When it's used correctly, Kickstarter is a magnificent tool to get a project off the ground. The website allows users to post campaigns for stuff they would really like to create—new electronic devices, a Bicycle Bus, animated comics backed by big-time directors—and for the makers to solicit donations using rewards, which often include copies of the finished product.
One catch: Each campaign chooses a set period of time to reach their fundraising goal; if they don't make it, they get nothing. Obviously, this has been a boon for independent recording artists. Just yesterday, Chapel Hill's Some Army found success in a campaign to record its debut LP.
With this kind of do-it-yourself fundraising, specificity is key. Donors need to know exactly what they're putting their money towards and precisely what they can expect in return. Ambitious and well-intended projects can open themselves up to unexpected questions if they don't adhere to this principle, which brings us to Pet-Tich-Eye.
As local music Kickstarters go, this project is about as daunting and promising as they come. Members of many popular Triangle acts—Megafaun, Mount Moriah, Hiss Golden Messenger, Bowerbirds, The Rosebuds (big breath), The Love Language, Lost in the Trees, Hammer No More the Fingers, Horseback, Birds of Avalon, Airstrip—broke into 10 one-off trios, writing a song and then taking a day in the studio to record it. Each triumvirate chose a different photographer to document the session and a different visual artist to create individual album art for each song. All of this will be compiled into an album and art book, the product Pet-Tich-Eye's Kickstarter is hoping to fund. If your eyes weren't already bulging, the campaign's goal is a whopping $14,000. They have until Mar. 31 to reach that target.
The project's grandest ambition is also the part where this all gets a little muddy:. Each trio also paired with a community organization in a symbiotic relationship where the charity gets exposure. But they don't get any proceeds from the Kickstarter. Those funds will purely pay back the debt incurred by project organizers, a fact that isn't pointed out until the FAQ section at bottom of the campaign description. Thus, it would seem quite likely that people could donate to this project and still think that part of their money is going to charity. As local music fan Rachel Mills pointed out on a lengthy and smart blog entry about the project yesterday, there are other and potentially more sensible avenues for the project. For now, though, the Kickstarter page persists and is currently at a little less than 20% funding.
Such issues are a shame because—as anyone who tuned in Monday to check out an early stream of the album will know—the music is quite good. "East Coast/West Coast Time" imagines a more hip-hop-inspired version of The Rosebuds as the group's Ivan Howard and Mount Moriah's Heather McEntire blend their luxuriously twanged pipes over tense synthesizers and a hard-edged beat. "Somewhere in Between (Breathe)" displays a close relationship with its corresponding charity as Kane Smego from the Sacrificial Poets offers powerful spoken word about building a legacy over uneasy drone created by Megafaun's Phil Cook and Horseback/Mount Moriah guitarist Jenks Miller.
Here's hoping Pet-Tich-Eye works out their issues: I'd like to listen to this album without worrying that some might not understand where their money is going.
In eight years, Durham's Midtown Dickens transformed from a lovably amateur duo into one of the most purposeful and refined folk outfits in North Carolina. It was one of the more impressive transitions made by any local band in that time. But now, after three albums and a recent rise to some national recognition, Midtown Dickens is more than likely finished, taking an indefinite hiatus as its members move on to different projects.
"I'm really proud of us and what we accomplished last year with Midtown Dickens," says founding singer and songwriter Kym Register. She and longtime friend and creative partner Catherine Edgerton started Midtown Dickens as a DIY crash course in writing and singing songs. Their early work resonates with winning simplicity, shambling banjo and guitar strums accompanied by the homemade percussion of clinking spoons and drumsticks banged on metal chairs and club walls. But starting with the 2009 sophomore effort Lanterns and continuing with last year's starkly beautiful Home, Midtown Dickens grew into a tight-knit quartet, perfecting their playing within lush arrangements steeped in the sounds of modern Appalachia.
