Saturday, July 30, 2011

GTG Festivus Part III Tomorrow + Two Calliope Sightings

Beginning tomorrow (that's today -- July 31 -- for many of you reading this) at 4:00 PM and closing out the month of July with a full afternoon of music, Lansing recording collective GTG has pulled together a line-up of raw and raucous sounds with a vicious habit for pop hooks, infectious discord and/or uncanny melody, and real deal songs:

Jack Pine Snag
Narc Out the Reds
(full disclosure: that's me!)
Cat Midway
The Break-Ups
Fade To Black
Velouria Caywood
The Hat Madder

...and more?  The Hat Madder and Narc Out The Reds will be fresh off of tour (is "fresh" the right word here?), and I'm excited and honored to get to share a stage again with Cat Midway, The Break-Ups, Veloura Caywood, and Middleman.  I don't have any idea of what the order is, but really who cares?  These are all excellent artists and this showcase/annual celebration/gathering will take place at Basement 414.  Admission, I believe is free, however as is customary some cash money for the touring acts would probably be a good thing to bring along with you.

Then, in about two weeks, I'll be playing a unique crossover show at East Lansing's art & performance hub (SCENE) Metrospace.  The show will take place on Saturday, August 13th, under the glow of late summer stars.  This will also be my second time sharing a bill with Calliope in a two week period!

When I first started going out and actively seeing shows, I went to see Calliope and Apollo 9 at the Atlantis co-op.  Might've been 1993.  It was my first brush with both bands.  A string of great albums later, Calliope is still making music and appearing live on special occasions.  On this particular date, the mighty Calliope will engage both a Gnome Village and the Drinking Mercury, as well as the rare Stargrazer.

Sorry, slipped into the character of the poster there for a second...

(this is also the latest offering from the ITAV design studio!)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

From the ITAV Design Studio: New 7" from Narc Out The Reds drops July 21st!

Coming out hot-on-the-heels of their new single for ITAV, Narc Out The Reds will be releasing a new double single on inky-black 7-inch vinyl Thursday, July 21st at Mac's Bar before immediately departing on an east coast tour with The Hat Madder.

I had the honor of working on the cover art for all-of-the-above.  In fact, in many ways I've been preparing to do the Pawnmower artwork for over a decade!

The concept for Pawnmower dates back to about 2000, before Chris Baratono had even formed Narc Out The Reds.  Chris had recently finished recording the lost Lansing indie rock classic From Turmoil's Soil with his former band The Caustic Pop, and we were working together at a Tower Records in East Lansing.  Chris mentioned that he had begun writing a song, "Pawnmower," and we started talking about vinyl cover art.  I think even a decade ago, it was always the intent that this would be on vinyl. 

I produced a hasty ballpoint sketch not that dissimilar to the finished piece.  Leak In The Disease, the flip-side of Pawnmower portrays a bleeding, machine-gunned jukebox as an extension of this idea, so as a double A-side 7" single, Leak In The Disease/Pawnmower forms an interesting dual visual narrative, full of suggestions of meaning but elusive as to who exactly the pawns are.  Are we the pawns?  Is this a polemic against fascism?  What does the drop of blood clinging to the jukebox's coin return slot insinuate?  Who pilots the plane strafing the pawns and (presumably) the jukebox?  Us?  The band?  The "industry?"  Is the jukebox standing heroically, or has it just faced a firing squad?  Despite the enigmatic qualities, I still wanted these images to buzz -- to actually produce an audible buzzing noise.  That proved technically impractical, so I got as close as I could.

Once again, I relied on World War II/Cold War-era propaganda as my source material.  The technology for jukeboxes and the technology for fighter planes arose during roughly the same era -- a 40-year pocket of time that pitted ever more fearsome mechanized engines of war against the freewheeling ideas of jazz and the early thrashing fun of rock'n'roll.

Narc Out The Reds, The Hat Madder, The Fencemen, Frank And Earnest, and Aspiga will be playing at Mac's Bar this Thursday, July 21st (Facebook event here).  Obviously, that's a not-to-be-missed lineup.  Immediately before the show, starting at 8 PM, Narc Out The Reds and The Hat Madder will be on 88.9 FM's "The Basement" spinning the new 7-inch as well as the Hat Madder's über-catchy new single Mayflies... and maybe, just maybe these songs too.

Immediately after the show, the two bands will be piling into their vans and departing on a night drive for Brooklyn, NY, the first stop of their campaign supporting this hot new circle of wax.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Volume 3 Released! News, News, and More News!

First of all, thanks to our brothers-from-another-mother and sisters-from-another-mister over at GTG Recordings for the shout outs to the 3-Way Singles Club's third volume, featuring The Hat Madder, The Playback, and Narc Out The Reds.  

  Download/Stream 3-Way Singles Club, Volume Three HERE.  

...And don't miss the great show TONIGHT at the GTG House, featuring Cavalcade, Josh David & The Dream Jeans, and Johnny Unicorn.  You've heard of Facebook by now, right?  Well here's the event, it's part of GTG Festivus, the mutant offspring of the annual GTG Fest, which outgrew the McCord ranch last summer and has been split into several multi-band events this month.  Come drink pure rock'n'roll rainbows right from the source itself!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It is with great pride that ITAV unveils the third volume of the 3-Way Singles Club!  Volume Three features three songs by three bands that are all known for their technical prowess, fierce live shows, and teambuilding in the Lansing music scene.  I've been looking forward to this one since the series began, and, in many ways a conversation with Isaac from The Hat Madder a few years ago is the whole reason this series started in the first place.

