a better quality of demo.

One thing I noticed was that with two records out and some press in the better indie fanzines, the horrid demo tapes had slowed to a trickle.  In fact, they had been replaced by a much better quality of demo, which was making us start thinking about what project should come next.

One night Sandy and I were sitting in the living room watching Beavis and Butthead (a nightly ritual), and I looked at her and said “I’m glad we’re not putting out a Godspeed 7″.”

That’s what it had come down to.  We loved – loved – Godspeed, but we were clearly moving in a direction with the kind of music we wanted to put out, and bands like Godspeed were too loud and didn’t have that indie pop quality we were looking for.  As 1993 wore on, we started listening almost exclusively to noisier pop music, and although we still appreciated a lot of the heavier stuff, we had started feeling like too much variety in musical styles would make it difficult for us to establish what, today, I would call a brand identity.  Back then, I didn’t know what to call it, but I still knew what it was.

Sandy felt the same way.  She was never as much of a fan as the heavier stuff as me, but when certain tapes would come in – we still felt strongly about listening to every one – I could see her eyes light up.

We had gotten a demo from a band called Uncle Seymour; I’m not sure how we got it (I think it was given to us by a band we knew), but I really liked it. Sandy and I listened to it a number of times and we differed in opinion – she didn’t like it. She thought it was monotonous. I liked the melodies and the fact that it had that noisy, detuned quality of a lot of indie rock. It wouldn’t be the last time we differed on a band, but in mid-1993 I felt like every decision we made about music to release would have major implications on everything that came after it for us.

Here’s an Uncle Seymour song.

Here’s another; one I liked much better. I wrestled with this one as a potential 7″, but ultimately never even contacted the band.

While I enjoyed music that was harder-edged with more melodic undertones, Sandy appreciated music that was more interesting from a lyrical standpoint. She liked clever and witty. She liked intelligent or political. She also liked plain ‘old stupid, provided that it was intentionally stupid, like this one from Kenny Young and the Eggplants – a New York City folkie band that had an interesting demo tape that reminded me – slightly – of a San Francisco band that I absolutely loved called Ed’s Redeeming Qualities.

While we never seriously considered doing anything with that band, it did illustrate some of the differences of opinion that we had on music, as well as the wide variety of tapes we were receiving. And while Sandy and I had agreed very early on that I would be making the decisions on music, I also understood that we were doing the label together, and it was important that we both actually like the bands we were releasing.

One night at a Melting Hopefuls show at Live Tonight in Hoboken, we saw a band called the Jungle Creeps. Despite the dopey name, they played a similar brand of indie pop with a female vocalist named Paula Carino. Paula was an exceptional songwriter, and a really nice woman. We had a conversation at the club that night, and I believe we exchanged letters once or twice – she seemed very receptive to working together, and she was just really nice, but we never got beyond the discussion stage because I was so skittish about what record would come next.

When it comes to people I haven’t seen – or barely met – I’m trying to find them online before I write about them in my blog. Turns out Paula is still writing and recording, and her music sounds great. Here’s her Myspace page – check her out, and then listen to the Jungle Creeps song “Somewhere in Between” down below.

(edited to get the right song title in there, thanks to Paula for the correction – “Somewhere in Between” is way less hokey of a song title than “Somewhere in Time”)

My indecision was starting to grate on me; I had a growing pile of demo tapes but nothing that really moved me. I had lots of nice people to talk to, but nothing that really stood out musically. I desperately wanted to know what came next, but couldn’t find anything worth chasing after.

At that time, I had made a comment in CMJ‘s “Dialogue” section soliciting other labels to get in touch with me about our “fledgeling mailorder enterprise.” My idea was to keep following the model I had established with Re-CORE-Ds, either by trading records or by doing mutual consignments. Doing this would help me expand our mailorder catalog, and would also provide an opportunity for us to reach potential buyers with a band they might know better than the bands (or, at the time, “band”) on Dromedary.

