In an ongoing effort to highlight Ithaca’s thriving alternative music scene, we wake up local Ithaca musicians at their homes (or touring artists on the couches they’re crashing on) and have them play their music for us. From The Ithaca Voice and Ithaca Underground, it’s the Bedhead Sessions.

ITHACA, NY — Today the Brooklyn-based cassette label Fluorescent Thought released the benefit compilation album “Evergreen“, which features new tracks by popular indie pop bands like Philadelphia’s Free Cake for Every Creature. What does this have to do with Ithaca?

More than you might think, thanks in no small part to Ithaca’s DIY music scene.

Katie Bennett: Free Cake for Every Creature

For the past four years, Katie Bennett has been making a name for herself touring with a rotating collection of musicians as Free Cake for Every Creature. Earlier this month, she concluded her second national tour, this time alongside Purchase, New York’s Adult Mom.

Bennett writes Free Cake’s music, sings and plays guitar, creates the project’s album artwork, publishes zines, and books her own tours. Her latest work has earned her praise from  Pitchfork and Rolling Stone. And while she’s based in Philadelphia, she’s not unfamiliar to Ithaca.

Bennett performed with Free Cake for Every Creature in Ithaca several times in the last two years, while longtime Free Cake drummer Francis Lyons has played in Ithaca with various bands since high school.

The Ithaca Voice shot video performances and an interview with Free Cake for Every Creature at Ithaca’s (now-defunct) Tweehouse house show space. When we asked Bennett what initially drew her to Ithaca, she had her answer ready: “Dylan. Dylan’s amazing. I’ll just say that like twelve times. He’s made us a lot of food.”

Who’s Dylan?

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Dylan Farrell: Fluorescent Thought

Dylan Farrell, a 2016 Cornell graduate, only booked shows in Ithaca for about a year, but his impact still resonates. An avid music fan, he emailed bands like Free Cake for Every Creature (and their agents) simply because he liked them, and thought they might be interested in playing house shows in town for little more than whatever proceeds were collected at the door and a home-cooked, vegan meal.

It worked. Farrell drew Free Cake, Arm Candy, Outer Spaces, and many other touring bands to Collegetown basement shows. By the time he was preparing to graduate, Farrell was helping book artists like Palehound to The Haunt for Ithaca Underground.

“I started doing things on my own, but very quickly got a lot of help from friends. I just wanted to involve people in the Ithaca music scene who wouldn’t necessarily have access to it or be excited about it otherwise.”

Farrell, who now lives in Brooklyn, still collaborates with bands—now as a record label owner and cassette tape distributor. His label Fluorescent Thought today released “Evergreen”, proceeds from which will benefit Hour Children, an organization that benefits formerly incarcerated women and children who are readjusting to life outside of prison. Nationally renowned indie artists like Free Cake, Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz, and Groupie join Ithaca hometown favorites Sammus and First Pet on the compilation.

Free Cake for Every Creature at The Chanticleer, 2016 (clockwise from top left): Katie Bennett, Heeyoon Won, Evan M. Marré, Francis Lyons. Photos by Claire McClusky / Ithaca Underground

A Recommendation

Having recently interned at Ground Control Touring in New York, Farrell seems slightly embarrassed of his first, novice attempts to reach out to bands.

But Bennett also started her music career by cold-emailing a lot of people—and venues—and credits her productive drive, ingenuity, and resilience to zine culture. She left us with a recommendation:

“Something that I would recommend everyone—especially young women—should read is”Doris” by Cindy Crabb. She self-published, or raised money to publish a compilation of her zines into books. And they’re just really lovely, beautiful, and encouraging for young artists. She talks about her experiences making zines and drawing comics—just starting from scratch, and how difficult that is and how life-changing that can be. And reading her zines really inspired me to continue making music, and to see the value in the process of the work. And how 90% of making art is making shitty art and that’s totally fine.”

Evergreen: A Benefit Compilation for Hour Children is out now as a cassette and digital album via Bandcamp.

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Sponsoring this installment of the Bedhead Sessions is Luna Inspired Street Foods, a quick-service restaurant offering dine-in, take-out, and delivery in Collegetown, The Lot 10 Lounge, and  downtown Ithaca.

Benjamin Torrey is a videographer and photographer for the Ithaca Voice. He produces video spots for the businesses that underwrite the Voice, and is the creator of the Bedhead Sessions.