Posts Tagged 'Scott Reitherman'

Tra.kz Artist Spotlight: Throw Me the Statue (“Ship”)

While the next band in the Tra.kz Artist Spotlight recently joined Twitter, Throw Me the Statue is no stranger to readers of Evolving Music. You can read our interview with frontman, Scott Reitherman, here. You can even make your very own remix of TMTS’ Yucatan Gold here using MixMatchMusic’s Remix Wizard.

As Secretly Canandian Records prepares to release TMTS’ new EP, Purpleface, on February 17th, the boys who want statues thrown at them have decided to give you an early taste. Their song “Ship” is an understated yet inventive gem in which TMTS fuses rich, textured layers with their unique indie-pop melodies. TMTS has spent the majority of 2008 touring the US and Europe supporting its critically acclaimed debut, Moonbeams. While on the road, TMTS has explored the depths of its sound, recreating its playful mystique, and emerging as a proficient and an even more engaging live act. Purpleface is the direct result of this time, albeit showing a bit of a softer side than its predecessor. Word on the street is that TMTS is currently recording their next record in Seattle.

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What I’m Hearing, Vol. 6

For a taste of what I was hearing last month, click here.

September’s iPod update featured some fantastic new music from the month, including a number of debut albums from upcoming artists. R&B, Soul, Hip-Hop, Rock, Electronica and Pop music all make their appearances over 91 new tracks ushering us into Fall.

eLZhi, The Preface: Most rappers who have been recording material since 1997 have a large body of work to show for it. While this is the case for eLZhi, the majority of this work is unreleased or in featuring format on other artists’ work over the past 7 years or so. 2008 marks the debut full length album from this Detroit native, and while quite a few hip-hop fans may not have heard of eLZhi yet, the strength of this album should help make his second effort eagerly awaited. With production from fellow up and comer Black Milk, eLZhi uses a mixture of darker beats and old-school sounding fresh production to leave himself with a diverse group of songs which he raps over with ease. Whether he’s rapping about love, poverty and socioeconomic divisions or his experiences growing up in the streets, elZHi’s lyrics are complex yet effortless, coming out the polished product of a rapper with an extreme amount of comfort in his delivery. With a fantastic string and vocal sample and his laidback flow, “Transitional Joint” is the kind of song that’s an instant classic on the first listen. Don’t Sleep On: “The Science,” “Transitional Joint,” and “Save Ya.”

Lykke Li, Youth Novels: I covered Lykke Li’s US EP release here back in June. The full album finally made its way stateside, and the result of Li’s command over an entire album is impressive. While most songs retain the soft-spoken and delicate feeling of the EP, Li uses the full album to spread her wings into esoteric melody pieces (“This Trumpet In My Head”) as well as emotionally semi-detached pieces with simple backings (“Hanging High”). However, what is more enjoyable is when the album delves further into the dance and pop ideals that her voice and musical judgments help to raise above the standard radio fare. Even while being forceful, Li’s voice manages to be light and airy without disappearing against the background of the heavier songs. With guest remixes by The Black Kids (WIH,V.5) CSS and DiskJokke, a few of the EP songs get a new feeling. The range of tracks on this album speaks of a promising and diverse future body of work from this young singer out of Sweden. Don’t Sleep On: “Breaking It Up,” “Complaint Department,” and “I’m Good, I’m Gone (Black Kids Remix)”

Raphael Saadiq, The Way I See It: When I picked up this album, I had to make sure that the published date of it was correct. Saadiq, formerly of Tony! Toni! Toné!, has reinvented his music on this album that feels at times like it could have and should have been released in various portions of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. Soul, R&B, Funk and sounds of Doo-Wop all permeate this album, and some of the production makes you think you’re listening to an old classic that you’ve never heard before…It feels like a vintage Sunday afternoon. The musicianship behind him allows Saadiq’s voice to soar through tracks both melancholy and joyful. Fans of The Four Tops, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder (who makes an appearance on the album), Dusty Springfield and their contemporaries will all find reason to smile here. “Just One Kiss” features Joss Stone, and the remix of another album song “Oh Girl” features Jay-Z. Don’t Sleep On: “Love That Girl,” “Big Easy (feat. The Infamous Young Spodie & The Rebirth Brass Band)” and “Kelly Ray.

Rumble Strips, Girls and Weather: In case you weren’t aware, the perforations on the freeway shoulders that rattle you if you stray too far outside the lines are called rumble strips. I certainly didn’t know that before sitting down to review the band I’ve been listening to for two weeks. While most bands hopping the pond are taking up the power punk and alt-rock sounds of Bloc Party and the Young Knives (WIH, V.3), the Rumble Strips infuse it with at times Bosstones-like frenetic horns and ska sensibilities on their debut album, without losing a strong rock value. The arrangements are tight and Charlie Waller on lead vocals, while sometimes a bit reckless in his reach, provides the emotion necessary to keep up with the pace and energy of the sound. While they made their breakthrough with the rollicking and enormously fun “Motorcycle,” there are a variety of enjoyable sounds to be found on Girls and Weather. Don’t Sleep On: “Cowboy,” “Time,” and my personal favorite, “Girls and Boys in Love.”