Based on that comment in the “Dialogue” section I received a package from Jed of Lather Records. The package contained a CD from Thornucopia, another female-fronted band that reminded me, in a way, of Salem 66 (there I go with the comparative references). The Thornucopia CD moved me enough for me to order a few from Jed. He also included a cassette from his brand new band, Harvester. Harvester was, at the time, a guitarist, drummer and singer, and I found the tape to be excellent. I reached out to Jed but he clearly had intentions of sticking with his own label.

Good thing, too, because Lather Records is still releasing music, and Harvester is still a band. The song “Raster Boy,” from that cassette Jed sent me way back then, has stayed in my library ever since. Here it is.

One thing for sure: I had to do something soon. We were heading into the summer of 1993, and I had absolutely no clue what was coming next – and one thing I had learned from everyone I talked to was that an indie label needed to have a steady stream of stuff coming out in order to stay relevant.

~ by Al on February 5, 2009.

12 Responses to “a better quality of demo.”

  1. Hey there. Thanks so much for the kind words, and for posting that song (it’s actually “Somewhere in Between” but no worries)–I don’t have that J Creeps stuff in any digitized form at all, and have not heard it in over a decade. I remember Dromedary and the wonderful work you did. It was an exciting era, when “indie rock” was truly coming into its full post-grunge flower.

  2. Hi Paula! It’s so nice to see you’re still making great music. Thanks for being a sport about my use of your music in my post.

    Also sorry about botching your song title; that’s just an example of haste making waste, as I have the song title correct in the file name.

    How did you discover the blog?

  3. Hello! I believe I am still intentionally stupid … and, amazingly, I am still playing with the Eggplants. I smiled broadly when I stumbled across your blog.

    And hello to Paula, too!

  4. Hi Kenny!

    Boy, I hope you didn’t take that as an insult – I still have that demo, and still enjoy listening to it.

    It’s definitely interesting to write this story; as I’m writing it I’m giving fifteen-year-old opinions on fifteen-year-old music and a lot of the people involved are stumbling onto the posts just now; so far everyone is taking things in their proper context but I would imagine some of the less-flattering things I wrote about some other bands are eventually going to cause some hard feelings.

    Anyway, thanks for stopping in, and I hope to see you again!

    -Al

  5. Do not worry … absolutely no offense taken!
    And to prove it … please feel free to send me an email if you would like to hear some more recent recordings by the Eggplants!
    Best wishes from Brooklyn,
    Kenny

  6. […] Young that accompanied his very quirky, very cool tape back in 1992 or early 1993.  Kenny read this post and felt compelled to reach out – it was great to hear from him.  I also noticed that he became a […]

  7. […] A Better Quality of Demo.  We start getting better demo tapes.  Including the Jungle Creeps, AND Kenny Young, both of whom […]

  8. […] A Better Quality of Demo.  We finally start receiving some decent demo […]

  9. Craig Frame from Uncle Seymour eventually became our bass player for the last couple years we were playing (once Doug came back from Kenya and before he went to Papua, New Guinea), in 1998. We even recorded two songs that Craig wrote and sang lead vocals on.

  10. Well, I guess that explains where I got the Uncle Seymour demo; it must have come from you or Doug. Thanks for clearing that one up!

  11. You’re welcome – I never really knew Craig in college (forgot to mention he went to school with us), though I think we saw them play a couple times. I’m not sure if Doug sent you the demo, or encouraged Craig to do that, or if he just did it on his own – but somehow the connection was there.

    “Falling” and “Manifesto” on the cuppa link are the Craig songs, and he plays bass and sings backup on “Infidel” and “The Learned Astronomer”, and on the full second-to-last live show we did at Bryn Mawr University in ’98 with the Lucksmiths. He blended in well.

  12. […] went to Kenya.  They released another home-made record with a new bass player (Craig Frame from Uncle Seymour), and also produced a great zine called Science Geek.  Steve is a successful illustrator, while […]

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