Bayonet Records Keeps It All In the Family

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Dustin Payseur and Katie Garcia, co-founders of Bayonet Records. (Photo: Jane Bruce)

On Sunday evening, Greta Kline, aka ascendant songwriter Frankie Cosmos, posted an update about her forthcoming record on Facebook. “i got a deal!” it reads, linking to an image on Instagram of Kline posing with three friends. “Workin with that qt couple in the middle on our new record. Not sure when it’ll come out, but it’ll be on Bayonet Records!”

That “qt couple in the middle” are Katie Garcia and Dustin Payseur, and Bayonet Records is their baby. Payseur is best-known as the frontman for Beach Fossils, while Garcia does A&R for Secretly Group; previously, she was the label manager for Captured Tracks. Bayonet Records is the label they began creating last spring, shortly after getting married. They used money from the wedding to help get the label off the ground. “We asked our parents to tell our extended family members that’s what we wanted,” Garcia told me last week, when I met up with the couple at their Greenpoint apartment. “We had lived together already for three years, so we already had everything we need.”

The North Brooklyn label scene is crowded, but Bayonet had already built an impressive roster—highlighted by Beach Fossils, Atlanta-based art-punks Warehouse, and psychedelic-pop oddball Jerry Paper—by the time they nabbed Frankie Cosmos. “Sometimes bands aren’t willing to invest in a small label, if it’s new,” Garcia says. “And I know a lot of labels were interested in signing Greta. We reached out early on and were very honest. I just told her how in love I was with her music, and how I thought she was an incredible songwriter. And she put that faith in us.”

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Garcia and Payseur have leveraged certain unique advantages in order to build out Bayonet’s roster with the kind of intention and speed that other indies crave. Over the year, they’ve met an enormous number of like-minded bands, either on tour or in Brooklyn (their apartment became the “default place to stay” for Captured Tracks’ bands on tour through New York), and because of Garcia’s day job, Bayonet was able to secure distribution through Secretly Group, which was responsible for last year’s biggest independent record release: The War on Drugs’ Lost in the Dream.

“Katie’s relations in the industry is the reason it’s been able to take off so fast,” Payseur says. “If we didn’t have this partnership, it’d be real…interesting…figuring out everything along the way.” Bayonet’s first three releases were cassettes that came out March 3rd: Material, by Payseur’s side-project Fluoride; Warehouse’s Tesseract; and Red Sea’s In the Salon.

The couple’s working relationship suggests a fluid duality: If Garcia’s the one with the experience and connections to make things happen, Payseur’s the one dreaming up what’s possible. It was his idea to start a label in the first place, something he’d dreamed of doing since he was kid, growing up in North Carolina, admiring different types of labels that had a strong sense of identity and a tight-knit community of bands and followers. He cites Rough Trade as an example. “There was something cool about how it was freeform and yet had such a strong personality,” he says. “I feel like Captured Tracks has that too, and I was proud of being a part of that label for that reason. It wasn’t this anonymous force just pushing things out.”

While signed to Captured Tracks, Payseur frequently had discussions with owner Mike Sniper about launching a sub-label under Captured Tracks’ umbrella, but the timing was never right. “Mike was always supportive, but I hadn’t found any artists at that point,” Payseur explains. But following the 2013 release of Beach Fossils’ most recent record, Clash the Truth, Payseur’s contract with Captured Tracks was up, and he’d started to meet some unsigned artists with whom he could imagine launching a label. Garcia left Captured Tracks shortly afterward, going part-time at Secretly Group so she could devote time to the new label.

It wasn’t called Bayonet, yet—when I ask Payseur and Garcia how they came up with the name, they both sigh exaggeratedly. “That took us soo long,” she says. Payseur adds: “We wanted something that sounded strong, but wasn’t so in your face. A name you hear that doesn’t define a genre as soon as you hear it.”

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The couple cycled through a few choices, including Dagger, which, it turns out, is a subsidiary of MCA Records that distributes live bootlegs and rare studio recordings by Jimi Hendrix. Eventually they landed on Bayonet, because it is “one of those words that almost loses its meaning and gains a new one as a record label,” Garcia says. “Like Matador. When I think of matador, I don’t think of a bullfighter.”

Ideally, this elasticity of meaning will allow for Bayonet Records to encompass a wide variety of sounds and formats. Along with cassettes, vinyl LPs, and 7-inch singles, Bayonet plans to release DVDs, poetry, art books, and other multimedia materials. (The first DVD accompanies BR-004, Jerry Paper’s forthcoming Carousel. It’s a “very perverted short film, basically a CGI animated piggy porno,” Garcia explains. This writer can confirm.)

As far as bands go, Garcia and Payseur are looking to expand beyond the arty-rock, synth-pop, and freak-folk that currently constitutes the roster. “We don’t have a set a genre we’re looking for,” Payseur says. “We do rock stuff, but we wanna do more electronic, hip-hop, anything as long as it means something to us.”

If there’s a defining aspect to Bayonet Records so far, that’s it: anything that means something to the “qt couple” running the label. The vibe is familial, cooperative, hard-working and, in the end, fun. It’s fitting that, for now anyway, Garcia and Payseur are running Bayonet from their home. “Secretly Group always says they won’t work with an artist they can’t hang out with,” Garcia says. “We’re the same way—all our artists, we get along with them very well, and they all get along with each other. They’re all fans of each other’s music; in fact, that’s part of the reason the label came together so quickly. When we reached out to Freelove Fenner, they told us they loved Frankie Cosmos and Warehouse. Warehouse and Red Sea are huge Jerry Paper fans. Greta’s good friends with all the guys in Warehouse. We definitely wanted to maintain that sense of community.”

Payseur concurs. “I think a lot of the reason people want to sign to Captured Tracks or a label like that is because they love the bands on the label and the people who run it. You want the artist to feel like they understand everything about the label—this is what the money’s being spent on, this is how we can get this record out here for you, whatever. We want our artists to be a little bit involved, to know what’s going on, so they can have their say in it. It’s fun to be hands on!”

Up next for Bayonet is the Jerry Paper record, due March 31st, followed at some point by Frankie Cosmos (who’s recording now) and a new Beach Fossils album. Keep up with the latest on Twitter and Facebook.

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Follow Phillip Pantuso on Twitter @phillippantuso.

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