“We started as a collective and that’s sort of how it’s gone. We’ve run it as a gang,” says Jack Wellborn.
Wellborn is referring to Flesh Records, his primarily tape-centric DIY label out of Allston that focuses not only on recording bands, but also supporting them by connecting them to a larger community.
Wellborn and co-founder Brett Folger met one another four years ago while working in a Clover food truck. “In the afternoon, it was only us working, so we would play music together and we realized we were musically compatible,” he reminisces.
Folger is also the frontman for the band Dead Elect, which inevitably became Flesh’s first signees. “We both loved food, so he would come over and we would smoke weed and eat food,” Wellborn says. “Then we would jam all the time in their basement in Roslindale. We’d go to shows with them all the time, hang all the time, and play music all the time.”
After Robby Reider of Bob Records asked Wellborn to record his band, Wellborn felt ready to move forward with starting a recording project. Wellborn was also debating moving to New Haven to start a label with friends of his who lived there. “I decided not to leave for New Haven and Brett basically approached me like, ‘we should start a label,” he recalls. “That was the first segue into recording with people and then I recorded some of the Today Junior stuff.”
As far as the name of the label goes, Wellborn recalls it coming in a moment of drunken inspiration with Folger. “Brett and I initially thought about doing a musical side project together and we were at The Model one night really drunk, spinning off ideas of names for that. Brett shortened it up and was like ‘What if we just called it flesh?’ and we were both immediately like, ‘that’s it.’”
The purpose of the label is to foster community and to “support people that haven’t been supported by booking them with shows, helping them out with tours, hipping them up with other bands to join forces with, and helping them make cool merch.”
“It’s a super mutually beneficial relationship between the label and the band… and for me, it’s fun,” Wellborn adds. “It’s an awesome way to get involved with people. It’s an awesome way to support people that haven’t been supported like Eddie Golden. It seemed like no one had picked up or wanted to put out his cassettes and that made no sense to me. And also it’s cool to bring people into the Boston scene.“
Dead Elect was the first band to sign on with the label, followed soon after by The Heavies and Today Junior. Now, a year later, Flesh has eight bands on their roster, including The Owens, Grist, Eddie Golden III, Jeff Beam, and Brushes. From the blues rock sound of Dead Elect to the 80’s New Wave feel of Grist, Flesh aim to offer a mixed bag of genres. “We didn’t want to put out all country, Americana, and blues-y bands, or really just anything in particular. And now we’re looking to expand that even more. We wanted the label to have diversity,” expresses Wellborn. “The thing with DIY labels is, because they’re either local or small, they can’t cherry pick one genre in order to survive as a label.”
He credits 4AD as being his favorite label because they don’t have a specific sound or any barriers. Having such a variety of bands also exemplifies “the difference in the workings of me and Brett’s minds.” He mentions, “Brett was the one who found The Owens and that clicked between the both of us. The psychedelic and goth stuff is the stuff I love the most.”
The bands on Flesh Records can continue with the primarily tape-based label “release by release”, Wellborn says, “and every artist can do whatever they want” without feeling tied down. Wellborn only recently started having bands sign something “so they know what little money they’re gonna get and what little money I’m gonna get.”
Their cassette releases are the groundwork, but the most important part for the band is what comes after that. “Some people from WEMF and other local radio stations follow us on Facebook and when they see a release they’ll play it on the radio, which is awesome,” Wellborn says.
When the label first started, Flesh exemplified their DIY ethos so passionately, Wellborn was initially ripping every cassette and hand painting them himself before demand outgrew his tape production abilities. “Last year, we were like kids in a candy shop. We were grabbing at everything and it was so fun and adventurous, but we had no direction we really wanted to go in yet.” Flesh did nine releases last year, but Wellborn predicts they will do five this year. Last year, the emphasis was on getting shows and making sure the cassettes looked good. “This year, the focus is to spend more time on fewer releases and make them better and get more PR than we did last year,” Wellborn says.
Wellborn has been spending more time sending out the bands’ music to bigger labels with the goal of getting them onto the next tier. “That’s super beneficial for them but that’s also beneficial for me. It makes me happy to help other people and it’s also exposure for us, even if it’s just a little bit,” he explained. As he leaned against the 1980’s master reel in his room, he began to spell out the label’s future, including a joint showcase with Disposable America and a new Dead Elect EP. “We are gonna start doing vinyl this year too. Launch a website, gather all the ideas, and get it all together,” Wellborn predicts.
“Other than that, we like what we’re doing and what we do, and working with the people that we work with. We wanna continue doing that, and I wanna continue doing this, and if it doesn’t work, then… we tried,” he concludes with a laugh.