When the reel-to-reel runs out of tape, Caulk's frontman doesn't say much to his guest, muttering only a simple and spirited, "I hope you remember what it sounds like." It's the first time someone from outside Caulk's immediate family has heard the band's new tunes, the precious stuff the loudcore foursome has labored over for the past several months, and he doesn't seem to care much whether his guest likes the music or not. Content with the results, he would prefer to let the music stand on its own.
It is Labor Day, and the band is in the midst of recording Love American Style, aiming at a self-imposed deadline for its release date (the album is scheduled to hit stores October 19). But at this moment there is still much mixing left to do, not so easy to accomplish since the band members --Holt, guitarist Marcus Bloom, drummer Erik Schuman, and bassist Keith Sharp--are holding down full-time jobs and slipping into the studio during odd hours and free moments.
Already, each of the Caulk crew has tacked on 20 to 30 hours a week of studio time in order to finish the record, and throughout late summer they gathered in Ugly Mustard bassist Mike Daane's backroom studio after work to lay down tracks for the new album. "It drives me crazy," says Holt, a graphic designer by trade. "I go to work at 9 a.m., I get off at 6 p.m., go to the studio at 7, and we're there until 1 or 2 in the morning."
And for Holt, there's the added task of packaging and selling the album, which will be the fifth release on his home-based, self-owned indie imprint One Ton Records. He's not just a member, he's the president.
Holt initially conceived the label as a venue to release Caulk's now sold-out 1994 debut EP Learn to Take, but the label has burgeoned into a full-time business venture with a handful of releases (including the outstanding Denton-rock compilation Welcome to Hell's Lobby and Jeff Liles' Cottonmouth, Texas spoken-word disc) to its credit and its very own office. But, until now, One Ton was just an outlet for friends' records and pet projects; with the release of Love American Style, as powerfully creepy and as creepily powerful an album as you'll hear all year, the label now is poised on the brink of establishing itself as a truly viable and highly visible one, not just some side project by a guy with a day job.
"If you have the balls enough to think that you can actually get rid of records you make, then it's just like buying a car," Holt relates. "Take out some money and invest in yourself. When you put your money where your mouth is, that shows a lot more than waiting for someone else to say, 'Hey, I believe in your music.' If the band doesn't believe in their music as much as that person does, that person's screwed."
Housed in a Deep Ellum warehouse space and set up between a display case of Star Wars toys and a hanging bedsheet that partitions off Holt's bedroom, the One Ton world headquarters consists of a large desk, a Macintosh Power PC complete with label logo screen saver, and an unorganized bookshelf. Behind the desk, colorful posters of Holt's favorite bands--among them Nirvana and Mudhoney--cover the walls, along with the posters Holt designed for Caulk and the other One Ton releases.
Cardboard boxes of One Ton CDs--including Doosu's debut, So Called the Cupboard's Bare; Liles' White Trash Receptacle; and Hell's Lobby--sit on shelves near the desk; there are no more copies of Learn to Take because it long ago sold out of its initial pressing of 1,000 discs. (Welcome to Hell's Lobby has also sold out of its 1,000 copies.) To find a Learn to Take disc to give to his guest, Holt has to rummage around his room.
Named after Caulk's slogan of "2,000 lbs. or bust," Holt began One Ton in early 1994 as a do-it-yourself venture intended to keep Caulk from getting stuck in any long-term commitments with outside labels; in fact, he says the band was ready to sign a deal with a local indie before backing out at the last minute. He came up with the name One Ton merely to make Learn to Take seem "semi-official," as he says, and started selling the CDs at Caulk shows. Less than a year later, Holt ran out of discs.