• UO Interviews: Father/Daughter Records

    It is damn near impossible to cross someone who works harder than Father/Daughter Records founder Jessi Frick. Now a pillar of the Bay Area music scene, she represents a rare strain of music industry professionals who maintain an artist-first mentality. Having quietly launched the careers of forward-thinking artists like Mutual Benefit, PWR BTTM and Lisa Prank, her contributions to music are innumerable.
    Launched in 2010 alongside her father Ken, Frick balances label responsibilities while working full time as a publicist with Riot Act Media and managerial efforts for Salty Artist Management. During a conversation over beers in Williamsburg, Frick is unusually calm and level headed for someone with that much on their plate. With Father/Daughter now being self-sustaining, Frick is enthusiastic about what happens next. Her sense of humor about the ‘music biz’ is endearing, a reminder to not take oneself too seriously. Below, Jessi explains what’s kept her going these last six years and one sure-fire way to not get your band signed to her label. 
    Photos by Harrison Glazier, words by Jeffrey Silverstein 

    Some of your formative years in the industry were spent working with Fiddler Records. What was that experience like?
    Fiddler was started by my high school friend, Amy. She was my mentor growing up, even though we were around the same age. We started off having zines in high school and then she started booking shows around Miami. Then it turned into a label. The Vacant Andys were the first 7” they put out, which was Chris Carrabba’s [of Dashboard Confessional] first band. They were just our friends growing up down there. At the time, you just put your friends’ records out. The label took off from there. I didn’t actually work there until 2000 or 2001 and she started in like ’97. Before that, I had a friend that worked at Fueled by Ramen. They had a band called The Impossibles from Austin, Texas who were one of my all time favorites. Somehow I got hooked up them through a friend of mine who worked there when they were still in Gainesville. I tour managed them for a couple of years. That was my first real taste of working in music, touring for two years straight.

    What’s one of the biggest changes in you’ve noticed in music since you launched the label?
    Digital [releases] have definitely blown up between then and now. Even just the vinyl format, people are taking to it more as just a hobby. The rise of vinyl and digital taking a stronghold over everything [has changed a lot]. The fact that Kanye West releases a record and there is no physical format is pretty wild. 

    What format did Father/Daughter start with?
    We started off in that 7” world, thinking we’d do a smaller format. Not [for] less of a commitment but just testing the waters. The whole album cycle is shorter, takes up less space in your house. There were a lot of 7” labels popping up during that time. Gorilla Vs. Bear had one at the time called Forest Family. Small Plates was started around the same time. 

    Most people wouldn’t choose to go into business with family, let alone a record label. How do you make it work?
    My dad and I are buddies. We’ve both always loved music. I think I brought the idea to him. He is more responsible than me, though. He can actually do accounting and stuff like that. It has its challenges. Even if we have a disagreement about something, because it’s family, it almost makes it easier to sort out. We love and trust each other no matter what. We both take chances on things. No matter what it’s going to be an experience, and we’ll either learn from it or keep doing things a certain way. 

    And you have other family helping out too?
    My husband helps. He’s really into music too. He’s actually a packaging engineer for a cosmetics company, so when I need to send things in the mail, he’s really good at that. My family all knows about the label, follows it on Facebook — so it’s cute. My niece in Indianapolis right now really loves Diet Cig. Every time they go through Indianapolis it’s always a 21-plus show. She’s been getting so peeved that she can’t seem them live yet. I have to figure something out before I lose a customer!

    What’s the communication like between you and your dad, considering he lives in Florida and you in California?
    In the beginning, we were funding it ourselves, so we were talking a lot. Asking “Can we do this? Does this make sense?” We had to be way more communicative back then. But we agree on all the bands we work with. Now that the label pays for itself, I think I have a little bit more free reign. We still talk about everything though. Essentially for a small business run out of two people’s homes, we still have scheduled meetings to look at budgets and look at [the] long term. 

    You are clearly past the infant stages of this label. Is there something you’re really focused on right now?
    I don’t want this label to have any sort of boundaries. It’s not a specific sounding label. For example, we don’t work with bands specifically from a certain area. I want it to stay its own free-form thing. Eventually, I’d like to get to the point where we can hire people out. I am starting to think more about retail marketing. 

    There really aren’t any hard rules to putting out music these days. Do you put any restrictions on yourself or have a mission statement you go by?
    Transparency is a big thing. Especially if you are a newer artist, just having control over your music and your vision. Also, understanding the business side of it. Sometimes working with labels, there’s a block between the artist and business side. There are a lot of artists left out of those conversations. Sometimes maybe they want it like that, but also, this is their career so you should probably know about it. Transparency is huge. 

    As an indie label, it’s obvious you aren’t doing this for money. What keeps you going? You ever doubt yourself?
    That happens at least one a week! A lot of the frustration comes from the fact that this is not my full-time job. Because I’m balancing other jobs, but want the label to be one of the only things I focus my time on. That’s where the frustration lies. Quitting is not an answer at this point. 

    How much do your jobs blend together? Do they support one another or pull you in different directions?
    The label to management process was very organic. For the most part, if there are certain bands that come from the label and we work really well together, essentially I’m helping manage the bands we do records with. That part fits together. I know some people are skeeved out about someone that is a manager and also runs a label, but I don’t start working in a management capacity with a band until what we are doing on the label side is back catalogue. Even the PR work, I do PR for the label so it comes in handy. 

    What makes running a label in San Francisco special?
    The city is constantly evolving. But people right now focus on the fact that it is pricing people out. Which is true, but something I’ve noticed is that the bands that are coming up are younger. They live with their parents or are just getting out of college. The scene is a little younger than New York City. That’s cool because it’s empowering younger kids to not be scared to do something in a creative field, [in a place] where tech is ruling everything. 
    Biggest pet peeves about when it comes to demo submissions?
    Do not attach mp3s to your email. I’m definitely not going to download it. Also, you don’t need a kitschy genre title. Please don’t do that. It probably doesn’t sound like anything you are trying to describe it as. The [emails] I get that I read are the ones that are really sincere. They are a real person knowing they are reaching out to a real person. Let’s just be normal and talk about it. 

    Vist Father/Daughter Records
    Read about Jessi’s record collection
    Get acquainted with Father/Daughter Records band SPORTS
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