ANALOG EDITION ISSUE NO. 1
EDITED BY MATT CARR
ANALOGEDITION.COM © ANALOG EDITION MAY 2011
‘LAKE TOWERS’ BENJI SCHNEIDER OF LORD HURON
CONTENTS COVER ARTWORK KAITLIN VAN PELT LAKE TOWERS BENJI SCHNEIDER OF LORD HURON INTRODUCTION: LET’S GET PHYSICAL MATT CARR
INTERVIEW: JAKE ORRALL OF INFINITY CAT RECORDS
THE ROLE OF THE 7-INCH IN THE LO-FI ROCK MOVEMENT OF THE EARLY 90S JASON DEAN
INTERVIEW: ROLLO GRADY’S CARTER SMITH TALKS WITH AQUARIUM DRUNKARD’S JUSTIN GAGE
LIMITED EDITIONS: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE EBAY JESSE CROOM
SPECKTONES SONNY SMITH OF SONNY & THE SUNSETS
INTERVIEW: ERIC ISAACSON OF MISSISSIPPI RECORDS
FRANK SINATRA AND TOM WAITS: OUT ALL NIGHT HUGH WILLETT
INTERVIEW: JESSI HECTOR OF FATHER / DAUGHTER RECORDS
OMANIWOMAN DAVID LEVESQUE OF LEVEK
GETTING LUCKY ON THE INTERNET ANDY KLINGENBERGER
BEER, BON IVER, AND THE BIBLE BELT SAMANTHA KRAMER
ANALOG EDITION RELEASES
INTRODUCTION: LET’S GET PHYSICAL
What was the rst album you ever bought? Do you remember? Sure you do. Maybe it was on a cassette tape or CD. Or maybe it was even on vinyl. And yes, it was probably embarrassing. My rst music purchase was a Naughty By Nature tape: 19 Naughty III. When CDs became the rage, I started with the horrendous soundtrack to the Street Fighter movie (my taste was clouded by a Jean-Claude Van Damme obsession). Later, after discovering boxes of my dad’s vinyl, I bought my rst piece of wax: a used copy of Tom Petty’s Damn The Torpedoes for $5. I remember each purchase vividly. I even remember how the Petty LP looked, sitting in a box in a corner of the thrift store: dusty, forgotten, and smelling of old people. What about the rst mp3 you ever downloaded? Can you picture it? What about the rst album you purchased on iTunes? Personally, I have no clue. iTunes is an extraordinary technological advancement and an incredible organizational tool, but it has about as 1
much personality as a calculator. And unfortunately, so does much of the music it holds. Sure, when you play a song it becomes vibrant and turns on the sensory reworks. But what about when a song’s not on? It’s stored information—a formula of 1s and 0s. Modern technology is wonderful because it works so efciently: it’s easy and it’s fast. In contrast, books and vinyl records are inefcient. They take up space, weigh a ton in large numbers, and require manual operation—turning the page, dropping the needle. But there are connections made with the experience of owning a physical object that can never be replicated by technology. The smell of a book after you’ve taken it to the beach; the crinkly coffee stain that seeped through all of chapter 10; your friend’s copy of Moby Dick that has whale dicks scribbled throughout its margins. Unlike an MP3, when you play a vinyl record you’re seeing and hearing music living in real time. Whether it’s the dust from your apartment that’s popping in the record’s grooves or simply the different spots you place the needle, innitesimal changes make
every spin unique.
beach with you, spill coffee on it, get out a lawn chair, crack It’s quick and easy to buy open a six-pack, and read it e-books and MP3s. There’s in the sunny park across the even an app that mimics the street. I’m not saying there’s warm sound of vinyl. But we anything wrong with MP3s or don’t fall in love with books reading on a computer; I’m and records because they saying there’s something truly were easy to procure. In fact, wonderful, and irreplaceable, we love them more when about the way a book feels in they’re hard to nd—we love your hands and the sound a the hunt; we love the treasure. needle makes when it rst hits And once we nd the object that vinyl groove. of our desire, we love being —MATT CARR able to hold that piece of art EVERYBODYTASTE.COM in our hands and call it our own. We can organize them any we want, not just by artist or genre, but by something as abstract as the mood it puts us in when we play it. What’s more fun: scrolling through uniform le names in an iTunes library or perusing a shelf of colorful records? When I go through my vinyl collection, it’s like reacquainting myself with old friends—I admire the artwork, read the liner notes, recall the concert where I bought it, and an awkward conversation I had with the band member selling their swag. The goal of this zine is to recreate the fun and intimacy of the physical object. So please, take our rst issue to the 2
INTERVIEW: JAKE ORRALL OF INFINITY CAT RECORDS IN NASHVILLE, TN
Innity Cat is a Nashville based record label started by JEFF The Brotherhood’s Jake and Jamin Orrall and their father, Robert. While the prolic young duo utilize Innity Cat to release their own cassettes, CDs, and vinyl, they’ve also developed an impressive young roster of up and coming Nashville acts like Heavy Cream, Natural Child, and Denney & The Jets. Big news broke on May 2nd—a few weeks after I spoke with Jake— when the Orralls conrmed JEFF The Brotherhood had inked a deal with Warner Music Group. The agreement gives the band global distribution and Innity Cat a spot on Warner’s Independent Label Group. While Warner and Innity Cat will share ownership of the band’s masters, brothers JEFF will still retain complete creative control. 3
“Innity Cat is still a completely independent record label,” said Robert Orrall in a statement. “We are in our 9th year as a label, and the Greenhornes/JEFF tour split 7” is our 63rd release. We are grateful for the support the Nashville community has shown us, and we couldn’t be more excited about the future.” Suddenly these brash young do-it-yourself upstarts have turned into savvy industry veterans with their chubby Stimpy-looking cat in tow. With JEFF’s strongest LP to date, We Are The Champions, due out in June, there appears to be no stopping the Orrall family. Tell me about the Nashville scene. My outsider perspective pictures a lot of blues and country western, not so much the punk and driving rock of a Heavy Cream or Natural Child. Where do those bands and JEFF The Brotherhood t in?
We’ve got a good tight-knit rock scene here. It’s very community oriented and fun oriented. All the bands are our friends and we play in basements and warehouses and lthy rock clubs. Some of our friends are in country bands too! When did you get the idea to start your own label? What prompted the move, as opposed to signing somewhere else? Well, there never was a move. We released our rst record in 2001 when I was a sophomore in high school, and Jamin was still in middle school. We wanted to start our own label, because we didn’t know anybody who had an indie label in Nashville. If there was one at the time, we didnt know it existed. So it seemed natural: let’s start a label so we and our friends can put out music. It was a hobby, something to do. Was vinyl always a part of the picture? Is that Innity Cat's most important medium? No, vinyl wasn’t always in the picture. At rst it was just CD-R and cassette—that’s all we
could afford. Vinyl is very expensive you know. I dont think any one format is more important than the other, we just sell more vinyl I think because it’s more fun to collect. Your roster really meshes beautifully. The bands all have sort of a hard and unique edge, but with a foundation of classic rock & roll. Is there a certain aesthetic or sound you're looking for when you sign bands to Innity Cat? All the bands on Innity Cat are our friends, and I think we are all into and inuenced by a lot of the same stuff. Not necessarily other bands, but also just ideas and our lives. We dont look for an aesthetic as much as an attitude. JEFF The Brotherhood was sort of like my gateway drug to Innity Cat. After listening to you, I began to check out the rest of Innity Cat's roster. Is that sort of the idea, to draw people in under the JTB umbrella? Absolutely, JTB has been at it a lot longer than any of the other bands on the roster. We’ve had more exposure, played more shows, etc. It 4
started that way for sure. We expect people to check out what else the label has to offer knowing that we (JTB) run the label. We are super excited that some of our other artists are starting to bring attention to the label on their own! It's obviously hard to make a living in music these days with everything so readily available on the internet, but you can’t illegally download a piece of vinyl. Do you think vinyl may be a blueprint for bands and labels to become more protable again? Or is still just a niche market? I believe that anyone who wants to buy a copy of a record on vinyl is going to do it, no matter what. Even if that person has had the MP3s for weeks before they buy the vinyl. If they want it on vinyl, they will buy it regardless. Vinyl is not just having the music, its owning an object. The people who are going to actually pay for music are more and more often than not going to buy it on vinyl I think. What's your own vinyl background: do you remember when you rst got into vinyl and what your rst record 5
was? I rst got into vinyl as a freshman in high school going to punk shows in people’s basements. I remember what my rst vinyl record was: it was a punk band called Shackles Await. They had pressed a 7" and made jackets out of cardboard stapled together and silk screened. I don’t remember what they sounded like, they were very young kids. It was very inspiring for me to see them travelling around in a van selling handmade records and playing punk music. I should dig that record out and listen to it again. I remember it being really bad though... I might be Natural Child's number one fan. Where did you nd those guys? Funny question: Wes was in Meemaw, Seth was our friend, and Zack was an Innity Cat intern. Then Wes and Zack were Jamin’s roommates, and Seth worked at the bike shop with Jamin, and then Wes and Zack were my roommates. What's your approach to handling bands as they grow. For example, with Natural Child,
does the label have a hands off approach or do you try and provide some direction? Obviously you're not telling them to record a radio-friendly single, but is there a general ow you try to curate: like, let's release two 7"s and then work towards a full-length? Yeah, we try and set up release schedules, come up with plans for what comes out when and what’s the next step, but it’s not really us telling them what’s best for their careers. We try and keep an open dialog with our bands about what they want to do and what we would like to see from them and just work from there. We try and all agree on everything and make sure everyones happy and comfortable. 1,000 4.75” golden records with your new single “Shredder” were given away at SXSW. Willy Wonka-style, one of the records comes with a prize: the opportunity to press 500 7”s for free at United Record Pressing. That’s a pretty amazing and creative idea. How did that transpire? That was all Jay's idea at URP. We had some fun recording 6
the secret messages. Good idea Jay! Did you nd a winner at SXSW? We don't know, haven't heard anything yet! Maybe because you have to actually listen to the record to see if you won or not... I imagine the majority of Innity Cat's customers and fan base are Nashville-based. Do you think you'll try to expand at all in the future to a more national and international audience? Or maybe that Nashville home-base is what makes it work so well?
THE ROLE OF THE 7-INCH IN THE LO-FI ROCK MOVEMENT OF THE EARLY 90’S or: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE HISS.
The Lo- era from 1990 to 1995 was a pivotal time for alternative rock. Not only for creating great music, but in the way Actually most of our fans and that music was recorded— customers are not Nashvillewith inferior equipment. Lo- based. Surprisingly, Nashville was a reaction against the is kind of a small market for overproduced commercial us. We do considerably betrock that otherwise dominated ter in most major markets and popular music at the time, and a large portion of our mail it proved to audiences that order goes to England and recorded music can make just Europe. We are always tryas important a statement withing to expand our reach and out the resources of a studio. expand our capabilities as a Fighting against obscurity and label. World domination is de- the practices of major labels, nitely our ultimate goal! for many artists, home recording offered an opportunity INFINITYCAT.COM otherwise unavailable. For edgling alt-bands, the format that allowed for the most experimentation was the 7-inch.
