Thursday, February 24, 2011

This week's second chances

Twenty titles in our Used CD New Arrivals that should be in your collection. (If they aren't already).

  1. Air - 10 000 Hz Legend
  2. Art Ensemble of Soweto - America/South Africa
  3. Bar-Kays - Best of
  4. The Beatles - Love
  5. Bright Eyes - Lifted
  6. Nick Drake - Five Leaves Left
  7. Girl Talk - Night Ripper
  8. John Holt - Very Best of
  9. I Roy - Touting I Self
  10. The Jayhawks - Tomorrow the Green Grass
  11. Elton John - S/T (deluxe edition)
  12. Ray Lamontagne - Til the Sun Turns Black
  13. The Langley Schools Music Project - Innocence & Despair
  14. Massive Attack - Heligoland
  15. Microphones - Don't Wake Me Up
  16. Sigur Ros - Med Sud i Eyrum vid Spilum Endalaust
  17. Steeleye Span - Original Masters
  18. Sunn O))) - Black One
  19. The Who - Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy
  20. Frank Zappa - Apostrophe/Overnight Sensation

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Upcoming Vinyl Releases

A partial list of what's coming up over the next few months.  If anything catches your eye get ahold of us to order it at not everything on this list will be brought in for stock.  Also, however unlikely, prices are subject to change.

Feb22: Nirvana - Incesticide  $42.98
Feb22: James Blake - S/T $29.99
Feb22: Six Organs of Admittance - Asleep on the Floodplain $24.98
Feb22: Toro Y Moi - Underneath the Pine $20.98
Feb22: Cave Singers - No Witch  $21.98
Feb22: Colin Stetson - New History Warfare $27.98
Feb22: Chain and the Gang - Music's Not for... $28.98
Feb22: Books - Lemon of Pink (reissue)  $25.98
Feb22: Baronness - Blue Record (reissue) $39.98
Mar01: Rural Alberta Advantage - Departing $21.98
Mar08: Starfucker - Reptilian  $20.98
Mar08: Ringo Deathstarr - Colour Trip  $20.98
Mar08: Parts & Labor - Constant Future  $21.98
Mar08: Curious Mystery - We Creeling  $24.98
Mar08: Strippers Union - The Deuce  $25.98
Mar15: Matthew Friedberger - Meet Me in Miramas...  $21.98
Mar15: Rise Against - Endgame  $19.98 or
Mar15: Rise Against - Endgame (Ltd. Clear vinyl) $29.98
Mar15: Funkadelic - Let's Take it to the Stage (reissue) $24.98
Mar15: Funkadelic - Tales of Kidd (reissue)  $24.98
Mar15: Jimmy Scott - Falling in Love is Wonderful (reissue) $28.98
Mar22: Soundgarden - Live on I-5  $29.98
Mar22: Adventure - Lesser Known  $20.98
Mar22: Cheap Trick - In Color (reissue) $32.98
Apr12: Howe Gelb & A Band of Gypsies - Alegrias  $29.98
Apr12: Panda Bear - Tomboy  $22.98
Apr12: Thursday - No Devolucion  $24.98

Tickets @ Backstreet

Ticket Updates (Backstreet Fredericton):

Rich Aucoin  /  Feb 25 / Capital / $11
Arthur Bull + Eric Hill / Feb 26 / Connexion / $7
Jimmy Swift Band / March 4 / Capital / $13
The Creepshow / March 10 / Capital / $13
Amelia Curran + Melissa Ferrick / March 11 / Wilmot / $21
Matt Mays / March 11 / Capital / $26
The Sadies / March 15 / Capital / $16
Yukon Blonde / March 17 / Capital / $11
Born Ruffians / April 5 / Capital / $11
Dan Mangan / April 21 /  Charlotte St. / $21

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Q&A With East River Pipe

"Borrowed" from Magnet

Stoutly refusing to record his passionate songs under anything less than his own terms (in his New Jersey home on a TASCAM MiniStudio), F.M. Cornog, under the name East River Pipe, has released seven albums since 1994 that can stand toe-to-toe with anything by your favorite indie rockers over the past 20 years. Although working full-time at the local Home Depot and raising a daughter with his wife may have curtailed Cornog’s recording time somewhat, the quality of the finished product remains unchanged. ERP’s latest, We Live In Rented Rooms (Merge), is further testimony to a man who refuses to play the rock-star game (form a band, tour, do photo shoots, etc.) and has come out the other side with a brilliant body of work—and with his soul intact. MAGNET recently caught up with Cornog by phone. Cornog will be guest editing all week.
“Cold Ground” (download):

