Thomas Dean takes unusual pleasure in digging through crates of junky records.
It’s partly the aroma of acidic paper inserts mingling with that of musty cardboard sleeves. It’s partly weirdo cover art, bonkers band names, and eyebrow-raising (or head-shaking) album titles.
But mostly, it’s the music. Dean loves the thrill of sliding a random slab of vinyl out of its sleeve, placing it on the turntable, and finding a really cool rock ‘n’ roll song or, even better, an album full of them. They’re often songs from 25, maybe 30 years ago, hiding in plain sight in a thrift store dollar bin because neither the band nor the label has big-name recognition. Music that, if it hadn’t been pressed to wax, very likely would be completely forgotten.
Dean also loves the idea that, decades from now, someone might be digging through another crate of records and find one released on his record label, Infinite Repeats, toss it on the platter, and say, “Hey! This is cool!”
That’s entirely possible, because Dean, a musician, DJ, and screen print artist who’s been a fixture in Charlottesville independent rock music for close to 20 years, is releasing some pretty cool music, most of it local, on the newly-minted Infinite Repeats.
It might be fair to say that the idea for Infinite Repeats started spinning when Dean was growing up in Lynchburg and skipping school at lunch to drive up to Plan 9 on the Corner, where he and his friends would flip through records and scope out flyers for upcoming shows at Trax nightclub.
In 1999, Dean and a bunch of his friends moved to Charlottesville, into a house on Summit Street in Fry’s Spring. They had a band, a “pretty noisy” one, says Dean, and played and hosted shows in their basement. He’s gone on to play in Order, Invisible Hand, New Boss, Orange Folder, and Good Dog Nigel.
Dean has great memories of seeing shows at Trax, Pudhaus, and Tokyo Rose, and later at Dust Warehouse, memories that he can jog with a few band recordings, some photos, and a couple of VHS tapes. But a lot of that music is lost to time, and he often wishes he could hear it again, share it with folks who missed it. It’s something he’s very aware of now, too, as he attends and plays shows at Tea Bazaar, Magnolia House, The Bridge PAI, The Southern, and IX Art Park.
He also wonders about all the Charlottesville bands nobody remembers, or knows about, because they never made a recording—or if they did, it’s sitting on a hard drive in a basement, or in a box of tapes at the back of a closet, or on a CD in a cracked jewel case at the bottom of a desk drawer.
“This town’s had an interesting scene for a long time,” he says. “There are plenty of phases of it that have gone pretty poorly documented. Though there were plenty of people there to enjoy it, I think there was some pretty enjoyable stuff for the folks who missed it, too.”
“So much gets lost,” says Dean, and with Infinite Repeats, he hopes to minimize those losses, and give current fans of these bands something to have and to hold, to take home after a show.
Infinite Repeats’ first official issue, in May 2018, was the vinyl release of New Boss’ No Breeze EP, six songs by Dean’s own indie rock power-pop band. Dean followed it up with The Implied Sunrise, an EP from Parker Emeigh’s Lynchburg-based experimental psych rock power-pop project, Good Dog Nigel, in February 2019. This week, the label releases Cosmic Miasma, a four-song, 7-inch record from Charlottesville punk band Wild Rose.
There are others in the works, too, says Dean, like the Night Prancing LP from his longtime friends, Shrouded Strangers, a Good Dog Nigel full-length, and something from local garage punk band The Attachments.
In some cases, Dean’s had a hand in the recording process as well. Good Dog Nigel, Wild Rose, and The Attachments have recorded their Infinite Repeats releases at Dean’s in-home studio, Studionana, named for a nearby sticker of an anthropomorphic banana wearing sunglasses and playing a guitar. Studionana is actually located in Dean’s kitchen, where there are drums stacked on shelves alongside pots and pans, amps on the counters, guitars leaning on cabinets, microphones standing in front of the fridge, and where the recording console itself isn’t far from the stove. For a long time, Dean didn’t have his own recording equipment (most artists don’t) to get his bands’ music down, and now that he does, he wants to share that wealth.
Infinite Repeats, which presses a couple hundred copies of each release at Blue Sprocket Pressing, a vinyl pressing plant that opened in Harrisonburg in spring 2018, isn’t the only independent label working to get Virginia rock music on the literal record (and cassette tape, and CD). We’ve also got WarHen, Funny/Not Funny, Beach Impediment, and Feel It Records, to name just a few, making sure some of the great music being made in the Commonwealth right now is out there in the world, being enjoyed, and less likely to be lost to the sands of time.
It seems like a lofty goal, and in some ways it is. But it’s not impossible. And, if you ask Dean, (business and money aspects aside) it’s not terribly complicated, either. “I like things by cool people, bands that I like,” he says. “I’m just going to keep watching for things that I like and see what needs to come out in the world.”