by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
Music blog UPROXX has a remembrance of sorts of Rilo Kiley on the band’s 15th anniversary. The writer goes through their catalog and has some nice comments about the sole Saddle Creek release in 2002, The Execution of All Things, which was something of a landmark for the label, its first real, non-Nebraska success. Rilo Kiley also would become the first band to to leave the label.
The details of their defection are interesting a decade later. This from Aug. 2, 2004, Lazy-i:
Rilo in the L.A. Times — Aug. 2, 2004
The LA Times published a story about Rilo Kiley yesterday with the headline “Leaving indie life behind — L.A.’s Rilo Kiley, with a new album on its own label and support from Warner Bros., believes its time has come.” Jenny Lewis lays out the logic behind jumping from Saddle Creek, saying essentially that they felt it was time for their big break, even if it costs them their creativity.
“I think we’re excited, but we’re a little nervous as well because we’ve been completely independent up until this point,” says Lewis, 28, in the LA Time article. “Once you start considering stockholders and the way these corporations are run, it isn’t necessarily in line with experimental music and continuing to do things in a totally organic way. But at the same time I feel like, you know, it’s been eight years for us, and if we’re not gonna do it now, then when? And I think we owe it to ourselves to continue to grow.”
Later, she explains that the band couldn’t get airplay on an indie label, which is absurd. “I think after making the record we started playing songs for our friends and we realized for the first time that [radio airplay] could possibly be an option, and I think that led to our decision in trying new things,” she said in the Times article. “With the shift that’s happening in music right now, where bands like Modest Mouse and Franz Ferdinand and all these rock bands are starting to get played on the radio again, it just seemed like the appropriate time.”
That’s kind of like saying that Creek bands are damned to only get airplay in college radio. She could have led the charge to help change that. Oh well, I’m sure there’s more to the story than this…— Aug. 2, 2004
“We made this record with Saddle Creek and made it for Saddle Creek and figured it would come out on Saddle Creek,” (Boesel) said from his home in Los Angeles where the band is rehearsing for the upcoming tour. “Shortly after completing the record, we had some ideas and talked about them with Saddle Creek and discovered that we differed on a couple issues. Ultimately, we created our own record label to have total freedom over the record and the music.”
That, despite the fact that the CD was already in the can. Seems the disagreements between the band and Creek stemmed not from creative issues, but from what Boesel characterized as limitations inherent to indie record labels. Saddle Creek label manager Jason Kulbel said in last month’s issue of Alternative Press that one of the main differences was in how the two parties approached commercial radio. “Even if we had it, we are just not down with throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars at commercial radio so they will play our stuff,” Kulbel said in the AP article.
But Boesel said it was more than just the cost of doing business with commercial radio. “I don’t know if we’re throwing thousands down for commercial radio. That might be an exaggeration,” he said. “We didn’t want to put a ceiling on what we did.”…
“At some point, the hope is that this record would move to Warner Bros. proper,” Boesel said. “We wanted that to be a possibility. Even if it had been released by Saddle Creek that was a possibility, but it wasn’t something they (Saddle Creek) were comfortable with. They’re definitely crusaders with high morals and ethics, trying to do this thing for the greater good. For some, that’s the right approach. For us, it wasn’t. We’re trying to do something similar, but in a different way. We’re trying to enter into that world with full knowledge of the traps. We came in with a finished record and have not compromised it in the least.”
(Saddle Creek label executive Robb) Nansel said there were a number of reasons why Saddle Creek frowned upon a deal where Warner Bros. or any other major would simply take over the record. “They wanted us to sell ‘x’ number of records and then they would take it from us,” Nansel said. “The first few weeks are the most difficult time for any release.”
Boesel added, “It would be wrong to say we’re not taking a gamble choosing to go into this world. We’re taking a risk. These companies are set up to make money, while indies like Saddle Creek started out as a way to put out good music, which is a completely different thing.”--Lazy-i, Sept. 22, 2004
It is indeed. So did the gamble pay off? One assumes (maybe incorrectly) that Rilo Kiley made more money by moving to a major. Regardless, the band officially broke up in 2014. Jenny Lewis went onto a semi-successful solo career.
Actually, I don’t know how any musician or artist measures success these days. She had a number of quality solo releases; who knows how well they did from a money standpoint.
Lewis’ new project, Nice as Fuck, is something of a step backwards compared to her solo work. The first single, “Door,” is fun and clever but as lightweight a pop song as you’ll ever hear. And then it’s regurgitated six more times to fill out the collection (the band’s “theme song” is also included on the album). A nice little distraction for Lewis until she gets around to her next solo outing…
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Tonight at The Waiting Room is that Deerhoof show I mentioned yesterday. $15, 9 p.m. You really should go. Philly dark-punk band Blank Spell opens along with local hero Thick Paint.
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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.