Arts Desk

Cassette Label Tricot Records Builds a Microscene in College Park

Jack Stansbury and his friends were looking for a likeminded creative community that didn’t seem to exist at their school, the University of Maryland at College Park. "We’d just sit around and be like, ‘There’s no scene. This is awful. I wish we went somewhere else,'" says Stansbury, a Maryland senior. “But then I was like, 'We could just make it.'" That idea grew into Tricot Records, the tape label that the 22-year-old started last year.

Stansbury runs Tricot out of his room in a College Park house called The Cottage, which also hosts the label's occasional shows. In the back room where bands play, ironic political signs share crowded wall space with a poster of Mork and a cutout of Andy Warhol’s The Velvet Underground & Nico cover. Stansbury lives in the house with two roommates, including his friend since eighth grade, Alex Mamunes, who records fuzzy electronic pop as Sunset Theme.

“These walls are pretty thin,” says Stansbury, who records as DEW and Princess Reason (listen to a Princess Reason track in this week's One Track Mind column). "I always hear the first Sunset Theme songs because I’ll be in my room, on the Internet, and [Mamunes] is in [his room] making a song."

Since its start in August, Tricot has released a handful of cassettes, all dubbed in Stansbury’s room on his small stereo system. About half of the label’s artists are fellow College Park students. Among the non-Terps are Meatman’s Luis Queral, who attends the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, and Towson students Lean Horse Marathon (a.k.a. Jeff Koplovitz) and Morgan Spaner. The music on the label ranges from noisy, ambient sounds to unembellished indie pop.

"I love [Tricot]," Spaner says. “For a while I wasn’t really playing music very frequently. ...And when Jack approached me about it, it really inspired me to play live more and to continue writing new music." Some of the label's artists just seem to appreciate the outlet. "Just having people want to play, and having people want to hear you play, it’s pretty awesome," says Mamunes, who, like Stansbury, plans to graduate in two months. "It kind of makes me and Jack think, 'Why didn’t we do this years ago? Why did we wait until the last minute?'"

Stansbury describes himself as a "preppy Baltimore kid." He was born in the city and his family moved to Cockeysville, Md., when he was 12. He's a Seinfeld devotee, a huge Home Movies fan, a National Bohemian drinker, a painter (he’s responsible for Princess Reason’s Always Pretty EP cover), and, as a teenager, a Modest Mouse obsessive. He’s ambitious, but also the kind of laid-back guy that leaves the milk out after a bowl of cereal, Mamunes says. Or forgets to clean up the beer cans in his mom's basement.

Sunset Theme live

“What I do when I go home is, I’ll go home and bring a bunch of beers downstairs and paint for a while,” Stansbury says. “My mom called me recently and was like, ‘Did you have a party down in the basement?’ Just ‘cause there were like 20 Yuengling cans around, and she had a friend over and was all embarrassed ‘cause it looked like her child was a little Bukowski or something. I just go down there and paint and it’s sort of a cathartic thing."

Soon, art may be a professional pursuit for Stansbury. He plans to move to Los Angeles this summer, with the goal of becoming a screenwriter. The Maryland history major interned for two film production companies in L.A. last year. Spending time alone on the West Coast, he says, drove him to make Tricot a reality.

"I was just in my little room thinking about the last year of school,” Stansbury says. “I guess it was that idea that I thought we were gonna be gone soon, we should do something while we can. That sort of thing." When he heard Mamunes’ first Sunset Theme songs, he knew he couldn't wait any longer. “I really wanted people to hear that.”

After graduation in May, Stansbury hopes Princess Reason and Sunset Theme will do a small East Coast tour, possibly with Ratburn—a duo of rock ‘n’ roll brothers from West Chester, Pa., who have also released music on Tricot. Stansbury will move to L.A. in August. Mamunes is moving to Baltimore to begin medical school at the University of Maryland Baltimore in the fall.

But Tricot may not die off when Stanbury moves out West. His open-door approach to the label has made it anything but proprietary. "If you want to be a part of it you can," Stansbury says. "I want everyone to be a part of it." He hopes that, once he splits town, younger students will pick up the Tricot baton. “I’m trusting them with it because I want it to stay in College Park. I don’t want it to move,” he says. “It can get passed down. Obviously, I’ll be checking in and watching what they’re doing, but, I’d love for them to sort of continue it.”

Images courtesy of Tricot Records

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