Thursday, February 12, 2009

Demo Submissions

Here's a subject hushed over, almost to the point of becoming indie urban legend: Demos. What do labels actually do with them? I've heard the stories of bands being signed too... All similar versions of the same hopeful tale...

Which goes something like this: Label Person neglects demo CD/LP/Cassette/mp3, only to re-discover it under unbelievably accidental circumstances, like, maybe it's winter, and the weather has taken a bad turn toward the end of the day, the snow is piling up on everything and the Label Person needs something, anything to scrap the accumulated white off their windshield, and, wow, how brilliant to utilize that CD-r tray, and while kicking it inside, waiting for the car to warm, why not play the demo-disc that was in the case, and why not sign the band instantly because the music is so "Killer!"

This does not happen. Bands are rarely, if ever, signed from demo submissions alone - you're luckier than most if your package is opened before it's tossed.

There's a plastic mail tub in the corner of the SSR headquarters - that's where the packages pile up. It takes some time, but I rip through all of them and actually listen. Even the worst of the worst get two-songs worth of time. Most get trashed: the paper and plastic recycled or reused. Some demos are set aside to revisit later: a few get passed along to friends whom, I think, may appreciate them; others become part of my personal collection...

Those are the ones I'm going to focus on with this entry. And, No, I won't be contacting anyone directly! This works like the lottery: you've just gotta chance it. If we're getting your music, you'll know...

This four-song CD-r, from Olympia's These Creatures, instantly charmed me... In the interest of full-disclosure, I want to acknowledge a personal connection here: I've known the drummer, Jeff France, for over a decade. And I knew well in advance that he was sending it. In fact, I was already looking forward to the music. Be that as it may, this is the one demo I've truly taken to heart, that I listen to as much as any music personally sought out.

Magic happens when the guitar lines mix emotion with the vocal melodies. I still get goosebumps listening to "No Vows." Especially when the guitar goes all ‘David Gilmour’ (around 2:13), bringing a graceful build-up to one of Jack's most effecting vocals... Her voice hangs in space (sending shivers), while Tucker's guitar weaves the sung notes, amplifying their effect (more shivers). It's the kind of musical inter-play that makes a record like Cat Power's "Moon Pix" so unforgettable. Each player's delivery increases the power of the other, acting as a kind of bio-sonar to locate the listener... Then draw them much, much closer.

The demo arrived in September 2008, and has since become a total favorite. Unfortunately, I've yet to see a live show... The year flipped and Jeff France left Olympia, taking a job as house engineer at the Eagle's Nest – Pat Carney’s (The Black Keys) Akron-based recording studio – leaving These Creatures to sleep the deep sleep of a hibernation they may never wake from...

For those interested: These Creature’s vocalist/keyboard player, Jack Nelson, is currently performing around the Northwest as Black Tail Dear. I've heard she performs solo 'on occasion' but you'll usually encounter her accompanied by various NW musicians, including Joshua James, of Letters... Watch for updates in future posts...

The next demo wasn't even sent through the mail: Past Lives had a show at Holy Mountain – they use my van on occasion – and I found the CD-r the next morning, forgotten on the dash. I thought it looked hideous, homemade in the worst way possible, like zero-effort DIY: the cover was copied on cheap printer paper and cut carelessly; the band’s name “Herr Jazz” marked above a photo that may have been cut from Vice Magazine’s “Dos & Don’ts.”

Good thing I listened because the music is total youth fun punk, all spazzy and melodic like it’s being bashed out while bouncing off walls. Everything about this band came together once I heard the songs... These kids rip through tunes about things like, “honesty, adventure, girls, winter, and food…” their hearts stitched right on their – album – sleeve. Consider the name, and then consider that two of the group’s primary influences are Cap’n Jazz and Huggy Bear…

But it’s tracks 2 and 5 that I’m getting all crazy about because they sound, literally, like they could be live or rehearsal recordings of my all-time favorite NW band: Issaquah’s legendary Lync. “XpunX” has that kind of propulsive bass melody, crashing cymbal and blasted vocal sound. It’s awesome how all the instruments tumble over each other as they a race toward the end of the song.

I met Ben, Herr Jazz’s lead singer and guitarist, last December and, yep, he loves “These Are Not Fall Colors.” He told me they only made seven or so copies of the demo, and that he’d been passing them around, trying to get people psyched on their album-release show, where MASA Records would be selling 'official' copies only on cassette tape...

What a coup! A complete reversal of technological advancement - CD’s are going down. What’s next? Will we revert back to using taped media to promote vinyl-only editions of new music? I almost hope so… Given the chance, I’d trade every compact disc I own for an 8-Track version of the same, even given that format’s massive inconveniences… The CD format feels so disposable right now. So cheap and easy... The vanishing in-between, a doomed format. Think about it: People who prefer the convenience of digital hardly need compact discs (technology has long surpassed its necessity); while those that adore analog will forever and ever hold vinyl above all else...


[Al]

1 comment:

latejulymusic said...

I am just coming across this piece...and it is ringing with such truth.

CD's are like what, .09 cents each...and the fact that they make a great coaster. It is one of the things that makes me want to put my debut effort out on Vinyl...

Love SSR and the fact that you are here in my town.

Please write more of these blogs...for us.