The State Of Music: Part 27: Oregon - Cars & Trains

If there was some kind of Alcoholics Anonymous equivalent for music many will no doubt agree my demon of choice would be the record label Fake Four Inc and their sister label Circle Into Square. So imagine my delight when the very owner of the latter, who has released records on the former agreed to participate in this crazy project of mine. I am not even going to attempt to describe the music Tom Filepp produces under the moniker Cars & Trains, but I do know I like it very much and always have done since I discovered his music on a Fake Four Inc album sampler just under a year ago.

As per usual, you can listen to Cars & Trains "The Roots, The Leaves" album below and read my interview with the man behind this and countless other awesome things directly below.

If this is your first time to the site you can of course follow me on Twitter @choosemymusic or give a great big like to Choose My Music Records on Facebook. Would be nice to see you.

CMM: Welcome to Choose My Music, I guess we should start with who are Cars and Trains and where in the world would we find you?

Thanks Dominik. My name is Tom Filepp; Cars & Trains is my solo project. I'm originally from New York, but I've been living in Portland, Oregon for about five years now.

CMM: How long have you been recording under the Cars & Trains name?

I've been using the name since about 2003. I released my first EP 2AM in 2006.

CMM: What made you decide to become a solo artist as opposed to going down the 'Lets start a band route'?

I was in a couple of bands when I was younger… it's a great experience that I'd love to do again, but I wanted to have a chance to do things on my own. It's definitely made things easier, particularly for playing shows and touring.

CMM: All I know about Oregon is the Oregon Trail, which we covered in school drama classes believe it or not. For people like me who have never visited your state how would you best describe it?

It's pretty much got every kind of climate and land feature you can think of, plains, huge mountains, beautiful beaches, temperate rain forests, deserts, buttes, etc. There's so much it's hard to describe. It's pretty diverse and beautiful. A little bit of everything. Portland is the biggest city and is a great place to live, so long as you can handle the rain.

CMM: What is the current music scene like in Oregon? What is the genre of choice out there right now?

It's interesting… there is a lot going, and a fantastic amount of clubs to play in Portland proper. Portland itself is a bit of a challenge because there's so much going on. Some of the smaller cities like Eugene, Ashland, Bend, are also pretty fun places to play. Portland I know americana and garage rock are by far the most popular. Electronic isn't quite as much of a big thing out here.

CMM: You also run the successful Circle into Square, which is your own record label - how did that start?

Well, I actually started it as a sort of fake label to release my own music. It was pretty impossible to approach different vendors like distributors and say "Hey, I'm so-and-so from such-and-such band"… it was kind of funny how much more success I had when I made up a name and said I was a record label. After a while I started to release some friend's music digitally, and it all kind of grew exponentially from there.

CMM: For someone like me who is dipping my toe into the indie record label water, what is it that makes a good independent label a success?

I suppose there's no really good answer to that. It's definitely a choppy sea to sail at the moment. It's about finding a good balance between frugality and taking chances. The bottom line is a lot of traditional avenues don't really work anymore, so it's about trying new things and connecting on a more personal level.

CMM: You have released some of your music through Ceschi & David Ramos' Fake Four label - how did you become involved with those two guys?

Ceschi was a friend I knew through music… we were big fans of each other's material so I think it was kind of inevitable we'd work together. I help to run the more technical side of Fake Four and there's a lot of partnership there between the labels. I've got a new album in the works I'm going to release on Fake Four in 2012.

CMM: Can you give a run down of the music Cars & Trains have released so far?

There's a bunch of stuff at this point… basically I started releasing proper albums in 2006, with my 2AM EP. Since then I've done two full lengths (Rusty String in 2007, The Roots, The Leaves in 2010), a digital EP (Little Song, 2008), and compiled a free remix album for The Roots, The Leaves. It's got a lot of great folks on it like Melodium, Lullatone, Blue Sky Black Death, Big Pauper, Ernest Gonzales, etc.

CMM: And finally, where can people reach out to you online and get hold of your music?

Well, best bet would be on the Circle Into Square site… it's where you can get all of the Fake Four and Circle Into Square releases directly. I've got a bunch of my regular albums and some free EPs to boot. Otherwise you can find me at or any of the usual social media suspects.

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