Stacy Epps, The Awakening: Multi-faceted (I’ve been told she attended law school at USC) Stacy Epps brings her life experiences and spiritual vision to the table in an album that exudes passion that is sometimes overwhelming and unreachable in its scope. Using trip-hop beats and spacey melodies with jazz influences Epps at various times flows, speaks, sings and fades away on an album that exhibits a vocal talent sometimes lost in the more convoluted soundscapes. If there’s a drawback to this album, it’s that a few too many songs have “The Awakening, 2008, Stacy Epps” or some combination of these in the background, almost in an attempt to subconsciously advertise in the aural space of the listener. It gets frustrating at times, like endless self-promotion polluting the music. Fans of Bjork and Alice Coltrane will have a field-day here, but it might be too dense for casual listeners. Don’t Sleep On: “Floatin’,” “Heaven” feat. Bilal Salaam, and “Who Knows.”

Throw Me the Statue, Purpleface EP: One of the most promising signs of a relatively young band is the sign of continual tinkering with the sound and style, and a refusal to be tied too tightly to any one genre, while making music that all sounds somehow, on a fundamental level, right for them. This four track EP that fell in my hands last week courtesy of Gavroche exhibits this growth while retaining the emotional ambiguity and lyrical earnestness necessary to make them work. One of the original Moonbeams tracks, “Written in Heart Signs, Faintly” gets a studio makeover of its concert alter-ego here. “Honeybee” is a simple and direct piano backed and reverb laced track with glimpses of clarinet. “That’s How You Win” uses plaintive guitars and a kick and run drum roll to back Reitherman’s echo-like and airy vocals. “Ship,” however, is the standout track of this set both musically and lyrically. The drums combine with a drum machine to back a building piano that crashes into the main melody of the song, an incredibly beautiful piece of music that contentedly fades out at the end, free to repeat in the space between your ears. Don’t Sleep On: It’s a 4 track EP people, what’s to sleep on?

Tough Alliance, The New School: Taking pop and electronic music and blending it is the outcome of this album from the duo of Henning Fürst and Eric Berglund. At times repetitive and even slightly annoying, at its best, The New School offers video game blip electronic music that is mindlessly catchy. Not my normal cup of tea in its entirety, but Don’t Sleep On: “Take No Heroes,” “Tough II,” and “Koka-Kola Veins.”

What I’m Hearing, Vol. 5

For July’s update, click here.

So, while this post comes early September, make no mistake, this is the breakdown of the August playlists. It was a fine update, featuring 13 artists (not including Indiefeed Hip-Hop artists, thanks to Dirty Dutch, good look on the playing) from several continents and a slightly ridiculous 249 songs. That being said, a lot of the music was looking backwards, a hip-hop retrospective spurred by the stellar line-up unleashed at Rock the Bells at Shoreline. So I’m not going to break down old favorites like De La Soul, Nas and Rakim other than to say if the names sound new to you or you haven’t heard the old albums, it’s time to do some crate digging. This update did some traveling in both time and distance, but also had some brand new things from right here at home. That being said, enjoy.

Amadou Balaké, Señor Ecléctico: This 2008 re-issue of this African born singer’s earlier work is a raw and beautiful collection of 70’s recordings displaying a wide range of musical styles and explorations. The album moves along at a very pleasant pace and features an undiluted exuberance and musical and vocal harmony fusing summery world music that can at times sound too pre-packaged in today’s world releases. Lilting guitars, solid horns, funky bass and solid drumming all share the stage. Some tribal, some soul, some funk and some reggae all permeate here in equal parts to make for a fantastic mixmatch of sounds that is often enhanced by the lo-fi quality. Don’t Sleep On: “Djeli Fama,” “Mousso Be Torola,” and “Kambele Ba.”

Black Kids, Partie Traumatic: If you haven’t heard of this group yet, you’ve missed this summer’s indie media darling. This Florida spun band featuring a brother and sister revels in the punk pop and retro synth movement with solid walls of guitar and a mixture of male and female leads. While they originated right here, they recorded and broke out across the pond and opened for another artist we dig over here, Cut Copy. While some of their pop tricks fit perfectly in songs that go great on repeat, others stretch to points of annoyance including a chant straight out of Wizard of Oz. All in all though, the album brings the mesh together and produces several dance and bursting with excitement tracks that have trouble staying contained in the speaker. Don’t Sleep On: “Hit the Heartbrakes,” “Hurricane Jane,” and the vibrant and danceable “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You (The Twelves Remix).”

