallas.
Anderson, now the full-time road manager for DJ and producer Steve Aioki, was touring with his band AllStarWeekend in 2013, and Andradi was touring with Forever the Sickest Kids and self-releasing music from another band he played in, TEAM*, under the name Field Day Records.
At first, Andradi says, “we were doing reissues for some of the major labels, and then we wanted to start doing original releases that were Dallas-based.”
Although the bulk of Field Day's business is licensing for TV shows, films and commercials, it has also released records from local artists such as Bryce and Charlie Crockett. Andradi says The Sound of Deep Ellum came to the owners' attention in April through their mutual friend David Grover, who owns Spinster Records.
“We were just hanging out at his place, and it came up in a conversation,” Andradi says. “We thought it would be really cool to reissue it because David actually had the cassette at his store."
After some online research, they discovered that the album had been released on vinyl as well but that pressings were rare.
“These songs aren’t available online,” Andradi says. “If you wanted to hear them digitally, you’d have to buy the record or the cassette tape and then rip it to a .wav file or .mp3.
"So, in keeping with the authentic value of having a vinyl record, when you hear this album for the first time, you’re probably hearing these songs for the first time,” he says.
Next, Anderson and Andradi consulted Liles, artistic director of the Kessler Theater since 2008 and a longtime fixture of the Dallas music scene. His band Decadent Dub appeared on the original album. With help from Liles and their friend Amy Miller, KXT’s program director, Andradi and Anderson obtained approvals from artists and licensing from Universal Music Group, which subsumed Island Records in the late ’90s.
They also tracked down the original executive producer, Kim Buie, who’s now the head of A&R at New West Records in Nashville. The process took months.
“There’s a lot of history on this project,” Andradi says. “A lot of these bands went national. But it was such a small release, we had to dig for information about it.”
To avoid stepping on red tape, Anderson “completely redesigned the album’s artwork and packaging,” Andradi says, “which turned out to be blessing in disguise, I think, because he really put a new spin on it to capture the old and the new.”
Andradi, Anderson and Miller learned that The Sound of Deep Ellum was a turning point for the local music community.
“In the early to mid-’80s, you couldn’t get booked in Deep Ellum unless you were playing cover songs,” Andradi says. “But in ’87, this turn came, and the album kind of put Dallas on the map in terms of these bands being able to book their own shows and play their own songs.
"And with all the changes happening in Deep Ellum, Dillon and I felt like it was important to remember its history as we’re building its future — because these artists really paved the way for the next generation, our generation, to play original music in the neighborhood again.”