"I'm proud of what Catherine and I did just as the two of us," Register continues, "what we accomplished with that band, starting it eight years ago and our technical skill levels and our sort of indifference to that. I hold that really dear in my heart."
Home brought Midtown Dickens to new levels of success, garnering praise from national tastemakers such as NPR. The band hit the road with corresponding force, touring more than they ever had before. But by the end of a late-2012 run with Lost in the Trees, the players realized they wanted to pursue other projects. Jonathan Henderson wanted to be more involved with Kaira Ba, in which he helps back energetic Senegalese kora player Diali Cissokho. Register and multi-instrumentalist Will Hackney realized their chemistry as a duo and are forming Loamlands, a collaborative project gearing up for a busy spring, including an opening slot for guitarist William Tyler at Durham's Pinhook.
"We're all doing our separate things," Register says. "I don't like leaving out the possibilities of playing music with my friends. It'd be nice if we would play together again at some point, but we probably won't."
Last month, PineCone, or the Piedmont Council of Traditional Music, and Raleigh archival folk label Old Hat Records joined forces to launch a campaign to crowd fund an anthology of bluegrass and country music from artists that performed on the Depression-era North Carolina radio program “Crazy Barn Dance.” The show took its name from Crazy Water Crystals, the snake oil elixir served as a sponsor, and aired Saturday nights on Raleigh’s WPTF and Charlotte’s WBT. During its time, it showcased roots pioneers like the Monroe Brothers, the Dixon Brothers, the Blue Sky Boys and Snuffy Jenkins.
Old Hat founder Marshall Wyatt highlights J.E. Mainer’s Mountaineers’ 1937 recording on “Don’t Get Trouble In Your Mind” as a particularly interesting inclusion. Listeners may know it as a favorite of the Carolina Chocolate Drops or recognize the tune from Bill Monroe’s bluegrass standard “Molly and Tenbrooks,” though Wyatt feels the Mountaineers’ instrumentation is just as notable.
“J.E. Mainer's fiddle really puts the song in overdrive, along with Snuffy Jenkins' avant-garde banjo,” he says. “Let's not forget—this music is not just historically significant, it's highly entertaining to listen to!”
PineCone and Old Hat hope to release the two-disc collection of recordings and vintage commercials—titled Crazy Barn Dance: Bluegrass Roots on Carolina Radio 1933-1940—by September, which, in no small coincidence, is when Raleigh hosts its first IBMA convention. “Usually projects like this will progress gradually, as funds become available,” Wyatt explains, referring to the traditional sources arts councils might draw upon, like National Endowment for the Arts grants. “By pooling the resources of Old Hat and PineCone, we're hoping to expedite the completion of the project.” Crazy Barn Dance, like PineCone’s 2009 release Going Down to Raleigh: Stringband Music in the North Carolina Piedmont 1976-1998, will also contain extensive liner notes detailing the history behind the performers and the recordings.
Setting a goal of $2,500—specifically earmarked to cover remastering costs that are actually closer to $3,000—the organizations harnessed Power2Give, a crowd-funding platform created by the United Arts Council. “It was also timing, in that the Power2Give portal became available right at the time when we were considering ways to pull together funding for the project,” continues PineCone’s Jamie Katz. “The crowd-funding model lets us leverage more social media and, we hope, get the word out about the project as well as PineCone and Old Hat Records to folks who may not be familiar with these resources here in Raleigh.” Unlike Kickstarter and its many competitors, Power2Give requires that donor rewards be free of tax implications, which allows the donation to be tax-deductible but limits the conventional strategy of offering copies of the album as a reward.
Instead, the project offers tours of radio stations and recording studios, handwritten thank you notes from Carolina bluegrass artists or recognition in PineCone’s newsletter and website as potential donor benefits: “We purposefully chose experiential rewards so that the donor can maximize his/her deductions,” PineCone executive director William Lewis confirmed.
