Tag Archives: Josh Ottum

Answering Machine Tapes, Old Synths and “Rock, Rot & Rule”: The World of Flannelgraph Records

Dan Muro
Don Muro.

Go out for coffee with Jared Cheek, the founder of Bloomington, Indiana-based Flannelgraph Records, and his label’s overall aesthetic will quickly snap into focus. Or, rather, out of it: Your conversation will jump from ’80s pro wrestling to Christmas music to public broadcasting. Cheek will be gregarious, his enthusiasm reignited every time another topic he’s excited about comes up—and seemingly every topic excites him. It’s that indefatigable earnestness—some would call it a ‘Midwestern sensibility’—that unites the eclectic assemblage of projects Cheek has released under the Flannelgraph banner. Compliment him on the coherence of the label’s discography, though, and he’ll demur.

“If it is [coherent], it’s not any work that I’ve done. It’s all just stuff that I’m into,” he laughs. “Not a lot of planning went into the aesthetic.”

Maybe that’s fair. On the surface, the Pet Sounds-gone-power-pop of Mike Adams at His Honest Weight, the manic synthesizer experiments of Don Muro, and an album of answering machine messages from a movie theater in Wisconsin don’t seem to have a ton in common. But if you squint a little, you’ll recognize a shared lack of cynicism, and that’s thanks to the virtue of Cheek’s irony-free curatorial spirit. We spoke with him about a few records that represent the label’s distinct DNA.

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