Trying to track the record labels in Denton is a little like trying to keep track of popcorn kernels springing around in hot oil.
Some are easy to spot, like Denton’s Gutterth, which has stayed busy recording and presenting live gigs around town and beyond. Others are smaller, but just as local and busy, like Funk Nug, White Noise and I Love Math Records.
Singularity Records incubated over much of this year, and has recently released its first product. Vagabond is an EP from the eclectic Denton four-piece Afro Deezy Axe.
“I heard them in a garage,” said Singularity Records founder, CEO and owner Dallas Crilley. “One thing that I noticed was that the music Afro Deezy was doing was good for everyone. The band is made up of UNT students, and they appeal to so many different people — college kids on up.”
Afro Deezy Axe pumps out considerable sound. On Vagabond, the band maps out its range, from beach-y reggae to jazz-blues fusion. The band’s vocalist is Sid Arlikatti, and Jonny Lurie and Brandon Arthur swap off guitar and bass duties. Stephen Simpson plays drums. Reggae, jazz and blues are the primary musical colors on the band’s debut six-track EP, but pop and South Indian influences leave their traces, too.
Crilley is the kind of guy who could be the avatar for Denton’s creative class. He’s young, competent in design and all things digital media, and doesn’t seem to need a lot of sleep. He’s the kind of guy who can build a website, float a business proposal to his peers and pull a network of 20-something movers and shakers out of the contacts in his smartphone in half a day.
Oh, and he’s a cheerleader for Denton music, as is his right-hand man, Manny Ortiz, Singularity’s vice president.
“The Denton music scene is so dynamic and so good, and as a record company, we want to support the scene and promote it. We think it’s worth it,” Crilley said. Our primary objective is to be about music and be about Denton. This CD is the first step.”
Crilley said Singularity Records is a “full-service label,” meaning that the label will partner with artists to make quality records — booking studio time once a band or artist has amassed a body of work, and promoting the artists and the music through websites, social media and word of mouth. Singularity Records will also book tours and shows for release parties and place CDs and vinyl records in local and regional brick-and-mortar record stores and shops.
“When we sign a band, you are under our wing,” Crilley said. “You’re part of a family.”
Ortiz said being “under the wing” of Singularity means the artists who eventually come on board don’t have to wear all the hats indie artists have to keep in the closet. Everything from merchandising to publicity will fall under Ortiz’s management.
What the label won’t do is tell artists what kind of records to make.
“Singularity will give input on business decisions, but not about the art. I can’t see us trying to dictate what a band or an artist writes, or what kind of record to make,” Crilley said.
Vagabond came out of one of Denton’s best-buzzed studios — Reeltime Audio, where it was produced and engineered by Eric Delegard, who’s worked with Bowling for Soup, Brave Combo and Cross Canadian Ragweed, among others.
“Manny and I were there every day of recording,” Crilley said. “I brought the beer.”
Ortiz said he and Crilley have divided duties based on their particular talents.
“Dallas is a big-picture guy, and I’m more of a detail guy,” Ortiz said. “Dallas said the other day that no idea is a bad idea. We look for the big picture, and then we try to figure out where the bands and the projects would fit into that picture.”
Band management is full of complicated tasks, and Ortiz sees to the details.
For now, Singularity will concentrate on promoting Afro Deezy Axe and Vagabond. The company isn’t actively looking for its next band, but Crilley said he won’t have to look far when the time comes to adopt another group.
“It seems like the cards have fallen kind of perfectly,” Crilley said. “Our slogan is ‘Keep Denton Loud,’ kind of like ‘Keep Austin Weird.’ I feel like there is so much going on in the Denton music scene, so much that people don’t know about. We want to do our part to change that.”
LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877.
ON THE WEB
Singularity Records: www.singularityrecords.com
TRACK BY TRACK
AFRO DEEZY AXE: ‘VAGABOND’ EP
“Stay With Me” — Lead vocalist Sid Arlikatti sings in his most comfortable idiom: reggae, complete with Jamaican accent. The predictably mellow tune (this is reggae, after all) is a smooth and easy request for the narrator’s companions to delay departure for more conversation. Well, there is a suggestion that the group “get lost in the magnetic rays.” So, yeah, drugs. Or music. Or both.
“Vagabond” — This declaration of one-day-at-a-time attitude and antsy, nomadic character is betrayed by righteous, bluesy jam-band guitar work. Lyrically, Arlikatti insists that he’s not committed much to place or person, but something about the chilled-out tempo and the voluptuous blues vocals seems comfortable enough.
“Mr. Popo” — This is the track that gets the most response from any Afro Deezy Axe live set. The narrator of the song wakes up in jail, without shoes and for what? Smoking a bowl, that’s what. Another reggae tune, this is a three-and-a-half-minute reminder that the only act of violence a toker is inclined to do is a serious raid of the fridge.
“Leave Me Alone” — The bastard child of the recording, “Leave Me Alone” has hints of flamenco and Indian string influences to it. It’s also the song that feels as if it truly came from a jam session. Tempos change and Arlikatti chases what had to be improvisation between guitar and bass with simple “oohs.” After a stiff time-signature switch, the song simply comes to an end. Think of it as the band making its point by slamming a door.
Where to get it: www.afrodeezyaxe.com, http://afrodeezyaxe.bandcamp.com
— Lucinda Breeding