Buika, Niña de Fuego: The raspy voice of this Latin Jazz chantreuse takes on 13 tracks of various tempo and emotion, all to incredible results. Soft spoken bass parts, muted drums, delicate guitars and understated piano provide beautiful backdrops over which Buika’s voice soars, painting a variety of musically engaging pieces. Even though I can’t understand a word she’s saying, and therefore probably lose much of the poetry offered on this album, the range from smoky romantic tunes to unrestrained and energetic tracks aid a variety of places and moods. Don’t Sleep On: “Culpa Mia,” “Arboles de Agua,” and “Mentirosa.”

Cao Fang: While I only went for some singles from this Chinese pixie popster that made the leap into US consciousness on the back of a GE commercial, many people will go in for the full albums, of which she has two. Sharing our friend Scott’s enjoyment of the Melodica, Fang brings an airy and light voice to pleasant and soothing melodies. Don’t Sleep On: “Scarecrow in the City,” “Icy is a Gentlewoman,” and “Orange Juice.”

Hanggai, Introducing Hanggai: I first heard about this group reviving parts of Mongolian folk music and mixing it with rock and pop influences from Pitchfork. But while I got to read about them in July, for some reason iTunes didn’t have them for me until August….they were worth the wait. The use of throat singers, lute player and fiddle (horse-hair mind you!) creates an album that is at times a bit unaccessible for some, but at others an extremely enjoyable ride. Don’t Sleep On: “My Banjo and I,” “Flowers,” and the next big bar “Drinking Song.”

Murs and 9th Wonder, Sweet Lord: Little Brother alum and star in his own right 9th Wonder uses his signature soulful and retro hip-hop beats to collaborate once more with Murs of Living Legends. What’s more intriguing about this one is the tie to other Internet freebie releases from Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails, what was termed a gift to their fans. The album rips, Murs spitting incessantly over beats that never fail to engage. But don’t take my word for it. Go download it for free!

Throw Me the Statue Interview

TMTS

TMTS

It’s always nice to see the story of a local person doing good, and in the case of Evolving Music and MixMatchMusic, two entities growing into the music industry out of the Peninsula Bay Area, seeing our long time friend, Scott Reitherman, grow in success with his new group Throw Me the Statue out of Seattle has been an excellent journey. From the first show we saw as an opening act for Jens Lekman at Bimbo’s 365 club, the inclusion in the Take Away show phenomenon, to his Rhapsody commercial and now a music video for their song “Lolita” on MTV2, the growth of the band and the potential for them to turn into actual stars has reached a high pitch. Following positive reviews of their debut album Moonbeams on Stereogum and Pitchfork Media, Scott sat down with me to talk about the transition from a self-started label to an Indie label, the process of making music and the new and changing landscape of the current music industry. Enjoy!

AC: The music on Moonbeams has a wide variety of instrumentation and genre influences in there. Talk for a minute about your musical influences and what you listened to growing up that still speaks to your music writing today.

SR: With Moonbeams I was in a spot where I was trying to make a debut record that would show that I do listen to a variety of music. I didn’t want to make a record that was going to be easily typecast, I guess not typecast, but I mean to say I didn’t want to make something that would fit in a box easily. I also wanted to make a record that various people might be able to hear because they might like a song here or a song there, and sort of give something for everybody, if that wasn’t too lofty of a starting point to attack it from. So that’s what I did, and I tried to make it a collage of aesthetics because I do listen to a variety of stuff.

When I was first starting out buying CDs in the 3rd or 4th grade, I definitely had a strong pop mentality. At first it was a serious obsession with New Kids on the Block, which transitioned into Beastie Boys, Paula Abdul, Boyz II Men, Bobby Brown… Bobby Brown being a part of the record collection.

AC: Some of our readers are rolling their eyes right now.

SR: Yeah. When you’re a kid, that stuff just hits on an instinctual level. You don’t realize how overprocessed it is, but it was a while before I finally started listening to what people think of as Indie music or stuff that falls underneath that umbrella. More in college I guess I started finally getting turned on to the bigger Indie bands of the day and doing some homework and going back in time, catching up on stuff I needed to know about or needed to understand the history of Indie. I think looking back on high school, I wish I had listened to a wider variety of stuff, but I think that’s a product of coming from the California peninsula and having a slightly homogeneous cultural background with that.

AC: Talk a bit about your musical development in terms of your instrumentation. Did you start classically with a piano or guitar, and how have you gone about learning new instruments and incorporating them into your style?

SR: I learned how to play guitar at summer camp when I was in the 6th grade. Basically I stuck with that for probably 6 or 7 years. Along the way, my brother started taking drum lessons and for a couple years, my brother, who’s younger than me, had a drum kit in his bedroom and I immediately took to that and started playing his drums a lot more than he would play them. When he stopped taking lessons, the drums went away and I didn’t pick back up with drums or any other instrument until college when I started fooling around and teaching myself piano through my knowledge of guitar.

