“When I saw Starbucks get into music” — selling CDs in-store and running its own label — “I thought it was a genius idea,” says local coffee entrepreneur Daniel Charlson. “I thought what they were doing represented a change in the music industry. Although they were not successful with it, it caught my attention.”
Charlson took Starbucks’ cue. With the November 9 release of Wild Young Love by local hard-edged Americana band Petty Saints, Charlson unveils his all-vinyl Dark Horse Coffee Records, named after his chain of local coffee shops. The 12-inch, six-song discs are available for sale at the band’s shows or at one of the coffee houses.
“If you buy it from us, it’s on white vinyl,” says singer/guitarist Ciaran O’Reilly. “The copies you buy at Dark Horse are Coke bottle green with pink speckle.”
O’Reilly moved here from the UK two years ago. “Although I was raised in London, my family was Irish, and we were raised singing Irish songs. The quality of the songs is what always mattered most to me.”
After landing in San Diego he met guitarist Brett Reeves. “I used to be in the Drags,” says Reeves. “We were MC5 wannabes, trashy 60s garage punk.” The two hooked up with drummer Chaz Riley and bassist Dan Rucker, formerly of punkish Youth Envy. They spent over a year holed up in their El Cajon practice studio working on their material that reminds some of the Americana-meets-punk of New Jersey’s the Gaslight Anthem or Pennsylvania’s the Menzingers.
“I guess we do have a similar style to the East Coast side of things,” says Reeves.
A friend of Reeves who works at Dark Horse Coffee shared a clip of Petty Saints music with Dark Horse owner Charlson. Charlson told the band he loved the preliminary tracks that had been recorded at Double Time Studios, and then stepped in to cover the expense for the rest of the recording, mixing, mastering, and the pressing. “We used Pirates Press [in Northern California],” says Charlson. “We got it back in six weeks.
“I started working with bands as an audio engineer when I was 16,” says Charlson, who came to San Diego by way of Nashville, Seattle and Hawaii. “After music I got into marketing, and then coffee.”
There are currently four local Dark Horse coffeehouses. “We’re opening two more in San Diego and one in Hawaii. My whole deal is I’m treating music as a not-for-profit. I’ve seen how over the years the music industry has changed and how impossible it has gotten for artists.” He says as soon as his expenses are covered, all profit from Dark Horse Coffee record “goes back to the band.”