Josey Records had a hell of a first year. The massive Farmers Branch record store opened with a DJ booth and art gallery; then they quickly added a stage with a state of the art sound system and a second location in Kansas City. But at the one-year mark they have purchased A&R Records, the only plant that manufactures vinyl records in Texas. Under one roof, Josey Records will have a record label with recording studios, distribution, an in-house production staff and record manufacturing. Talk about making moves.
Speaking of moves, Josey Records also acquired a building in Northwest Dallas that used to be a Dave & Buster’s. A&R has seven record-pressing machines from the 1960s, when the business first opened its doors. They will be moved from the Riverfront Boulevard location, which has always been on lease, to the former Dave & Buster’s by spring. A copy of almost every record ever pressed at A&R came with the purchase.
Luke Sardello and Waric Cameron are the managing partners of Josey Records. They are very modest—or perhaps tight-lipped—about what appears to be a master plan being masterfully executed. But they admit that what they are doing isn’t taking place in many other cities. “Not many have that vertical integration going where you’ve got your hands in different aspects of the entire chain,” says Sardello.
They start to offer Jack White’s Third Man Records as a decent comparison, but correct themselves when they remember that the Nashville record store, venue and label partners with a pressing plant. It’s also worth noting that Third Man is just now opening its second location after six years.
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Cameron is absolutely believable when he says there will be several branches opening in new cities within the next couple of years. “The number of actual stores is pretty arbitrary,” says Cameron, when considering how many branches there will ultimately be. But the idea is to build a network of stores that will be conducive to a label in countless ways.
Stan Getz (not to be confused with the late jazz legend) has worked at A&R since 1983 and owned it since 2007. Space is tight in that building. Making records is labor intensive, an art form that's impossible to perfect. The machines are temperamental and there are countless things that could go wrong when you are making a record. There are trashcans filled with horribly disfigured vinyl, the fumes are impossible to forget and it gets very hot in there.
Getz knows the historical value of A&R; he worked with the founders of the business and absolutely wanted to make sure it kept going. But an interest in mastering records had him considering selling A&R. “I’m going on 60 years old,” Getz says. “I just got out of the plant side of it.” When Sardello and Cameron came along and made an offer, it was clear that they had their hearts in the right place:
“I’ve been approached by four or five other people,” Getz continues. But most of them wanted to get rid of the plant and move the machines to another city. “They are the most perfect fit I could ever imagine to buy that place,” Getz says of Cameron and Sardello. He happily describes the new arrangement as an opportunity to pursue new interests and semi-retire. As the manufacturing component of Josey Records, A&R will keep its name and its current staff of employees.
Dallas needs more record labels; it has plenty of everything else. Despite a vinyl record craze that shows no sign of stopping, few cities have plants that manufacture records. “There’s been a devaluing of music in the digital world,” says Sardello. “The music files you are dealing with just have titles, names and small pictures. It strips away the ideas an artist can present with a record.”
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Wayne Coyne, frontman for the Flaming Lips, has a contract with Warner Bros., his own label, and countless other independently released projects. But he has still made the trip from Oklahoma City to get records manufactured by A&R. Many other well-known artists from other cities have used the plant. A record label that manufactures its own vinyl records is particularly rare. It’s an incredible start for Josey Records.
Getting signed to Josey Records would be a milestone if you were in a band that rarely if ever played outside of Dallas, recorded whenever and however you could, and were really hoping to get your next release out on vinyl. It would truly be a one-stop shop. Josey Records could help a band record, produce, master, distribute and manufacture music. From there, a Josey Records artist could expect their music to be in every Josey Records branch and they could go on tour and perform at all these locations. That’s some next-level shit.
Josey Records will already be putting out its first releases on Black Friday. There will be in store performances from the Birds of Night, the Azalea Project, Reinventing Jude, Taylor Louis and Howler Jr. An EP will feature a song from each of these North Texas artists, on vinyl pressed at A&R. On that same day, Kansas City bands will play at the Missouri branch and they will have their own EP. So let the party begin.