MAGNET: Your daughter was just a baby last time we did this, in 2003 for the Garbageheads On Endless Stun album. She must be old enough now to have developed her own musical tastes.
Cornog: Oh yeah. She’s eight now, and she’s listening to the usual suspects: Katy Perry, the Black Eyed Peas. It’s her music, and I let her indulge herself as long as it’s the relatively clean version.
How is fatherhood treating you?
It’s good. But this is why it’s taken so, so long to put out a record. When you have a kid, you can’t do whatever you used to do. I don’t want to feel guilty or have her harbor any resentment against me. Like, “Dad was always doing music up there in his room with his stupid mini studio. That was always more important than I was.” So I’ve kind of pulled a John Lennon house-husband thing. Although I’m still working at Home Depot, it’s turned the music thing into kinda like a guerilla-war operation. I kinda peck, peck, and then I run away. Then I come back and peck, peck, peck again. Plant a few explosives on the railway, blow ‘em up, then retreat into the woods.
Well, at least the Nazis haven’t found you yet.
I used to have hours and hours and hours of uninterrupted time when I was in Queens and in the early years when I came out here, around the time of Gasoline Age. But ever since then I haven’t had those long, long periods of time. You know, I like to be present for my family, my wife and my daughter, and spend time with them. I still love doing the music, but it really comes, I would say, second or third now. Maybe when she gets older and gets sick of me and doesn’t want me around I can get back into it again.
I don’t want to scare you off, so I won’t bring up the specter of the teenage years with a daughter. I’ve been through that.
I look at it like we’re all caught up in this big river. You can control certain things, but people believe they have more control than they really have. I think you have to let it take you down the stream and see what happens. Maybe paddle furiously when certain things come up, but mostly I just go with it.
What does your daughter think of your music?
It’s funny what appeals to her. You think she’s not really listening. But she hears “I Wanna Be Sedated” by the Ramones and says, “Wow, that’s great.” She doesn’t know what it means, at least yet. She also loves the song “Rise” by Public Image Ltd. So, you never know what a kid will like.
My daughter has gotten a lot of mileage with the time I introduced her to Joey Ramone at an instore in San Jose in 1978 when they were signing copies of Ramones Leave Home. The import of shaking Joey’s hand was not lost upon her. He was very nice.
People may not know this about me, but the Ramones still remain the band I saw the most live. People probably think, “OK, East River Pipe, you probably saw … ” I don’t know that they think. Maybe Joy Division or some dreamy group, not too acidic. But the Ramones, they were constantly out there.
I usually think of them as the Beach Boys of their day. Terrific, melodic, rocking, short tunes. If you don’t like that one, try this one two minutes later.
Yeah, and I kinda dug their work ethic. If I was gonna be in a band … I’ve seen the documentaries, and it seems like they didn’t like each other very much. They weren’t the greatest musicians in the world, obviously, but they were very serious about what they were doing. It had a very Andy Kaufman-esque feeling to it. They only did one thing, but you knew you were gonna get it. When you buy a Big Mac in Manhattan, it’s gonna be the same as it is in Brazil.
Do you still have an aversion to playing live? You told me before you tried it a few times, didn’t like it. Even Jandek eventually succumbed to the urge to play live after decades of secrecy.
I was talking to this guy at work at Home Depot. And he’s always like, “Why can’t I meet the right girl?” I don’t know. Life pushes us from side to side. Sometimes, in a way, it’s kinda like roulette. You fire the gun enough, and maybe it’ll go off someday. Maybe it won’t. Maybe you’re shooting blanks. And that’s the way it’s always been with me and collaborators, or band people. I’d get a few practices under my belt, and it was always something like the drummer had a girlfriend and he had to leave practice. I’m like Johnny Ramone in that respect. I mean, you can’t do that. It’s almost like a church to me at that point. This thing has to be more important than your girlfriend.
