JT Fitzgerald was tired of seeing bands come and go in Rochester. A band would make the scene, make a little noise, and then vanish, never to be heard from again.
"There were a lot of bands we were seeing that would pop up for a few shows and then kinda disappear," Fitzgerald says. "And we figured someone around here needed to document their existence by putting something out for them. Because it would often be, all they had was just a couple of demos on a Bandcamp page and their name on a couple of flyers."
So five years ago, Fitzgerald and his two roommates at RIT, Joe Makowski and AJ Colosimo, got together and started Dadstache Records. They divided up who wanted to do what and how they could all work together to make it happen. First and foremost was the music: What style? What genre?
"At this point, it was just anyone that we thought was talented," Fitzgerald says. "Our first three releases were quite varied. We put out some indie stuff and some electronic stuff. We put out a folk record — a lot of different stuff."
Over time, Fitzgerald, who's been running Dadstache solo since 2015, says that the label has narrowed its collective genre down to be a more rock-specific sound. To date, Dadstache has put out 40 releases, many of those by the best indie rock artists in Rochester. Bands like Total Yuppies, Secret Pizza, Calicoco, Buffalo Sex Change, and Pony Hand all call Dadstache Records home. And along with Fitzgerald, they are celebrating five years of Dadstache Records with a two day party this weekend.
Fitzgerald does all he can, from running the day to day business to strapping on an instrument and playing in the bands. For example, Skirts had so many incarnations that Fitzgerald wound up playing bass on the record.
Dadstache is there to promote the bands, give them a shot — or at least a fighting chance — because the label's life is at stake here as well. It needs the bands as much as the bands need it.
"I think the bands have always sustained us," Fitzgerald says. "It's a circular thing. The bands stick around a little longer, get their name out there a little more, go on tour knowing they have a record to tour off of."
Dadstache is expanding outside the Rochester limits and taking on the world with bands like Italy's psychedelic garage rockers Cruel Experience. Dadstache did the band's US release. And the label has broadened its reach extensively to include artists from Texas, Boston, and Brooklyn.
"It's just all over the place now," Fitzgerald says. "But the last batch of releases were mostly Rochester bands."
You might say Dadstache operates in self-inflicted obscurity by releasing most of the recordings on cassette.
"There's definitely a cassette scene out there," Fitzgerald says. "I don't know if it will get to the point that they start making tape decks again. But people didn't think vinyl would come back as it did."
Fitzgerald says he has to get people to trust his taste. With independent labels, it's a curated vision.
"It's really hard to get people to care about something they've never heard before," he says. "You have to give them that incentive to care. They so often don't."