Column 199 — Harvey Vs. Saklar…

Category: Blog — @ 6:42 pm November 19, 2008

The key to both of these efforts is the number 100. Do unsigned indie bands who are self-releasing their CDs really need to press more than 100 copies of their record? Especially when they can always simply press 100 more? Yes, there are exceptions, specifically local bands that have a fan base that regularly sells out TWR, but those are few and far between. The other exception has to do with sending discs out to radio or media — specifically bands that have deals with promotion and distribution companies or that plan to go out on multi-week (months) tours. I think Kyle’s label idea is spot-on; and I have no doubt that Mike will sell out his tri-disc release…

Column 199 — Homegrown Ambition
Two local musicians redefine DIY.

Talk about going the extra mile — here are two examples of local CD projects that take the DIY concept to a whole ‘nuther level.

Let’s start with Kyle Harvey, who along with Conor Oberst is one of the city’s most beloved songwriters. Harvey has never been afraid to quietly unbutton his shirt, grab the closest sharp implement and gouge a gaping hole in his chest, then reach in and grab his hot, beating heart and place it directly on his sleeve, covering his audience with a fine spray of pain. OK, that’s a rather stark image, but it fits the music on Truth Is the Color of Teeth, a droning, atmospheric 7-song opus best played with the shades drawn.

I first heard the recording four years ago as a 10-track CDR handed to me only a few months after Harvey’s debut album, The Holidays in Spain, was released. At the time, I assumed Teeth also would be released in the coming months. But it never was. The reason is a typical music industry story.

“I had a fairly decent-sized indie label interested in it,” Harvey explained over a beer at Jake’s in Benson. “They said they loved it and wanted more stuff. This was in the fall of ’04, and the label said, ‘Let’s talk again in the spring because we’re really backed up.’ I sat around thinking it was a good opportunity, but nothing ever happened.”

After waiting a couple of years, Harvey considered releasing Teeth himself. “But I thought, what’s the purpose of releasing it now? It felt dated to me.” Since the album was recorded, Harvey has been married — and divorced. Most of the songs are about a time when he moved to Nashville and the relationships he left behind. Well, he’s been back now for years, living a musician’s life in Benson. So why release this time capsule now?

“Quite a few people said they were interested in hearing it,” Harvey said. “And it’ll be the first album released on my new label.”

The label is called Slo-Fidelity Records — a play on the term low-fi. “It’s all home recordings, not necessarily low fidelity stuff, but homemade music,” Harvey said, adding that each release will have a limited run of 100 copies. “I know I can sell 100 copies of my CD for $10. I’ll take the $800 I make off of it and dump it back into the next release.”

Which will be Under Water Dream Machine — a project by singer/songwriter Bret Vovk, slated for release Dec. 12. The third Slo-Fi release is the debut of singer/songwriter Adam Hawkins’ project, It’s True. Harvey plans to put out one new CD per month. It all starts with SF-001, which is being celebrated at a free CD release show Nov. 26 at Burke’s Pub, a neighborhood bar in downtown Benson. “I figured the album is DIY, the show should be, too.”

Another example of DIY ambition is the self-release of No Blood Orphan’s new CD, Your First Is Your Last. Ambitious because it’s a triple-CD package that includes a new studio album, a live album, and a 21-track comedy concept album, all wrapped up in a handsome screen-printed tri-fold package available as a limited run of 100 sets.

No Blood Orphan frontman Mike Saklar said it’s something old, something new and something weird. The new material shows where the band is today, having grown from a trio to a five-piece that includes Steve Bartolomei, guitars; Chris Esterbrooks, keyboards; Shawn Cox, bass and Marc Phillips on drums. The 15-track live disc, called Let It Boot, includes tracks recorded at Sokol Underground, O’Leaver’s and Saklar’s basement between 2004 and this year. “It’s material from our first two EPs, which are out of print,” Saklar said. “It seemed like the best way to make that music available again.”

And then there’s the weird: The Beast Chronicles. Described as “symbolic-satiric relief,” longtime Saklar followers will see it for what it really is — an ode to Saklar’s early days when he was known as a metal guitar god in bands like Ritual Device and Ravine. Beast hums with the classic minor-key drive and dirge you’d expect from stereotypical metal bands on tracks like “The Lonesome Death of the Beast Master” and “Beastruption.”

“The comedy album — it’s something that I don’t know if the whole band really ‘gets,'” Saklar said. “There’s a beast and a servant, the beast punishes the servant, the servant kills the beast and they reunite in heaven. It symbolizes the absurdities of the music industry.”

Both Cox and Phillips, on hand during the interview at eCreamery, just sort of nodded their heads and smiled at Saklar’s explanation.

“Not everyone is going to get into three CDs,” Saklar said. “We’ll be lucky to get them to listen to the first disc. I just hope they put them on in the right order.”

That “right order” would be the new stuff, the old stuff, and then the comedy stuff. “If someone put the Beast Chronicles in first, it might make them mad,” Phillips said.

Listeners can buy just the new material for $8, while the 3-CD set will sell for $10. Both will be available at the CD release show Saturday, Nov. 22, at The Waiting Room. Joining No Blood Orphan will be Jake Bellows, Brad Hoshaw, Landing on the Moon, Steve Bartolomei and Ben Brodin — that’s a lot of music for a $2 cover. “The show will be like a huge house party,” Saklar said. “It’s gonna be fun.”

All right, so where’s The Reader‘s Top 20 + 15 list? Well, I do have the list, but I haven’t seen what they printed — there could be some differences, specifically with the “+15” part. So until I see a printed version, I’m holding off on publishing anything online. It’ll be here tomorrow. In the meantime, go out and find a copy of The Reader‘s special “Music Issue,” which should be dropping around town this evening.

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