When I called Andrew Todryk one night last week, he seemed surprised to hear from me. It was a planned phone call, but Todryk had recently been plagued with one of those springtime colds and was currently sprawled out in his bed self-medicating with The Talented Mr. Ripley. But, as the brain behind the internet cassette label Two Michael Jordans (MJ MJ) as well as the Hawaiian shirt-sporting, oddball sound-sampling musician Vacation Dad, Todryk doesn’t really have time to nurse the sniffles. And so he was a good sport about the whole thing, slightly hazily keeping me up to date on MJ’s future plans, football rivalries and why he doesn’t listen to digital music.
MJ MJ functions like a much-adored inside joke between good friends—every release is listed at the exact price of $4.20 and sold-out cassettes are labeled with the wink that if you really want one, they can make it happen. Todryk describes the label’s output as “the best of DIY and none of the bad stuff,” which includes swirled up sweet stuff from Little Spoon, perfect pop nuggets from Teenage Moods, squishy funk haikus from Yalls and a whole bunch more. The label catalog really is all killer no filler, so feel free to use the contents of this late night chat as a jumping off point.
If you’re in Brooklyn, there’s a record release show tomorrow night for the most recent MJ drop, Many Mansions’ new album, Night Sesh, at Secret Project Robot in Bushwick with Bottoms, Brat Pit and Comadrome.
Can you tell me about your love for cassettes and how that all started?
I always just wanted stuff cheap. I always wanted to make records and CDs, but I always thought CDs were so ugly. It started as purely a ‘what’s cheap’ thing and evolved into me being obsessed with cassettes because they sound better, look better, feel better and are better. It started with me going on tour and needing a bunch of stuff to sell and needing to make it cheap.
Who was the first artist you signed?
I mean, I don’t sign any bands. That’s actually one thing I’d like to talk about, because I do get a lot of really, really funny Facebook spam messages from East African people who want me to sign them. And I always respond with the same message, like, “You’re barking up the wrong tree, we don’t sign people.” The first tape we ever put out was mine, the first Vacation Dad cassette. Then I did a buddy of mine’s. So obviously, like every label, we started with our friends. The first cassette that wasn’t mine was for this guy Maymok, which still to this day is one of my favorites. Like top two I’ve ever put out. It’s so fucking perfect. Like really intimate, amazing, but yeah those were the first two.
So does running this label change how you listen to music?
Oh definitely. I don’t have an iTunes or anything like that, I just play cassettes and records, so I really just listen to albums, and that’s what I want to put out. Like I don’t put out any singles. I know a lot of people put out 7-inches and stuff, but I think that’s kind of silly because I want a group of songs that I can get into rather than one or two.
But you put shit out on Soundcloud/Bandcamp right?
Yeah, but me personally myself, I don’t have an iTunes. I mean I do, because you have to have an iTunes, I use it to basically organize all my label stuff. But yeah I don’t have a digital music collection.
What do you do if you can’t find something on cassette or on vinyl?
Then I don’t fuckin’ listen to it [Laughs] No, I mean I do stream stuff, like a lot of Bandcamps and Soundclouds, but I have a pretty short attention span, so if something is available, I’ll fuckin’ listen to it non-stop for a couple of weeks and then I’ll move on to the next thing, you know? I’m like a kid in a candy store when it comes to music.
Do you have a cassette player in your car or anything?
Yeah. Well, I don’t have a car, but if I did it would have a cassette player. Whenever I go on tour we make sure we have a nice tape deck in the car. I have a nice Walkman and I got a pretty nice stereo with a cassette player.
Where’d you get the Walkman?
Actually I did a cassette dub through National Audio Company, and they send me tape players all the time. So that’s actually where I get all my tapes.
How does making music as Vacation Dad affect how you run a label?
In a pretty big way. Mostly how I interact with my bands. Basically I started MJ as a cassette label that I wish existed for me. Cause when I was coming up, when I started making music, the internet was a wild place. Like, that’s back when you could get a post on Butterface, I don’t know if you remember that old blog, ****’s old blog. He’d be so mad if I told everyone who that was, nevermind. Anyway, I don’t know who wrote Butterface but, whoever did, if you got a post on that blog, like, bam!—you got a million plays on your MySpace, you know? And then Pitchfork would steal it and say that they found you.
So, like back in the day when I was starting to make music, which is like four or five years ago, it was a lot easier to blow up. I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was just like “Ooh, cool people are listening to my music,” but I didn’t have anyone to tell me what to do or how to do things, how to make a tape or shit like that. So that’s basically what the label is for. I run a booking agency too, like booking tours for bands. The best of DIY and none of the bad stuff. I give all my bands a really solid deal and am super open about everything. I just make sure that it’s a label that I would want to be on.
Have both of those just been like trial and error processes?
Yeah, totally. By now I know how to do this label thing and how to tour pretty good. It is fucking hard though. The hardest part is promo because there are so many goddamn blogs on the internet. There used to be like 20 people I’d hit up, and I knew all their first names and all that stuff. Then Portals came along, which is rad, but there used to be like 15 separate awesome blogs that had different tastes in everything. It’s gotten a little harder on that front. Like figuring out the internet, but you learn it as you go. But it’s no big deal. They’re fucking tapes, it costs me like 100 bucks to put a record out.
So do you work with mostly local artists? I know you’re in Minnesota.
People always ask me that, and I usually don’t. I only just started putting out Minneapolis bands. Like that Teenage Moods cassette. No, not Teenage Moods, Shakin’ Babies was the first time I’ve ever lived in the same city as a band whose record I was putting out. It’s fun now that I’m doing it, ’cause I throw a lot of shows in Minneapolis now, and I’ve lived here for a year and a half or two years, so I’m more in there then I used to be. So now I like know all the bands. But not really. [Laughs]. Long story short, I do now.
Why did you move to Minneapolis?
That’s a suuuupper long answer.
I feel like not a lot of people re-locate to Minneapolis, maybe. Were you following Prince?
No, I was not following Prince. I’m not all that into Prince, in all honesty.
That hurts me.
Like, he just said he was cool and everyone bought it.
But he is cool.
He’s alright. But Minneapolis, I mean I’m from the Midwest, I grew up in Wisconsin. And Minneapolis was always, kind of, the city you move to other than Chicago. I never wanted to live here, and then I moved out to L.A. from Wisconsin, and long story, I got robbed and crippled and heartbroken and was living in a van. I had a really intense year. And I helped throw the biggest festival I’ve ever done, FMLY Fest L.A., back in the day. And I was like, ‘I gotta get outta here.’
So what was the last vacation you went on?
Well all my tours are kind of like vacations. I went on tour to California last Christmas to play FMLY Fest, and that was kind of like vacation, got to hang out with my friends.
What sport would you coach if you were a professional coach?
Right, so football.
Not football, the Packers.
Dude, I asked what sport. Actually isn’t there a big rivalry between the Green Bay Packers and whatever team is in Minnesota?
The Vikings? Yeah, but they suck so it doesn’t matter.
You’re just proving my point. So what’s coming up this year for MJMJ?
Well we just put out that Many Mansions album. It’s amazing, it’s so fucking good, you should check that out. I always wanted the label to be between electronic, very playful, psychedelic stuff and good ol’ house party rock ‘n’ roll. And so I’m trying to put out my first vinyl at the end of the summer. The next Shakin’ Babies album which sounds so good. It’s probably gonna be the first MJ vinyl.