Lo-—as it came to be coined by William Berger on his home recording cassette show on WFMU—owes its existence to the introduction of the rst consumer 4-track: the Tascam 144, released in 1979. Up to this point, recording music was an expensive prospect that was nancially impossible for an individual not backed by a record label. If you were recording at all, it was in a soundproofed studio, far from home, with huge mixing consoles, isolation booths, and two-inch reel to reel tape. The equipment itself was giant and expensive, let alone the full-time manpower required to keep it in working order and operate it. Of course, this expense meant that the powers that be at the labels wanted a role in the nal product, because at the end of the day, the record companies were counting on sales. Up to the early 1990s, that inuence was felt in subtle and not so subtle ways. Every band was dependent on recording money from the label, even though they were forced to pay it back before they received a penny from record sales.
smaller and more affordable for amateur musicians. A couple hundred dollars would allow you to play along with yourself on 3 additional tracks, or if you were really ambitious, the 4 could be “bounced” down to 2 stereo tracks on another cassette deck, giving you 2 more to play with, into innity. However, the quality after every bounce was a little less clear than the last. The artists that came to dene the Lo- sound embraced these limitations. Their songs were great in spite of the technology used to capture them. Instead of relying on tricks and post-production that could only be achieved in a studio, they had to rely on the live performance and songwriting. Lo- is arguably an acquired taste at its most challenging, but it also proves that no matter how a song is recorded, it can be just as moving or heartbreaking—and perhaps even more so—when buried under these imperfections.
By no means is this a denitive history: it’s based on a few personal 7-inch purchases during this ve year period and is merely a rough jumping The home 4-track, like all off point for further research technology, was rapidly made in the genre. There are plenty 8
of important artists that are sadly not represented here: Jim Shepard, Daniel Johnston, Mike Rep & the Quotas, R. Stevie Moore, and Jandek, among others. These records are a few touchstones of the most important releases of the early ‘90s and what is echoed today in bands like Ariel Pink, Blank Dogs, Times New Viking, and Wavves.
recognizable and critically acclaimed landmark for the genre, packing 5 songs onto their debut 33 RPM 7-inch. The name itself could be a reference to the audio delity of the rst track, “You’re Killing Me.” Recorded without percussion, the song starts with a huge tape-like hiss, the static alternating against Steve’s vocals, with the actual sound of the recording becoming another musical element. In Rob Jovanovic’s book, Perfect Sound Forever: The Story of Pavement, Malkmus says of the opening track: “We decided to use static as the third instrument... It was pretty exciting to be so experimental.” Pavement were just beginning to popularize the sound, which would more or less go on to represent indie rock during the period. Although they quickly moved past their fascination with Lo-, the experimentation with static and unorthodox songwriting remained with the band throughout their career.
This is also an attempt to clearly dene the term and put it to bed. As much as a lot of contemporary artists owe massive debts to the textures of this period, it should by no means be termed “Lo-” today, when the technology that’s packaged with every laptop makes it easier than ever to record only the sounds you want to turn into 1’s and 0’s. The layers of imperfect sound today are very much a choice and not out of necessity, which is why many of the artists from this period have since moved on to record in professional studios as their music gained wider appeal and releases on Lou Barlow and his band Semajor indie labels. badoh were also spearheading the Lo- sound. The MysteriThough recorded in a makeous Sentridoh EP, released in shift studio, Pavement’s 1989 1993 on Little Brother Records, EP Slay Tracks (1933-1969) features 6 home recorded probably stands as the most tracks and the A-Side, “Good 9
in Others”, is a perfect example of the denitive home recorded sound. On one of the tracks we have a drum machine recorded with the input level turned up, the sound peaking heavily into distortion, essentially breaking all the rules of studio recording. The effect creates a paranoid feeling: a sonic manifestation of the torment described in the vocals. Another aspect that denes Lo- is that the song can only exist in this form with its imperfections. There’s a reason you’ll never hear “Good in Others” performed live. Not only would it be difcult to recreate the overlapping vocal, but the setup required to recreate the sound would inhibit the rest of the performance. Appropriately, to this day, the only format you’ll nd “Good in Others” on is the 7-inch.
Smog’s rst EP, Floating, was released on Drag City in 1991 following the full-length Sewn to the Sky. The Xerox insert lists Floating as #DC6, the sixth Drag City release! The track “Turb” in particular is characteristic of another important element in Lo-: making the recording process as obvious as possible. You can hear Bill Callahan physically pressing the start button on the cassette over the sound of a direct input distorted electric guitar. This immediate and improvisational approach makes the song all that more intimate. The draw of live music is often to get physically closer to an artist, and that happens in a new way with home recording. You literally enter the artist’s personal space: you’re in that bedroom in the middle of the night, listening to a song being recorded from beginning to end. “Red Apples” on the B-side would not have been possible in its early version if not for the cassette 4-track. Callahan had to press his nger down on the cassette spindle in time with the rhythm, resulting in the accordion and vocal becoming amazingly warbled and ghostly sounding—an ef10
fect that both illuminates the process and the technology’s potential for experimentation. It’s a perfect example of the kind of creativity that the recording format allowed a new generation of artists. In the same way DJ’s in the South Bronx manipulated a turntable stylus to create a new sound, the tool itself can become an rawness any better. John’s instrument. trademark narrative and confessional storytelling style lends The Mountain Goats’ John his side of the split EP a diaryDarnielle was another artlike intimacy. On the belting ist taking advantage of the chorus of “Going to Hungary,” ability to record outside a the limitations of the cassette studio. Many of John’s early cause a peak—a aw in most releases were actually made recording scenarios— and it without the use of a 4-track. makes the vocals that much Instead, he’d record vocals more real, as if to say there over an already playing tape aren’t any second takes in of guitar—a setup used on his life: you get each moment Tropical Depression EP, rewith all it’s genius and impercorded in 1994 and released fections. Honest and pure, on Little Maa Records. The BTropical Depression plays like side’s “Song For John Davis” is a found, discarded document typical of The Mountain Goats of heartbreak, and it’s a sound songwriting —they didn’t need that would be lost in a perfect to play with the tool itself, so recording environment. much as have the ability to capture a eeting moment. Tape warble is distinctly auJohn uses nothing more than dible on Palace’s “Gezunda cassette recorder to capheit,” a 1995 7-inch single off ture his acoustic guitar and a German label Hausmusik. Will cheap microphone for his voOldham, aka Bonnie ‘Prince’ cals, yet the best studio in the Billy, recorded “Gezundheit” world couldn’t have recorded on a discarded mixtape of the track’s immediacy and religious sermons, which he
features in the opening. At the end of the song, he fades in a track previously recorded on the opposite side, so it plays in reverse: Julie Cruise’s Twin Peaks theme “Falling.” Will illustrates the mode of production here by allowing for those kinds of accidents to happen. “Gezundheit” is the one Palace song that was actually done on a four-track. “I think I used a cassette that was lying around that wasn’t my cassette,” Will told Index Magazine in 1996. “The other side had Julie Cruise on it, so I mixed it and it just came in.” The B-side, “Let the Wires Ring,” is an impossibly sparse, intimate recording of Will in a quiet room that captures every quiet vocal peak and guitar dynamic, complete with tape hiss and the click of pressing the stop button. Never meant to be heard by anyone but other musicians in preparation for his rst album, it’s the personal nature of the performance that makes it so powerful. Named after a Sonic Youth song, Eric’s Trip released “Songs about Chris” in 1993 on Seattle grunge label, Sub Pop. The Canadian band combined equal parts fuzzy
distortion and melodic acoustic songwriting on its numerous cassettes and singles. This single has a sticker for $2.49 from a long closed music store around the corner from where I lived in the East Village. It reminds me why I ended up buying these singles in the rst place: no matter how poor I was at the time, I could usually nd a couple of dollars to pick up a single like this at a show or the dangerously local shop. The single was a cheap gateway drug for new music— one that I’ve never gotten over. “Hurt”, the rst track on the A-side, has a blown out, distortion guitar signal almost completely clipped off—an extreme that would never have been attempted in a professional studio setting. The contrast against the melodic acoustic guitar in the right channel also speaks to the title, where the heavy distortion becomes an unsettling undercurrent for this otherwise sweet folk song. “Hurt” is a great example of another lo- characteristic: layered and slightly out of sync vocals from Rick White, which reveal the multi-track recording process. Unlike commercial recordings, which routinely layer vocals to 12
create a fuller sound as well as mask imperfections, here there wasn’t any attempt to hide the process. It gives the vocal an exposed sound and the content reinforces that emotional feeling. When the track ends with the high hiss of an amplier’s gain turned all the way up, there’s a hint of another song happening underneath. Like Palace’s “Gezundheit,” it could be the song on the other side of the cassette, revealed only because that track volume happened to still be up when this was transferred for mastering. Or more likely, this was a tape that had been used for multiple projects and ended in the middle of a previous piece—a homemade DIY touch that wouldn’t have otherwise existed. The Yips recorded “1000% Fox” on Siltbreeze Records with Mike Rep, whose own
home recorded output paved the way for many of these raw sounds. He let the Yips truly shine on both sides of this single. Most likely recorded live on one mic in the middle of the space at full broken volume, Gilmore Tamny delivers her vocals in an endearing, lackadaisical style: loud and right up close to the mic. It’s a simple and instinctive setup that picks up the blown out energy of Jon’s drums and the guitar’s distorted amp. In another time these might have been mere demo’s, but here the sound of the room and the recording’s rough edges give it a distinctive punk quality. The vocals at times overpower the instrumentation, but that’s the charm. It’s deceptively naive: the band and Mike recognized the power in this unconventional recording, which was in fact the only way to accurately capture the band’s raw energy. Space Needle was on a friend of a friend’s label, Zero Hour. The band consisted of Jud Ehrbar and Jeff Gatland from Providence. The sound qualities of Lo- I was hearing at this time were probably never taken quite so far as the band’s cover of Neil Young’s “Sugar
Mountain,” the B-side to “Sun Doesn’t Love Me,” recorded in 1995. The track starts out with a puzzling battle hymn parody mentioning Mountain Dew, as if this was a Civil War-era 4-track cassette. This quickly devolves into layers of what can only be described as howling, with the wailing overlapping and fading in and out of sync. The track is completely overdriven, the waveform peaking in the red the entire length of the song. The melody and vocals are all there, but it’s as if the original was some ancient artifact that had been buried in the engine room of a ship, sunk at sea, and rediscovered hundreds of years later.
