"Three-sixty deals?" asks 23-year-old Adam Moult rhetorically. "They should call them '180 deals,' because they flip you over and ... "
Well, Moult's language gets a little blue from there, but you can likely see where he's headed. He's referring to the sort of business arrangement in which an artist gives a record company a percentage of all their income in return for advances, tour support and promotion. But if you're to believe folks like Moult, 360 deals are more often than not used to give young bands a proper rogering. It's a far cry from the DIY model of which Moult is a proponent.
Moult, long and lean with a shaggy mess of hair, is the frontman of Nashville-based blues-punk outfit Bad Cop, and also the founder of local label Jeffery Drag Records. The label — which Moult runs with Bad Cop bassist Mike Gicz and Springfield, Mo., resident R.J. Jennings — was very loosely founded in 2009, initially as a vehicle to get Bad Cop's music out. Their first run was about 30 copies of an EP released on CD only.
"Well, it wasn't an EP," says Moult. "It was more like a demo. It was five songs we did at [Jeremy Ferguson's Nashville home studio] Battle Tapes, but some of [the CDs] had three, some had five. We made them all weird. Some we'd put, like, that 'Rick Roll' song, you know? We'd put that on there just to make people like, 'What the fuck?' "
Moult is of course talking about Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up." Since that long-out-of-print release, Jeffery Drag has put out vinyl and cassettes by local rock 'n' rollers including Useless Eaters, Natural Child, Ranch Ghost, PUJOL, Spanish Candles, Majestico, Western Medication and Turbo Fruits, not to mention Wisconsin's The Hussy, Springfield's Ghostdance and more. Most of Jeffery Drag's output has been 7-inch vinyl, but in February, they released their first LP: Useless Eaters' very fine Hypertension, the urgent garage-punk brainchild of onetime Jay Reatard sideman Seth Sutton. Moult calls it "one of the best investments I've ever made." The record has drawn comparisons to Wire, Television and Gang of Four, and like all JDR vinyl, it was pressed at Nashville's own United Record Pressing.
"I realized the other day," says Jeffery Drag co-honcho Gicz, "that — [because of] my old label — I've been working with URP for almost 10 years now." Gicz formerly ran a punk label called Thrashed! Records out of his hometown of Virginia Beach. "I ended up just losing a bunch of money, so I just cut my losses and learned from my past mistakes."
Gicz came on board with Moult in early 2011, just in time for the label's first proper vinyl release: PUJOL's "Bonedaddy" 7-inch. The following year, Bad Cop toured with Bowling Green alt-rockers Cage the Elephant, and shortly thereafter, Jennings — Bad Cop's tour manager and Moult's childhood friend — joined the Jeffery Drag crew. They registered the label as a proper LLC, and then they had a stroke of luck.
"Right when we got back from that Cage tour — right when we registered our business, in early June  — R.J. and I were making a list of our top five distributors that we would want to work with eventually," says Gicz. On that list was Frenchkiss, a label group founded by Les Savy Fav bassist Syd Butler — the group is home to Julian Casablancas' Cult Records, among others. "And it just happened that that day, Frenchkiss emailed us asking if we needed distribution. We were just like, 'Oh my God!' We'd been a business for like two weeks at this point."
Jeffery Drag signed with Frenchkiss around September, and since then they've kept their model pretty simple: Operating out of a spare bedroom in Gicz's house, they get behind bands they like — bands that are mostly Nashvillian and mostly make blues-, psych- or punk-rooted rock 'n' roll, but the only true criterion is that they be what Moult & Co. consider "good." Plenty of Jeffery Drag's artists release singles and records with other labels, and that's A-OK with them — they're not after exclusivity, but rather building a catalog they're proud of.
On the horizon for JDR is Bad Cop's Light On EP — also recorded, like a lot of Jeffery Drag releases, at Ferguson's Battle Tapes — which is due out in July, and which Moult promises will sound a lot more Bowie-esque and pop-minded than past Cop releases. Before that, the label is launching a monthly digital-single series they're calling The Drag, beginning with two tunes from grunge-pop trio Fancytramp on May 10, and another single to follow from psych revivalists — and recent winners of the Road to Bonnaroo band competition at Mercy Lounge — Ranch Ghost in June. Past that, the Drag crew hopes to put out more long-players, and maybe even open a storefront in the not-too-distant future. For now, Moult keeps his mission statement simple and his slacker ethos turned all the way up.
"We feel like, even if it's gonna make money," Moult says, "unless it's just like really great, we won't even fuck with it."
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