Column 143 — Coyote Bones goes Bemis (and the death of CDs?); Bright Eyes on Leno; Mathematicians/Satchel Grande tonight…

Category: Blog — @ 5:39 pm September 27, 2007

The original plan was to feature both David Matysiak’s residency at the Bemis AND his record label, Coco Art, but there wasn’t enough room for both.

Coco Art is an interesting story by itself. Essentially a co-op label, Matysiak said the idea was to create a way to get his and his friends’ bands heard by a larger audience, kinda like how another label around here got started a decade ago.

Originally launched with Coyote Bones, Flowers Forever (who are now on Team Love) and Dereck Higgins, the label recently added Hyannis and Baby Walrus, and will be releasing the debut by The Family Radio, Ghost Blood Stories, in the near future.

It’s a strong stable, but Matysiak says he can’t imagine making any money off the venture, nor was that ever his intention. “It would be nice (to make some cash), but I would just reinvest it right back into the label, anyway,” he said. “If we had money, we would press the new Baby Walrus record on vinyl. But not having money shouldn’t limit or stop us. We’re trying to put out records and do shows and other cool things. If we can sell a few records, that’s great, but the main focus is getting people to hear our music.”

Nice, but it sounds like his long-term vision is for Coco Art to become a true vinyl label. “CDs are dead, people need to get used to it,” Matysiak said. “Vinyl will be there, and digital will be there, too, to download. But if you want to hold it, you’ll hold vinyl. CD is an extinct format.”

If that’s true, than why bother putting the Coyote Bones’ Gentleman on the Rocks out on CD? “It was a question of money,” Matysiak said. “We have a publicist, we bought a van, we toured a bunch of times, we made shirts, we’ve gone as far as we could with the money we had. It came down to ‘Do we buy a van or put our record out on vinyl?’ We wanted to hit the road and make enough money to get the vinyl out as soon as we could. The CD artwork was made for vinyl. It had to be shrunk for the CD, and I hate it. “

Matysiak was so sure that Gentleman on the Rocks would eventually come out on vinyl that he had 500 copies of the CD burned without the jewel cases so that they can be given away with the vinyl. “We will give you the CD if you buy the vinyl,” he said. “You’ll have both, and also get the nice handmade artwork. And the vinyl will be there forever whether you play it or not.”

I think Matysiak’s approach of giving a CD with the vinyl (or giving the vinyl with the CD, depending on how you look at it) is better than what Merge and Saddle Creek are doing with their digital download program — where vinyl buyers get free downloads of the albums to use in their iPods. But it’s also more expensive.

Now, the column:

Column 143: Bemis Calling
The arts organization welcomes Coyote Bones’ David Matysiak.

The last time we spoke to Coyote Bones’ David Matysiak (here) he was yacking about how he managed to get his pals from the Saddle Creek Records stable to help record his band’s debut, Gentleman on the Rocks. Now four months later, Matysiak is moving his studio out of one basement into another — this one located beneath the hip, prestigious Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts.

A walking, talking ball of red-bearded energy, Matysiak begins a residency with the Bemis’ music program Oct. 1, joining the ranks of former resident musicians Tilly and the Wall, Simon Joyner and Orenda Fink. He says it’s a chance to grow creatively, while musically retooling an idea borne out of the playground. At the same time, he’ll be working on a separate project that will outlive his three-month residency.

But first, the music residency itself: I’ve been reading about it for years, but never really understood the point. Aren’t residencies designed to give starving artists a place to live — a creative domicile — while they craft artwork which may or may not be commercially viable? That’s not the case with Bemis’ music program. Tilly, Joyner, Fink and Matysiak already have a place to lay their heads in River City.

Matysiak explained it all while pushing a candy-apple green Schwinn 10-speed through the entrance of Bemis Underground — the program’s basement headquarters.

“This is a place of creation,” he said, still sweating after riding from his apartment on 40th and Harney. “Unlike an apartment or house, I can come here at four in the morning and freak out and go ripping down the hallway. When you’re wandering around at 2 a.m., you run into other artists who can’t sleep. We share ideas; we’re all in this together.”