The inuence of these recordings is impossible to measure today. Many important labels still going strong were founded on the recordings of Lo- artists, like Matador and Merge Records. It’s hard to describe what it was like to hear music like this coming from something as concrete as a 7-inch single, but recorded with technology readily available to anyone. Suddenly the sound of these groundbreaking musicians were the same as recordings anyone could make in their own bedroom. It was liberating to have the same tools as these untouchable idols and every single was an education in what was posThis extreme approach proved sible. Lou Barlow maybe says that ignoring recording prinit best on the “Gimme Indie ciples could be just as exciting Rock” 7-inch: “Breaking down as following them. When you the barriers like Sonic Youth / start with a classic, proven They got what they wanted, song like this, and then add so maybe I can get what I want much noise and imperfection, too.” Lo- democratized the is it just as good? It becomes music of the time, a musical an exercise in careful listenrevolution as important as ing to catch the subtleties of the psychedelic evolution of their take on Young’s song. As The Beatles or The Ramones’ much an homage to the song- invention of punk rock. writer as a statement rejecting —JASON DEAN the past, as if the only way to 7INCHES.BLOGSPOT.COM move forward is to completely obliterate your idols in the 14
Carter Smith has turned Rollo Grady into the quintessential stop for discovering young unsigned rock acts, breaking and championing bands like The Soft Pack, JEFF The Brotherhood, and Warpaint long before the rest of the blogosphere has had time to wake up and eat their Wheaties. Smith’s reach also extends into lm and television, where he’s worked as a music consulINTERVIEW: ROLLO GRADY’S CARTtant on the Ed Helms feature ER SMITH TALKS WITH AQUARIUM Cedar Rapids and American DRUNKARD’S JUSTIN GAGE Dad, where he helped with My Morning Jacket’s transformaJustin Gage, the founder of Aquarium Drunkard, is the Don tion into cartoon form. Corleone of music blogs—the Carter: What inspired you to Godfather. He’s been blogstart your music blog, Aquarging about music longer and better than most and with the ium Drunkard? What year did you launch the site? classiest and most balanced of palettes, equally spotlighting dusty and forgotten crate- Justin: AD launched in the spring of 2005. It was initially dug records and promising an inexpensive and effective young contemporary artists, way to organize and share my always with one idea at the forefront—timelessness. In ad- thoughts on various interests dition to blogging, Gage hosts with friends scattered around his own weekly radio show on the country. The blog very quickly morphed into a place Sirius/XMU, runs his Autumn Tone label, has written a book solely to discuss music and then expanded, becoming a about the Memphis & the sort of dialog with the comDelta Blues Trail, and worked menters and the small pool as a music supervisor for the of others doing a similar thing award-winning lm Natural (blogging about music). Selection. 15
When did you realize that your Several other bloggers have blog was reaching a wider au- launched their own labels dience than just your friends? since. Can you discuss the positive and negatives of runVery quickly, actually, as there ning a record label? were only a handful of other music blogs going at the time. I started the label six months Because of this we would link after Aquarium Drunkard and to each other’s content on the label was not contingent the regular, share thoughts, to the blog’s success or failure. recommendations, etc. It was It was and is a labor of love. all very organic growth. It’s grown over the years. I’ve brought on a couple of partDo you consider yourself a ners, but the aim has stayed tastemaker? true: simply to expose and promote artists that I believe in. Sure, if you like my taste. The most glaring negative is What are your thoughts on obvious—no one is buying reblog aggregators, such as cords like they were a decade Elbows and Hype Machine? ago. Actually, no one is even buying records like they were Same as my thoughts per RSS. in 2006 when Autumn Tone I see their point, and don’t started. The positives are havbegrudge them, but, personing a direct line to the legacy ally, I try and craft a reader of great music that I’ve been experience with AD. An atmo- a fan of my whole life. I’m not sphere, if you will, with the ow interested in sitting on the sideof the posts, the layout, and lines as a spectator. I’m proud the images. I have no interto have given back and been est in catering to the quick-x a part of something that has MP3 crowd. I’m a publisher. If given me so much over the I wasn’t doing this via a blog years, on so many levels. platform, it would be something else. What’s the best advice that you could give to a blogger You were one of the rst who’s thinking of starting his or bloggers to launch a record her own label? label (Autumn Tone Records). 16
Back when I was still duking it out in the corporate world I opened a savings account specically for the creation of the label. I told myself this is what I have to spend and if I lose it, then I at least learned something—even if that something is just how to lose a bunch of money. Thankfully things didn’t turn out that way. But going in you need to know, nancially, how much you are willing to spend, and quite possibly lose, to get things rolling and how much blood and sweat you are willing to expend to see your project succeed. Also, you have to know what your goals are. Meaning, are you looking at the endeavor as a “hobby,” or are you genuinely looking to grow it into a viable business.
into the “now” someone like Holzman is. The music industry has changed in just about every way since Elektra was having radio hits with tunes like “Light My Fire;” a track that just wouldn’t make it onto the radio in 2011. I get where he is coming from per his “absence of lters” remark, but I think the lters have just inherently changed. Yes, blogs are lters, but niche lters. Now the lters seem, at least on a mainstream level, to be more geared toward placement and licensing, be it lms, commercials, televisions shows, etc. Do you think music blogs are good for the music industry?
I think any platform that raises awareness of artists is great for the industry. Music will always In a recent New York Times be important to the human article, Elektra founder, Jac condition, but the more I read, Holzman said he was conthe more it seems music, in cerned about the “absence of general, is losing ground to the ‘rst lters’”: the online equiva- Internet, video games, DVDs, lent of radio stations and disc whatever. jockeys. This makes me wonder if he’s familiar with music The music industry is slowly blogs. In my opinion, we are moving towards adopting a lters, albeit niche lters. What cloud-based streaming subare your thoughts? scription model. In several years, downloading will be Elektra was a great label, but a thing of the past. How do I have no idea how tapped you think this will affect music 17
blogs? I’ve been following this pretty closely the past few years as the idea of having the majority of my music collection literally at my ngertips, via cloud technology and a smartphone, is fascinating. The idea that I could peruse and listen to my library just as easily in Los Angeles or Hong King is exciting. Having said that, I am very into having my own carefully curated library. I have no real interest in a subscription model. I don’t need access to every record ever released. I know my collection like I know the different pairs of shoes sitting in my closest–very well. I seek out and hunt down the records I want. It’s part of the fun. How would a subscription model affect blogs?
LIMITED EDITIONS: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE EBAY
Record Store Day 2011 is in the books, and in terms of sales, it was the most successful to date. The annual April celebration of independent record stores with its myriad of exclusive releases increased total sales for the holiday by 13% from 2010 and vinyl sales by 220% at the average independent store. However, the day is not without its frustrations.
After everyone has run out to their nearby participating I suppose it could be a positive shops, a different sort of culthing in that a reader could ture takes over on the Internet. have instantaneous access to Within a few hours of returnwhatever record they were ing from my Record Store Day just reading about. shopping extravaganza, there were over 250 Record Store AQUARIUMDRUNKARD.COM Day exclusive releases listed ROLLOGRADY.COM on eBay. Five days after RSD, there were thousands of items listed. The Foo Fighters’ Medium Rare—an RSD exclusive 18
LP of covers that sold 2,000 copies—retailed at the two stores I shopped for between $16.99 and $19.99. In the 5 days after RSD, scalpers sold over 250 copies of Medium Rare on eBay, more than half of which sold for $50 or more. Then there’s Ryan Adams’ Class Mythology double-7” EP. 171 copies sold in the 5 days following the holiday. I’m not sure what these cost retail, as neither store I went to received a single copy. The copies listed on eBay however sold for between $30 and $120. The ippers were out in force less than a week after Record Store Day.
red vinyl with the rest on standard black. The typical reason for pressing a limited edition is that the artist and label want to create something special for the fans. I imagine bands like to put together special editions and cool bonus items just as much as we, the fans, like to purchase them. There’s the opportunity to release extra songs and live cuts that might never have found a place on a standard release. So, the limited edition is primarily a kind of thank you to the fans from the band: a symbolic, “Hey, we appreciate your support, so here’s a little something extra for you.”
So what is a limited edition? And why make one in the rst place? If you’re talking about a small artist like Grouper who self-releases her records, a limited pressing might run 200 copies compared to a normal pressing of around 1,000. If the Red Hot Chili Peppers put out a limited edition LP, they might press close to 5,000, as they could potentially sell ve times that worldwide. Then there are limited editions that comprise a portion of a larger pressing. For example, the rst 400 copies of the Beach Fossils’ What A Pleasure EP were pressed on
The problem with limited editions is that they are inherently exclusive. Inevitably, some fans are left out in the cold. Often times, local record stores either nd it too difcult to procure rare releases or they simply sell out before fans can get to them. The only option then is to head to the Internet where fans will pay anywhere from three to ten times more for that limited item. If the fan does not have the means or desire to pay the new extortionate price, they are excluded. Okay, I understand that not everyone can get a copy
of something that’s limited. That’s ne. What’s irritating is that some fans never get a ghting chance to get the record. It’s one thing if your local record store orders 10 copies of a record, only gets 5 copies, and after you wait a week to buy it they’re sold out. Boy, that sucks, but in all fairness, you had an opportunity. Unfortunately, with the current trends in limited editions, many fans don’t even have the opportunity to buy the record.
Consider the following scenario: a limited edition Radiohead LP is announced. The rst 3,000 copies of the new album will be pressed on silver vinyl and come with an exclusive comic book featuring the album lyrics. Our hero, a life-long Radiohead fan, is beyond excited. Determined not to miss out on the release, he skips his local store as their track record for getting limited editions is poor. Instead, his rst stop is an independent vinyl retailer on the
Internet. Now let’s imagine the fan gets to his favorite retailer’s site and strikes out. This record is so limited, the store had to hold back its online sales to give the customers in its brick and mortar location a fair shot. However, those customers purchased the rest of the store’s stock, so our hero is out of luck. In a ash of brilliance, he tries going direct to the record label. After a moment of euphoric hope, it’s discovered that the label took pre-orders for the LP and was sold out a week before the release date. The now disgruntled fan is shut down again, left with resellers as the last possibility. Refusing to pay $35 or more for a record that sold in stores a few days ago for $15, the fan gives up and buys the standard edition. As the LP spins around the disgruntled fan’s turntable it sounds like a pretty good record, but it’s accompanied by lingering regrets about all the failed attempts and wasted effort he put into acquiring the limited version. Man, I bet that comic book was amazing too. This hypothetical LP is an example of a manufactured collectible: a limited edition that is produced in a quantity far smaller than what would 20
be proportionate to the band’s popularity. Radiohead could potentially sell tens of thousands of an LP like this. If a pressing of an album was set at 50,000 worldwide, making half of them limited would give the fans a fair shot at getting a copy. Pressing 3,000 of a 50,000 run guarantees it is an extremely rare record before it even comes off the press. These could sell out as a preorder on the band’s web site a month before the release date. I’m not advocating pressing so many copies that it defeats the point of a limited edition, but there needs to be enough pressed to allow people a fair opportunity to buy the record at a reasonable retail price.
than from other outlets. Now, some will say people come out to buy these records because they love the bands and their music, not because they are limited. If that’s true, why don’t people ood stores every new release day during the year? Because they don’t need to. If an album isn’t limited, you can go to a retail shop at your convenience and know that if the new release isn’t in stock, it can be ordered. The masses head to Record Store Day because for many of these releases, it’s your one shot before you have to head to eBay.
