D.I.Y. Part II

Vinyl Tsunami

A few months ago I wrote about this do it yourself ethos that has begun to flourish in the indie underground over here in the US. Record Labels popping up like dandelions in the spring and bands jumping from label to label with a 7 inch here, an album there and a cassette on another one. Back in March when I wrote that post it didn’t seem like there was a similar thing happening over in the UK.  Fast forward to now and those dandelion seeds have blown across the Atlantic and are sprouting. Within the last two months I’ve heard so much good stuff originating from the UK that it nearly feels like the early 90’s again.  The only drawback to this nascent UK scene is that a 7 inch single in the UK costs nearly twice what costs in the US, and that’s before you add in shipping.  It’s not the man keeping me down it’s rock n’ roll.

This UK DIY scene is slowly making it’s way over to the States, with records, tours and more records starting to happen.  Coming up later this month, San Diego’s Crocodiles are bringing their UK friends the Pens and Graffiti Island with them on a west coast tour.  The Pens are an all girl three piece outfit from London who as far as I can tell, have yet to release a record that isn’t a split 7 inch.  They’ve done singles with Male Bonding, Graffiti Island, and have a four way split coming on Art Fag that they share with the Crocodiles, Graffiti Island (again) and Dum Dum Girls.  They’ll abandon the split singles (at least for one release) when their album appears on De Stijl next month. It’s called Hey Friend What Are You Doing and promises to be a shambolic, ramshackle affair with lots of noise to bury the melodies. Pens tour mates  Graffiti Island could best be described as cave rock. The vocals are full of reverb and they like to sing about wolf men, and other primitive stuff.  They’ve also had their share of songs on the old 7 inch medium, the latest being the Head Hunters single on House Anxiety.  They have a bunch more on the way including the afore mentioned Art Fag split single, one on Sex Is Disgusting and 12 inch on Capture Tracks later this year.

mp3: Pens – High In the Cinema (pre-order the album from De Stijl)

mp3: Graffiti Island – Wolf  Guy (pre-order the GI/Pens/Crocodiles/Dum Dum Girls 7″ from Art Fag)

Speaking of Sex Is Disgusting (the label), they’ve just released a limited edition (250) by Mazes, a band that answers the question what if the Woods’ Jeremy Earl had fronted Guided by Voices.   Based on the a-side to their single it would have been very good indeed.  Their mySpace is pretty funny, on it they state: “We wanna do rad things like back Mark E Smith and tour with Jonathan Richman… email us if you can facilitate stuff like that.” Mazes apparently have an album in the can, that they “wanna put out”, meanwhile look out for an upcoming split 7 inch with the Pens.

mp3: Mazes – Bowie Knives (get the 7″ from Sex Is Disgusting)

One of the more pretty sounding lo-fi bands of the current crop is Internet Forever who remind me of very underrated It’s Jo and Danny. Their songs are precious sounding but they keep the fidelity at the low end as not to sound to precious.  Their cover of Beat Happening’s Bewitched is a prime example of just that.  No records yet from this three piece, but that won’t be the case for long with releases lined up on Art Fag and Twenty Years of Boredom.

mp3: Internet Forever – Break Bones (7″ coming soon on Art Fag)

The Spectrals could be the UK doppelgangers of the Crystal Stilts except that their a bit more girl-group loving than the darker exploits of their Brooklyn brethren.  The song Leave Me Be which I’ve pretty much killed has been floating around the internet for a good month.  No physical releases yet from this one man band, but he’s promising a single and full album sometime in the near future on Captured Tracks.  The Spectrals and Graffiti Island aren’t the only UK bands that Captured Tracks has signed up.  Veronica Falls have promised a 12 inch record to the label, so I’m assuming that they have more than one great song that has been up on their MySpace for the last month all by itself, but it’s so hauntingly good that I’ve been going back quite often in hopes of some more.  Veronica Falls are made up of former members of the Royal We, so I’m not too worried about them only having one good song.