Sure, the band’s gotta come first.
If it’s serious, I can understand. But if it’s just someone you met the other night at Kenny’s Castaways, that’s a whole another thing. So it’s partly that and it’s partly just my personality. I’ve always liked solitude. I’ve never rushed to be in a crowd or a gang of people. It’s the other way around. Gangs of people always made me walk the other way. My wife used to go to CMJ, and all these musicians seemed to think they’re different. Then you go to CMJ, and everybody looks the same: the same hair and accessories. I guess substance abuse played a role in that, back then. I’ve gotten so used to the way I operate now that I got fed up with waiting around for something to happen. The guitar player can’t practice that week.
You were the perfect customer for TASCAM.
The MiniStudio came about in the early ’80s. I kinda knew my ship had come in. “I’m gonna get one of those damn things and work in my room.” And it’s always been like that. It’s a combination of not really meeting the right person to spark off a nice collaborative thing, then getting used to working for years and years with this MiniStudio.
I really like the new record. Then again, I’ve liked all your records.
Thank you. It’s kind of a quiet little thing. I really can’t expect much from this record. It’s not really a big statement. It was like trying to keep the sharks from devouring all of your soul. Cutting your life clean from the general culture out there.
Do you still have any contact with Kurt Wagner of Lambchop? You guys were a nice fit, I thought.
Yeah, I ran into them when the Merge fest happened, the 20th anniversary of Merge Records. I didn’t play. I almost introduced Lambchop. My daughter actually got up onstage with the band Guv’ner and clapped a little. She has that drive to be out in the spotlight. I don’t know where she got that from. So yeah, I talked to Kurt for a long time down there. And we always have something out there, like, “Let’s maybe do a Lambchop/East River Pipe thing.” I’ll use Lambchop kinda like a backup band, and we’ll go out there. But of course, it’s me that’s backing out of that type of arrangement. Kurt couldn’t be more generous with the way he throws out invitations to me.
If you and Kurt and the boys played live, I would certainly fly out there to see it.
Well, if I was gonna have a backing band—and I hate to even call it a backing band—we’d have to rev it up a notch, I think. They would probably like it, because they’d have to get a little louder and a little more abrasive. They’d have to bring back that thing they had back in ’97, where there was this floating, menacing little rain cloud of dissonance behind everything they did, which I love.
Do you still have the same drive you had 20 years ago?
I’ve always had a drive to write good songs and record them here at home. And not in a way that was half-assed and “lo-fi.” It was not a drive to become famous or bang 17-year-old girls or to be adored. It was just a guy trying to write good songs. That was my drive in the beginning, and it still remains my main drive now. My father always said, “You have no ambition. Sooner or later, life’s gonna kick you in the ass. You’re like a Buddhist monk. You should move to Nepal and sit there and chant all day, bang a gong. Or play one note on a sitar.” He was frustrated by that. But you know the words you say to a kid kind of stay with you. In a way, he was right. These guys at work, they go on the internet and say, “Wow, there’s a lot of stuff here about East River Pipe. Why don’t you don’t you go out on the road and be a rock star?” You know, I’m lugging around tiles, lifting bags of grout and stocking shelves, talking to people about wood floors. I believe we all do the best with what we have. I’ve never had the type of personality that can get up onstage and sell myself from town to town. I’ve always used music as this thing that’s very private, in a way. I like to share it with people, but on my terms.
Jason Lytle of Grandaddy told me about European press-only tours he had to do, where he didn’t play a note, just went from stop to stop to do interviews, where they’d ask the same questions day after day. He said he got so tired of the process, sometimes he would just make stuff up.