Here’s one possible solution to the problem: if you want to produce a special limited release for Record Store Day, Now, let’s think back to Rewhy not take pre-orders from cord Store Day. The holiday participating stores when was conceived of by Chris you announce it? Then press Brown, a record store employ- the number of records that ee at Bull Moose in Maine, and are ordered and never press the objective is to get people it again. This way stores get into independent stores. The what they think or know they draw of Record Store Day for can sell, their customers get a the average customer is the chance at the records, and glut of releases unleashed that you still have an item that is early Saturday morning. The unique to RSD. popularity of these releases is dependent on their limited People often argue that buynature and the fact you can ing limited editions are what get them a month or so earlier passionate fans do to sup21
‘SPECKTONES’ 45 SONNY SMITH OF SONNY & THE SUNSETS, FROM 100 RECORDS 22
port the bands and music they love. In an article I wrote about Record Store Day for the music blog Knox Road, I asked the question, in reference to limited editions: “Is it still about the music or is it about the object?” I received a few comments stating, and I’m paraphrasing here, that fans buy the limited editions, sometimes multiple copies on multiple colors of vinyl, because they love the music so much and want to express that by owning its various physical forms. So, it’s all about the music, right?
the web has become hit or miss, and eBay prices remain ridiculous, so what’s left? The fan might decide he could save some money and just download the songs. Maybe some of his favorite bands will still warrant the occasional LP purchase, but disgruntled fan can get used to this download thing.
So what’s the answer? It’s us. We as consumers can control this budding disaster before it boils over. Typically, rare records will increase in value over time, but think about a record that was released six I would argue that, in the case weeks ago—it may be out of of my disgruntled fan and the print, but does it make sense ctional Radiohead LP, it is not that it’s value has grown by 5 about the music. It’s about to 10 times in that period? If the object. If my disgruntled the answer is no, why pay that fan just wanted the music, a premium for it now, when a simple trip to the local record few months from now the cost store would have produced will most likely be signicantly the desired end. Instead, there lower? If more people refuse were various fruitless stops to pay the inated prices of on the web and the ensuing resellers, the prices will come disappointment. Eventually, down. More and more, smallour disgruntled hero will move er labels also seem happy past it and enjoy the album for to repress titles that sold out the music, but what happens quickly. Also, how necessary the next time there’s a similar is it to have multiple copies of release? The fan has already the same record? Is it really cut the local retailer out of that important to have a rst the mix because they usupressing of Neil Young’s Harally can’t get the limited stuff, vest LP as well as a white label 23
promo, a remastered copy, and a different 70’s pressing that you actually play? You have three copies of the same record, just to have them— you don’t even play them! It’s time to take some initiative as consumers: demand resellers charge fair prices and keep eBay auctions in check by refusing to pay inated prices. Better yet, demand that record labels, particularly major labels, produce limited editions in such a way that gives more fans a ghting chance to buy them. The root of this problem is not the existence of limited editions and it’s certainly not Record Store Day. The root of the problem lies with those of us who buy records and collect them. We are the ones creating the demand, so let’s use that power to alter the product, not exclude other fans from enjoying what the whole thing is about—the music.
INTERVIEW: ERIC ISAACSON, FOUNDER AND OWNER OF MISSISSIPPI RECORDS IN PORTLAND, OR
When did you open the store? The record store opened 8 years ago. What came rst, the record label or the store?
We had the store maybe 3 years before the label. The rst label release was by this guy Alex Yusimov, who worked in the store and at the time didn’t have an address, so he used our store address and name to put out his own selfreleased record. So, the rst record had actually nothing to do with me. And actually, the guy sitting right over there, (points) that’s the other co—JESSE CROOM owner of the label, Warren Hill. KNOXROAD.COM So Alex did that rst release and at that point, there was no real label. One friend of mine was making a tape—an audio zine about police brutality in Portland—and she asked, “Can I use the name of the 24
store as an address?” I said, “Sure.” And then a community of people put out a memorial record for a guy we liked. When my punk band put out 30 copies of a tape, it’d be on the label. But eventually Warren and I, we’ve been friends since we were 14 years old, we talked about how there was a lack of certain types of records. He had a shop in Montreal and I had a shop and we just noticed there weren’t a lot of cheap options for reissues of stuff we liked. There was a real gap at that time, so we threw together a couple of records out of the blue, and that’s what started the label. It wasn’t especially thought out. Do you try to balance reissues with contemporary releases by artists like Mirah and Grouper? No, we honestly don’t have a lot of luck with new records. We’ve done really well with reissues, so that’s our primary focus and our primary interest in general. It’s what we know. We’re not particularly hip to what’s happening currently. Most of the releases on the label from contemporary artists are more just friends of 25
ours that we want to support. But aesthetically, we’re more geared towards older reissues. That’s more where we bring something to the table. We’re really bad at promoting new artists. We don’t have a publicity machine or tour support. All we do is the physical object. There’s no promotion. And so we’ll do 500 copies of a contemporary artist’s release, but it will take us forever to sell. Whereas anything we do that’s old will sell really well and that’s just kind of the way of the world. Time does a really good job of validating music. New artists have to hustle. When you’re a contemporary artist trying to get your music out there, I honestly have no idea how people do that. The whole Grouper phenomenon is really fascinating to me, because Liz doesn’t cede to formula, yet she’s super popular and beloved. Her music is resonating with lots of people everywhere. But she doesn’t promote herself at all. She has no interest in trying to grab people by the collar to get them to listen to her. And maybe that’s part of the appeal. Her music has
cut through all the bullshit and that’s resonated with people. It’s totally fascinating to me, because that rarely happens. She’s opened for some big groups. I remember seeing her open for Animal Collective at one point. Yeah, and a lot of those big groups will hear her record and say, “Wow, this is the real shit. “ And just call her out of the blue and be like, “Hey, open for us.” It’s purely about musical quality with someone like her. That’s a rare thing. She has a rare thing going.
Another contemporary artist I wanted to mention is Marisa Anderson. Her new guitar record Golden Hour has really blown me away.
That record’s great. It’s an exceptional one in the canon Do you only handle her vinyl? of our new stuff. She’s been around forever and I’ve always been a huge fan of We actually don’t put out her records, we just distribute. hers. She’s also a friend. We’ve been talking about doing a reShe self-releases her records. cord of just her playing solo for She makes them and drops them off in boxes and we deal a while. She used to play with this band the Dolly Ranchers, with all the distribution. And it a folk band, and the Evolutionworks really well with both of ary Jazz Band, which was reour styles. Neither one of us want a big hype machine. We ally great, but I always wanted to hear just a guitar record, don’t send promos to every because I‘ve seen her do so distro, like, “Check it out, it’s many amazing things. the new Grouper!” We just sit on our hands and phone calls She’s the true consummate start coming in. Her two new pro: plays three hours a day, records sold out during preeveryday. She worked on that order. Like within a day, they record for a year and a half were all gone. and it was all recorded with
our friend Michael in a house. Out of all of our contemporary releases, it’s probably the one I’m most proud of. It’s really special and she’s really excited about it and it’s actually sold okay. She’s somebody who’s never toured. She also doesn’t promote herself in any way. I could see her having a similar thing going as Liz with Grouper. I’m hoping people start to realize she’s a really special musician and catch on to her, because she’s someone whose art I really want to support. I wish I was better at it. I feel guilty and bad that I don’t know how to promote somebody like that. I feel like I’m doing her a disservice because she’s on our label, but that’s how she wanted to do it.
How did the Alan Lomax collection work? You transferred all of the recordings from ¼ inch tape? The Lomax archives are actually still in existence and run by his daughter. This guy named Nathan Salsburg put us together. A lot of his recordings are in the Library of Congress on tape and a lot of the masters are still on shellac discs that he recorded in the eld. He’d go out and cut everything directly with one or two mics. He’d have a cutting machine right there on the porch with the people he was recording, and cut it right there.
The archives have been transferring that material to digital les for years. They were origiAnd that was all recorded live, nally going to do that project with no overdubs? themselves and were going to self-release, but they’d Yeah, no overdubs. It was renever produced vinyl before. corded and patched together The conversation eventuover a year and a half almost ally evolved, and because like a diary. She would go we have such an afnity for down to our friend Michael’s the material, they said, “Why house in the living room and don’t you guys just put it out?” just hang up one condenser That material changed my life mic and play. It has a very when I was young. Hearing confessional—like you’re in all those eld recordings was someone’s house—feel. a really big deal for me. So, I was really enthusiastic when I 27
talked to them on the phone and when we met we just really hit it off. So now we’re doing a bunch of projects with the archives.
So I was like, “Yeah, sure. Uh, maybe. Let me think about that.” And then I investigated his catalogue and learned he’d been recording since 1964. His rst album came out It’s really Top of the Pops for on Folkways and he has an me—just as good as it gets. incredible body of work. So it It’s just insane and intimidating dawned on me that this nice how much work that guy did. guy I just met and hung out How one person can record with turned out to be the best that much good material is songwriter I’d ever heard in beyond me. I feel embarmy life. It was a really weird rassed about what I’ve done moment, like, “What the hell?” with my life when I think about Then I got into his catalogue, what he did in one or two his oeuvre, symbology. He reyears. ally created this whole universe and I started to put him Michael Hurley’s considered a on par with Bob Dylan. legend by a lot of folks, but I’d never actually heard him until Hurley’s the best. He’s had stumbling across his records in opportunities throughout his your store. How did that relalife—he won’t say this because tionship get off the ground? he’s a modest guy—but he’s had opportunities at variHurley is great. He lives in Asto- ous points to become a big ria, Oregon. He’s an older guy, name, if that’s the direction he about 70, but we have friends wanted to go. But the reality in common and he wandered is he’s a very uncompromising into the store one day and and stubborn guy. Fortunately, was like, “Hey, I hear you have his aesthetic vision and ours a record label. Maybe I should really match and so he sort of be on it.” I’d heard his name chose us, if you can believe bandied about but had only that, as a label. It’s a total heard Have Moicy! which is honor to have a guy like that on Rounder Records and it’s on your label. It was sort of his most popular record, but I this amazing synergy that just didn’t like it. I still don’t. It’s the happened. I don’t know if he’ll only record of his I don’t like. agree with this, but I want to 28
reissue everything he’s ever done. I think it’s amazing that the world hasn’t paid more attention to him. He’s just such a singular songwriter. We see him all the time and I love him. He plays in Portland once every two weeks on average, but he plays these low prole shows. Once we promoted a show and got over 200 people, but he usually just plays in bars like Laurelthirst or Papa G’s vegan deli for like 10 to 15 people. It’s crazy and really incredible. People come in and out of paying attention to him, but he’s been gigging and recording for a long time.