From there, learning and playing other instruments just became a necessity to make your own recordings and be able to have different instrumentation on there if you didn’t have a band with a bunch of multi-instrumentalists behind you. So drum machines were also a product of that, because when I write songs, I usually do it with a drum beat off of an old keyboard just as a backbone to help facilitate the whole creative process of trying to write a song. You put something like that down and then you just sort of play and riff on whatever it is you’ve come up with that afternoon. So leaving the drum machines in the recording was something I had grown accustomed to and really liked, but was also a way to reveal the process. Did I miss anything there?

AC: Well you covered the drums, the piano and guitar. You’ve got some really interesting instruments on Moonbeams. How did you pick some of those up.

SR: Well some of those like glockenspiel are just based off of piano key configuration, so piano to glockenspiel is a pretty short jump. Some of the other stuff I had friends help with. Like horns, we hired some horn players…I can’t play anything on the horn. Melodica is on there a lot, melodica is also based on the key configuration of the piano, so blowing through that and playing the keys was a short jump from piano. I don’t know if this is how most people go about it, but having a foundation in guitar and piano leaves you with a pretty good skill set to pick up other things and have it sound acceptable.

AC: What people that have picked up TMTS in the last couple months as you guys have grown in popularity probably don’t know about is your previous work in bands. Talk a little bit about your history when it comes to the groups you’ve played with and how have those experiences helped shaped your direction with TMTS.

SR: I guess it started out, aside from a short stint in a band that wasn’t really a band in middle school that probably sounded a lot like Bush, in high school we got more into eclectic instrumentation, playing with guys that played the horns and doing music like ska and funk and more straightforward rock laid the foundation for really appreciating various instrumentation and how you go about orchestrating a handful of sounds on one song. But I would say that the stuff that I did in high school with bands was really influential in certain realms like how do you exist in a band, how do you navigate that familial relationship with other people and group creative process. All of that is something that definitely takes practice in figuring out the harmony and the balance. So that was really good in the sense that it prepared me to play in bands later. But musically, there was a big shift in my taste once I got to college. TMTS has made me acceptable to some peoples’ ears because it sort of pulls from both of those periods from me. One would be the rooted in pop accessible kind of mainstream stuff, and the other would be the recent shift in the last 5 years or so of listening to avant garde and more Indie music.

I read a couple things where people said that Moonbeams sounds like it could be a ’90s rock band, I think that’s kinda funny because I didn’t really anticipate that, but maybe it is sort of accurate because that was the period of rock music that I was listening to a ton that was my first roadmap to figuring out what I wanted to do musically.

AC: What would you say stylistically the change was for you between Moonbeams and Liberty Market Summer.

SR: Wow.

AC: Come on, you gotta bring up Elephant Blend here.

SR: Yeah, you brought it up! That album had a more homogeneous sound from song to song, and it was rooted in a feel good California setting. Both the lyrics and the tone of a lot of those songs was a little bit sunnier and maybe a little bit more naïve. And there’s nothing wrong with that, because young people are usually a little bit more naïve than they turn out to be later. Not to say that Moonbeams is a cynical version of that record, but I would say that Moonbeams felt more mature, and lyrically I would hope it is much more mature because Liberty Market Summer was the first record that I ever sang on. I was always timid of being the singer.

When you start bands in high school, it was like a revolving cast of people who were the singers and I always played guitar. At some point I finally made the shift in courage to sing the songs that I was writing already. I think that settling into that and figuring out how as a singer I was going to establish my voice in a way that felt authentic and earnest and accurate was the biggest challenge in doing Moonbeams. For me, if I were to, and I haven’t in a while, listen to Liberty Market Summer, I would probably at first cringe to hear myself sing because it would sound like a very different version of my self. Not because that was disingenuous or inaccurate, but it wasn’t as thought out.

Scott Reitherman

Scott Reitherman

AC: You guys came out on Baskerville Hill and obviously that was a pretty big step for you because you had to basically launch the label yourselves and not only record, but promote and put out these albums. What was the process of getting signed to Secretly Canadian like, and how did the preparation for getting signed differ from putting out the album and doing the work yourself on Baskerville Hill.

SR: In terms of the preparation for getting signed, there wasn’t really much preparation at all. We were in the midst of releasing Moonbeams on Baskerville Hill in the first couple months and were fully intending to put it out ourselves just like we had done with our other releases before it when Secretly came out of the woodwork and approached us about it. So we were hiring a publicist for the first time to work with Baskerville Hill and help spread Moonbeams further and in the process of doing that, I think it was two months after we had put it out on Baskerville that we got an email from Secretly.

I don’t mean to gloss over the fact that I had given a friend of mine who plays in a band on Secretly Canadian a handful of copies and said, “give these to whoever you want,” and one of the ones he gave out was to those guys. So we knew that it had at least landed on their incoming mail desk, but having not heard anything for two or three months after that, we weren’t thinking much of it at that point.

