Paul Vittum is the founder and head of 'Red Carpet Ring', a small but flourishing independent label from Claremont in New Hampshire. Red Carpet Ring takes it name both from the ringing of sound, and the red carpet in the basement of Vittum's parents' home in which he grew up playing music,and which is his base of operations. Vittum originally set up the label in 1994 when he was fifteen as a means of self-releasing his own music, and from these humble beginnings as a low-key limited edition cassette only label, Red Carpet Ring has in the last five years steadily expanded. There have been regular releases on vinyl and compact disc as well as tape, and while it has continued to be a focus for Vittum's work both as a solo artist and with his band 'The Princeton Reverbs Colonial', Red Carpet Ring has also acted as a showcase for over forty independent bands, many of whom are unsigned. There have been three highly-regarded compilation albums, one a year since 1997, and the label's latest release, 'Fablefactory's debut album 'American Custard' (RCR011), which came out on CD in June, is its largest so far with an edition of 1000 copies.

I started Red Carpet Ring as a way of putting out my own stuff" Vittum reflects in an interview with Pennyblackmusic. "I had some material that I was sending out to tape labels, but got tired of waiting around for other people. I just started doing it for myself. It wasn't that I was enthralled by a 'Do It Yourself' ethic or anything like that. I just felt "Why wait around for other people to help me out ?", so I figured out that I would take it into my own hands, and then eventually I started applying that to other acts also"

The first three Red Carpet Ring recordings were all Paul Vittum solo releases. The initial two releases 'The Irreligious Story of Arithmetic in Math Class' (RCR 001), of which "there was only between ten and fifteen copies made" and 'Boo, I'm a Ghost' (RCR 002), which had twenty five copies, were both single track cassettes.

The follow-up 'Lynus'(RCR 003), which again came out on tape and once more had twenty five copies, was a split recording and also featured a song from a Pennyslvanian act, girl singer 'Neener', who Vittum was a fan of and had become friendly with through e-mail.

Each copy of 'Lynus' came with a piece of blue blanket to hold and rub while listening to the tape to make you feel like a kid again with a security blanket like the Charles M. Schultz cartoon character that this cassette was inspired by."

After releasing these three cassettes, Vittum decided to "up the quality and production of the releases, and to try to get them distributed and more available to the public. The cassettes I had only sold to friends and classmates, but everyone for the most part seemed to like them, so I felt that perhaps other people would too."

'All on the Account of Songs' (RCR 004), the label's next release, which came out in 1997, had an edition of 500. Both Red Carpet Ring's maiden CD and album, it was also its first compilation, and Vittum financed it by working for the summer in a soft drinks factory. Vittum and Neener appeared again on the CD and the album also featured another eleven New Hampshire and North Eastern American acts, all contributing one song each.

"I really enjoyed the music of these different bands" Vittum explains, describing his motivation for releasing 'All on Account of the Songs'. "I wasn't hearing as much of them as I wanted, so I really wanted to put their stuff out so that they could be heard a little more."

'All on Account of the Songs' was both a critical and a popular success, and Vittum, developing from this , put out a sequel 'With Singing, Orchestra and Harp (An International Gathering)' (RCR 006) the following year. It was released on double vinyl in a limited edition of 330, and collated together performances from nineteen bands. Vittum had become involved in overseas distribution when 'All on Account of the Songs' was released, and, as a result, Red Carpet Ring's reputation had started to expand abroad as well at home. As well as featuring the first Princeton Reverbs Colonial recording, and again some of the acts who had appeared on the first compilation (Joe Fredrick and 'Skywriter'), 'With Singing, Orchestra and Harp' (An International Gathering), as its title implies, also had contributions from acts from other countries which included Japan , Brazil, Ireland, France, Scotland, Canada, Germany and Australia.

The label's third compilation, 'A Bunch of Beatniks Riding a Rocket' (RCR 008) came out in March 1999 in a limited edition of 700, and on this album Red Carpet Ring returned to its roots, releasing the album on cassette only with the acts who appeared on it once again primarily coming from the North Eastern states of America. Twenty five groups and performers were involved, and it included recordings from 'Mishima', The Princeton Reverbs Colonial, Skywriter, Joe Fredrick, 'My Place in Space', 'Dressy Bessy', 'Kincaid', 'Silver Scooter', 'Vince Mole and his Calcium Orchestra' and 'Grimace'.