Yeah, Kurt had to do that, too. It’s weird because you get into music to write music, to be creative. And talking about music isn’t doing music. My daughter’s always fascinated: “Wow, a guy’s gonna call you up today and you’re gonna talk about your music.” It always depends who’s calling you up. I just talked to a person on BBC4 who was screening me to see if I was worth talking to.
Wow, a pre-interview!
Yeah, and they didn’t know anything about me, not one thing. Not that they should know anything. But you could at least look it up on Wikipedia. I guess she’d read the press release for We Live In Rented Rooms, that Cornog writes about the dark side of American life, the lower rungs of American society, which I do. But that’s all she wanted to talk about. She wanted me to take a big bear-shit on top of American society. She wanted to push me in that direction, corral me into saying something. And I just wasn’t into it. I’m not particularly patriotic, but I’m not one of these anti-government survivalists who’s living in Idaho, either.
Did you have a little family party when the album was finally finished?
No. [Laughs] I was at work that day. This was a really difficult album because I could never get up a head of steam. It was peck, peck, peck, retreat. It was like Chinese water torture, a woodpecker trying to bring down a gigantic oak. It’s a quiet little record. I’m expecting it, in some quarters, to get completely ragged on. It isn’t anything more than a guy recording these little songs without any gigantic themes.
Do you read your own press?
My wife kinda shields me. I try not to, because if it’s good, you go, “Wow, that guy really got it.” But if it’s bad, you go, “Wow, that guy’s really an asshole.” Even though he, too, might have gotten it. If you swallow the good, you have to swallow the bad. I believe you should not seal yourself off from life itself. You should just do your thing and see what happens. In my whole if you want to call it a career, it’s about trying to stay clear of all that crap. For years after I put out my first couple of records, when these major labels were coming at me … and I eventually signed with EMI, however briefly.
Yeah, I recall you got a five-album lump-sum settlement when EMI America went out of business.
Yeah, pretty good, huh? Bought a house. These record people were telling me, “You’ve gotta go into a real studio. You have to tour. And if you’re really going to stay in your TASCAM MiniStudio environment, you’ve gotta get a new mic, and it has to be at least a Shure SM57.” They were always dictating to me what I could do, should do. And I said, “Fuck this.” The only reason I took the EMI deal was because they said, “Do whatever you want to do. Just drop a master recording through our door every year and a half, and we’re cool with that. Here’s this money. You don’t have to tour, you don’t have to do any photo shoots, any interviews. You don’t have to do anything.” I didn’t even have to get a day job. If I had that situation now, I could put out an album every six months, like Elton John in the ’70s.
Since we last talked, one of your songs has been covered by David Byrne. How did that come about, any idea?
Yeah, David Byrne did a tune from my most maligned record, Garbageheads On Endless Stun. He ended up recording a song called “Girls On The Freeway” in a semi-country way. I mean, David Byrne—I listened to this guy’s records all the time! That was amazing. I shook Kurt down, because David Byrne has also covered a Lambchop song. Because Kurt sometimes talks to David Byrne, I asked Kurt if he turned him on to the song. I mean, how could David Byrne find anything that I do? And Kurt said, “Look this is David Byrne. He can do whatever the fuck he wants to. I had nothing to do with it.” When the guys at Home Depot ask if somebody has done one of my songs, and I mention David Byrne, that’s something they understand. I made a best-of list in the New York Times a few years ago, and my father went, “Wow, the New York Times.” Up until then, nothing meant anything. With David Byrne, a lot of Home Depot people have heard of the Talking Heads. “OK, this guy must be half decent if David Byrne covered one of his songs.” Mention Lambchop to somebody at Home Depot, and they’d think it was a sock puppet.
—Jud Cost