AC: A lot of people who are musicians and getting into it, hoping to make some sort of career and life out of their music, they probably think that once you get picked up by a label, everything changes. How has your day-to-day life actually changed from releasing it on Baskerville Hill to now being a part of Secretly.

SR: Well, I do less mailing at the post office everyday. That was probably the biggest shift. Everyday at about 4:45 I would rush off to my local post office and get in line before 5pm when they closed the door and mail out the orders for Moonbeams. And that went on for what seemed like a very long time. I was always doing the mailing of our orders up until then, but with Moonbeams the packaging upped a little bit. We started including posters with it, and we were getting a fair amount of orders at the beginning. So a chunk of my afternoon was devoted everyday to wrapping up the orders and shipping them out.

That was fun, I liked writing messages on each one to the people that would order them, and the amount of personal connection I felt with these envelopes going out into the world was special. But it’s also nice to not have to deal with that end of the process of releasing records anymore, at least for now, it’s nice to just concentrate on the music itself and steering the band in a direction that’s going to be happy and good for us. So now I do more emailing. I get a fair amount of email from the label each day regarding various things that we can say yes or say no to. Like, “Do you want this BMX video to get your song in it? It won’t pay you anything, but it’s kinda a cool thing to do.” So we’ll say, “yea, that sounds cool, I used to watch videos like that as a kid, I think it’d be totally hilarious if one of them used one of our songs, I think that’s cool.”

Once in a while they’ll say, “Do you want us to try and pursue this advertisement on television for you guys and maybe get you some actual money?” And we’ll say, “Well, depending on what it is, we would love actual money.” You don’t get paid as often as you do when you receive the credit cards over your own record label’s website and mail them out yourself. Now we get paid every 6 months from the label, so we have yet to be paid anything and I think July is our first pay cycle, so hopefully we’ll get some small sliver of a check because it’s the whole thing about how they have to recoup the budget that they put into it first before we get paid anything. So I would say, at least this summer, my day to day life is pretty good. I’m just working on music, trying to get the next batch of songs all sketched out and demoed and then soon we’ll get together as a band and start to move on to track final versions that will end up on the next record before we go out on tour. We’re also working with a new band member right now, so part of our time is spent getting him in the loop.

AC: Talk a bit about touring and what goes into it. What does the average fan not know about a musician’s tour?

SR: What it’s actually like to spend weeks on end in a 15 passenger van with your band mates without showering. What it’s like to get your morning coffee at a gas station more often than not. How hard it is to get up early and get back on the road for another 8 hour drive after you played a show the night before and didn’t get to sleep on time. I would say what people think or what they anticipate that they would like about the touring process are the exciting parts of it, which are playing that many shows and meeting that many new people and engaging with real people through your music is way more amazing than I could have even imagined. But the constant travel and the element of the road trip sometimes being a lot less laid back than you get to make your other road trips in life is the element you don’t quite expect.

AC: You’ve obviously, the past couple months, gotten a good deal more recognition with publications like PitchFork Media and Stereogum, you had “Lolita” in a Rhapsody commercial and now you’ve got a music video for it on MTV2. What has this process been like and has it changed the way you looked at the music industry when you were in high school and college?

SR: I think that even when we were in high school and college, MTV was on its way to phasing out music videos and phasing in reality shows. But I would say that now, when we heard we were going to get our video for “Lolita” on MTV2 it was still a trip, and then they were like, “It will be on once at 1am on Sunday.” And we were like, “Oh… ok.” So it’s pretty fun, and it was fun to make the video. We had a lot less to do with the production of it than the director and the actors that were in it did, but it’s an interesting glimpse into how the Indie music industry still maintains this sliver of MTV’s attention. It’s sort of funny, it seems like too small a niche within MTV’s programming world to even matter at all. But this one Sunday night show where they show Indie music videos is a hanger-on and I hadn’t really paid attention to this show Subterranean before, but they actually have pretty awesome videos each week. It’s kinda sad I guess, but I guess it is what it is.

AC: You were saying earlier that you have yet to see your first check from Secretly. Could you discuss the difference in terms of sales and profits between your self-promoted efforts, Secretly Canadian, and sales on iTunes. Do you have any way of quantifying or describing that right now? I think a lot of people, and specifically the record labels are pushing this point of view that if you’re buying a 99 cent song on iTunes the artist is getting a good portion of that or somehow the artist is not being stolen from when really the reality is the amount that the labels give artists of that is slim. So anything you could talk about the difference in your experience in terms of revenue and sales.

SR: As far as I understand the iTunes business model, when you buy a .99 cent song, the artist, if they’re with a label, hopes to get about a third of it. iTunes takes a third, first and foremost, and of the remaining .66 cents, the label hypothetically takes a third and the artist takes a third, in the case of the kind of label that we’re on which is a pretty artist friendly situation. There’s digital distribution company that may be a middle man there and may be taking a cut.

