Lower Peninsula Records has become a Lansing music fixture. Since the local label’s 2006 debut vinyl LP, “Headed For the Ditch — A Michigan Tribute to Neil Young,” owner John Krohn, 30, has steadily released quality slabs of wax.
The label saw its biggest success in 2009 with the release of the Frontier Ruckus double-LP, "The Orion Songbook/Way Upstate and the Crippled Summer pt. 1"
The label’s next record is from Sunil Sawani of Troy, Mich., who Krohn calls “the best songwriter you’ve never heard of.” The record, “How Does it Know,” is a 12-inch 45rpm EP scheduled to be released Saturday, May 22 at (Scene) Metrospace in East Lansing.
Krohn discussed his label’s new release and his passion for pressing vinyl.
How did Lower Peninsula Records start?
It all started in 2006 because I wanted to put out that tribute to Neil Young. Knowing how Neil Young feels about the CD format, I knew for it to be a proper tribute, it’d have to be vinyl because that’s the way he’d want it. Back then, I didn’t realize vinyl would become cool again, I just knew that’s what Neil would want. Then I started realizing it was fortunate timing. Now there are a lot of local labels and bands putting out vinyl.
Why did you decide to release the new Sunil Sawani EP?
He is not your typical musician. He is already in his 30s, he’s married and he doesn’t really play shows a lot. He’s not looking to make it, or anything like that. He is just a sweet, normal guy who lives in Troy and works as a computer programmer — and happens to write these amazing pop songs. He is incredibly lyrically clever. It’s very melodic and catchy stuff.
You recorded the Sunil Sawani record at Deep Deep Pink, your home studio. How did you approach this recording?
His prior albums were pretty stripped down — just him singing and strumming. This album I actually produced. I don’t usually use that term, I usually just record a record. This one I produced the sound. I threw out the strumming guitar sound and used all these other instruments and created an interesting soundscape with more depth and space. We took that rhythm guitar foundation, but then I’d drop the guitar completely out of the mix and put other instruments over it — like piano, organ, horns, lead guitar, shakers, claps. It made it more to listen to but without distracting from the songs.
You also record a lot of bands at your studio, how did you get into that?
I started recording bands in 2004. It tied in with the Neil release. It was a way to work with great bands that wouldn’t pay to record with me. Instead I got a chance to say “Hey, I am putting together a Neil Young tribute, (and) I will record you for free doing a Neil song.” That got me a chance to record Saturday Looks Good To Me, who are on K Records and The Hard Lessons, all these great musicians.
One of your label’s biggest releases so far is the 2009 album by Frontier Ruckus. How has that gone over?
The Frontier Ruckus record has been going over great. It has paid for itself in less than a year. They are blowing up all the time. They are touring all the time and just announced they are playing Bonnaroo Music Festival this year. But yeah, the record is still selling well. I still get mail orders for it every week — which is good, because it was not an inexpensive record.
Sunil Sawani Record Release Show @ (Scene) Metro Space Saturday, May 22 110 Charles St. East Lansing w/ Husband & Wife, Curtis Eller, The Jet Rodriguez