Though the rewards are unique, the campaign has plateaued recently. Today is the last day of the campaign, which ends at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 8. The project is still more than 60% short of its goal. Fortunately for PineCone and Old Hat, projects on Power2Give receive all pledges, even when they aren’t fully funded, and Lewis says it is “one of several fundraising efforts underway to ensure the CD’s production.” Lewis also suggests that organizers may return to Power2Give to raise money for other steps in the process, such as research and writing of the liner notes, graphic design, manufacturing and distribution.
Listen to MP3 of J.E. Mainer’s Mountaineers’ “Don’t Get Trouble In Your Mind” and the Monroe Brothers’ “Katy Cline” below, but don’t forget to also check out the Power2Give page for additional information and music, as well as to donate to the project.
Kids these days: They’re always code-talking with their LOLs and HMUs and starting their fundraisers for good causes. For this last bit, thank the kind people at Durham’s Habitat for Humanity Youth United. The program empowers youth ages 5–25 to fully fund and build a home. This year’s project will be the seventh such house the program has funded.
Youth United’s Got Talent is just one of many fundraising and advocacy events that feature a few of the folks participating in that endeavor. The night will showcase talent that participated in Youth United’s yearly talent show last fall. Performers for the evening include 14-year-old vocalists Giana Hidalgo and Vybhav Jagannath, violinist Adam Clark, and The Bucket Brothers—siblings Logan (12) and Casey (9) Valleroy, who play eight instruments between them.
The show happens Saturday, Feb. 2, at Broad Street Cafe at 8 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged. Broad Street Café itself will be contributing 5% of the night’s sales to the Youth United program. Visit DurhamHabitat.org for info on Youth United and other ways to get involved.
Raleigh rock club regulars might already be acquainted with the garage-punk foursome Barren Girls, even if they don't know it yet. And with a Merge Records stamp on the band's debut 7-inch, Hell Hymns, due April 2, it's likely a lot more people will meet the Barren Girls soon.
The band formerly known as Lazy Janes impressed Merge Records co-owner Mac McCaughan so much at last year's Hopscotch Music Festival that he decided to release the band's debut. Judging by the recorded result, it's not hard to imagine why: The EP delivers four raw, driving songs that match the melody of early Misfits hits with the forcefulness of The Murder City Devils.
The roster of singer/guitarist Carla Wolff, bassist Fran Araya, drummer Ashley Van Eijk and keyboardist Jenny Williams hasn't let its recent geographic division (Wolff and Araya live in Richmond, Va., while Van Eijk and Williams remain in Raleigh) spoil the band's momentum.
We caught up with Wolff to talk about the Barren Girls' future plans, including a headlining gig at Kings on Feb. 9.
INDY WEEK: I understand the Merge signing came about after Mac McCaughan saw the band, when you were still the Lazy Janes, playing at Hopscotch. How did it come together after that?
CARLA WOLFF: I guess he had looked us up online. That's how we found out there was another Lazy Janes [a folk duo from Round Rock, Texas]. He was having a hard time finding us. He got in touch with Ashley Christensen, since I ran Fox Liquor Bar. Through her, he got in touch with me via email.
Were you looking for a label, or was it completely out of the blue?
It was completely out of the blue. We'd been a band for a little over a year, but we did it for fun. We wanted to put a demo out, but we were just going to do cassette tapes ourselves. Then he got in touch, and it all fell into place after that.
So how did the recording for the Hell Hymns EP come together?
We had actually recorded it before Mac ever got in touch with us. That was our attempt at putting out a demo. We recorded with William Evans from Whatever Brains on a four-track in our space. When Mac contacted me about doing an EP, he asked if we had any recordings, so I sent him those. He just really liked the raw energy of 'em, so he wanted to put it out as-is.
What was the lineup on the EP?
It was me singing and playing guitar. Ashley, who's now drumming, was actually on bass at the time. Jenny [was] on keyboards, which is the same. And then Emily Acuna was playing drums for us.
There was another Lazy Janes. Did that inspire the new name?
