beatriz.

The Toast EP Beatriz was a huge influence on us at the time, in a lot of ways.

First and foremost, Toast were a great band that showed us how a band could truly be multi-dimensional when it had two songwriters.  The music was alternately edgy and lazy or melodic and mellow, depending on who wrote or sang the songs.  

The song “Lantern Man” was an example of a song written by their bass player.

The second reason it was so influential to us was because there were multiple songs on a seven-inch. Aside from the busy work e.p. from cuppa joe, which had three songs, we had not really considered putting more than one song on a side.

What Beatriz did was show us how much depth a record could have when it had more than two songs. With a traditional seven-inch, we were hobbled by the idea of having two killer songs – one on each side. We felt we missed the mark a bit with Wobbles but thought we nailed it with Melting Hopefuls and cuppa joe, and also with the ill-fated Ditch Croaker record.

Cramming five or six songs onto a seven-inch did not please me from the standpoint of fidelity, but it was intriguing nonetheless – multiple songs enabled a band to branch out a bit in that it created a body of work that sort of fit together like pieces of a puzzle (to use a cliche). Listening to Beartriz didn’t make me want to explore cramming six minutes of music onto one side of a seven-inch; instead, it made me long for the day I could put out full-length CDs.

The third way it influenced us was aesthetic. The band produced not only the record sleeves, but the J-card for the advance cassettes, by hand screening the art. It was a two-color silkscreen job, and it looked great.

Printing was a pain in the ass, and it was expensive. For the Elizabeth CD, we printed two-color posters on the cheap, thanks to a friend of Rich’s who had a printing press in his garage (I never actually met the guy, so I have no idea who he was). It cost us a few hundred dollars, and the results were spotty – some looked great, some did not.

For the three seven-inches we did, though, printing was an incredible expense. Even the two-color sleeves Footstone produced were expensive, and the “Allnighter” sleeves cost nearly as much to produce as the records themselves. Meanwhile, it was the hand-made qualities of the busy work e.p. that drew rave reviews; the hand-coloring and numbering really added to the appeal of the record.

On top of that, printing required output to film. While Rich was able to do that for us at no charge, using the equipment at his office, the results were also unpredictable. The covers of the Elizabeth CD were a huge disappointment to me because they were so dark, and Rich’s response was, basically, that beggars can’t be choosers.

We also had T-shirts printed. Rich arranged that as well; they were black shirts with a white Dromedary logo emblazoned on the front. The ink was really heavy and eventually cracked – we liked that, because it added a vintage feel when the ink began to crack and fade, but ideally, it wasn’t top-quality. On top of that, we had to print the shirts in quantity, which required an investment of a few hundred dollars. Since very few people actually paid for a T-shirt, it bugged me to have to invest in them.

Around this same time, I went to a show somewhere in the city and saw Bill Peregoy, who ran a great little pop label called Pop Narcotic. At the time, I didn’t know him at all; he was pointed out to me by someone else at the show (can’t remember the show, can’t remember the venue). He was wearing a Pop Narcotic T-shirt that looked great – it was a white shirt, and his logo was enormous.

“We could do shirts like that,” Sandy said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“We could make them. We could silkscreen them. We could do them in all different colors, by hand.”

It seemed ambitious to me, but Sandy’s an ambitious kind of girl, and so one Sunday we went out to Pearl Art Center on Route 17 in Paramus and asked an employee there how to silkscreen.

A few hours later, we were back at Dromedary Global Headquarters with all the equipment necessary to create a silkscreen of the Dromedary logo, along with a dozen Hanes Beefy-T shirts and some turquoise screen paint.

Creating the screen was easy. We did it at the library, on the copy machine, by taking a crisp printout of our logo and enlarging it repeatedly until it was about ten inches wide. Then, we made a copy of it onto transparency film.

From there, Sandy worked her magic by creating the actual screen (I have no idea how she did it; I generally stay away from her when she’s making stuff). After wrecking two or three shirts by practicing, she held up a shirt for me to look at.

“How’s that look?” she asked.

It was dynamite. Our logo had a similar 1950s sort of flavor to the Pop Narcotic logo, and the turquoise color had a similar flavor as well. It was the first time I had seen our logo in any color other than black or red (Footstone made a red version on the back of the Wobbles sleeve, but it was black everywhere else), and it was, for lack of a better word, very indie looking.

So she made a bunch of T-shirts.

While she was making T-shirts, I was thinking of all kinds of other crap to put our logo on. I ran out to the store and came back with a package of plain, white pillowcases, and handed one to Sandy.

“What’s this?” she asked.

“It’s a pillowcase. I want to put our logo on it.”

“Why?”

“Because I want to send it to our distributors, with a note that says ‘We want Dromedary to be the last thing you think of before you go to sleep, and the first thing you think of when you wake up.'”

“That’s fuckin’ cool,” she said.

We also talked to the Footstone guys about it. Ralph worked in the shipping department of Bed, Bath and Beyond, a New Jersey-based home furnishings retail chain. He had access to all sorts of cool linen-type things we could put our logo on.

“We have these really cool, plain, white, terry-cloth bathrobes,” he said. “You could put the logo on the back, and also put a smaller one on the chest pocket.”

I loved the idea. When I was younger, I used to wear a bathrobe all the time. In college, some days I wouldn’t even get dressed – I’d just walk around campus in my bathrobe. I wanted a Dromedary bathrobe in the worst way.

Ultimately, the process of silkscreening T-shirts and pillowcases resulted in our deciding that if Toast could silkscreen something as small as a cassette J-card, then if we ever put out a CD again, we could silkscreen the booklets and tray cards.

We also decided that we would silkscreen the outer boxes for the Travel Guide, when we got to the point where we were ready to start working on that project.

So, thanks, Toast. Here’s a couple more songs from Beatriz.

“April,”

and “Captain”

~ by Al on April 4, 2009.

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