mp3: Spectrals -Leave Me Be (&” & 12″ coming soon on Captured Tracks)

mp3: Veronica Falls – Found Love In a Graveyard (12″ coming soon on Captured Tracks)

Another London band (they’re all from London except for Mazes) is the duo Swanton Bombs who put out their Mammoth Skull ep at the very beginning of this year.  They also made an album of demos that is available for free over at their MySpace.  They seem to get compared to the White Stripes mostly by people who don’t know what they’re talking about.  Yeah, they’re duo playing guitar and drums but piano plays a large part in their sound.  It’s all very basic and some of the songs remind me of early Billy Bragg, but they also have these little prog-like parts in some of their songs that remind me of what the Mystery Jets were doing on their first record.  They’re kind of a breath of fresh air if you are geting tired of the lo-fi distorted guitar sound that most of the other bands in this post specialize in.

mp3: Swanton Bombs – Dominic The Lilac (download their demos album at their MySpace)

Last but not least and hot off just signing with Sup Pop is Male Bonding who have done split 7 inches with the likes of Graffiti Island, Pens, Cold Pumas and Eat Skull.  Based on all that, they may be the poster children of the entire scene.  If the Spectrals are the bastard sons of Crystal Stilts then Male Bonding are the illegitimate child of No Age and Abe Vigoda.  Abandoned by their parents they were raised by their grandparents Husker Du, or something like that.  The split 7 inch with Eat Skull just came out and is pretty hot, expect an album sometime early next year on Sub Pop.

mp3: Male Bonding – Year’s Not Long (the split 7″ with Eat Skull is still available from Tough Love)

If you’re on the west coast you don’t want to miss the Pens/Graffiti Island/Crocodiles Tour starting next week.  Tour dates after the click. Read More

D.I.Y.

how to make a record
making-a-record
Back in the early 90’s Simple Machines put a pamphlet that they called the Mechanic’s Guide. It was a how-to guide for putting out a record and starting a record label.  The guide outlined the steps it takes to put out a 7 inch record, cassette and compact disc and covered all the bases from designing the sleeve, to getting the tracks mastered and finally how to sell them.  Back in the day, you used to have to write them to order a copy, now you can click a link and read it for free.  It’s still relevant, and I would bet it still gets read and used as a resource for people starting out.

In the last few years, out of thin air, or more likely sweat and hard work, a bunch of labels have been materializing with a fetish for vinyl and a similar aesthetic for noisy, treble heavy bands that are decidedly lo-fi.  These labels seem to be championing bands that creating a garage revival except the these are bands without garages.  I don’t know if any of the labels have read the Mechanic’s Guide, but their grass roots efforts and limited editions have much in common with what Simple Machines did in their time.  There are a handful of labels at the core of this scene, and it is certainly a scene because these bands and labels seem to switch between each other for releases and even team-up in some cases to make new bands.  There are a number of well established labels that have been putting out records that fit this description like In the Red, Goner and Castle Face, but it seems like a few newer labels have really caught the imagination of a lot of people of late (or at least mine).  At the center of the scene I’m talking about, are HoZac in Chicago, and Woodsist and Captured Tracks in Brooklyn.  A little bit on the periphery are Art Fag and Zoo Music out in San Diego.  Like so many indie labels of the past (Merge, Teenbeat, Dischord, Matador, Creation, Simple Machines to name a few) Woodsist, Captured Tracks and Art Fag are run by music obsessed guys who are also on bands.

