it’s out there, and it’s forever.

Our horrible silkscreened CD cover.

Our horrible silkscreened CD cover.

Until you’ve done it, it’s really difficult to explain the feeling you get when you find a band you like, develop a relationship with them, come to an agreement, make a commitment, and put out their CD.

I suppose it’s probably a little different when your label is a big, corporate monster – or even if it’s just a mid-sized indie. But when you and your wife are living in a four-room apartment, scraping together every penny and working like dogs all day so you can fund the work you do all night, when those CDs go out in the mail and you hold your breath, well, there’s just no way to properly describe the feeling.

Is it love? Sure, that’s part of it.  Triumph?  Pride?  Excitement? Anxiety?  Those are all emotions you feel.  Anticipation.  

But you put that record out there, and once the Post Office has them, you can’t take them back – it’s now up to the reviewers, the distributors, the people who are going to hear about it and maybe buy it.  You’ll find out soon enough if it’s going to be well-received.  But that week or two when the CD is in transit, arriving at people’s offices, being torn open and handed to the right person at the radio station/magazine/distributor/whatever, that’s a week or two of pure pins and needles.

And since this story is in 1994, there’s still no internet to provide you with immediate gratification.  AOL is in its infancy, and Usenet is really the only place where you have a chance of reading someone’s crude review – but in 1994 we were just getting to know people in that community, and I wasn’t about to start spamming my first CD in a community where I was still a noob.

But just fuckin’ listen to this:

That’s “sitting limit,” the opening track on nurture.  It had everything that was great about cuppa joe: insightful lyrics, acoustic/electric soft/crunch, pure sugar.  In 1993, the time of Teenage Fanclub, Velocity Girl, Small Factory, and the Posies, this sort of sugary sweet pop gave me goosebumps to hear, and an extraordinary amount of pride to actually put out there.

I had this idea that one day, some kid was going to buy this record and fall in love with it.  And it would become one of his favorite records.  In 2014, he’d be pushing 40 years old, and he’d dig through his old CDs, find his beat-up old copy of nurture (the paint would probably still be wet), pop it into his CD player, and remember all the words.

And I would have had something to do with putting that CD in his collection.

There’s just no way to describe that feeling.  You helped make something; you put it out there for people to listen to, and whether or not it touched somebody’s life in any sort of meaningful way, it was out there.  Forever.  Five hundred copies of a CD you helped put together, from a band you believed in, launched out into the world.  

I still see them on eBay today.  With my company’s name and my shitty silkscreen work, and I know what it took to put that record there.  I know that we had to sift through three recording sessions’ worth of music to get the fourteen songs we thought would work the best.  I know we had to figure out how to account for a cover song we liked, and when we couldn’t figure out how to deal with the royalties, we just hid the song on the CD because we wanted it there so badly.

I know that we nearly went out of business because the middleman stole our money and left us with nothing.  I know that we had to beg and plead with the pressing plant to let us have our CDs, and we had to hold our breath that it would sound right even though we had no test pressing to listen to.  I know that we spent days hand-screening each and every CD booklet – horribly – and that we crawled around on our hands and knees for weeks while the artwork dried over our heads in the living room.  I know that we lived with the smell of paint and the dampness of five hundred wet booklets in our living room.  I know that we scraped together every dollar we had so that we could afford to pay for the record.  I know that we begged our distributors to take copies, and that we packed up a bunch of promos by hand – hand-stamped each envelope, hand-stapled them closed, hand-delivered them to the Post Office and then waited for weeks on pins and needles.

When I see that CD on eBay, I know what it took to get it there.  And fifteen years later, there’s still no feeling that comes close.

~ by Al on May 17, 2009.

4 Responses to “it’s out there, and it’s forever.”

  1. I never thought the artwork looked messy. In fact, I thought it was supposed to look like that. I took cuppa joe as an art-rock band. Kinda like a subdued lo-fi Talking Heads. Forgot how much I liked them.

  2. That’s a nice compliment, but the artwork was just one big mistake. In hindsight we would have been much better off not chasing after the hand-screened ones, and just printing new ones to send to the plant.

    The band was really good – great songwriters. I forget sometimes as well, and then I break out the CD and listen to stuff like “sitting limit” and really enjoy it.

  3. One funny story about Sitting Limit: before the CD came out, we played a place in Philly called The Chestnut Cabaret (which closed not long after… hmm…) and some crazy guy, really crazy guy, misheard the first line as “in the BATHROOM of a bar”, and started following Doug around after our set, telling him how much he “got the song”. Doug started to fear that he was reading too deeply into it, and maybe he took the “table for two”, “half the seats are empty”, etc. to be some kind of indecent bathroom meeting-place kind of story… yep, that’s the kind of fan we attracted.

  4. That guy was so nuts he had ME convinced that I had MEANT “bathroom.”

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