On my way to Dawson Taylor coffee to meet with 29-year-old Justin Carey--wildland firefighter by day and proprietor and sole owner of local record label Yosada Records by night--what had become a regular Wednesday occurrence of hot, high winds blew hard down 8th Street. With tangled hair, dust in my eyes and grit caught in my lipgloss, I wasn't too worried about my appearance. I had some preconceived notions as to what Carey himself might look like. He has artists on his label like Navies, a post-punk, psychedelic band from Washington D.C.; PussyGutt, an Idaho noise-rock twosome; Baltimore synth-heavy pop-goth trio the Rah Bras, and Nebraska hardcore band Bright Calm Blue. I expected someone on the extreme side: wild hair, strange clothes, a plethora of piercings, something. I should fit right in. As I stepped inside the coffeeshop, I was greeted by a quiet, regular-looking guy in jeans and a blue pullover sans any noticeable body mods.
Pushing my hair down and wiping the dirt off of my face, I introduced myself, and Carey and I sat down, coffees in hand and talked about Yosada Records.
Boise Weekly: How many bands do you have on your label?
Justin Carey: I've put out nine releases so far. I have 10 bands. There have been a couple of split records.
Has it always been Yosada Records?
No, it used to be called Dying Is Deadly Records. And, initially, when we started the label [in 2001], it was supposed to be me and two friends. They had personal things going on and kind of dropped out. I'd already spent money making Dying Is Deadly, but I didn't care for the name too much. I kept it up for about three years but I was getting labeled as some shitty hardcore label. Yeah, I put out some hardcore records, but not all my releases were hardcore. I was doing the Yosada House [a house venue located in Boise's North End known for hosting underground shows] at the time and the house meant a lot to me. I had a lot of bands play there and that helped me with the label a lot, so I changed the name to Yosada Records.
Why did you start a label instead of, say, starting a band?
Oh, I was in bands, but I'm a horrible musician. I always wanted to do distro [distribution] as a kid. I would talk to my friends about starting a record label and finally I just did it.
Do you have the last word on what goes on your label?
I have the sole word. I consult with my friend Mike a lot. I ask him what he thinks of a band and have him help me keep the label diversified. I want to have lots of different kinds of music. Ultimately, it's me asking bands, "Hey, do you want to do a record?"
Do you ask bands to be on the Yosada label or do they ask you?
I mostly hear about bands from friends. The only record I've put out that I'm not actually friends with band are the Rah Bras. I saw them play here in Boise two or three years ago and I told Mike, "Man I'd really like to do a record with this band." And he said, "Go ask them." I said, "I can't! They're Lovitt's [Lovitt Records]. They're way up there." And then while I was doing a record with this band called Navies out of D.C., I actually met Brian Lowit who owns Lovitt Records and I became good acquaintances with him. I did the vinyl version of the Navies' record that was on Lovitt and then he [Lowit] asked me to do the Rah Bras'. It was very cool.
Do you have a favorite record on your label?
Honestly, I think Navies is the best record I've put out. They're like Fugazi: a D.C.-area sounding band. They definitely have punk and psychedelic rock influences. It's a mixture of a lot of good genres that I like.
Is that why you like them, because you like that kind of music?
To be honest, the band stayed at my house about three years ago after they did a show. I let them stay the night and I fed them and whatever. The next day when I got home from work there was a 7-inch [record] on my bed. I played that 7-inch and was like, "Oh my god, this record is so good!" I bugged them for a long time to do a record. But they're from the East Coast and they knew they could get a better deal than with some small little label in Boise, Idaho. But when they came back last year, I'd heard their [latest] record and I told them I loved it and asked them who was doing the vinyl. They said they'd had a lot of offers but hadn't picked anybody. Some of the offers were with labels a lot bigger than mine. I told them I really wanted to do this record. They said they'd keep me in mind. Later that night I walked outside and they were all talking. I walked up and said, "Hey, what are you guys talking about?" Mike [Petillo] said, "Just tell him!" Sean [McGuinness] said, "We want you to do the vinyl version." I said, "Yes!"
Do you only do vinyl or do you ever do CDs?
I did one CD by a band called Man Alive from Jerusalem. My next release will actually be a CD/LP by a band from Nebraska called Bright Calm Blue. It will probably be out in January. It's going to cost a lot so I'm saving up. I'm really excited about this one because the drummer in the band is one of my closest friends and the record is being recorded, mixed and mastered by Joe Petersen of The Faint, so I'm ecstatic about that record.
What do you offer bands for putting their record on your label?
I promote the release. I will go up and ask a band if they want me to do their record. They give me a recording. I pay to get it mastered and to get the record pressed and into the final form and then I give [the band] a cut. For example, if I get 500 records, I'll give them 200 records to sell. I keep 300 to sell just to make back what I put in to the release.
What does it cost you to put out an album?
The last 7-inch I did was for a band called the Pope out of L.A. We put out 300 albums and it cost $1,200. That includes a full-colored jacket, colored vinyl and full-colored labels through an awesome place in San Francisco called Pirate's Press.
It doesn't sound like you make a lot on these deals. Do you at least break even?
No, not even.
You do it just for the love of it then?
Yeah ... I know a lot of people who have bigger labels than mine. A lot of them just got really lucky. They knew a lot of bands and had a lot of really good releases for a long time. But everyone I've talked to who owns a label says, "Be prepared to lose a lot of money."
Carey may not be getting rich off Yosada Records, but he gets to spend time doing something he loves, and that's worth a lot.
For more information on Yosada Records, check out www.yosada.com.