No, living quarters aren’t provided, but the residency offers more than just a practice space. It’s a place where musicians can try ideas that are off rock ‘n’ roll’s beaten path. Their projects — all reviewed and approved by a committee — are more like research projects, with little commercial appeal. Fink, Matysiak said, worked with found sounds recorded in Haiti. Joyner collaborated with avant-garde cellist-composer Fred Lonberg-Holm. And Matysiak has his “telephone project.”

Remember that playground game where you whisper a message into your playmate’s ear, who then told another, who told another, who told another, who then told you? The returning message never resembled the original. “I’ll be trying that with music on a worldwide basis,” Matysiak said. “I’ll send a recording to someone in Japan who will do his thing, than pass it onto someone in Australia and then South America and so on until it gets back to me. The idea is to see what can happen when you collaborate with people who can’t communicate without music.”

Matysiak already has set up equipment in Bemis’ “Studio B,” a messy white-walled artist space dedicated to the music program. It’s a windowless room where bits of creative residue hang from the walls or lie stacked on the floor, including a half-finished mural painted by the Tilly kids, still waiting for someone to fill in the lines.

Bemis’ music residency isn’t a “formal program,” said Residency Program Director Cary Tobin. “It all started when Tilly and the Wall was in need of a space and we happened to have a space in the Underground available,” Tobin said. “We invited them to use the space and it seemed to balance well with the other programs we have happening here.”

Tilly’s used their residency to develop demos used for their Bottoms of Barrels album, a project with obvious commercial potential, but the Bemis isn’t interested in making money off record sales. “The BCCA is not entitled to any revenue generated by any material that is produced in the studio. We receive no money from Tilly and the Wall or Simon Joyner on any of the sales of the record or material produced,” Tobin said.

Musicians have given back to the program through benefit concerts. Matysiak will give back in a different way. Across from Studio B, in what was once a large storage closet, Matysiak is building a permanent recording studio for the Bemis program using his and his friends’ equipment. “In the mean time, I’m asking the music community to donate equipment — instruments, microphones, guitars and trumpets, functional stuff that someone could actually use that you’d feel good about donating,” he said. “If someone has a nice vintage amp in their basement that’s collecting dust, why not donate it to help start this program?”

Residents will be able to use the studio to record their projects. Matysiak said it could also become like Daytrotter — the Rock Island, Ill. studio where touring indie bands such as The Rentals, Dave Dondero, Low and David Bazan, can drop in for two-hour sessions that become available for free download from daytrotter.com. Right now, though, it’s just an empty room with a stack of egg cartons lying on the ground, waiting to be nailed to the walls.

“This will be more of a low-fi atmosphere,” Matysiak said. “If nothing else, it’s a place to write music and a place for collaboration. There are so many things you can do. That’s why I like the Bemis. They’re open-minded. They’re always looking for new ideas and trying to find a way to make them work.”

* * *

Speaking of Matysiak, he’s playing a solo set at Mick’s tonight with Jamie Weime. 9 p.m., $5. Go!

* * *

Bright Eyes made yet another appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno last night. If you missed it, I’m sure it’s available somewhere in the Interweb. The band performed “Four Winds,” with Leno introducing them holding a vinyl copy of Cassadaga (and commenting how he liked the fact that it was a record). Missing from the band was violinist Anton Patzner. Without him and his distinctive violin intro, the song sounded only half there. That violin line is central to the song, which made me wonder why they chose to perform it without him. Overall, a nice if not uneventful performance that looked and sounded great in HD.

* * *

Tonight at The Waiting Room, geek dance band The Mathematicians perform with opening band, the amazing Satchel Grande (worth the price of admission by themselves) and Microphone Jones. $7, 9 p.m. Also, completely unbeknownst to me, The Donnas are playing at Sokol Underground. I once saw them play a somewhat boring set at Emo’s in Austin years and years ago. 8:30, $17.

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