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

So you wanna be a rock and roll star...

Backstreet is now just that much lighter. We've just completed our newest round of consignment house cleaning:  a process that involves going through the unsold under-the-shelf items that local and touring bands have entrusted to us, counting them, then e-mailing the previously mentioned bands to tell them nothing has sold and asking them what we should do with them now.  There are more than a hundred CDs in "giveaway" piles out in the hall.

It's not impossible to make, market and sell your own music in this post-space-age society. At least the "making" part is actually a little too easy, given the relative affordability and simplicity of most digital recording software that many aspiring artists have on their home computers.  It's the other steps, post making, mastering and packaging, where either a better plan or slightly less lofty expectations are key.  Here are a few hints, tips and suggestions to help you avoid pitfalls.

(1) Do you need a CD/vinyl/cassette in the first place?

You've been a band for a few months... you've played three or four shows at art galleries, regional showcases, maybe opened for a touring band at a local bar.  You have a MySpace page that gets a couple dozen hits a week.  You know someone who's a photographer or graphic designer who has been making your posters, so pretty packaging is no problem.  There are three possibilities here: (a) NO.  No, you don't need anything to sell until you start getting regular shows in more than two venues in one city.  (b)  OK, yes... you could use something to sell at the next craft sale you're providing background music for... so burn off a few CD-Rs from the best songs in your iTunes playlist, get your graphic design friend to make a pretty-but-cheap sleeve to tuck them in and either give them away or sell them for a couple of bucks to people browsing the felting projects.  (c) YES..., of course.  In fact you need to shell out for three days in a studio, a professional mastering job, full press run of 1000 non-CD-R copies shrink wrapped with the artwork you commissioned from the semi-prominent regional painter.  And next week, when the stress and bickering about the expenese results in you breaking up you'll each have a couple hundred reminders of your time together.

But seriously... doing things on the cheap for the first little while is the best policy.  Realistically the first several dozen copies of anything you make will be either bought by or given away to someone you know and/or are related to.  These people don't care about shrink-wrapping and the brick-wall limiter the engineer used to compress the drum sound.  They like you.  They'd like something more personal that reminds them of you... and they're more likely not to donate it to the library six months later when they are cleaning their living rooms.

(2)  You're in a band that regularly tours but is unsigned and has produced an album to sell at shows.

Even in this case you might not necessarily need to go full production on anything you are dragging from town to town to shill at your merch table.  But assuming you did... other than the handful you offload on the alcohol-elated after each gig... what should you be doing with the rest of your stock?  (a) Compile a database of radio stations that might play independent recordings in the towns you are planning to visit.  (b) Likewise research those towns' local newspapers and send copies (or better CD-R copies) to the staff arts writers with bios, press releases and details of when and where you'll be playing when you arrive.  (c) Though it's a crapshoot whether they will actually get into the hands of someone that will give it the time, you should probably still send them to national publications for possible review.  You never know.

(3)  Other than shows and promos how should you go about selling your recordings?

There are quite a few variables to consider here.  How are things selling off the stage?  Have stores in certain cities been contacting you to find out how to get your recording for their customers?  Even if you're not on a label per se, are you in some sort of collective of groups that form a kind of unified identity?  If you're at the point where you are "buzzing" a little... playing a circuit that takes you to venues/cities more than a couple of times each year... building a nice little folder of press clippings... now is the time where you might have to take those next steps:   

(a) Getting someone to handle your distribution.  This could be someone in the band, but even the most organized go-getter (you know the one who remembers to bring his/her instrument to practice and put gas in the van and book the hotel) can get cranky when taking on too much of the business end of things.  Better it be someone you trust who can spare the time to make phone calls and write e-mails all afternoon.  This person will be responsible for:  (b) Getting your records into the right hands.  What we're talking about here is the point where it actually makes sense to put your album in stores rather than just sell them off a website or off the stage... but before the point where you approach actual distributors to take on your business.

Now a lot of bands simply play a town, track down the indie store in that town, drop five or ten copies of the album on consignment and then drive off.  If you'll recall the introductory paragraph of this piece we know how that turns out: bitter indie record store managers putting unsold CDs on a staircase railing to give away.  But... if you have the above mentioned someone to handle your distribution, it should be one of their tasks to keep up a database of what stores have your albums, how many of them they have, what the terms of each place are [i.e. what's been agreed upon for payment, when payments are made, how long they'll keep the albums before putting them on a staircase railing to give away, etc].  If they're especially astute they can also suss out what stores actually have a hope of selling your album vs. the ones that will rack it out of politeness [sidenote: more and more I try to dissuade artists from mailing me their album to sell if they don't have any plans to play Fredericton.  No matter how much "campus radio airplay" or "MySpace friends" or "YouTube hits" a band has, it is exceedingly rare for someone to buy a consignment album by a band they haven't seen play live].  If the city doesn't have an indie store or you aren't sure the local store warrants carrying the album you can always leave contact handbills at the venue you played at, or even the store, that lists where folks can buy the album (or digital download... blah) online.

