Lolipop Records Carve Their Niche With Cassettes
Best friends Wyatt Blair and Tomas Dolas founded Lolipop Records in 2010 in Laguna Beach. They desired to put out their own music, as well as that of others they liked—mostly psychedelic and garage rock from LA artists.
Though available digitally, almost all of their works are pressed to cassette, sometimes vinyl. (Blair and Dolas are homies with Burger Records in Fullerton.) Bands retain all rights to their work, and profits are split nearly down the middle. Lolipop has put out more than 20 releases since 2012; it has released one tape per week since the beginning of June.
There are now six people involved with the label, doing everything from filming videos to hosting live, in-studio sessions to handling online content to laying out album artwork. They also play in the bands. Blair and Dolas, for example, have their main act, Mr. Elevator and the Brain Hotel, who made it into our Locals Only column last summer, along with several other projects they rotate through. "It's weird," says Jeremy Katz, who deals with much of the PR stuff. "We don't really have certain positions."
Located in what used to be a computer-repair shop on Glendale Boulevard—right next to the Echoplex—Lolipop Records' store opened on July 13, and there's a recording studio/practice space adjacent. Henry Stotsenberg, the manager of popular label act Blackfeet Braves, currently bankrolls both the studio and store, but the guys will start having to pay rent soon. "We just hope people will help support us and buy tapes and records," says Blair. "We don't care about money as long as this place can stay open."
The store is small, but it's clean and nicely laid out, with tape racks, boxes of vinyl and a Nintendo 64 (a business expense, they say). They're an enthusiastic bunch; fans of the Beatles and psychedelic-rock pioneers the 13th Floor Elevators, they laugh and joke constantly.
Whether it's pragmatic to release cassettes in a digital world doesn't seem to matter to anyone. "[Cassettes are] really cheap to make, and they're fun," Blair explains. "You can buy a whole record for five bucks. You can hold it. You can actually watch the music being played, rather than just clicking something." After all, when Burger morphed its tiny label into a brick-and-mortar store several years ago, most people thought its founders were crazy, too. And maybe they are, but something has to be said for the fact that the company is still producing music and still in business.
Froth's Jeff Fribourg has several ideas for future tapes for his band. "We try to come up with as many little things that are a fun and new way to present a tape," he says. "There's a tape coming out [with] a double cover. . . . I also put zines in all the Froth tapes."
Right now, though, everyone's main focus is the store. More tapes will have to be pressed, more vinyl purchased. The Lolipop team also hopes to sell Walkmans, as well as records on consignment. Oh, and buy a van for touring.
Whether or not it all works out, there's something to be said for their hopefulness and energy. They're broke for now, but they are doing what they love with people they care about.
"The goal for me would be that my day-to-day schedule would involve only my bands and Lolipop," Daniel Quintanilla says. "The money doesn't matter; I just want to be able to spend time doing this."
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