The sleeve notes on a Drunk Dial release are pretty different from your usual credits: “These songs were recorded drunk on small-batch mezcal, a case of beer, endless weed and plenty of psilocybin mushrooms”.
And while NME is not here to promote irresponsible drinking and narcotics use (honest), the results are pretty interesting.
Yep, Drunk Dial is a label that invites a band into the studio, gets them pissed and has them record an original song and a cover for release on a seven-inch single. Although the label are only four singles into their journey (with two more on the way), the response has so far been massive from both the artists (Ghost Ring, Eskare, The Hound Of Love, Billy August And The July Monarchy) and music lovers devouring their releases.
Chloe Costello of Portland’s much loved record stores Tender Loving Empire says stocking the records was a no-brainer. “I’m a big fan of what Drunk Dial do, especially the fact that they’ve found such a creative way to work with the 7-inch format,” she says. “The fact that all of the songs are actually legitimately good is a testament to how talented the bands they pick are, or maybe a testament to how cool being intoxicated is.”
We spoke to label founder Jordan Stamm to find out how it all works.
So what’s the idea behind Drunk Dial?
“On its face, Drunk Dial seems like a novelty label that would be releasing songs about partying, pizza and breaking shit. Our true intention is to facilitate and capture a different kind of music from talented artists. Normally a song would go through hours of practice in a songwriter’s bedroom, then practising with the band, testing on stage, tweaking in the studio and so on. What we want is to capture the songs that only come out in the back of a tour van, around a campfire or that would otherwise die in a notebook. The drinks and drugs are really the means of getting to our destination, not the reason we’re doing it.”
How does a typical release come into fruition then?
“A Drunk Dial release consists of finding a band we like, approaching them about the idea and seeing if they get it and are willing to try it. At that point we decide together what studio the band would feel most comfortable writing, recording and drinking in, then we book the date. The band is welcome to prepare for their cover song in any way they’d like before heading into the studio. But it is essential that they have not written, practised or planned out the original song before the drinking has begun. By the end of the day, for better or worse, they will have an original song and a cover song recorded, which we will release on 7-inch vinyl. Once the records arrive, the band gets their portion, the label gets theirs, and no money, paperwork or requirements after that. At the end of each project, we want to be able to party and drink as friends at the release show.”
How did the idea first come about?
“Drunk Dial honestly started as a dumb idea I had at a bar. I had put out records in the past working at and owning other labels. I really wanted to put out music again, but not necessarily deal with the ugly parts of running a label like signing contracts, fighting about money, being responsible for shitty people on the road. I’ve always heard stories about songs that were written last minute in the studio that end up being brilliant songs, I always use the example of ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ by Oasis. Essentially the label was a dumb idea, but instead of forgetting about it, I kept thinking about it, refining the idea and making plans to actually do it.”
“The drinks and drugs are really the means of getting to our destination, not the reason we’re doing it”
– Jordan Stamm, Drunk Dial founder
How easy was it getting the label off the ground?
“It wasn’t easy getting it started, the idea phase and drunkenly bringing it up to bands after shows was an ugly, year-long affair. I eventually wore down my close friend and super talented singer Kay Morrisette into going into the studio and helping me get this proof-of-concept first record completed. It took nearly a year from recording to release, but we ended up with Drunk Dial #1 – Ghost Ring: a really beautiful record that perfectly captured and guided the spirit of the label. That release made us a few friends and a few fans, it gave us the ability to keep going. Each release grows faster than we imagined, we only work with artists we dreamed of working with and hope to continue the trend.”
Who has been the messiest so far?
“We’re still invited back to every studio we have worked with, so I don’t know if anybody has actually gotten particularly messy. The guys in Escare took copious amounts of mushrooms, drank Modelos and small-batch custom mezcal, smoked weed throughout and still managed to record 14 songs in one session. I can’t imagine they or the studio looked particularly great at the end of the night. Our future release, Drunk Dial #6 with the Italian band Hakan, nearly netted us our first on-mic puking.”
“The Italian band Hakan nearly netted us our first on-mic puking”
– Jordan Stamm, Drunk Dial founder
What’s the general reaction been from the artists involved so far?
“After recording, most bands seem to have wished they managed their studio time better. For instance, Ghost Ring spent six hours on the cover and only had two hours left to figure out an original. It sometimes makes the musicians uneasy about sharing or fully standing behind the songs, but by the time the art is completed, the records are pressed and people get to see the product as a whole, the bands seem happy to have this odd little artefact, which is what it’s intended to be.”
As an observer, how do you think it affects their creativity and musical ability?
“In my opinion, whatever roughness around the edges exists only heightens the kind of energy we’re going for. Imperfect, but immediate and honest. Creatively, I think each of the songs represents a really unique addition to each of the artists’ bodies of work. It’s not all alien. For example, The Hound of Love (Andrew Bassett) is no stranger to getting drunk at bars and recording songs in his home studio when inspiration strikes. These home recordings would later be collected as his first two LPs under the moniker. For his Drunk Dial, he upped the difficulty by actually writing and recording the songs at the very bars and basements he was drinking in that day. I think he took our challenge really seriously and as a result, created the most fully realised Hound of Love songs to date.”
You’re branching out with the next few releases – could you tell us about that?
“Our slow-yet-charmed growth has allowed us to meet and work with artists we never thought we’d be able to, locally and abroad. It has also given us the chance to be creative with the rules of a Drunk Dial session. We had no plans to expand to working with bands overseas, but when Italian band Hakan messaged us and said they wanted to do a Drunk Dial and cover DEVO, we agreed immediately, before considering the obvious obstacles. Now, completely by accident, Drunk Dial is getting to make friends all over the UK and Europe. We’re excited to be able to keep working with people anywhere and everywhere. Selfishly, we’re also going to be putting out local records forever because we like going to see the bands we work with. We’ve got so many dumb ideas, mostly full-length projects. We really wanted to do the first six releases before making a huge time and financial investment in what will essentially be a giant joke. But make no mistake, it’s definitely going to happen.”