The motto for the Ohio label Colemine Records might as well read “carpe diem, any way you can.” When they started out, Colemine operated out of a Honda hatchback, which label founder Terry Cole would drive across the country from record store to record store, greeting the owners with, “Aw shucks, I’m a dumbass owner of a label.” Now, they’re some of the most successful “dumbasses” in modern soul.
The label began with “Straight Fire,” a funky organ 45 home-recorded by Cole and some college buddies under the name The Jive Turkeys. The song established the Colemine aesthetic: nasty, gritty instrumental funk breaks, a la The J.B.’s and The Meters. And while the label has since expanded into reggae, sweet soul, and gospel, deep down Cole still wants that funk. He’s just hyper selective about what makes the cut.
“The funk stuff has to be nasty as fuck,” he says. “Funk is almost like a four-letter word. If someone says, ‘I’m in a funk band.’ I’m like, ‘No, you’re definitely not.’ If you say you’re in a funk band, then you’re probably not in a funk band.”
Funk dominated the early 45s, introducing groups like Jungle Fire, The Grease Traps, and Ikebe Shakedown. The latter gave Colemine an unexpected break. Cole had been seeking advice about running a label from Tom Brenneck of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, and Brenneck offered to record Ikebe’s 2009 debut, Hard Steppin’ EP. “Back then, the whole scene was centralized in Brooklyn,” Cole says. “So that put our label in cahoots with these Brooklyn dudes, and with a guy who’s on Sharon and Budos [Band] records.”
With the Colemine catalog beginning to grow, Cole’s next move was to drive west in that Honda hatchback, which was loaded with records. (He lined the boxes with dry ice to keep the vinyl from melting.) While there, he met bands he’d worked with on the West Coast, like Sure Fire Soul Ensemble, the Monophonics, and Orgone. But the primary goal of his journey was to visit stores and unload his product in person. The idea was to bet on himself—his personality of a “dumbass running this label.” It worked. After visiting dozens of successful indie record stores, he decided to open one himself. Cole called his brother Bob, who was fresh out of grad school, and shared his plan for what would become Plaid Room Records in Loveland, a used record store that doubles as a recording studio and the Colemine headquarters. “I was like, ‘Dude you don’t want to use those [college] degrees you’ve been stressing out on,’” Cole says. “‘Let’s make way less money and be way more stressed with this record store.’”
They opened Plaid Room in 2015. Last year, the store had its most successful year to date. (In the end, Bob did end up using those computer science degrees—to write the software that manages Plaid Room’s inventory.) The original Plaid Room is where the first Durand Jones & The Indications album was recorded—and the success of the LP changed everything for Colemine. The brothers moved into a larger space across the street from Plaid Room in November of 2018, and now plan to release two LPs a month through November this year.
The following are notable selections that define the Colemine sound, which Terry Cole describes as “authentic and soulful.”
Durand Jones & The Indications
American Love Call
Easily Colemine’s flagship group, Durand Jones & The Indications recorded their debut on a budget of $452.11 and a case of beer. They only wanted to press 500 copies, but Cole had a vision of the band becoming the torchbearers of modern soul following the passing of Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley. “It started at the store,” Cole says. “People would ask about it when it was on.” On American Love Call (a joint release with Dead Oceans), Durand Jones & The Indications sound both out of time and of the time, pairing the sultry sound of early ‘70s soul with modern-day societal disillusionment.
The Tales People Tell
Terry Cole first heard the name Kelly Finnigan from a Michigan rapper named Othello. “I was talking with Othello about production and he said, ‘Man, you sound like my dude who’s in this band The Monophonics,’” Cole says. Now Finnigan is the unofficial West Coast A&R for the label, selecting and producing much of the Colemine West roster in his Transistor Sound studio. The friendship that began with the Monophonics 45 “Like Yesterday” was fully realized this year with Finnigan’s solo debut The Tales People Tell LP, a grimy northern soul record centered around Finnigan’s gravelly voice.
“Light of My Life”
“I thought Benjamin & The Right Direction was old. I thought it was some reissue that no one has ever heard of,” Cole says of his introduction to Ben Pirani. That single, originally pressed on Daptone, caused Colemine to begin courting Pirani, eventually releasing his 2018 solo album How Do I Talk To My Brother? But the “Light of My Life” 45, rereleased on Colemine, is still Cole’s favorite: “[It] just has everything. It’s uptempo. It’s genuine. The background is amazing. The vibe is amazing. It feels like you’re in the room with a party going on.”
Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio
Cole had been complaining to his brother Bob that he wanted an organ trio, but the organists he was hearing “played too many notes”; even fewer played the cool notes. Cole has a motto that he lives by: “It’s easy to get cheesy.” He eventually found what he was looking for via the drummer of the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio, who was a fan of the label and had struck up a friendship with Cole. Delvon Lamarr was precisely what Cole had been looking for: vintage Hammond B3 organs, funky drumming, and sharp guitar stabs. Or as Cole puts it, “This shit is pocket as fuck.”
Jr. Thomas & The Volcanos
“What A Shame”
Much like Cole’s high expectations for funk, he’s just as critical of modern reggae. “That is so easy to do wrong,” he says. “It’s so easy to do it cheesedick and be corny as fuck.” Cole loved Jr. Thomas’s record on Truth & Soul Records, and sought the musician out to do a record after the label folded. “He’s from Minneapolis, Minnesota. You know, a hotbed of reggae. He’s like an encyclopedia of Jamaican music. I think I know stuff about soul music, then I’ll hear him talk about Jamaican music, and I feel like I don’t know shit about anything.”
The Flying Stars of Brooklyn NY
“My God Has A Telephone”
When Cole heard Indications drummer Aaron Frazer’s gospel demo for “My God Has A Telephone,” he told Frazer to stop mining. Cole and Frazer had been discussing an entire devotional series, but when Cole heard this demo he wanted it released as is, to keep the authenticity and soul alive. On “My God Has a Telephone,” bedroom indie meets sweet soul and gospel in heavenly bliss. Frazer had caught audiences off-guard for years as the white drummer with the Smokey Robinson vocals, but his Flying Stars of Brooklyn NY was a true surprise to Cole. “The segment of crossover with that song is so weird,” he says. “It’s mostly gospel heads, but then once every two months, some 16 or 17-year-old kid will ask for it in the store. And it’s like, ‘Are you serious?’”
“Comencemos” (Let’s Start/Fela Kuti cover)
An assist from Cut Chemist helped the success of this 45. The Coles passed the single along to the DJs, knowing they couldn’t resist hard funk with breakbeats. Equal parts Latin and Afro funk, Jungle Fire channels the spirit of Fela on “Comencemos,” bringing the guitars louder in the mix and clearing the way for the bongos to open the breakdown.
The A-side of the single, “Bulletproof,” skews towards Cole’s predilection for thick, nasty funk. But it’s the sweet soul of “P.C.H.” tucked on the B-side that makes a Colemine 45 so coveted. Either could be the A, just depends on one’s taste or geography. “There are still geographic trends,” Cole says. “Just because everybody can hear everything any time they want doesn’t mean we’ve become this homogenous soup. There’s still pockets of things.” Orgone’s legacy on the West Coast spans that pocket, but “P.C.H.” has a minor key melody and breezy groove that mirrors the intoxication of driving that winding coastal road, and the reluctance to ever take an exit.