The Label Makers: Factotum Cassettes & Oddities

JP Lancaster of Factotum Cassettes & Oddities [ Frank Luca]

The Label Makers celebrates independent record labels from across so-called Canada, like Factotum Cassettes & Oddities, from Kamloops, BC.

In February 2020, musician and Factotum Cassettes & Oddities’ founder, JP Lancaster, opened a music venue in Kamloops. He put on one show there, and then COVID happened, and he shut it down. The timing could not have been worse, but thankfully he only signed a trial lease for the space, so it wasn’t too financially devastating.

The venue was part of Lancaster’s ongoing efforts to help foster a music community in Kamloops. Lancaster was born and raised in the city, lived in Vancouver for a few years, and in 2015 he moved back to Kamloops, where he now lives with his wife and two kids. Lancaster grew up playing in bands in the late ‘90s/early 2000s when Kamloops had a vibrant, all-ages DIY scene, but when he first moved back, he characterizes it as a “pretty bare wasteland for music.”

He initially started Factotum Cassettes & Oddities (the name is a reference to Charles Bukowski’s novel, Factotum) in 2016 to put out records by his former and now defunct band, At Mission Dolores. Lancaster purposefully did not include “records” in the label’s name because he saw it as a conglomerate for his own efforts — he now releases solo records under his own name — while also a way to create space for other local bands. Alongside putting out about 45 releases, Lancaster estimates that he presented about 50 shows between 2016 and 2019 under the Factotum banner.

“[Factotum] originally started because I was like, I’m going to go through this work to put out an album for my own band, so I think I can streamline the process. I’m 38; I’ve been playing in bands since I was 15; I can do this as a co-operative partnership and maybe be that platform for other bands,” Lancaster says.

“So yes, it is a platform to put out physical releases, but it’s a bit more all-encompassing: do releases, create a scene, promote shows, and everything that comes within that fabric.”

Factotum is Lancaster’s labour of love. “It started with $300, and we put that into a run of tapes. It was a short enough run, low enough risk that you could get that $300 back and put it in something else. So that was always my model – never really having a ton of money but you could be creative about that,” he explains. 

Over six years, the label has released works from acts like Cumberland’s R McClure & Tall Shadows, Victoria’s Bridal Party, and Calgary’s Dear Friend. Although these bands are scattered across the country and play with various sonic textures and genres, their outsider-pop core unites them. Two Factotum releases from 2022 offer a perfect sample of what the label is all about: Clea AnaïsCircle Zero is a groovy record with orchestral pop and experimental rock touches, while Jared Jackel’s Bad VibrationsMal Casual is an eerie-sounding psych-country release. Next month Factotum will release a psychedelic-washed split EP between Lancaster and Jared Jackel’s Bad Vibrations.

“For me, as an artist and as a curator for Factotum, I’m always a total sucker for melody, and that’s maybe a function of somebody who grew up in the ‘90s and an era that was ripe with that,” Lancaster admits. Adding, “[The label is about] creating space for people who maybe don’t have a space to belong to or don’t have momentum. I think it’s been about trying to create some bridges for the different [music] communities around here.”

Similar to how the label’s sound is tied to Lancaster’s own pop sensibilities, Factotum’s commitment to physical releases (the “oddities” refer to Lancaster’s hope of one day publishing books) reflects his devotion to keeping physical media alive. “Again, maybe it goes back to growing up in the scene in the late ‘90s and the fact that I can still find all of these punk tapes from when I was a kid. To me, there’s something romantic about having this physical artifact, and if it means something to someone out there, then that’s a mission accomplished,” he says. 

Lancaster admits that lately he’s been slowing down when it comes to Factotum. He points to his own lack of bandwidth and cites how recent supply chain issues have wreaked havoc on the label’s release schedule. Not to mention inflation, COVID, and *gestures at the world*. But, thanks in large part to Lancaster, a music scene is starting to take shape again in Kamloops. A venue opened across the street from where Lancaster’s short-lived venue once stood. And maybe somebody, somewhere, will buy a Factotum cassette and treasure it and that will be enough.

“When I look around Kamloops now, there’s enough momentum where other bands are doing their thing. There was a cool point in time, I found, where it was very consolidated, and there were only Factotum shows, and that was the scene. There’s merit to that, but ultimately, you want there to be some equilibrium where it’s not just a person or brand doing shows, and I think that Kamloops has gotten there which is a net positive,” Lancaster concludes.

“If in five years I can have a balance of putting on a couple of cool shows on my own, curating a few events, and putting out some releases that I believe in, that will be a huge success.”