With us, Secretly has a pretty unique arrangement where they own their own distribution company as well as their own record label and they’ve built that up over the dozen years that they’ve been in business to a pretty good place. So they’re able to maintain some of those percentages that otherwise they might have had to pay out to another distributor. As far as the difference between releasing your own record and having someone else release it and how the shakes down, it’s no surprise that a record label, especially an Indie that doesn’t have huge money bags lying around, they’re going to have to pay you every so often, so for us, it’s on a 6 month pay cycle. If people think that when they buy a song on iTunes that the artist is getting a bunch of those .99 cents, that’s probably not true. It’s hopefully more true if they’re buying from an Indie artist versus a major label artist, but what is that really worth because a major label artist is probably selling more one-off mp3s on iTunes and in the end they’re probably making significantly more money if they’re a good selling major label artist than a medium selling Indie artist.

AC: Moonbeams just being released, and you being relatively new to the industry, but for a few years now we’ve seen a very vicious downward cycle in terms of actual physical CD sales, and the major record labels have started to freak. Have you, being a part of the music industry, seen this type of erosion, and what’s it doing in your mind to the traditional record industry?

SR: That’s a really good question. I guess I don’t know how much interest I have in the decline of the major label record industry. I think what will be interesting to see is how musicians figure out a compelling way to release their music that will re-engage people who love music. I mean, everyone loves music, but what it’s up to the record labels to do now is to figure out a way to bring that new music to the people. It’s not pirating’s fault, but the information age and the internet have ushered in a huge variety of new variables with how you sell art and obviously it’s turned out that people are de-valuing music left and right.

And again, it’s not pirating’s fault, it’s just one of those things that major labels didn’t react quickly enough to. So if it’s not the CD and it’s not the vinyl record, what is it going to be that will get people to financially support artists again? I think that would be interesting. I would love to see bands start releasing books that come with download links to the mp3s themselves. If people don’t care about these little 3.5″ in diameter floppy plastic discs anymore that we call CDs, and there’s no reason they should because it was a crappy format to begin with, then give them something else, something more, maybe a collection of photographs or writing. Just more content that’s going to re-engage people on a personal level with their favorite artists so that they do feel they want to have a hard copy as opposed to the mp3 download that any person with any amount of sense can figure out how to get without paying for it.

AC: I think that on that same note, a large portion of the problem is that maybe consumers got fed up with the fact that these record labels for so many years, while I wouldn’t want to say overvalued music at $17-$18 dollars a CD when it took a buck and a half, two dollars to make, but they certainly fought pirating and mp3s with this passion that somehow the consumers were stealing from the artists. But when you look at the kind of royalties and shares that the artists actually got off of those sales, the record labels were taking a huge chunk out of that and maybe the consumers got sick of hearing how they were stealing from the artists when really they felt they were only stealing from these multi-billion dollar corporations.

SR: Well I would love to think that that’s true in certain peoples’ cases, but I think that’s a little too generous to attribute to the masses. It’s sort of like if there were a riot and the police were the major labels and everyone else were the people rioting, and some people had the consciousness to go to Best Buy and break in and steal stuff that they wanted to because they saw it as an evil corporation, or better yet they went to KMart and they broke in and looted Kmart because it was political for them to do that. The vast majority of people that would follow suit get wrapped up in the energy of that riot, or the mindset of it, or the carelessness of it, they would loot from whatever was easiest which would be the Mom and Pop stores, or maybe in this case the Indie labels because there are many more Indie labels than there are major labels. So once you set off that kind of chain reaction, it’s hard for people to care whether or not what they’re doing anymore is right or wrong because it’s just so easy and everyone else is doing it.

AC: As the Internet becomes more collaborative with greater access worldwide, not only in terms of more economic classes being able to access it, but also in terms of the speed with which you can do things online, do you see a shift coming where more music will be made online, and how do you envision that happening? Obviously the focus of this question is what the folks over at MixMatchMusic are working on.

SR: Definitely. I think it’s a no-brainer to see that kind of thing on the horizon. There’s been so many successful examples of that type, if not specific collaboration in music these days, at least the mixing of cultural sounds and cross-cultural musical aesthetics. There’s a lot of bands and artists who have a foreign sound mixed with an American pop backbone like MIA or Santogold, who’s American. Postal Service is a great example of a couple of guys who are living states apart mailing each other beats and vocal overdubs and came up with a platinum record. The Internet is going to make things like that so much easier, well it already has, it’s kinda silly to talk about it in the future tense, but for MixMatch and companies that are trying to facilitate that even further, I hope that it’s going to revolutionize the way that strangers are able to make music together, or people who are coming from really various backgrounds collaborate. But I do think that the other element of that is what you’ve seen with Radiohead recently where they commissioned a remix series and offered up the different parts of one song to their fans to fill in a blender and spit out as they wish a new version of the song is a really fascinating example of what the Internet can do these days if they present it to the people in the right way.

