Mashed Potato Records

A new label aims to capture the sound of New Orleans street buskers.

“In New Orleans, there’s a lot of music and a lot of music business,” says Sam Doores. “But there’s no music industry. That’s one of the things that makes it special.”

Doores is one of the driving forces behind a brand new music label called Mashed Potato Records, an experimental operation in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans that took shape after Doores and fellow musician Duff Thompson noticed how many talented musicians around them were working without an album to sell.

“It kind of happened as an afterthought for what we were already doing,” says Doores. “Duff and Bill (Howard) had some recording equipment in their vans. They wanted to capture the music scene down here. We would throw parties and multiple bands would record three songs in their van. It was just for fun.”

But by the end of the first summer, listening to the playbacks, Doores and Thompson realized they were onto something and began to look at making something more than off the cuff recordings. The following summer, Doores began turning the front room of his house into a makeshift studio, and fellow musicians began to make their way over, both to rehearse and to record.

Like most parts of the experiment, the name of the label came about by chance. A song by Duff Thompson included a line about being able to “do the mashed potato any time that we want.” The name seemed to fit the operation, both because it gelled with the idea of the music being a mashup of different styles, and because it was easy to remember.

“It’s a dance and a food and it was a theme of a number of different songs,” says Doores. “And it was also kind of funny.”

Jackson and the Janks recording in the studio.

The bands and singers might not be familiar to many outside of New Orleans — Jackson and Janks, Pony Hunt, The Good Gollies, Leonie Evans, to name a few — but Doores and Thompson want the label to have a hand in changing that. They’ve put together a Kickstarter to get the fledgling operation a bit further down the road, at which point they intend to release compilation albums on cassette tape and vinyl of the work performed in the studio over the past two years.

“Right now our goal is to improve the studio and get it to the quality that we want, and just have a really solid analog studio that emphasizes the live performance,” says Doores.

That includes the idea of having a “house band” for the studio, along with a variety of other musicians they can call up for various sounds — from a full horn section to backup singers. It’s an idea pulled from the early days of rock and roll, including such influential labels as Memphis’ Sun and Stax Records.

“It’s different than a lot of record labels. We want to be very involved in the recording process,” says Doores. “We want to record people we really believe in, do it really affordably, and do it really well. Something that sounds timeless but doesn’t sound old timey.”

L to R: Duff Thompson, Leonie Evans, Matt Bell, Jackson Lynch, Sam Doores

Mashed Potato Records’ Kickstarter will end on January 20.

A fundraiser for the label will be held on Friday, January 12 at the Tigermen Den, 3113 Royal Street in New Orleans, at 6 p.m. It will feature mashed potato dishes and a costume party, along with liver performances by Tuba Skinny, Pony Hunt, Jackson and the Janks, Duff Thompson and the Invisible Mans, and more.