Makeshift Records' Brad Postlethwaite isn't quite as idealistic as he used to be: "I have a better idea of what we're up against now," he says, three years after the label's first release. "I feel like the label is a real business now. We're at that stage where we need to get really organized. We don't want to have to license songs and stuff. Our main goal is to help bands."
"One thing I've gotten used to is telling people we don't have any money," Postlethwaite says with a laugh. "We don't have any investors. We just put any profit we make right back into the label. I'd like to keep it that way forever. If we're not worried about turning a big profit, we don't have to concern ourselves with the mainstream music industry." Citing musicologist Alan Lomax as one of his greatest heroes, he adds, "It's nice to be able to stray away from what's happening with the mainstream entertainment industry, where shareholders set the standard on how music is supposed to sound. Those kinds of politics destroy the culture of music, which can have so many horrible side effects. Realizing all that really puts this record label in perspective."
So far, Makeshift has provided an outlet for dozens of bands, including Lucero, The Lost Sounds, The Ultra Cats, and Loggia, as well as Postlethwaite's own Snowglobe on two compilations, The First Broadcast and Makeshift #2. With a handful of other CDs and seven-inches rounding out the catalog, the Makeshift label serves as a catchall for the local indie scene.
This week, the label will celebrate the release of its third comp, appropriately titled Makeshift #3, with three shows in Midtown. The Young Avenue Deli is hosting a performance on Wednesday, November 26th, with Cory Branan, Blair Combest, Tim Prudhomme, The Glass, and The Audacity, while The Hi-Tone Café will be the site for two shows: Andy Grooms, Paul Taylor, and The Passport Again on Thursday, November 27th, and Snowglobe, Victory Mansion, Vending Machine, and El Hakim on Saturday, November 29th.
Postlethwaite explains that instead of royalties, all the bands on Makeshift #3 will get 25 copies of the CD to sell at their shows. "We needed to make sure the musicians got compensated somehow," he says. "We just deal with them directly. No one else gets a cut."
Along with Tommy Pappas and Aaron Rehling, he spent the last few years sifting through songs for the comp, which, with 22 different bands, is Makeshift's most ambitious project yet. "We used half of the stuff that came to us via our Web site or through word-of-mouth," he says. "We work closely with some other bands, so we knew their songs were gonna end up on it. Eventually, I made a CD of all of the songs with no band names on it and passed it around to get some input."
With tracks from a cross-section of the Memphis scene, Makeshift #3 sounds joyously eclectic. Mouserocket, Vending Machine, and Andy Grooms each contributed dreamy, low-fi numbers, while Wet Labia, The Oscars, and The Final Solutions play primal punk-rock songs that clock in under two minutes apiece. Branan weighs in with the sunny "She's My Rock'n'Roll," and the Reigning Sound deliver a harsh "We Repel Each Other." Then there's [regular Flyer contributor] Andy Earles' "You're Harshing My Trip," one of the funniest prank phone calls committed to tape.
"People might pick up this CD because it has the Reigning Sound or Cory on it -- because they're known, their contributions add substance and keep people listening," Postlethwaite says. "There's a correlation between the music being good and the band having a name, of course. But the CD also works for bands that aren't as big. It makes a great promotional tool for them. The fact that the Oscars and Cory Branan are on the same album is really amazing."
While most of the music on Makeshift Records could hardly be considered traditional Memphis music, Postlethwaite can't imagine the label existing anywhere else. "Brandon [Robertson, Snowglobe's bassist] and I moved to Athens, Georgia, a few years ago, because we were really into the music coming out of the Elephant Six collective," he says. "Then it hit me. All of those people grew up together, and here we were trying to be a part of their scene. That didn't make any sense. We needed to come back to Memphis and do our thing here."
Makeshift #3 isn't the only project Postlethwaite has simmering on the fire. He and his Snowglobe bandmates Tim Regan, Jeff Hulett, and Brandon Robertson have recorded 18 new songs at Memphis Soundworks for an album due out by spring. "We hope to shave it down to 12 songs," he says, adding that he's not sure whether or not his own label will release it. "There are some other labels interested in us, but I'm not gonna even think about it right now," Postlethwaite says.
For more information, go to MakeshiftMusic.com or Snow-globeMusic.com.