AC: Is that a type of remixing project that you could see yourself getting involved in?

SR: Maybe down the line. Right now, I’m too busy and self-absorbed with the next record, not to sound like a jerk, but I’m trying to focus right now on a new batch of work and we just participated in a couple of cover projects already, so we’re kinda coming off of that and refocusing our energies.

AC: To finish up, in terms of refocusing your energies and your efforts, what kind of stuff are you working on now and what is your writing process like in general?

SR: Well this time will be different from the last time. Last time was a solo effort and took a while to build up the songs and having complete control over how they turned out is something that I don’t want to do this time around. It’s different in that this time around, I’m basically coming up with demos or sketches of the songs that I’ve been kicking around and working on since Moonbeams got completed, and I’m in turn giving burned CDs of those to the guys in the band and seeing which ones they respond to and which ones they want to work with and figuring out how we’re going to whittle it down to a workable track listing to pursue for the initial stages of tracking the record, then go from there. Not write all the parts this time, write the parts that I have been coming up with then leave it there and let them add on to it which will make it more of a group effort. So it’ll be interesting, it will be the first time in a while that I’ve done something like that, and I think it will be better because of it.

AC: Now is that process something that is made even more comfortable by the fact that one of the guys you deal with, Aaron Goldman, is someone you’ve been working with musically for quite some time now?

SR: Definitely. He and I went to high school together, and we connect very easily on a lot of levels, and in regards to the songs this time around it’s going to be really fun to see what he comes up with. I know the rest of the guys are going to be coming up with a lot of brilliant stuff, and I’m really excited to step back from the construction of these songs a little bit and really see which direction they end up finding their way.

AC: When can we expect this album… any sort of time table yet?

SR: I think it’ll be middle of next year.

AC: I’ve had one person close to me suggest that you should title it Sunrays.

SR: {laughter}

AC: {more laughter}

SR: I hope you didn’t land any money on that.

AC: No, absolutely not, I didn’t think it was a winner. Scott, we appreciate you taking the time to talk to us over here at Evolving Music. Do you have anything you want to talk about or plug, any upcoming concert appearances or anything you want your fans to know about?

SR: We just did a Huey Lewis cover tune. I recommend people check it out if they want a dose of ’80s nostalgia.

AC: Which one did you cover?

SR: “If This is It.”

AC: Where can they find it?

SR: Ye olde myspace page, www.myspace.com/throwmethestatue.

Throw Me the Statue Music Video (Lolita)

Our pals in TMTS have gotten around to putting out a video of their song “Lolita,” which can also be heard in the Rhapsody television commercial. It’s been a long trek from the pouring Texas rain of Elephant Blend’s “Texas,” to the Baskerville Hill release of Moonbeams, to the re-release on Secretly Canadian and now to some very solid national exposure and a music video on MTV. Just where will Scott Reitherman lead this merry band of music makers is yet to be seen, but the folks of MixMatchMusic, CSU, and the SMC are excited to see one of their own starting to take flight. Without further ado, “Lolita.”

Throw Me the Statue at Bottom of the Hill

Found out about this show super last minute. Always good to see Throw Me the Statue coming home, and this time they graced the nicely intimate setting of the Bottom of the Hill, a venue I saw Ratatat play in a few years back. The band continues to evolve, and the sound is coming along quite nicely now. The pieces are all well rehearsed, the band’s chemistry is good and they continue to do interesting live changes, especially when it comes to “Young Sensualists.” The group’s energy on stage is excellent, although in some cases can be a bit over the top. For the most part, Goldman’s back up vocals and instrumentation are excellent, but there are moments where it feels a bit out of hand and in need of a sedative. That aside, Throw Me the Statue continues to grow as a group, and every concert leaves me happy, not just for knowing the band and being happy for their success, but because the music is just plain good. Here’s the setlist…

“Groundswells,” “Take It Or Leave It,” “Boyfriend’s Car,” “Lolita,” “Young Sensualists,” “Written In Heart Signs, Faintly,” Yucatan Gold,” and “About to Walk.”

The SanFran MusicTech Summit: Rockstars, Lawyers, Nerds and Me

Last week, a few of us attended the SanFran MusicTech Summit to worship learn from some of the innovative leaders in our rapidly evolving and still young(ish) industry. After nearly breaking off my big toe during a confused jog through Japantown, I limped into Hotel Kabuki armed and ready for note-taking, question-asking, and hand-shaking.

The group I found there was a rather predictable (yet lovable) mix of demographics including your standard socially awkward tech geeks (my favorite), the token I-was-born-for-networking (and my-Rolodex-is-bigger-than-yours) schmoozers, some badass rocker chicks turned marketing gurus, the young and fearless CEO/CTO/COO/founders of countless startups, the smartypants intellectual property attorneys (bless their souls – I’d rather be forced to listen to Mariah Carey* on repeat for a year while locked in a windowless room than be in their shoes), career musicians and producers, and a smattering of randoms. Each hour we had the choice of attending one of two panels or general schmoozing in the lobby.
* To be fair, I think she has an amazing voice, I just hate her music. A lot.