Woodsist is handled by Jeremy Earl who is also in bands Woods and Meneguar while Captured Tracks is run by Mike Sniper who records under the Blank Dogs moniker.  Earl’s Woodsist label has grown out of his Fuck It Tapes label which only releases tapes (of course).  Woodsist started back in 2006 and not only release vinyl, but they’re not afraid of putting out a cd either.  The label’s track record is already stellar with released by by Sic Alps, Crystal Stilts, Vivian Girls.  He also put out last year’s Wavves record, a Blank Dogs ep, and just released the first 7 inch from Seattle’s Idle Times.  Up next for Woodsist are new albums from the Woods and Meth Teeth, a Psychedelic Horseshit 12 inch from Columbus, Ohio pot-smoking noise rockers and a full length from New Jersey band Real Estate.  Sniper’s Captured Tracks label is much newer, brand new in fact, with release number one and two having just hit the streets.  They’re both four song 12 inch eps, one by Sniper’s own Blank Dogs who get a lot of Joy Division comparisons, but I think they sound a lot more like a warped Tubeway Army,  and the other buy Dum Dum Girls, who are a one woman band based out of Los Angeles sounding a lot the Vivian Girls but with less controversy.  Coming up on Captured Tracks is a single by the Mayfair Set which is a Blank Dogs – Dum Dum Girls team-up and from what I’ve heard of it is definitely more than the sum of it’s parts!  Also look out of singles from the Woods, and San Francisco’s Brilliant Colors.  The Brilliant colors are an all girl three piece that sound a bit 80’s New Zealand and a bit like Life Without Buildings currently have a 7 inch out on Make a Mess a label  run by Nodzzz drummer Eric Butterworth who put out last year’s excellent Nodzzz’ I Don’t Wanna single) .

Moving out of Brooklyn and out to Chicago where HoZac was born out of the Horizontal Action zine that Todd Novak  and Brett Crossout wrote until 2005.   The duo reformatted and resurrected the name into a record label a little over two years ago.  Their label specializes in limited releases of 7 inch records which includes the afore mentioned Blank Dogs as well as Nobunny, France Has the Bomb and the Dutchess and the Duke among many, many others. There limited runs go out of print pretty fast so you gotta jump fast when one hits the street.  The big news earlier this year from HoZac was that they were going to do a singles club which promised records from many of the bands I’ve already mentioned like Idle Times and Dum Dum Girls  as well as Teeth (a Blank Dogs side project) and Box Elders.  The singles club 500 subscriptions is sold out, but you should keep your eyes peeled for the first LP from the Dum Dum Girls and Medication from Connecticut who sound like the Mama’s and the Papas trapped in a cave.

It’s almost overwhelming, the number of releases that these bands and labels have put out and are planning to release, and I haven’t even mentioned a couple new San Diego labels, Art Fag and  Zoo Music.  Zoo Music was the first out of the gate this year with a cd-r ep from the Dum Dum Girls and a killer Jesus and Mary Chain-esque single from San Diego’s and former Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower,  the CrocodilesArt Fag is run by the Crocodiles, but they won’t be allowing themselves to put out their own album.  They’ll be entrusting Fat Possum to do that on 28 April.  Instead, they will be releasing a mighty fine split 7 inch featuring the Pens, Crocodiles, Graffiti Island and Dum Dum Girls as well as a full length from Philadelphia’s Ye Olde Maids. With all of this action going on down here in the underground, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn about a few more labels this year taking the initiative and doing it themselves, economy be damned.
mp3: France Has the Bomb – Invisible Angle (buy it from HoZac)

mp3: Nobunny – Motorhead with Me (buy if from HoZac)

mp3: Mayfair Set – Desert Fun (comming out on Captured Tracks)

mp3: Blank Dogs – Calling Over (buy it from Captured Tracks)

mp3: Wavves – Teenage Super Party (buy it from Woodsist)

mp3: Idle Times – Driving You Sad (buy it from Woodsist)

mp3: The Woods – The Dark (buy it from Captured Tracks)

mp3: Dum Dum Girls – Ship of Love (currently out of print, from Zoo Music, but you can buy her 12″ from Captured Tracks)

mp3: Crocodiles – Neon Jesus (buy it from Zoo Music)

If you live in Seattle, Blank Dogs will be at the Funhouse along with Idle Times and Love Tan on 2 April, and Wavves will be at the same place a few days later on 9 April.