In the summer of 2007, three ragtag college students — history major David Mansfield, musician Philip Frobos, and visual artist Allen Taylor — spent long hours hanging around their Georgia State dorm rooms. They were busy plotting, as Frobos puts it, "to take over the world."
Of course, the world as they then knew it could pretty much be boiled down to Atlanta's insular rock scene. But there was a problem with their plan. Frobos, the vocalist and bassist for Chainestereo (pronounced shin stereo), couldn't book a show to save his life.
It was a few months after the release of Deerhunter's second album, Cryptograms. Black Lips' Good Bad Not Evil was about to drop, and Atlanta indie labels Rob's House, Die Slaughterhaus and Douchemaster Records were pumping out a steady stream of local 7-inch singles. The scene was strong and tight-knit, and breaking into it would prove nearly impossible for a group of young newcomers.
"I tried to book shows anywhere but the responses always felt like, 'Get away from me, you annoying kid, you're bothering me!'" Frobos says. "For months I was obsessed with Rob's House. And seeing people that I knew from other bands like the Coathangers and the Selmanaires getting their records put out was really inspirational. I was determined to get a Chainestereo 7-inch out on Rob's House."
So Frobos harassed the label's co-owner Travis Flagel, but to no avail.
"When Philip started hitting me up, we had eight or nine singles waiting to be pressed," Flagel says. "We were busy, but I also thought they were a little tame compared to what we were doing."
By the time Flagel met with Mansfield and Frobos to offer advice on building connections via the Internet to help spread the band's name, Frobos had already reached his breaking point. "One day we were sitting around and I said, 'Goddamn it, we're never going to get a 45 released by anyone because we're too young and people think we're lame!'"
That's when Mansfield chimed in. "We don't need someone to do this for us, why don't I do it?" And so in November 2007, with the release of its first 7-inch — Chainestereo's "Anchors" b/w "Airplanes" — Double Phantom Records was born.
Though barely recognizable at the time, it was a sign that a changing of the guard within the local rock scene would soon be underway. When Rob's House founder Trey Lindsay moved to New York in August '08, much of the steam the label had helped create left with him. In its wake, Double Phantom began to foster a younger, more varied crop of bands no longer loyal to three-chord punk and garage rock. In doing so, the label has helped renew the spirit of the city's DIY scene. Suddenly, their plan to take over the world, or at least Atlanta, was coming together.
Friends since childhood, Frobos and Mansfield had long dreamed of being a part of the Atlanta music scene. The two attended high school together at Lakeview Academy in Gainesville, where Mansfield flirted with the idea of starting a record label. They met Taylor later on while attending classes at Georgia State University their freshman year, and his shy demeanor offered a counterbalance to Mansfield's business savvy and Frobos' wily social ways. The burgeoning operation drew strength from its founding members' talents. Mansfield had the financial means and the desire to spearhead a record label. Frobos took on the networking role. Taylor had an interest in visual art; more importantly, he had Photoshop on his computer and he knew how to use it.
After Frobos spent a year of glad-handing and getting to know as many people involved in the local scene as possible, things picked up for Chainestereo. The group's blissful, noisy pop, indie rock and tropicalia inflections made the band stand out from the local scene. But the divergent sound that once held the group back was now feeding Double Phantom's ambitions. Within a year, the label's roster filled up with a wide swath of the city's musical diversity: the improvised psych-rock dirges of the N.E.C.; the hallucinatory electronics of Living Rooms; the shoegazer drone rock of Abby Go Go; and the jittery surf punk of Balkans all found a home on Double Phantom.
But could a young indie label house such a wide range of acts without inducing an identity crisis?
"When I put out Living Rooms' single, I was a little afraid," Mansfield admits. Living Rooms are the only act on the label that falls well outside the rock category. The group's sound is a fluid blend of skewed, psychedelic electronics and pop experimentation. "It was so different from anything else I had done. But I like a lot of different music, and I like the challenge of getting it out there."
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