The Tokyo Police Club situation; Stay Awake, Silversun Pickups, Bon Iver, the weekend…

Category: Blog — @ 5:43 pm September 18, 2009

Some disappointing music news reached me while I was in Chicago this week…

Yesterday Tokyo Police Club announced that it had signed an exclusive U.S. recording deal with record label mom+pop, ending their relationship with Saddle Creek Records. “The band is currently recording its second full length album, with an expected release projected for early 2010,” according to the band’s PR folks, Nasty Little Man.

Mom+pop was formed in 2008 by Cliff Burnstein, Peter Mensch and Michael Goldstone, the press release said. Burnstein and Mensch are the owners of Qprime, “one of music’s most respected management firms, with a roster featuring the likes of Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Snow Patrol, Muse, Silversun Pickupsand The Mars Volta, among others.” The record label’s roster, however, is tiny and includes Josha Radin and An Horse.

Not surprisingly, Saddle Creek Records was not mentioned in the press release.

None of this made sense to me. Why did TPC jump ship? Did this have more to do with Qprime than mom+pop?

“The band wanted a label with the resources and willingness to put a large amount of money into a commercial radio campaign, and that’s not something that we as label have traditionally bought into or were willing to do,” said Saddle Creek label executive Jason Kulbel, who runs the label with Robb Nansel.

So this tiny mom+pop has the cash for something like that. or are other deep pockets involved? “I would assume that being backed by Qprime would mean they have some money to spend and experience in the commercial radio world,” Kulbel said.

Conversely, I would assume that everyone at Saddle Creek is disappointed in what happened.

“I can’t say that we are not disappointed,” Kulbel said. “You don’t really start working with a band to only do one record. That said, we were well aware of the situation. It’s not like we were blindsided or anything. We have been talking on and off for months, and when the band decided on a road to go down, we were made aware and they asked us if it was something we would be interested in doing.”

The answer was no. Incidentally, Kulbel said Saddle Creek got nothing (no buy-out or whatever etc.) as a result of TPC going to mom+pop.

I find it all somewhat depressing. To some, TPC represented the next wave of powerhouse indie bands that would guide Saddle Creek into the next decade after the label lost two of its triple-crown acts — The Faint (who left to start their own label) and Bright Eyes, who Conor Oberst announced would be sunsetted after a final album on Creek sometime in the future. Oberst’s solo albums with Mystic Valley band are released on Merge Records, and the new album by the Monsters of Folk supergroup is being released on LA’s Shangri-La Music, a label owned by millionaire/international playboy (I’m not kidding) Steve Bing, who I’ve been told offered Oberst & his compatriots a deal they simply could not refuse.

As far as major earners go, this leaves Creek with the ever-faithful Cursive/The Good Life and the upcoming Azure Ray album. And of course, their extensive back catalog, which is probably enough to sustain them as another generation discovers The Faint and Bright Eyes (and Cursive). Creek has the luxury of owning these musicians’ best albums.

Still, it would be nice if even one of Saddle Creek’s recently signed acts — Old Canes, UUVVWWZ, Rural Alberta Advantage — could ignite as brightly as TPC did right out of the gate. Only time will tell.

* * *

Here comes the weekend. Tonight at O’Leaver’s, The Stay Awake headlines a show that also features Chambermaids and Baby Tears. $5, 9:30 p.m.

The Black Squirrels are celebrating their 3-year anniversary at The Sydney tonight with Lincoln Dickison and 24 Hour Cardlock.$5, 8 p.m.

And of course, Silversun Pickups is playing at Sokol Aud with Manchester Orchestra and Cage the Elephant. $25, 8 p.m.

Saturday night is the long-sold-out Bon Iver show at Slowdown with Megafaun. I only recently became a Bon Iver fan, after listening to the soothing-though-hookfilled For Emma, Forever Ago.

Also Saturday night, The Mezcal Brothers is playing at The Waiting Room with The Mercurys and JJ Willis Band. $7, 8 p.m.

And then Sunday night Capgun Coup is opening for Autolux (along with Mini Mansions). $10 9 p.m.

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