So now your album is in a bunch of stores across the country.  Now your only job is sitting back and waiting for the money to roll in, right?  Well... no.  In fact it's still your job to: (c) Make sure the records will actually sell, as much as that's within your power to do.  Your trusty distro helper can make regular calls to each seller to see how things are going... not too much or it's badgering and will have a negative result.  But there are a few basic things you can try to give the record a better chance to sell.  City-specific promo posters... make up album release posters that either the band can leave / put up around town with info about availability [e.g. Hammer of Gord's new album "This Van Stinks" is now available at Backstreet Records].  Make sure that the band's website/MySpace/whatever has an up-to-date list of places the album is on sale.  Provide the store with a play copy, posters, stickers and whatever other swag you have kicking around.  The very best case scenario you can hope for is if  the person working at the store actually likes your album... as unlikely as that seems... in which case they will play it, form an opinion about it and maybe even recommend it to their customers.  Stranger things have happened.

Now you've read this and you are thinking to yourselves, "well, of course... that just makes sense," right?  Remarkably this is seldom the case.  The usual scenario seems to be: (1) Form a band (2) Play some shows (3) Borrow a buttload of money to make a recording (4) Give a bunch away to everyone you know (5) Put a bunch more in stores that you never go back to (6) Never mention where people can get them (7) Play a few more shows (8) Get the bills from production / touring / etc.  (9) Break up.  Don't let this be you!!!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Books By Covers: #1 Kranky

After a decade of internet literacy and the steady rise of digital music distribution it sometimes confounds and confuses to hear that artists like Fergie or Maroon 5 are at the top of year end sales, given the broader and better possibilities that wait out there.  But there's a variation on one main theme we keep hearing here at Backstreet: Too MUCH!!!  It's either passive frustration ("I try to keep up with new music but there are so many new genres and scenes that pop up, I just don't have the time") or active ignorance ("There hasn't been any good music out since [insert 70s, 80s, 90s here depending on the person's age]").  And it is certainly true that it's an impossibility of time to follow each and every brand new development in music up to the minute, I fail at staying completely current and it's part of my job, over the years there have been little signposts that have been useful to narrow down the scope of investigation.  One of those, unsurprisingly, has been the label as stamp of quality.  Over the next little while I'll profile certain mid-to-large sized indie labels that have proven themselves to be reliable and worthy of taking chances on even when the artist is new or unfamiliar.

First up Kranky.

The label started in Chicago in 1993, and their initial sound was a blend of rock and electronics that drew influences from late 70s / early 80s ambient and post-punk by artists like Brian Eno, pre-Dark Side Pink Floyd, Durutti Column and so on, as well as contemporaries like Aphex Twin, Stereolab and Pram; with bits and bytes grabbed form modern composition and electro-acoustic practices. 

For the first few years it stuck close to the space rock / ambient electronic end of the spectrum with a string of compelling releases from Labradford, Stars of the Lid and Bowery Electric.  The addition of the Minnesotan outfit Low in 1997 marked a slight move towards a more mainstream rock (though only very slight given that trio's slowcore leanings barely rippled the label's still surface). ''

Arguably the label's breakout moment came in 98/99 when it became the American home for Montreal's Godspeed You Black Emperor!  The group's ascension from outsider favourites to darlings of the burgeoning post-rock movement (Sigur Ros, Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky) was bonded to the label's profile.  To their credit they didn't go a hiring spree to find another large chamber-rock cabal, assuming there was one to find.  They instead maintained a good relationship with their existing roster, adding new sympathetic members (Loscil, Charalambides) and branching out in slightly more upbeat, even danceable, directions (Out Hud, Fontanelle).

In recent years the label has continued to diversify and become harder to summarize when outlining styles and sounds.  On one spiral arm you'll find proto-intellectual sound experiments (Keith Fullerton Whitman, Christopher Bissonette, Tim Hecker), on another there are amtomospheric acoustic alchemists (Boduf Songs, Autistic Daughters, Bird Show) and not least of all some notable pop and rock releases (Deerhunter, Benoit Pioulard, To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie).  While you may prefer one of these forms more than the others, there's no disputing that Kranky maintains an aesthetic that suffuses all of its releases.

Recommendations to start you off:

Labradford - Labradford (1996)

Stars of the Lid - The Tired Sounds of... (2001)

Autistic Daughters - Jealousy and Diamond (2004)

Boduf Songs - Lion Devours the Sun (2006)

Lichens - Omns (2007)

Benoit Pioulard - Temper (2008)

Deerhunter - Microcastle (2008)