In 2008 I was in the process of assembling the In The Orchard of Osiris compilation, which was shaping up to be a mellow, autumnal collection of songs, when I received a couple of instantly catchy yet hard rocking tunes from the Hat Madder and from West Lafayette, IN's artsy indie-punkers Drum Kit.  I fell in love with both tracks, yet try as I might to shoehorn them into In The Orchard of Osiris, they just wouldn't sit right in the playlist.  So I had these two great tracks, just different enough from each other in production and recording aesthetic that they would have made an uneasy split single...  But, and just but, with a third just-as-unique track maybe, just maybe a 3-way split single could be constructed?  Madness, I thought.  Anyway, I wanted to focus on In The Orchard of Osiris so the idea got shelved.

Fast-forward two years.  I.T.O.o.O. was completed and pressed, and I was itching to keep up the momentum.  Yet if there's anything I learned from I.T.O.o.O., it was that a large-scale project like that was very hard on my resources.  As most things of lasting beauty are wont to do, it cost more and took more time than even my careful budgeting and conservative time-lining had prepared for.

The idea with the singles series was FAST:  new songs, straight from the studio to the ear buds, with as little lag time as possible.  Making the series digital meant no manufacturing costs.  My years spent booking shows and working with bands on their visual design needs had put me into contact with a slew of hard-working and talented acts that (in my opinion) were woefully under-exposed.  I literally love the acts on the 3-Way Singles Club roster, and I wanted to deliver fresh platters of their sounds to new ears everywhere.  Another angle of the project was that I wanted to reward listeners and gig-goers who had been supporting these bands all along -- singles and EPs tend to go unnoticed by the masses, who'd rather consume full-length albums or 99-cent downloads.  It's the faithful who collect these smaller packets, who treasure them and request obscure B-sides at live shows.

(and by the way, we still haven't released those great Hat Madder and Drum Kit tracks -- Isaac wrote a brand new slamming post-punk song for Volume Three)

This series is for those fans, as well as for adventurous newcomers.  I'm extremely excited for next month's installment featuring The Plurals, Cavalcade, and Terminal Girls.  That's three bands that exemplify creative hard work, and having come into possession of the Terminal Girls' track a little early, I can say that 3-Way Singles Club, Volume Four is already in the not-to-be-missed category!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

But why are the singles $3?  Why aren't they free?   Well, first of all because it made the series' motto "3 artists, 3 songs, 3 bucks," and that just has a nice ring to it.  And may I remind you that Volume One was, in fact, and still is, also in fact, FREE.

All glibness aside though, the 3-Way Singles Club was also designed as a funding vehicle.  I've noticed over time how free things can often go unappreciated -- leaving the well-intended benefactors feeling burned out or worse.  It's a nice gesture that can get easily lost.  ITAV's first ever project was a free compilation called First-hand Accounts, Theories, and Their Repercussions.  We pressed 1,000 and handed them out in stacks.  It still brings me a smile when I see a copy of it somewhere, but I also know that hundreds of them filtered to the bottom of people's CD stacks or ended up under a car's floormat somewhere.  The 10% of them that still get listened to are the success of that project, which was great fun by the way.  I don't mean to imply in any way that compiling independent music is drudgery, because it's not.  So, ITAV's newer releases are something you have to work for -- not very hard -- but you have to trade something of value for them:  3 bucks.

Where that $3 was going to go was a question that I've been ruminating for a while.  Putting out music has a lot of incidental expenses, so at first it was just going to roll right back into ITAV's operational costs.  Which would be fine.  And which all of the bands have been comfortable with.  But then I got a better idea.

The Independent Musicians Fund

Making and performing music has a lot of incidental expenses too.  Chances are, if you are one of those musicians whose parents didn't buy you a Marshall half-stack and a 1958 Telecaster, you've taken something like a vow of poverty to be able to make music.  Maybe you're a student, maybe you have a day job.  Lord knows, without label support, you're not going to support yourself solely on independent gigs -- nevermind if you have a family.  Artists are the only working group in society who are expected to never retire.  Into this mix comes the unexpected: shorted amps, broken mic cables, missing guitar stands.

So those $3 downloads are going to be earmarked for the IMF (Independent Musicians Fund).  As of writing, we're at about $9 in the fund -- but once the ball gets rolling unsigned independent musicians can apply to the fund for unexpected repairs, unforeseen touring expenses, etc.  There will be a lot of denials at first, because the fund started at zero and will take time to accumulate.  However, next January we will institute a blanket $30 subscription to the 3-Way Singles Club that will entitle the subscriber to all past and future volumes in the series.  You'll still be able to get each individual single for $3, if you prefer.  Then when, say, your favorite local band's van gets a flat while they are trekking across North Dakota on tour, IMF will be in a position to do something about it.

Right now, with just a few volumes out, the economics don't make sense to start the subscription.  However, if you want to get in at the ground floor, hit the "donate" button over to our right and earmark your $30 donation "IMF."  Include your e-mail address and we'll send you new volumes of the series as they come out!  Sometimes before they come out!  There will also be many other subscriber-only benefits, more on that later.

Thoughts?  Suggestions?  Comments?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Upcoming Stargrazer Show w/ Gnome Village: July 20th at The Loft!

The show starts at 9:00 PM -- a Mid-Summer Night's musical extravaganza!  Check out the Facebook Event for details, and please share and invite people to the event!  Looking forward to seeing everyone at this, as a new Stargrazer song or two will be unveiled, plus there will be pandas and penguins.