- Associated Press - Sunday, March 9, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Some people can sing, some can play instruments and some write songs. A lucky few can do it all.

But where does that leave the music fans without any of those talents? Standing in the audience, usually.

That wasn’t enough for Dave and Dan Mistich.

The self-professed “music nerds” wanted to get involved in West Virginia’s music scene, but couldn’t actually make music. Then Dan ran off to Athens, Ga., for graduate school.

That city’s music scene is legendary - it’s where REM got its start - but Dan quickly realized the bands back home were just as good as the ones in Athens. When he came home to visit, Dan suggested he and Dave start a record label to help promote West Virginia bands.

“He looked at me and said ‘What’s happening here is as good as anywhere else,’” Dave said.

The name “Twin Cousins” started as a joke. Dave and Dan are identical twins, which is especially noticeable because they both sport similar eye wear and beards. Yet, people still ask if they are twins. After a while, the brothers began insisting they were actually cousins.

Dave and Dan view their label as a curation project, like making a really big mix tape. They find bands they enjoy and help promote their music, in hopes that more people will hear it.

“If we can break even and have 10 more people listen to a band we like… that’s good enough,” Dan said. “It’s just supporting the people we believe in.”

They aren’t trying to get rich, which is good because it’s incredibly difficult to make money as a small record label. Yet, Dan said there’s still a role for small labels like Twin Cousins.

Home recording technology has improved so much in recent years that many bands now record and release albums all on their own. But releasing an album on a record label, even a small label, still carries more weight.

“It adds credibility for bands to be attached to a label,” Dan said.

Twin Cousins doesn’t “sign” bands like a major label, with lots of complication stipulations and legalese. Their contracts are more like a handshake agreement than a Faustian bargain.

“No one’s signed anything binding,” Dan said. “We think we can avoid the nasty bitter part of it by doing things on our terms.”

For their first release, a compilation aptly called “We’re In Over Our Heads But At Least Our Feet Are Wet,” Dave and Dan contacted bands they knew from West Virginia and Georgia.

Eleven bands contributed songs, for which they received a couple dozen copies of the compilation, which they could then sell on tour. That way, bands could make money on the record sales and Twin Cousins could promote their brand.

Next month, Twin Cousins’ will release “Silver Lining” by the Shepherdstown-area band Bishops. Frontman Tucker Riggleman formerly had his own record label, but let the project fizzle after his former band The Demon Beat disbanded.

“I said, it would be nice if someone helped me out a little bit,” Riggleman said. “We put a lot of love on this new record and I didn’t want it to come out like the other ones did, online for free.”

He contacted Twin Cousins, and asked if they would be interested in releasing Bishops’ new record. The brothers listened to the album and immediately agreed.

Twin Cousins agreed to cover the cost of pressing the album and help promote it. The album will be released on cassette this month through Funny/Not Funny Records of Harrisonburg, Va. Twin Cousins will release the album digitally on iTunes and Amazon on April 8 and then, on May 20, will release a limited run of “Silver Lining” vinyl records.

The band isn’t required to produce any more records for Twin Cousins, although Riggleman said he would like to continue his relationship with the Mistich brothers.

“It feels good not to be the one making all the phone calls and emails to the pressing plant and art people,” Riggleman said.

He said releasing the album through Twin Cousins has allowed him spend time on the band, writing new songs and booking shows.

Eventually, Dave and Dan hope to release four or five records each year.

“It’s the best hobby I’ve ever been involved with,” Dan said. “There’s a lot of great art from West Virginia. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t have the kind of support it needs to make it national.”

He hopes that, in some small way, Twin Cousins is helping to change that.

“It’s a matter of getting it in people’s hands. If you can get it in someone’s hands, I think the music holds up,” he said.

For more information on Twin Cousins Records, or to hear music from the label’s releases, visit twincousinsrecords.bandcamp.com.

___

Information from: Charleston Daily Mail, https://www.charlestondailymail.com

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