"'A Bunch of Beatniks Riding a Rocket' was us returning to cassette format" Vittum explains. "Just to say that it was still a format we enjoyed and were not necessarily getting away from which some people thought that was what we were doing. Over the years distributors have largely stopped carrying cassettes and I am dissapointed that some people have decided not to take them seriously anymore."

The music that appears on Red Carpet Ring compilations has been described by Vittum, in a newsheet that accompanies 'All on Account of the Songs', as 'dynamite jangle pop, garage/trash, 4-track bedroom rock, art-punk boom-box sincerity'. The songs that Red Carpet Ring releases are usually recorded by bands and performers in which "people are pushing artistically what they are doing musically" and "trying to continually push the boundaries". Much of it is, therefore, experimental and alternative in approach, with emphasis being put on the quality of the music rather than state of art sound production.

"With the sound, we put out stuff either recorded on four track, eight track, anything like that, things that have been recorded at home, but we will also put out acts that record in studios too. It's more about the music than what they are. I'm not bothered by tape finesse. I'm not really biased about that kind of thing. If there is a band and they send me something I really like, or there's a band I really know I like already and they record on a four track as supposed to being in a studio, it doesn't really matter as long as it rocks."

Vittum gets in contact with the bands he wants to work with using the internet and e-mails, and through standard letter writing and the telephone."We are always brainstorming with bands that we are keeping an eye on and that would eventually like to work with" he reflects. The label is also "definitely open to receiving offers", and as Red Carpet Ring's reputation has expanded, Vittum has started "on a fairly regular basis" to receive letters and demos from bands and acts interested in working with him.

While some small labels are only prepared to work with and to release recordings by acts who already are signed, many of the tracks that have appeared on the three Red Carpet Ring compilations are by bands otherwise without deals.

"There is this movement now where a lot of labels are releasing the same bands.Some of the bands that we do talk to or work with are already on other labels too, but we don't just work with people that are signed as I notice some labels do who only want to put out stuff by bands that are already established. If there are bands that we know that we like or if we get stuff from people that we like, we will try to work with them."

For the last two years, and since the release of 'With Singing, Orchestra and Harp (An International Gathering)', Vittum, who is a multi-instrumentalist and who can play the guitar, bass, drums, piano and organ, has recorded primarily under the name of The Princeton Reverbs Colonial. The Princeton Reverbs Colonial, or The Princeton Reverbs as they were initially known, began as a solo project, but in mid-1998 Vittum added to its line-up Darren Cloutier on lead guitar, and Jim Wood on drums. More recently Andrew St Aubin, who toured with the band in the Southern United States last summer, joined the group as a bassist . All three additional members also all play in other bands who have released material through Red Carpet Ring, and Cloutier's other act is My Place in Space ; Wood is in Skywriter and St Aubin is in Grimace.

The band who Vittum describes as "evolving" have drawn favourable comparisions with early 'Guided by Voices', Bob Mould and 'Big Star' and their debut album, 'Christ on the Foreheads of 144, 000' (RCR 005) , which was recorded on an eight-track recording system in Vittum's garage, was released at the end of 1998. The album-Red Carpet Ring's first full-length recording by a band-is typically experimental and displays a wide range of instrumentation, including both acoustic and electric guitars, steel drums, and tambourines. A 1939 Hammond organ which Vittum owns also features on several of the tracks. The album was released with an embossed cloth cover on vinyl only with a limited edition of 111 copies, and Vittum puts the odd number of copies down to chance rather than deliberate planning.

"The initial idea was just to release 100 copies because it was a new project and it was only going to be on vinyl and I only had a limited amount of money. When you press records at the manufacturing plant and when they get the machines going and they press the records they are usually on or off by 10%, so you end up with 10% more records than you initially ordered or 10% less and so it came out at 111."

My Place in Space, which is Darren Cloutier's space pop solo project, was the second act to release an album on Red Carpet Ring. Cloutier and Vittum are roommates at Keene College in New Hampshire where they are both currently studying, and Cloutier is the webmaster of the Red Carpet Ring website ( He has also helped to finance the label.

"It was in our Freshman year that I met Darren, and a lot of things just clicked" Vittum recollects. " We had a forward band before the Princetons with Andrew called 'Ambulance', and we have made some good ground since as regards songwriting. We have struck up a good relationship and we are into a lot of the same bands."

The My Place in Space album, the act's debut which is also called 'My Place in Space' (RCR 010), was released on cassette only with an edition of 500 in January 1999. It was recorded on four track and Cloutier plays all the instruments on the album, including keyboards and acoustic and electric guitar, with the exception of two tracks which feature Vittum, one on backing vocals and shaker and tin whistle duties, and the other providing extra keyboards and guitar backup.