He does his own artwork as well, right? Lots of dogs and creatures. Oh yeah, has he his own universe. Space aliens, or I don’t know what he is: a creature that came out of the earth 29
called Cornbread that he draws on a lot of albums. He has his own symbology that is pretty neat. He draws comics that are really good too. He’s a great artist and it’s no joke with him. It’s not some crap or joke he’s throwing on record covers to be funny. He’s really haunted by werewolves and stuff like that. It’s really happening. Do you have a stance against web sites? Is there a point you’re trying to make by not having one? It’s funny you say that, because we’re probably going to have one very soon. It’s going to be very bare bones, just to make ordering easier. We’ve been person to person so far in how we distribute our records, but it’s more been just a lifestyle thing, not a stance. It’s not political or even aesthetic at this point. The Internet is like any technology that’s good and evil: it’s just how you use it. Personally, I just nd it boring to deal with and there’s nothing aesthetically rewarding about a web page. Even labels that I love, when I go to their web page I’m underwhelmed, but when I see the actual record, I’m stoked.
I feel it’s a hollow mockery of the record, but that’s just me and the limitations of my imagination. I’m not cued into the language of the Internet. But that being said, we don’t want our stuff to be rare or hard to nd. That’s never been our goal. The only reason we’ve done small pressings is because we can’t afford to do big ones, and there’s a limited amount of people interested in what we’re doing. Now we’re nding that people treat us like we’re this obscure, hidden in the shadows kind of thing. But in reality, you can walk into our record store any day and talk to us. We’re easy to nd. Or you can call the store during business hours. You can call and talk to anybody about whatever, but that’s not enough right now, because we’re a worldwide business and we have to face that reality. So we’ve been talking a lot about getting a bare bones site where someone can just press a button and order a record. There’s not going to be a blog with information or interviews or graphics, just a picture of the record cover and a price, because that’s kind of what I think of the Internet as—a
catalogue device. And I appreciate that as a record storeowner. When I want to order from certain labels, I don’t have to call them or wait forever, I can just look on the Internet and write “I need 10 of these, 5 of those” and it’s convenient. I’ll admit it. I’m not going to pretend like I’m a total Luddite anymore. We’re entering the early 90s now. We’re getting there. Will you have your full catalogue there? We’ll never have our full catalogue in the sense that all of our stuff goes out of print eventually. We just can’t afford to keep things in print. It’s above our nancial means. Also, the nature of a lot of our releases and why artists want to work with us is because they’re limited. We don’t ask for any exclusivity, we don’t’ ask for any digital or downloadable rights. An artist that’s on Mississippi Records can do anything they want. They can make their own CD. Go to another label. Have digital downloads on iTunes. We don’t claim any jurisdiction on that kind of stuff. So the attractiveness is that we’re specic to the item. We just want to 30
create a record that looks like this, sounds like this, has this many copies, we’ll give you this much money, and it’s a one-time deal. And that’s really worked to our advantage. A lot of artists work with us who have never worked with anybody else. Hurley’s a good example. He’s had such bad experiences working with the mainstream music industry, that we’re ideal for him. It’s done in a handshake and our business meetings take less than a minute. It’s very pure and simple. And he can do anything he wants. That being said though, we pay a premium; we pay artists a lot of cash upfront for every release. As a result, it would be very difcult for us to shell out a lot of money to get every release in print. We don’t want to create rarities or create frustration with people who can’t nd our
older titles, but at the same time, the price of doing these projects is that the old titles go out of print. When that web site goes up, it will comprise what we have now, which is maybe 25 titles. Plus we have 14 new titles that we’re going to launch all at once. So hopefully we’ll have almost 40 titles available. That’s the goal. There are a lot of blogs that rip your releases and cassette tape compilations to MP3s. Is that something you’re aware of and okay with? Yeah, I’m totally cool with that. Even the records that people rip and put out. I can’t judge that culture. The reason I was rst attracted to records over digital was because when I got into records in the 80s, they were the cheapest way to get music and they were
the most available. It wasn’t about sound quality or how they looked. It was about what was the cheapest and what was around. And now we’re in this weird situation where suddenly records have become the boutique item and digital has become the cheapest way to get music. When we rst started the label, we felt vinyl was the cheap people’s medium, but the reality is it’s this boutiquey thing now and we’re creating boutiquey art objects. Sitting with that is difcult for us, because it’s not really what we want to be doing. But at the same time, we have to be honest with who we are. We already have the turntables and all these attachments to the medium. But that being said, the fact that only 1 out of every 600 people in America has a turntable makes me feel like we’re not servicing the other 599. And if they want that music and they don’t want to go out and get a whole new rig or if they’re poor and can’t afford to buy records or a record player, who am I to be like, “You don’t get to listen to this.” No, I mean, do what you want. As long as people support what they can of the arts where they can, it
doesn’t have to go to me. I’m sure everyone is doing what they can to support music. It’s up to the individuals. I can’t codify how everyone supports art and music in this world. That’s not my job. They have to come to their own conclusion about what they do and how they contribute to the world. Just because you’re ripping stuff doesn’t mean your ripping people off necessarily. So I don’t have a problem with it, especially with the mixtapes. We don’t make money off those anyways. They’re the most podunk thing in the world. The fact that people are listening to those on MP3s all over the world makes me really happy actually, because those are just personal mixtapes that we made for our customers. It’s supposed to be this intimate music sharing experience. The fact that it’s all over the web is really an honor. We get thank you letters from Russia, New Zealand, Singapore—you name it. There’s been a lot of talk recently about whether vinyl is making a comeback or not. Is that something you think might happen? Oh, it has made a comeback. 32
No question about that. Have you noticed that in your own store? The store’s in this weird kind of bubble. We’ve been doing consistent business for a long time, so we’re not really affected by the trends of the world too much. But in terms of the label—it was total happenstance—but when we started there was this new interest in vinyl. A lot of it was the download culture and the mainstream music industry trying to nd a way to still make money and they saw vinyl as something you can hype up. Now if you watch David Letterman, he holds up a record, not a CD. That’s crazy. It’s a big deal.
bel, they all had a clandestine meeting or two, and agreed that they were going to do the switch. And they agreed that all music retailers could now no longer return vinyl, but they could return CDs, which was a big deal for music retailers at that time.
Back then, the game of having a record store was all about ordering a bunch of things, and whatever doesn’t sell, you return for credit to get whatever the new thing is and you keep it owing that way. If you couldn’t return your vinyl, you were fucked. If you ordered 50 copies of the new Depeche Mode vinyl and you only sold 10, you were stuck with 40. Before that you could return whatever you didn’t sell and get whatever the The industry is scrambling and next craze was, like A Flock of trying to nd a way to make Seagulls. So what they did was money, just like they did when force record stores to carry CDs rst came out. Nobody CDs that way. It was against wanted CDs. CDs were forced the interest of the record on people. There were two big stores, but it was in the interest advantages. First, they were of the big corporate compacheaper to manufacture. nies. So that was very forced The other was they could sell on people. People didn’t Sgt. Pepper’s again to all the choose CDs. Especially when people that already owned they rst came out, the sound it on vinyl on a new medium. quality of CDs was crap. Now So what they did was pretty they’re probably as good as conspiratorial. Every record la- vinyl and digital technology 33
has caught up with itself, but back then CDs had horrible sound quality and horrible durability. These were the crappiest things imaginable and I really believe they were forced on people. So now what we have is the corporate music industry trying to do the same thing with vinyl. Getting people to buy that copy of Sgt. Pepper’s they have on CD again on vinyl. That’s the mainstream industry working. But then you have people like us and other smaller labels that have just always liked vinyl better and are excited to have the opportunity to produce it. I don’t know any artist that’s more excited to get a CD than a vinyl record. In the early 90s, when records weren’t produced by the majority of the industry, artists like Nirvana or Pearl Jam would be like, “I know you’re not going to sell any records, they’re not nancially viable. But I, the artist, need to have a copy of my record on vinyl. So you need to make 2,000 copies. Just so I can have one.” And the record company would be like, “Fuck, alright. Fine, we’ll write it into the contract.” And those records are really rare and valuable now
ironically because of that. That was artist-driven at that point. If the record companies had their way, there would be no Nirvana Nevermind on vinyl. It wasn’t in their interest at the time. Even Sting would do stuff like that. Vinyl has been around longer than any other medium and as a result you’re dealing with the weight of history. The weight of essentially 120 years of music and the cultural power of that much stuff being invented through one medium. It’s like books. They’re trying to get rid of books with the iPad. That’ll take 100 years, because we have all these physical artifacts. In the last 100 years, vinyl has been a signicant cultural force. And to just throw it all away and pretend you can get it all on a new medium really fast is absurd. A 100 years of art production taken and put on a laptop computer. That’s bullshit. I’m a professional nder of stuff that’s not on the computer. What’s on the computer is a very phony version of the world of culture. Maybe one-billionth of what’s interesting about humanity and what makes it beautiful can be found on the Internet. You’re dealing with thousands 34
of years of human development. You can’t just cram that into one new form. All I ask for of the current technological world is to be humble. And be like, “Hey, you know our ancestors’ voices are embedded on vinyl.” You don’t have to collect the stuff. It’s nancially difcult and spatially difcult and it may not be in your eld of interest, but don’t’ throw it in the dump. Don’t just throw away something that’s been used for a 100 years. That’s a very modern problem. We have a culture that wants to throw away everything that’s not made this year and that’s absolutely bonkers. That’s a really dangerous mindset and that’s what I’m really a warrior against in a lot of ways. Or at least trying to be.
a shit talker here, but here it goes. My one problem with all that is a lot of people are trying to manufacture rarities. So it becomes a treasure hunt. Sure, a small company like us, we accidentally create rare records sometimes, because we can only do so many copies. We have nancial limitations. Or an individual artist like Liz from Grouper, she doesn’t know how many records she can sell necessarily and because the money is coming out of her own pocket, she doesn’t want to risk making more than a 1,000. She just wants to make enough so that it exists. And that’s cool. Okay, rarities happen. But to set out to make something rare and to make people dig...
