i don’t know

Things were finally starting to take shape. We had confirmed six bands, several of which we really liked. We had received a tape from a South Jersey grunge band called Grooveyard that we added to the “not bad” pile with Shadowbox, Footstone, and a few others, and ultimately decided to use it because their guitarist Lee was a really friendly guy. We had also received the tape and press kit from Oral Groove, who were recommended by Ray of Melting Hopefuls.

Oral Groove were a 60s-influenced power pop/garage band that we really liked. What really impressed me most about the band, though, was their bio. After receiving countless bios in the mail from bands proclaiming themselves to be the Next Big Thing, using the same old cliches over and over again, Oral Groove had a bio that was actually literate, and that described the band and what they were all about, without falling into the same traps as all the other band bios. To make my point, here’s a sample:

“Joe calls us ‘alternative’. I call us ‘pop.’ There’s no shame in playing pop music. Hell, in England, the Sex Pistols are considered pop. Chris just kind of agrees with the both of us.

That’s the story of Oral Groove so far. To sum us up, I’d use a quote by Samuel Beckett that we saw on the wall of a bar one drunken night. ‘People say my best years are behind me,’ he said. ‘I don’t think so. Not with the fire in me now!'”

I liked them. We asked them to be on our record. They agreed.

We also got a tape from a band called Ya-Ne-Zniyoo.  Their bio wasn’t as polished as Oral Groove’s, but it didn’t need to be.  The tape it came with was nice and short, kind of avant garde and kind of alt-rock.  The press kit was big and included a zine that was published by the guitar player, Steve Bailey.  Steve was devoted to promoting local music as well, and went out of his way to meet every band in the state.

Steve would carry around a backpack to shows, filled with demo tapes and copies of his zine.  After a band was done playing, he would introduce himself, hand them a demo and a copy of his zine.  Invariably the band would hand him their demo.  They’d chat for a while, and Steve would expand his network.

He wasn’t a typical music business whore, though – he was sincere, and he really wanted to know you and be your friend.  He played in a band, but he was much more than a guy in a band – he was everyone’s friend, and he just happened to be in a band of his own as well.  Ya-Ne-Zniyoo’s press kit was a mile thick, and I’m convinced that half the reviews in it were written simply because the reviewer liked Steve personally.

Steve, by the way,  is still in the scene, still being what he calls a “cultural exchange advocate,” which basically means he wants to share your stuff with everyone he knows.  You can see what he’s up to by visiting his website.  

The first time we talked, I immediately liked him.  He knew every band on the record, and knew the people in the bands.  In many cases he knew people who used to be in the bands.  He knew more about all the bands than I did – what clubs they played, what demos they’d released, what they were working on.  He once worked for MTV, and knew people there.  He knew people in radio, at recording studios, and in the press – but he wasn’t a cocky, name-dropper type, he just sort of filed this knowledge in the back of his mind, and kept it for when he could make an introduction or recommend someone drop someone else a note.  There was no doubt that we’d be including a Ya-Ne-Zniyoo song on the record.

“Ya-Ne-Zniyoo,” by the way, means “I don’t know” in Russian.  It’s spelled phonetically here in the blog, but the band actually spells it with the Russian letters, which looked more like RE-3-HAIO, or something like that.

I had a friend named Rich Masio (still do, actually).  Rich was a guy I went to high school with; we weren’t particularly friendly in high school but started bumping into each other at clubs.  He was writing record reviews for a few zines and local papers, and was aware of what we were doing with Dromedary.  We’d see him somewhere and he would tell us about a band he knew, or about a club that would be good to visit, or a publication we should know about.  He was a super-nice guy (still is, actually).

Rich gave me a tape of a band he knew called Difference Engine.  I listened to the tape, and loved the first song.  It was more of a shoegazer band, but they were poppy and cool, and seemed to fit what we were doing.  I didn’t know if they were from New Jersey or New York, but when I called the (out of state) number to speak with the band, the conversation didn’t go well.  The guy on the other end of the phone said “No thanks,” and that was it.

Here’s the Difference Engine song I liked, called “5 Listens.”

So we had nine bands, and we wanted ten.  I recalled my discussions with Abe Hoch, and how he’d be willing to “part” with a Shadowbox song if our compilation was good enough.  I thought about The Thing’s excellent tape, and knew it just wouldn’t fit with the rest.  I thought about The Play Trains and Third Party, both of which were good, and neither of which were my type of music.

I looked at the Footstone tape, and decided to give them a call.

“Hello?” 

“Umm, is it possible to speak to Mark?”

“This is Mark.”

“Hi.  This is Al, from Dromedary Records.  You sent us a demo a while ago, and I wanted to talk to you about it.”

“Oh, can I put you on hold a minute?  You caught me spanking it.”

Sold.  Ten bands.

~ by Al on January 17, 2009.

One Response to “i don’t know”

  1. […] Rich Masio is my high school friend who was an aspiring music journalist when we released Nothing Smells Quite Like Elizabeth, an established music journalist with Oculus magazine when we released nurture, an internet pioneer with SonicNet when we were first doing email marketing, and a label manager when we were desperately looking for a distribution deal.  Today he’s in charge of content development at IODA, the largest distributor of digital music.  Since he got there, he’s waited for me to get my shit together, and over the years, has occasionally reached out, either with a “How’s the family?” or a “When are you going to put your music on the net?” […]

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