We didn't want to change our name. We'd been Lazy Janes from the start and we liked it, but we knew we had to come up with a new name before they would put the 7-inch out for us. So we were trying to find something creepy and suited for us. Barren Girls kind of stuck.
Lazy Janes was named after an anonymous corpse left rotting for weeks on a couch in the Philadelphia squat where she overdosed on heroin. Was there any such fortuitous inspiration with this name?
We just totally picked it out of the blue, unfortunately. I loved the story for Lazy Janes, but this one does not have as cool of a backstory. I'll try and make one up.
Since putting the EP together, have you been working on any new material, or making plans for after the record comes out?
Definitely. We have enough material other than the four songs off the EP that we're almost ready to do a full-length. Hopefully, after we do this tour, we can go to work on recording a full-length.
Are there any thoughts as to whether that would be another Merge release or where you would record?
We haven't even talked about that. It's just a 7-inch deal. I'm sure if it goes well, they would be more than happy to back us, but we kind of just left it at the 7-inch for now.
How does it feel for your band, coming from a more punk and garage background, to be putting out a record with Merge, this indie rock monolith?
It's really awesome, and we're all super shocked that they even gave a shit about us. But it's really cool because it's a label with a lot of connections. They've hooked us up on booking a tour, and they've just taken us under their wing. They're taking us to South by Southwest. It makes everything way easier. I'm so used to doing everything DIY, it's really cool to have a team of people doing everything for you.
Has it been more difficult having the band split between Richmond and Raleigh? Has that even been a factor?
It has been more difficult because we only play once a week now, as opposed to when I was in Raleigh we were playing three times a week, pretty much. But it works for our writing process because, for the most part, I'll write the songs and then bring them to the girls. So I spend a lot of time playing alone and figuring stuff out now, as opposed to being drunk at the space and half-assing it.
You mentioned a tour and going to South by Southwest; are you building the tour around that?
We have a tour already booked from April 18 to May 5. We're going out for almost three weeks. But since we're playing South by Southwest, we're booking a weeklong tour on the way there and back.
How has that adjustment been? You mentioned this being a band you kind of just started for fun and now you've got all this activity ahead of you.
The idea of not having to work and being able to tour—that's the dream. It's really cool to have a band actually come to fruition and be able to do what you always talked about wanting to do, have it be tangible instead of just something you bullshit about. I've played in bands since I was 15, and I've always, always wanted to be able to just play music for a living. The fact that it's getting closer is really awesome.
Carrboro Southern psych-rockers Some Army are aiming to fund their debut LP via—you guessed it—popular crowdsourcing platform Kickstarter. Early February will see the start of a 30-day campaign, with the band setting its sights on respected North Carolina producer, musician, and sound engineer Mitch Easter's Fidelitorium Studio.
"It's going to be a dark, soulful, psych-pop record," says songwriter Russell Baggett. "We hope to raise $7,000 to make it. Yikes."
Some Army has gathered a pool of some 15 songs, which will be tightened and narrowed down to 10 or 11 tracks before the band goes into the studio. The existing catalog—two 7" singles and one hell of an EP—reveals a band of respectable potential, both in its confidently nuanced lyricism and Wilco-meets-Grandaddy, wall-of-jangle aesthetic. And while Baggett's usual home-recording approach is to take his time and layer on instruments as he thinks of them, he's excited to make a record quickly—in a week, he says—and arrange the new songs more deliberately.
If the campaign is successful, recording will start this summer, though Baggett is aware that a Kickstarter campaign is no guarantee. Some fail, and it may be an imperfect model. After weighing their options, though, the members of Some Army realized this was probably their best bet for recording in the analog studio of their choice and then having the album professionally mastered.
"We have a clear vision for these new songs and we think they deserve to be recorded professionally," Baggett says. "It’s pretty straightforward—if enough people agree, we’ll get that chance."
