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Eric Astor needs a font. Talking on the phone to Frodus singer Shelby Cinca, who also serves as his graphic artist, Astor is growing frustrated. Like any good typeface lepidopterist, he knows the differences between his Arials, Lucidas, and Helveticas, but after scrolling through the lists on his jumbo monitor, Astor just can’t figure out the right font for a band called the Ick. This is making him ill. “I don’t have that one,” he says. “I don’t know what to say. It wasn’t put on my computer. Is the font called Skeaor Ikea?”
Astor, co-owner of both Lumberjack, a punk distribution house and record store, and Art Monk Construction Records, has decided to close down Lumberjack by late August, the better to focus on his new record manufacturing business, Furnace. Astor and Lumberjack co-owner Rich Kraemer have sold the company to Dirk Hemsath, owner of Doghouse Records in Toledo, Ohio. But for fonts?
The new DIY designer tries to sound convincing. “I’m a fan of fonts,” he explains, his voice running out of gas. “It keeps things interesting. Could you imagine if everyone used the Futura font? Everything would be the same forever and ever.”
A similar sameness drove Astor and Kraemer out of business. The decision came about, Astor says, out of boredom and anxiety over the incestuous no-outsiders-please punk community (“Everyone is a watchdog,” he says). Next to his office, Astor even has a Wall of Shame, where he hangs hate mail from an angry punk who bounced a check, and from a fanzine author who didn’t like being addressed as an “indie buyer” in a form letter in the Lumberjack catalog (“We don’t need capitalists!” fanzine boy writes. “Go Away!”).
If anything, Astor and Kraemer’s move is a natural stepaway from these cat fights. Over the last three years, they have helped each other start three different projectsArt Monk, Lumberjack, and now Furnaceeach one taking them further from the scene and putting them more behind the scenes. While Astor has launched Furnace and will continue to helm AMC, Kraemer plans to study human rights issues in Poland and eventually attend law school. Astor delights in simply earning a decent paycheck. “I think it’s cool to [be able to] take your mom out on a trip,” he says.
Astor and Kraemer proved to kids that they didn’t have to be fashionable to be DIY. Just putting their headquarters out in Falls Church was enough of a statement. But the two managed to attract a large following without advertising or even listing their phone number. Now that he has a new company, Astor relishes the contradictions even more.
“I don’t know what cool is,” says this untrendily attired Fiona Apple fan. “I don’t know….People define cool by who they want to follow. If people want to play golf and dress like me then I’d be cool, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.”Jason Cherkis