I’m really good friends with the guys from Sublime Frequencies, that’s one of my favorite labels. But those guys, I think Nope. We didn’t really do any- they take secret delight in thing. I have nothing against watching people scramble. Record Store Day, it’s just not They’re artifact creators. They really interesting to me. create these amazingly beautiful art objects and they want What are your thoughts on all people to appreciate them as of the limited edition colored such. I respect it. It’s not crap vinyl that comes with the holi- when they do it. But on Record day? Store Day, when there’s a limited edition Bruce Springsteen Well, I hope I don’t sound like red wax version of whatever, Did you participate in Record Store Day?
it’s just trying to create hype. With Sublime Frequencies, I think they’re just generally attached culturally–they’re vinyl collectors. They’re just attached to this idea of a record as an art object and they’re not going to let it go no matter how many people they piss off by making their stuff limited. Our mission is the opposite in a lot ways–we’re very populist driven. We want everything to be cheap and available. It’s different philosophies and neither is right or wrong. Ultimately, history will probably reward them more, because they’re stuff is denitely going to resonate through time in a very signicant way. Whereas our stuff will probably be in the dollar bins of the future, they’re stuff will be on the wall at record stores for like 200 dollars. But that’s okay. I don’t mind creating tomorrow’s dollar records today. But that’s my only problem with Record Store Day. Otherwise, I think it’s awesome and adorable. It’s really cool that there’s an outpouring of support. At my friend’s store, they were talking about how they had their best day ever. I’m really happy that people support the stores they love.
I thought we could end by talking about a couple of your favorite labels. Sublime Frequencies do some really unique work and they’re really bringing stuff to the table that no one would hear if it wasn’t for them. That’s a big deal. That stuff is not ndable otherwise. Norton Records out of New York is one of my favorite labels. They keep everything in print, which is impressive. And they dig deep into R&B and rock and roll. It’s a heavy-duty label and I don’t think people appreciate them enough in America. They’re the true American roots label: the true outsider and individualistic art that’s the best part of American culture. And Norton is at the forefront. I think they’re one of the best labels going. I like a lot of other labels too, like Honest Jon’s out of London. Most are reissue labels. I don’t really know much about contemporary music. I’m just not tuned into it unfortunately. And I don’t say that like I’m proud of it. I wish I was more tuned in, I just have yet to get really into it. But I’m sure there’s music being made now that’s just as good as any older stuff, I just don’t know how to connect with it yet. In 36
terms of contemporary labels, K Records and Kill Rock Stars are just very ethical labels that have really equitable deals with their artists. They really take care of their people. They promote them and really believe in them the way a small label should. They do 50/50 prot splits with their artists and that’s admirable. I like watching how those labels operate. Musically, I don’t know what’s going on, (laughs) but I like they way they treat people.
say, “I’ve been there too.” Better than any other medium, music teaches us how to love and how to express it, feel it, long for it, and miss it when it’s gone. There’s a reason why love continues to be the most popular subject in songwriting: it is one of the most essential building blocks of humanity—a universal feeling.
Heartbreak, the loss of that love, also seems to bring out the best in musicians. At least it did for Frank Sinatra’s In the 4009 N. MISSISSIPPI AVE., Wee Small Hours and Tom PORTLAND, OR 97227 Waits’ The Heart of Saturday Night, where love casts a lingering darkness over the legendary musicians.
FRANK SINATRA AND TOM WAITS: OUT ALL NIGHT
Music’s best when it’s at its most inclusive: when it taps you on the shoulder as if to 37
In The Wee Small Hours is a masterpiece in every sense of the word—a record that found Frank Sinatra reinvigorated from his previously doomed career. Capitol Records had taken a chance on the no longer perfect voice of Ol’ Blue Eyes and matched it with a dynamic young arranger in Nelson Riddle, who had previously won over Sinatra with his beautiful big band arrangement of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” If Sinatra was Lennon, Riddle was his McCartney. In The Wee Small Hours
found Sinatra at a turbulent time in his life: his musical style no longer lled music halls nor dominated the charts, his once glorious tenor had deepened, his voice was no longer as smooth as it once was, and he had just lost the girl of his dreams—actress Ava Gardener.
a lonely gure silently walking aimlessly as if deep in a dream. If Sinatra’s In The Wee Small Hours were a lm, this is the opening scene. Frank begins with the title song, a brooding cinematic ballad that washes the world away with its blue melody and sweeping strings, showing only the dimmest of streetlights as This wasn’t Frank’s rst love Frank sings with a weary sigh: —he’d already divorced once “In the wee small hours of the and fathered three children. morning / While the whole Yet Gardner proved to be wide world is fast asleep / You a challenge, as she was a lie awake and think about the woman who already had girl /And never ever think of everything. Sinatra wasn’t counting sheep.” accustomed to being in a relationship with someone who The album continues its story had equal power and thus with fantastic scenes of those less reason to need him. Being heartbroken blues; “Mood dumped found Sinatra feeling Indigo” (“Always get that something he had perhaps mood indigo, since my baby never felt before—lost. To exsaid goodbye”), “Glad To Be press his loss, Sinatra came out Unhappy” (“Do you still bewith what some regard as pop lieve the rumor that romance music’s rst concept album: is simply grand”), “I Get Along choosing songs that were Without You Very Well” (“Then connected thematically and I recall, The thrill of being kept a specic overall mood sheltered in your arms / Of and sound. The year was 1955, course I do, / But I get along 12 years before Sgt. Pepper’s without you very well”). It’s a Lonely Hearts Club Band. startling moment when we realize that a relationship is Picture yourself in a world of truly gone for good, it almost dimly lit streets, a soft patterdoesn’t seem real, the focus ing rain, people slowly walking of which Frank puts front and out of bars after last call, and center in “Deep in a Dream,” 38
which features some of the albums most resonant lyrics: “Then from the ceiling, sweet music comes stealing / We glide through a lover’s refrain, you’re so appealing / That I’m soon revealing my love for you over again. / My cigarette burns me, I wake with a start / My hand isn’t hurt, but there’s pain in my heart.” The pain of heartbreak is knowing what you were once in the presence of is no more, and it’s as simple as that. It’s on this twinge, this desperate feeling that occupies the brokenhearted, that Frank continues in “I See Your Face Before Me”: “Would that my love could haunt you so / Knowing I want you so / I can’t erase your beautiful face before me.”
that “miracle” that dances above him—a mirage of love long gone—is real. Musically, it would seem you couldn’t nd two artists more dissimilar than Frank Sinatra and Tom Waits. Frank was the consummate professional: a polished performer who could interpret others’ songs as if his own. Waits, however, was and still is anything but polished: a renowned and colorful lyricist and songwriter who favors songs about vagabonds and lushes. Despite the dissimilarities, Waits once crowned In the Wee Small Hours his favorite album and ttingly modeled the cover artwork his own The Heart of Saturday Night after Sinatra’s masterpiece.
Waits’ debut, Closing Time, had garnered attention from This is an album entirely defellow Californian songwritvoted to the night; to those ers, (The Eagles found success lost hours between midnight with a faithful interpretation and sunrise that only seem to of “Ol’ 55”), but it was on The exist when you’re at your most Heart of Saturday Night that unhappy, moody, and forlorn. he reached his creative stride, Riddle and Sinatra combine creating a whiskey-soaked to make a fantastic concept narrative for the weekend: album where Frank’s voice is introspective and beautiful, the central character and his but never as melancholy as mind the plot. When he comes Frank’s ruminations on the around to “Dancing On The deep night. Whereas In The Ceiling,” you’re left wishing Wee Small Hours was coated 39
with blue strings and dimly lit streets, The Heart of Saturday Night still has signs of life in its twinkling lights and seedy underbelly.
an ode to not knowing what you have til it’s gone in “San Diego Serenade” (“I never saw the east coast ‘til I moved to the west / I never saw the moonlight until it shone off your breast.”) “Semi Suite” happens to be my favorite on the album, featuring a slow swagger of jazzy arrangement bolstered by some brass. Waits seems at his most inspired mood here, his voice dangling and weaving with the feeling of the song, an ode to the forgotten woman who’s faithful to her truck driver partner. It’s never clear how deep their relationship goes, but that’s the beauty of it.
A bourbon-laced piano clutches the colorful opener “New Coat of Paint” with the charming feeling of being a few drinks into your night.
“He tells you that you’re on his mind / You’re the only one he’s ever gonna nd. / It’s kind-a special, understands his complicated soul / But the only place a man can breathe / And collect his thoughts is / Midnight and yin’ away on the road.”
“Let’s put a new coat of paint on this lonesome old town / Set ‘em up, we’ll be knockin’ em down. / You wear a dress, baby, and I’ll wear a tie. / We’ll laugh at that old bloodshot moon in that burgundy sky.”
“Shiver Me Timbers” nds Waits returning the favor to the Eagles in this “Desperado” avored ballad, which features the beautiful intertwined play Waits does a great job of con- of a guitar and piano. Waits trasting the opener with a slow even includes two ctional mournful string backed ballad, characters from the works of 40
Jack London and Herman Melville in his tribute to losing oneself amongst the sea. “Diamonds on My Windshield turns the album on it’s head. Waits stated it was “...a comprehensive study of a number of aspects of this search for the center of Saturday night, which Jack Kerouac relentlessly chased from one end of this country to the other, and I’ve attempted to scoop up a few diamonds of this magic that I see.” Waits is certainly at his most beat-poetic here, with a upright bass and light drum work providing the only framework for his words, the main instrument on the track. In “(Looking For) The Heart of Saturday Night”, complete with the sounds of movement and car horns, Waits turns a yearning search into heartfelt song, taking the listener barrelin’ down that ubiquitous boulevard with him: “Well, you gassed her up, behind the wheel / With your arm around your sweet one in your Oldsmobile / Barrelin’ down the boulevard / You’re lookin’ for the heart of Saturday night.” Waits brings things back to old time basics on “Fumblin’ 41
With the Blues”, a stylized 40’s blues song complete with a beautiful clarinet and great jazz guitar as the night makes Waits’ characters all the more desperate to nd someone to love. The narrator croons and broods: “You know the ladies I’ve been seeing off and on / Well they spend your love and then they’re gone / You can’t be lovin’ someone who is savage and cruel / Take your love and then they leave on out of town.” Much like Frank Sinatra’s narrators in In The Wee Small Hours, Waits too begins to ruminate on lost love with “Please Call Me Baby.” Waits, however, doesn’t lament like a victim and instead recognizes there’s a little bit of good and evil in all of us: “I admit that I ain’t no angel / I admit that I ain’t no saint / I’m selsh and I’m cruel but you’re blind / If I exorcise my devils / Well, my angels may leave too.” Waits next turns to an ode for those always in transit, “Depot Depot” A simple song of sitting at the modern day crossroads, the Greyhound Bus Terminal. About the next track, “Drunk on the Moon” Tom Waits would say “Drunk On The
Moon, there’s all different kinds of moons: silver slipper moons and there’s cue ball moons and there’s buttery cue ball moons and moons that are all melted off to one side and this is about a muscatel moon...”
from a package of Kents / As he dreams of a waitress with Maxwell House eyes.”