The label name already graces record packaging, baby onesies, posters, slipmats, an oral history book, totes and T-shirts. And now, Durham's Merge Records has gone mobile. Part artist-update hub and part streaming service, the new app is the perfect vehicle for exclusive content and streamlined information from the label.
After a free download from the Apple or Android App store, fans can access news articles, tour dates and a glut of multimedia. Each artist pod includes tracks for stream or purchase and a music video section with more than 200 videos, including live footage from the label’s 20th anniversary festival. The app’s designed with a Merge Radio queue that plays through new tracks from unreleased albums first. The label promises a growing a cache of exclusive content, as well as free mp3 downloads and other giveaways for users.
If you sign in with Twitter or Facebook, you can share photos on a fan wall and tag favorite artists, tracks or videos for easy access later. The fan wall also features a map-mode, so users can spy active Merge fans near and far. In the tour section, signed in fans will also be able to check in at shows, share reviews and post photos. Let’s see how long it takes Jon Wurster to infiltrate the system.
Taking place each year in February, WKNC's Double Barrel Benefit serves as a sort of state-of-affairs showcase for local music. The best bills at this two-night event highlight headliners who are garnering a great deal of regional and national attention while also including up-and-comers poised to make noise in the coming year. This year's shows—Feb. 1 and 2 at Raleigh's Pour House Music Hall—fulfill this function as well as any Double Barrel has, a fitting achievement as the event enters its 10th year.
JKutchma & The Five Fifths top the bill on Friday. The folk-rock outfit is led by Jason Kutchma, the spur-stomping frontman of the righteous and redemptive punk band Red Collar. Pastoral, the group's LP debut, turned heads in 2012 with its rugged beauty and a collection of songs that found Kutchma dissecting broken dreams with a sharply bittersweet edge. The rest of the night's uneven but intriguing line-up highlight's the state's burgeoning crop of pop-rock upstarts. Lilac Shadows darken '60s era light-psych with ominous shoegaze, while Greensboro's Jenny Besetzt—a band, not one singer-songwriter—heaps colorful fuzz onto surging New Wave stunners. Raleigh's restless Lollipops complicate classically constructed pop with a charming array of lo-fi effects and electronic flourishes.
Durham's Spider Bags, a raucous revelation of a garage band, headline the second night. The tightly controlled chaos of the band's 2012 LP, Shake My Head, earned them unexpected but unquestionably deserved attention outside the state—including an 8.1 rating at Pitchfork.com delivered by the Indy's very own Grayson Currin. The rest of the bill is filled out with bands that could very well replicate Spider Bags' success. Wesley Wolfe's intricate and propulsive bedroom recordings are fleshed out in the live setting, transformed into electrifying pop-punk that doesn't suffer in comparison to icons like Superchunk. Elegant and refined, Some Army were showered with local praise for the bruised and beautiful indie rock ballads on their 2012 EP. With an LP due later this year, the outfit is poised for further success. Opener Oulipo reached a new level of sophistication on last year's Primitive Ways EP, landing somewhere between Vampire Weekend and Animal Collective with tuneful seductions bolstered by psychedelic indulgence.
After 10 years, Double Barrel remains a remarkably relevant survey of the area's music scene, an opportunity to celebrate sounds you might already love and an entry point for those unacquainted with the state's rich array of local talent. Here's hoping the next 10 years are just as fruitful.
The New Year’s Jazzin’ Eve with Art of Cool celebration at Durham’s The Cotton Room will be Monday night’s most gratifying greeting to 2013. This will mark the first time that Phonte Coleman and Nicolay Rook have performed together, in Durham, as the globe-trotting, Grammy-nominated soul outfit The Foreign Exchange. They’ll be sharing the stage with other Triangle notables, including Bull City emcees Toon and The Real Laww, vocalist Yolanda Rabun, the Al Strong Quintet, DJ Apple Juice Kid. But when the clock strikes 12 a.m., it’ll just be The Foreign Exchange on stage, leading us into the New Year in high fashion. After those balloons drop and you take your first sip of 2013, here a few songs from FE’s discography that will help welcome a fresh calendar.