The third and most recent band to release an album through Red Carpet Ring have been Fablefactory with 'American Custard' . Fablefactory are an experimental folk combo from Athens in Georgia , who, as have been described previously by Pennyblackmusic, use wordplay to write songs that 'sound as if they were composed for lyrics' and who produce 'modern pop tunes that relay... whimsical commentary on American culture.'

Vittum first became aware of Fablefactory as a result of his friendship with the group 'Elf Power. Both Fablefactory and Elf Power have toured with each other .

"We had been going to see Elf Power regularly. I was talking to Andrew Reiger from the band and he mentioned them to me and it just sounded like something the more and more he described it the more and more that I would be really into, so he gave me Dave Wrathgaber's number from Fablefactory. They had recorded 'American Custard' and they didn't have anyone to put it out, so he sent me a copy and I really liked the record and we struck up a good relationship and from there it just escalated."

The relationship has continued to expand, and Fablefactory co-headlined with the Princeton Reverbs Colonial on their tour of the Southern United States last summer. They are also in part responsible for the new Princeton Reverbs Colonial album 'The Princeton Reverbs Colonial...and the Flute to Float the Soldier's Sword', which was recorded in mid-January and will be released in April.

" Chris Bishop from Fablefactory has started his own studio called 'Radium Recordings'. Since he began he has recorded 'The Masters of the Hemisphere' and 'The Gerbils' and Desilee . They all sound really great, so being a friend of Chris's and wanting to support his studio, we decided to record the album with him down in Georgia."

"The Princeton Reverbs Colonial...and The Flute to Float the Soldier's Sword" is a concept album. It is in part a fantasy adventure tale in which all four members of the group feature as a travelling troupe of performers on an imagined and dangerous journey. Vittum is a committed Christian, and it is also an examination of religious issues and a parable along the lines of 'A Pilgrim's Progress'. As well as appearances from all of Fablefactory, other guest performers include Sean from The Masters of the Hemisphere and Jill Carnes, the frontwoman of Red Carpet Ring’s new signing ‘Thimble Circus’, who appears as the narrator of the album. The album will be a CD release, and will once more have an edition of 1000 copies.

Vittum, who is now twenty is currently taking a degree in Business Management, and as a result of his college commitments, has only been able to work on Red Carpet Ring part time. Once he graduates, however, he is "looking to push it into full time", and is already now at a stage, where rather than working on other jobs during the summer and while he is a student, he is able to make enough money from Red Carpet Ring both for the label to be his college job and also to be able finance other releases. As the items in the catalogue continue to expand in the number and size of their edition, Vittum plans "to concentrate more on putting things out on compact disc for the benefit of more people being able to hear our stuff" and the next year promises to be both his and Red Carpet Ring's busiest yet.

As well as the new Princeton Reverbs Colonial album, he is hoping to develop further a new solo project 'The Most Beautiful Women in the Bible'.

"I've been rehearsing a few things with it, but nothing has been recorded as of yet. The project will primarily be a recording project of mine. I really enjoy the times where I can be held up in my garage constructing songs like I have done in the past with some of stuff on 'Christ on the Foreheads of 144,O00."

Vittum is "dedicated to my love for Jesus Christ and my effort to walk further with him. I'm also very inclined to continue to deconstruct certain demons of mine and to combine my efforts to explore jazz further, so this is the sort of thing the new project will end up focusing on"

While no more compilations are in the pipeline at the moment, several other Red Carpet Ring releases also planned. The second My Place in Space album, which has a working name of 'The Great Calculator Swindle', will be out in September on compact disc, again with an edition of 1000, and will likely feature guest appearances from some of the members of Kincaid and Silver Scooter.

"We were originally wanting to do a one-sided twelve inch from Darren, but because of things not coming in on time, money from distributors and thingslike that, we have made a conscious decision to wait and we thought that a CD would be better anyway because more people would be able to check it out, so that will be out by the end of the summer."

The debut album of 'Thimble Circus', will also come out in late June or early July. 'Micronodes', a group which includes in its line-up various members of "Vince Mole and Hic Calcium Orchestra', will too be releasing a CD at an unspecified date later in the year. It seems that both Paul Vittum and Red Carpet Ring are guaranteed what seems a long future, and an increasingly wide profile in independent music.

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