Both Sinatra and Waits bring light to these forlorn hours of the night: the forgotten characters that parade the streets, the lament of knowing what “Tight-slack clad girls on you’ve lost and can never the graveyard shift / ‘Neath nd again, the aimless search the cement stroll, catch the for meaning, for hope, and midnight drift / Cigar chewthe strange cover the darking Charlie in that newspaper ness provides. Cinematic and nest / Grifting hot horse tips seedy, mournful and lustful, on who’s running the best / these albums belong in a And I’m blinded by the neon, category that few belong— Don’t try and change my tune perfect portraits of humanity / Cause I thought I heard a is at its most brooding. Sinatra saxophone, I’m drunk on the chooses to focus on the emomoon.” tional aspects of these feelings, letting his vocal weight Waits closes out the album delve into the nooks and with “The Ghosts of Saturday crannies of the mind, while Night (After Hours at NapoWaits creates characters to leone’s Pizza House),” bringexpress these feelings, bringing ing the mundane aspects of those street creatures to life. humanity to life with visceral These are albums that don’t color, observing the loneliness tell, but show the fundamental of the people around him. American character—not the glamorized American Dream, “A cab combs the snake, but the gritty reality. tryin’ to rake in that last night’s —HUGH WILLET fare / And a solitary sailor, who HUGHWILLET.COM spends the facts of his life like small change on strangers... / Paws his inside P-coat pocket for a welcome twenty-ve cents, and the last bent butt 42
INTERVIEW: JESSI HECTOR, FOUNDER OF FATHER / DAUGHTER RECORDS IN SAN FRANCISCO, CA
Do you remember your rst vinyl record? Well, I remember the rst few vinyl records I got. When I was little, my parents bought me a Fisher Price record player with a case of 45s. It was a weird assortment of records: Chaka Kahn, Gloria Estefan (I’m from Miami), Lionel Richie’s Dancing on the Ceiling and Cameo’s Word Up. Those are the ones that stick out most to me. I added records to the collection as I got older. To this day my Madonna clear blue True Blue 45 is priceless. When did you get your rst record player? When I was a kid. Music was
pretty prevalent in my house when I was growing up. My Dad had a killer vinyl collection. I denitely wore it out! You started Father/Daughter with your dad, correct? Is he a huge vinyl buff as well? What does he listen to? That is correct! Father/Daughter is run by a Father and his daughter. I’m in my 30s now, but since I was young, music is something that my dad and I both loved. So it was only tting to start a label together. I’m based in San Francisco and run the label pretty much myself. My dad is in Miami and he helps choose the artists we work with. He’s always on the look out for new bands and spends a lot of time reading blogs and searching for that next undiscovered talent.
When I was growing up, I was very envious of my dad’s vinyl collection, hoping one day it would be mine. It’s been scaled down a lot after moving a few times, but I snagged some prized LPs. My dad is a big classic rock buff. I’d have to say Jethro Tull is one of his favorites, but he’s also into lots of world music, way into Wilco and alt-country, and then totally throws you for a loop with a mild Suzanne Vega obsession. How and when did you two come up with the idea to start your own joint label? I’ve wanted to start a label for a very long time now. I’ve spent time helping out with friends’ labels and I always wanted to start something of my own. I don’t know what exactly triggered it, but I think my dad was looking to get involved in something creative and he always had a lifelong dream of starting a label of his own as well. I started looking for bands to work with and came across Family Trees, sent it to my dad and he was like, “We should put this out on our label.” And so it began... Our vision for this label is that
we want to consistently work with artists who are under the radar or developing, who are looking to be part of a family atmosphere. We very much want all of the bands past and present who have released music with F/D to get to know each other, play shows together, and collaborate on music. I was fans of our two new bands, Holy Spirits and Mutual Benet who we’re releasing a split 12” with, before a release was even a thought. Surreptitiously, they all met on the east coast and decided to do a few west coast shows together. We all sat down and talked when they got home and realized this split was just meant to be. Both bands have played shows with other F/D bands and they just t into our little puzzle perfectly. I remember when being on a label meant you were part of a family who would take good care of you and your music. Some labels still operate like that today, but others are so disjointed that artists don’t even know who else is on the roster. We want to continue growing our little community into something that both we and our bands can be proud to be a part of. 44
What was the rst band you approached for Father/ Daughter? How’d that go? I can’t remember who I approached rst—it was either Family Trees or tooth ache. But both were super into the idea of releasing their music on vinyl and sharing it with the world through Father/ Daughter. When I rst started the label I was living in Brooklyn and myself, Family Trees, and my boyfriend all went to the Manhattan Inn in Greenpoint and we sat around for hours drinking and talking and laughing and realizing that we were all in it for the right reasons. It just clicked. Same with tooth ache, although we didn’t meet until much later, pretty much depending upon email to get things done. Alexandra is a true talent and she was so excited to be a part of the family. Is your dad a fan of everyone on the roster? I bet he’s a Levek fan. My dad is indeed a fan of all the bands on our label. He is an integral part of the process because I fall in love with a new band every day, but he needs to listen to something 45
many times before deciding if he really likes it. Pretty sure my dad freaked when he rst heard Levek—he’s a magical musician. My dad also sends me music to listen to and consider for the label. It’s really cool because I’ve got a very special bond with my dad now because of this and I think the bands who we involve with the label also share in it. We’re willing to help our bands in whatever ways possible, because we want the world to notice these good, truly talented people. Vinyl’s been growing lately, but obviously it’s still very much a niche market. What have some of the ups and downs been in your rst year running the label? What’s the hardest part of transferring songs to vinyl? The most rewarding aspect? Vinyl was always going to be our rst medium. I come from the age where you buy vinyl, not only because you like the music, but because you want to collect it as a piece of art. It also doesn’t hurt that any music sounds better on wax. I’ve found that a lot of kids in their late teens to early twenties are starting to embrace vinyl for
‘OMANIWOMAN’ DAVID LEVESQUE OF LEVEK 46
those exact same reasons, but obviously you have to cater to the market, because in the end, it is still a business and we need to sell music for both the label and artists to survive. At this stage in the game, we only press limited quantities of vinyl because the demand is still so small, but I’m hoping one day record players will outnumber all other formats. We offer all our releases digitally as well, but that’s about it for now.
and buyers do so because it’s a way of life for them: some make a hobby of it and others just appreciate how much better music sounds on vinyl. I believe there has always been a market for vinyl and the people who buy it always will. Music has become extremely impersonal and overly accessible, and it’s not as much about creating and developing music, as much as it’s about quantity and how fast it can be churned out. Our way of life is much more fast The most rewarding aspect paced now. I would have to is holding that record in my partially blame the internet for hands the day it comes back that and of course vinyl is the from the plant and admiring complete OPPOSITE. You have how beautiful the jackets and to spend the time cleaning the vinyl look. Putting the vinyl on vinyl, placing the needle oh so my record player and making gently on the record, taking an afternoon of it. Listening to the time to listen to a side of vinyl really is an experience. an album all the way through before having to ip it over. For I sort of look at vinyl as a revolt me, listening to vinyl is catharagainst the impersonal natic and allows me to forget ture of mp3s. Do you agree? about the daily goings on and Do you think the market for just zone out and apprecivinyl will continue to grow as ate some good music. I guess a result? Now that you have a some people like their music a close eye on everything vinyl, little faster paced than that. are there any trends you’ve noticed? I’ve denitely noticed that people are buying more vinyl I can see where you’re comand I think most labels are ing from, but I’m not sure I taking note too. Not sure how agree completely. Collectors much more it’ll grow, but I 47
hope that kids growing up today can appreciate different formats and take the time out to actually listen and enjoy the music they buy. Have you made any vinyl converts based off Father/ Daughter? Convinced any friends to buy a turntable? All of my friends buy vinyl, and I can’t really say which of our customers are recent vinyl converts, but I’d hope that by offering our releases in only one physical format, we’ve created some vinyl lovers. You started out with a couple excellent 7”s and now have a split 12” in the works. Will you continue to experiment and expand with different formats? What lies ahead for Father/ Daughter? Well I’m super excited about the 12”. This is not only our rst split, but also our rst foray into the longer format. It’s an amazing release and both Mutual Benet and Holy Spirits are two groups you’ll be hearing about a lot in the future. I’m just excited they were game for it! I do have some ideas that I’d love to expand upon, but only time will tell if
things work out. In the future, I’m hoping to start throwing some Father/Daughter presented shows out here in San Francisco and get some west coast bands involved with the label. We’re always looking to hear new music and make new friends so please, get in touch and say hi! FATHERDAUGHTERRECORDS.COM
GETTING LUCKY ON THE INTERNET
There has been a rash of conversations recently about the state of music blogging. There are articles lamenting the pace of blogs, posts instructing bands how to properly and effectively solicit their music to blogs, and endless speculation on whether the blogosphere is becoming overcrowded. While those articles might be nice for reference, ultimately they’re fairly useless, because really, what success in music 48
and music blogging comes down to is luck.
and double our output of original content. We decided on a name, created a new Like many artists, there are Wordpress blog, and asked blogs that will always be over- the people at Hype Machine looked. Like many blogs, there to switch Social Oil’s feed to are some artists that will never tympanogram’s. Having our be heard by anyone other new blog on the Hype Mathan their family and friends. chine from the start was a Sometimes it doesn’t matter huge positive for us, because how hard an artist or blogthe work we put in generated ger works—sometimes it just almost immediate results in the comes down to luck. We have form of web trafc. been, and continue to be, lucky with tympanogram. Now, Hype Machine is merely one of the ways we were able Back in November of 2008 I to get readers to notice our started my own blog: a Word- blog. There are plenty of blogs press hosted, one-post-a-day that don’t put as much into outt called Social Oil. I don’t their writing portion that are on remember much of what I Hype Machine, and that’s ne rst wrote about. I do know I for them. We’ve always tried did a Top 8 of 2008 with the to make an effort to say more Fleet Foxes taking home the than “I like this” about any top spot. Later in January of band or song we talk about. 2009, Social Oil was picked up Readers want to know what a by the MP3 blog aggregator song sounds like; they respond Hype Machine—a site that to personal anecdotes and receives almost 2 million hits stories. ‘Good’ is a subjecevery month and includes tive term. If I can explain to a roughly 1,500 blogs in its direc- reader why I believe a song is tory. good, and they agree, they’ll be more apt to trust what I Around the same time, my have to say in the future. Even friend Dave started writing his if they don’t agree with my own blog. Rather than have opinion, I hope they’ll have us both write about the same enough information before new band, it made sense for listening to the song to realize us to work with each other what they’re getting them49
selves into. Dave and I have to concentrate on the writing, because we don’t know anything about SEO, keywords, etc. We know good music, and we want to write about it. Smarter people have thankfully taken the guesswork out of the web end of things, meaning we can spend our time talking about what we love. Sure, it takes some knowledge of coding and design to get things done, but there were other bloggers who were willing to lend a hand when we needed it. Since starting the blog, we’ve come in contact with lots of people who share our passion for music, and we’ve even been able to add a few as writers. They round the blog out and make it accessible to more readers. They make us a more complete place to discover music, and I’m grateful for their time. We tried to center our search for new writers around New York, our area of the country: we have three writers who live in Rochester (plus me and Dave), another who lives just south of Buffalo, and two
students who live in the United Kingdom (we overshot a bit there). We have a journalist, a PR person, an engineer, and a guy with multiple music degrees. Every one of our writers has different tastes, and almost all of us (except for the British counterparts) have fulltime jobs. Some people have families. But whatever we are outside of the blog, we all share a passion for music, and I think that shows in our writers’ ability to speak uently about what they nd exciting— whether that’s IDM or rap or prog-metal. The most important way we’ve been fortunate, however, is with our readers. I’ve said quite often that people who read music blogs can get an MP3 most everywhere, but they return to read a blog because they connect with the writer. We’re fortunate that people have connected with what we have to say. Maybe they don’t comment very often, but we know they’re there: clicking on links, posting on Facebook, retweeting. We’re thrilled that they want to share what they’ve found through our blog. Through tympanogram, we’ve 50
met great people, whether in bands or people in the Rochester community. We’ve been given press passes to NxNE in Toronto, we’ve done interviews with bands we genuinely love like Best Coast, We Are Scientists, Blitzen Trapper, and Mayer Hawthorne. Dave and I both contribute to a local alternative newspaper, City Newspaper, where we write about music taking place at the local level—and we actually get paid to do it. Sure, that income’s not going to pay the rent, but it’s still rewarding, and it gives us more access to the industry we so enjoy.
