New Documentary Film Celebrates the Music and Community Fostered by Cincinnati-Based Record Label Phratry Records

The movie — titled 'Phratry' and featuring live and in-studio footage and interviews — premieres March 29 at The Southgate House Revival in Newport.

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click to enlarge Phratry recording artists SÄH from Marquette, Michigan - Photo: Jeff Albers, 2007
Photo: Jeff Albers, 2007
Phratry recording artists SÄH from Marquette, Michigan

“I can’t imagine my life without Phratry Records,” says Ringo Jones, singer/guitarist of Mad Anthony. “To us, Phratry was the only record label worth being a part of.”

Over the past 15 years, Cincinnati label Phratry Records has issued almost 60 releases in nearly every format possible, working with bands from across North America and Europe.

While an experimental, Post Punk spirit unites many of its artists, Phratry is also a home to singer/songwriters and even contemporary Classical performers. Homegrown talent like A.M. Nice, Knife The Symphony and Autumn Rising are comfortably nestled into a roster alongside out-of-town artists like Disguised as Birds (Milwaukee), FOOD (Pittsburgh), The Shanks (Toronto), Joe 4 (Zagreb, Croatia), LKN (Portland, Oregon) and Säh (Marquette, Michigan).

Label founder Jerry Dirr says Phratry was initially created out of nothing more than necessity.

“I was going to see a handful of bands on a regular basis, but nobody was putting out their music,” he says. “I couldn’t take an album home with me at the end of the night. This was still a number of years away from digital-only releases like we see today, and with the technology available at the time, even just a CD-R self-release could be an expensive and time-consuming chore (for bands).”

So, Phratry Records was born in 2004. Later this month, two local filmmakers will debut a documentary film about the label that is six years in the making.

Phratry (the movie) is our first documentary,” says Dave Cornelius of Cincinnati’s Argo One Productions.

“But,” he warns, “don’t expect a paint-by-numbers film.”

Instead, it’s a film that is told through the perspective of performers and fans. “From the stage, from the mixing console, from their living rooms, from their practice spaces, from their art studios, from their mouths and from the front row as well,” Cornelius says.

Argo One was established in 2011 to share the stories of unique, local voices, the same ethos on which Phratry was founded. Cornelius acknowledges the symbiotic relationship Argo One has the label.

“Phratry is one of the key reasons Argo One even exists,” he says.

The label had helped line up acts for Cornelius’ hilarious, low-budget Friday Night Fu television program, and the two have been intertwined ever since.

Plans for the film crystallized around the label’s ninth anniversary. Director Shane Chaney was testing out some new camera gear during a Phratry anniversary showcase at The Comet in Northside. Considering the footage, Chaney says he “felt like with a little additional effort, I could turn it into something bigger and more representative of the label’s whole story.”

That was six years ago and, in one way or another, the new documentary has been in the works since then.

“I knew there would be a big blow-out for their 10th anniversary,” Chaney says, “and we could document a lot more bands (that evening), especially more of the out-of-town bands.”

Leading up to that 10th-anniversary show, he says he tried to film as many Phratry artists as possible when they played in Greater Cincinnati.

“I started rolling camera on recording and mixing sessions I was involved in,” Chaney says. “I started gathering up archival stuff wherever I could get ahold of it. At some point between those two anniversaries, I remember discussing the project with Jerry a lot, and the idea grew into a full-length documentary.”

“Seeing this movie take shape has been pretty humbling,” Dirr says.

Dirr says that the preview clips of the movie that he’s been privy to during the edit have helped him feel a sense of pride about the label.

“(It’s) a nice reminder of what the label and all of the bands have accomplished together over the years, not to mention the friendships that have been forged as a result,” he says.

According to Chaney, the final Phratry film contains live performances, interviews with artists who’ve worked with the label, behind-the-scenes looks at the recording process and other aspects of the Phratry community

“Viewers should expect to see a lot packed into one movie,” Chaney says, adding that the film also tries to tell the story of “why we all do this thing that we do.”

Mike Montgomery has had the fortune of seeing Phratry’s story unfold from dual perspectives: His bands Thistle and Ampline have released material in conjunction with the label, but he’s also helped bring the sounds of other Phratry artists alive as an engineer at his Northern Kentucky recording studio, Candyland.

“I’ve worked on scores of Phratry releases at Candyland, recording, mixing or mastering records from Knife The Symphony, LKN, Mad Anthony, Strongest Proof, Full Counts, A.M Nice, Thistle, Covington and Caterpillar Tracks,” he says.

He fondly recalls working with FOOD, which features Ed Crawford of fIREHOSE, Mike Watt’s post-Minutemen group.

That session, Montgomery says, was “the encapsulation of what Phratry is all about: connecting the dots between artists all around the country and world; creating a community where everyone can share and thrive; a collective of like-minded artists helping each other make records, book tours and live a life in music.”

Singer/guitarist Jones is reuniting with his on-hiatus Mad Anthony to perform at the March 29 Phratry film premiere at the Southgate House Revival, playing alongside Phratry friends Ampline, The Full Counts, Maple Stave, Nonagon and Sleepcrawler, a band featuring members of the Cincinnati group State Song that is named after its 2014 Phratry album, Sleepcrawling.

The label has also released a pay-what-you-want label sampler on Bandcamp featuring numerous Phratry artists from throughout the years. Click below to stream/download.


Fittingly, the premiere/showcase will also serve as a release party for new Phratry releases — a Sleepcrawler 7-inch vinyl single and a 7-inch and full-length featuring music from the soundtrack to Argo One’s first feature-length film, the comedy/horror flick Inhumanwich!

“I’ve traveled all over the world, attended weddings and received holiday cards all thanks to a mutual love for eccentric, DIY Rock & Roll,” Jones says of his appreciation for his favorite record label. “The things I cherish most about my involvement with Phratry Records are the connections I’ve made with complete strangers and the everlasting friendships we’ve built.”

Phratry, Jones stresses, isn’t just a label that puts out great music. It has also created “a community of like-minded musicians and fans where being different (is) accepted and celebrated.”


The Phratry documentary screening and music showcase takes place March 29 at the Southgate House Revival. Tickets/more show info at southgatehouse.com. For more on the film or label, visit argooneproductions.com or phratryrecords.com. You can also find more info on the movie here.


 


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