Halfway through one of the panels I noticed someone on their laptop twittering. Of course! I thought. Twitter! This is the perfect time to twitter. (Until then, I had only used the service a few times to say mundane things like “sore from working out” or “yay iPhones” or some such nonsense, and when you only have two people following you that seems pretty pointless). Suddenly it was starting to sink in how Twitter can be a very powerful tool. I quickly logged on and found the SFMusicTech live feed which, to my pleasant surprise, was filled with commentary ranging from concise updates about the panels (helpful for those not at the summit or just in the other room) to snarky comments about the speakers. It felt like a cross between real-time news coverage and anonymous chatroom blather.

When I twittered later in the day noting that most of the food on the snack table was yellow, someone promptly reiterated my observation and wondered if there was a hidden symbolism we were missing. Later one of the panelists messaged me directly and thanked me for quoting her earlier. That’s when I suddenly felt like part of some sort of cozy little invisible family. Want to join my twitter family? Follow me here.

Here are some highlights from the day:

  • During the “Future of Radio” panel – major trends include personalization and recommendation (think Pandora and Last.fm) and mobility (internet radio integrated into your car stereo, tabletop devices, on your phone, in your stereo etc).
  • During the “Creator’s Perspective on Technology” panel – Creeper Lagoon‘s Sharky Laguana talked about a cool service he created called MixPal. MixPal allows you to upload your music, choose the price, place a “MixLink” anywhere online (website, blog, MySpace, whatever) and you keep almost all the proceeds (they get 10% commission). Look at how their pricing compares to iTunes and Snocap. Since they’re non-exclusive you can use them in addition to any other service you use. MixPal is simple, straightforward and all about letting the musician decide.
  • Also during “Creator’s Perspective…” – panel moderator and summit co-producer Shoshana Zisk commented that now in the music tech industry “People don’t have to learn the language to speak music”, which resonated with me because that is very much one of the things that MixMatchMusic is facilitating – allowing non-musicians and music fans to participate in the creative process too.
  • During the “Social Networking and Music” panel – Ali Partovi, CEO of iLike, noted that they DO compete with MySpace Music. He recommended that artists keep a MySpace presence, but also use iLike because they will find far more fans on the latter.* Also interesting – apparently, people who use iLike purchase 250% more music online than people who don’t! I bet the ringtone companies love them… Toward the end of the panel, Ali asked with a note of exasperation in his voice why there isn’t just a “buy this” button anywhere and everywhere that you find music?? Excellent point. Anyone know if this is a realistic expectation in the future?

*Are you a musician who has a profile on both iLike and MySpace (and/or other sites)? I’d be curious to hear where you feel you’ve established a larger fan base. Leave a comment or email me.

  • During the “Business Models That Work…and Those That Don’t” panel – moderator Andrew Stess, CEO of Music IP, mused that someone should build a choose-your-own-price service for concert tickets a la Radiohead. I so agree. In the meantime, Inticketing, one of the summit sponsors, has a great online ticketing system and event management solution (not to mention a green business) with clients like Burning Man, the Great American Music Hall (where our buddy Scott recently performed), Yoshi’s, and Victor Wooten.

After the panels ended, we were unleashed into the boozing and networking portion of the event, which also included a performance by singer-songwriter Samantha Murphy. Though I had to run off to my own weekly musical endeavor, in the hour or so I was there I met some interesting people. One musician/student I was chatting with about MMM emailed me later to say he was delighted to see that I had blogged about the Bubblegum Sequencer. Turns out he is one of the Berkeley students that made it! Small world.

Overall, I found the Summit to be helpful and inspiring. What struck me was how nobody really knows where the music industry (especially the online music industry) is going. Licensing, copyright, distribution…these areas are rapidly being dismantled and slowly rebuilt without any concrete blueprint. Or vague guideline for that matter. All I know is that I’m excited to be riding the wave that is technology and I can’t wait to see what kind of distant exotic shore it dumps us on.

Social media, which wikipedia says uses “the ‘wisdom of crowds’ to connect information in a collaborative manner” is redefining the way that we interact with technology, one another, and our environment. I think this is especially true for those of us who are building something online (a fan base, a website, a blog, a clientèle, an identity) or those of us who simply enjoy being a prosumer/producer/content creator/participant (via blogging, twittering, digging, social networking, posting YouTube videos etc) rather than just a consumer. Passivity is so…well, passè. But it’s not just a matter of getting involved. Once you’re involved, you have to participate. And regularly. Let’s face it – no one is going to read a blog that you update once a year.

Ariel Hyatt of Ariel Publicity put it best when she said: “New media is like an endless garden – you can’t just plant it and walk away”.


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