that the blog should never be viewed as an end, but always as a means. The way we handle the blog and its growth will allow us to expand into different arenas. Maybe we won’t be successful at everything we try (we’ve never made money on a show, for example), but the fact is that tympanogram has opened lots of doors for us, and I’m excited to take advantage of everything that it brings our way.
Sometimes newer blogs ask us how we got to where we are, whether that’s in terms of size, how we got on Hype Machine, or how we were able We’ve also been able to put to interview certain bands. together a handful of shows The honest answer is that we over the past year: two with were patient, we worked hard, our friends in These Electric and we got lucky. There’s no Lives, one with The Static formula to any of this. We can Jacks, another with Young give some pointers on what Empires, and another with we know helped us to grow Big Hurry. Not unlike the blog, (talk a lot on Twitter), but in we’re learning on the y, but the end it’s really about being everyone has been receptive in the right place at the right and supportive of what we’re time and being appreciative doing both with the blog and of the opportunities with which in Rochester. you’re presented. And that holds true far beyond blogI don’t know what we’re going ging. to do next. We have ideas, but —ANDY KLINGENBERGER nothing has really taken shape TYMPANOGRAM.COM at this point. I think the most important thing I realized was 51
BEER, BON IVER, AND THE BIBLE BELT
If you’ll take that exit, we’re right there off the highway. Just look for the two giant palm trees bookending the truck stop sign and you’ll be to town in no time. Head over the bridge and don’t turn by the tracks or you’ll tack another 4 minutes onto your trip over here, worrying us all that you were stopped by one of our small town cops simply because you’ve got out of state plates. Hit the stop light (you won’t get confused, it’s the only one we have) and just keep going straight. Round that corner and make a right by the supermarket, the one they just painted, but looked as if it had stepped off a postcard from 1964 just a week ago. I’m down the road there. You won’t get lost: It’s tiny here and we live right in the middle of town. In the front of the house is
my street, fairly well-traveled despite being a dead-end. Across from our house is the house I grew up in; the one that housed my mother for a time when she was younger. Behind the house, seen through the tiny kitchen window that hasn’t opened since the Kennedy administration, are woods. The other day I found a baby possum in the yard. Last summer we found baby raccoons and had to phone the conservation guy—call him Red. Over the winter, I made a pot of beans, burnt them because I do not excel at making pots of beans, and then decided I didn’t wanna fuck with the pot because that might suck up a whole thirty minutes I could be using to...well, not wash a dirty pot because seriously, who fucking does that? The snow on the ground couldn’t deter me and on the way out to dispose of my mess in the woods, I looked up and was face to face with three giant deer. Yes, that happened in the middle of town. Yes, that crock pot was biodegradable. Yes, I promise. In this town, there are no concert venues. No concerted ef52
fort by school administrators to put signicant thought, work, or money into the arts, though you bet your ass we’ll ght for some money for the Agriculture Soils team, man. There are three restaurants, none of which offer patrons an icy Budweiser with their meal, and at least one of which will likely close in the next few months only to be re-opened by someone looking to cash in on the tourists that end up in town for a whole of 18 seconds in the summer months. I grew up here. I was raised running barefoot in the road and racing down the big hill at the supermarket up the street, well after dark. When I was young my mother was home with us everyday, and while for some reason I remember very little of my formative years, I remember music. My mother, the cleaner, the listmaker, the worrier, had, just behind the heavy front door, a record player. I remember it vaguely: I don’t ever recall touching it, but I don’t recall being told not to, either. In the mornings, she would get into the cabinet below the turntable and snag vinyl: Bob Seger, Willie Nelson, REO Speedwagon, Kris Kristoffer53
son, and The Ozark Mountain Daredevils, the ofcial band of my family—no shit. I remember my dad, a truck driver (with a pretty fucking sweet driving record, mind you, not one of those guys who wears gloves to maneuver a steering wheel), washing his diesel on the weekends with the doors
wide open so he could hear the Allman Brothers or the Bee Gees. I remember standing in the gravel below him as he sat in the cab and urged me to listen to “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey.” I recollect that it was the rst time I heard anything by a Beatle. In my teen years, there were gravel roads. I swear to Christ, you have not lived until you’ve driven 8 miles an hour for the last three, Busch Light can in between your legs, while you seriously groove on some Dwight Yoakam. You have not truly had a good time until you’ve gathered by a creek with a bevy of friends, Willie Nelson blasting, while you forced your little sister to drink
all that goddamn Boone’s Farm Wine (she appreciated it later, don’t worry). Those times, those bits and pieces that I remember while my soul was learning to recognize and navigate the world, all have something in common—and it’s not the booze. It’s the music. I was young once and I remember almost nothing, yet I remember all the words to the Daredevil’s “Road to Glory.” Speaking of, Google that shit. You’ll thank me. I’m grown now and I still don’t remember shit. I couldn’t tell you the last time I balanced my checkbook (Wednesday, maybe?) or the last time I got my oil changed, but I can recount the exact feeling I had when I decided to name my kid after the Beatles song that, at one point in my life, had caused me to repeatedly lay an ear next to a tape player speaker on the oor while I wept. I can’t tell you if that milk in the fridge is expired, but I can tell you where I rst kitchen danced with a man I love and who was singing in the background. All of these things, these memories now rendered back in a dreamlike halcyon, are a
by-product, I believe, of where I’m from. Without this street, there would be no years-long obsessions with Ryan Adams— and really, how sad of a life is that? That year spent listening to nothing but Tori Amos, even as I dreamt away at night, wouldn’t have come to pass. In short, I don’t think I would be me. I’d be a suckier more square me. And nobody likes squares. You might not believe me, and that’s your right I guess, but there is a direct correlation between the place that I live, the people who raised me, and how I feel about music and it’s power. I’m not saying that everybody doesn’t have the same thing, those of us from here and those of you from way over there. In fact, I’m saying that we all have this very same thing. Certainly where you lived, where you learned about life through break-ups and basketball game chants and prom, probably shaped you a little. Yeah, high school and the years immediately after it blew for most of us, we band of merry music nerds, but there was also something good there. We’ve come out on the other side, and if not for those ghts 54
with your friends over whether or not a David Gray jam made an excellent Homecoming theme song, we might not all be fans and hardcore lovers of what we are fans and hardcore lovers of. And by the way, DAVID GRAY WAS A GREAT FUCKING CHOICE YOU GUYS. I don’t know what it’s like where you lived when you were young or where you live now. I’ve never been there... unless where you live happens to be on the cross country route we took during that family vacation my senior year to the east coast. Fuck, even then I would’ve only been in your town for like, long enough to eat at your touristy lobster joint. But, I digress. How I feel about music is probably similar to the way you feel about it. EXCEPT! Except, that you didn’t have to wade through Clint Black and Toby Keith to nd Middle Brother. You didn’t have to endure Tracy Lawrence (DON’T Google that shit) but instead, you lucked out when Arcade Fire played that venue around the corner 6 years ago. If I walk into the local coffee joint (which also happens to sell various foodstuffs and shing licenses 55
and minnows and whatnot) and ask what the farmer at the table next to me thinks of the new Black Keys album, I’m gonna get looked at as if I’m Noam Chomsky crashing an NRA party. I bet you don’t get that in your town. No, you get the Daytrotter tour within 100 miles of you. No big deal though, IT’S NOT LIKE I’M JEALOUS OR ANYTHING. Unless. Unless you come from where I come from (which, coincidentally, sounds just like a fucking country song): the sticks, the Bible Belt as it’s been called. And then you know what it’s like. You know how utterly glorious it was to be alive on the day when you replaced, in your head, the lyrics to a George Strait song with the lyrics of the most wonderful band you just discovered on a fellow friendly blogger’s playlist. You know what it’s like to turn one of your friends from here onto something, knowing they’d never have heard it without your sweet fucking mixtape. And you’d know how utterly and all consumingly badass it is to enjoy a canned beverage of the Miller variety while slow jamming to “Time of the Preacher.” We like the same things as you,
us smart ones anyway, yes. Maybe we feel it the same—I can’t say for sure—but I tend to believe that we engrave it into our bones a little deeper than you might, because we had to earn our love for that shit. So we’ll let you keep that concert venue just a taxi’s ride away. I’ll let you keep your safe assumptions that Bon Iver’s tour will stop within 30 minutes of your house this time around. I won’t even give you hell for throwing away your ticket stub to the Railroad Revival Tour because, why the hell would you keep it? Us though? We’d frame that shit, because we probably spent a grand and 12 hours in a car to see it. Over here, where I live, we’re okay with the lack of anything remotely like Fleet Foxes playing on the radio. For now we’ll be sitting in the back of the truck, down at the creek, jamming on some Highwaymen while we talk about the next Megafaun record, the vinyl of which we’ll have to procure via the internet due to our aforementioned geographical location. —SAMANTHA KRAMER FOLKHIVE.COM 56
OUT NOW ON ANALOG EDITION RECORDS AE001 BLAKE MILLS - “HEY LOVER” / “WINTER SONG” 7”
AE002 BREAKFAST IN FUR - S/T EP 10”