"Take Off the Blues" (feat. Darien Brockington)
When Raleigh’s acorn drops at midnight, you’re supposed to be lip-locked with someone special. Some of you have already designated your co-smoocher, but for those who need help with grabbing a kiss from that sexy stranger (or just the closest person to you), this should guide you. The opening guitar chords are perfect for basking in the climax of the New Year, and the horn solo toward the end is a savory topping—if your kiss lasts more than a couple of minutes, that is. If it’s just a peck, then you can spend the rest of the song two-stepping your way out of 2012 with FE frontman Phonte Coleman. Maybe skip out before the song's end, though...
"Something to Behold" (feat. Muhsinah and Darien Brockington)
The stomach is the way to anyone’s heart. If your love interest has ever brought you food on your lunch break, then you know why Phonte sounds so passionate when he belts out “Twelve-piece, fried hard!” This is what I like to refer to as the “fried chicken wings song,” and it’s one of FE’s best-suited celebration jams. Since The Art of Cool Project is having this NYE bash fed by Triangle Catering, it would make all the sense in the world for FE to give a shout-out to some tasty bird and remind us that food is that great unifier.
If you’re a NYE party rookie, Phonte maps out the night’s strategy so you don’t have to: “Have a couple drinks/ go out dancing/ on the dancefloor/ doin our two-step/ People, they wonder/ Wanna know who the eff/ Is this dude, he/ act so Cooley/ I just school these/ niggas like UNICEF.” Who doesn’t like a confident date, especially one that can take you out-on-the-town on the biggest, last party night of the year?
"Hustle, Hustle" (feat. Critically Acclaimed)
If, on the night of December 31st, you still have no idea what in the hell the fiscal cliff is, it won’t matter. The bottom line is that, just like every other year, you’ll need creative ways to save more, make more and spend less. If you need someone to light the fiduciary fire, this track from FE’s 2004 debut LP might be the most enjoyable way to do it. Carried by emcees Quartermaine and C.A.L.I.B.E.R of the duo Critically Acclaimed, this hand-clapping praise of the daily hustle should encompass each of your resolutions. Improving your love life? Hustle. Fixing your credit? Hustle. Losing weight? Hustle.
“Don’t Wait” (feat. Darien Brockington)
I would normally never advise anyone to co-opt New Year’s Eve, or any other holiday, as an occasion to “pop the question.” It’s selfish, unoriginal, and every year, you’ll have to have a double celebration, which can be both confusing and exhausting. Several years ago, I did just that on my birthday, and I’ll always regret it. However, if you have to make a grand gesture like a marriage proposal, you might as well carry it out when the fireworks are in full swing, and you’ve spent the half of your life’s savings on ridiculously expensive bubbly. Borrow from the Book of Brockington, get on one knee and say to her, “Girl, we are the lucky ones, that’s why I wanna spend my lifetime with you.” Just make us have to stop the party so you can do it on stage, in front of everyone.
Big things are afoot for Peter Lamb and the Wolves. Raleigh reedman Lamb recently recited a litany of good news, from recent developments to upcoming events—including top billing at Durham’s Casbah New Year’s Eve, and the North Carolina Democratic Party’s Inaugural Ball in Arlington, Va., on January 21.
"Certainly the Casbah show we're excited about, but then there's the inauguration for the President, which is a big deal. We're playing across from Arlington Cemetery,” Lamb says. "The other interesting thing is, we're getting a lot of [air]play in New Orleans recently, on the major jazz station down there. It's huge for me.”
New Year’s Eve also marks the start of the band’s new Kickstarter campaign, where they will be seeking to raise $10,000 to record, not just one, but two albums. The same design, recording and mastering team that produced the band’s most recent eponymous CD will reassemble to create one finished album of just the Wolves, performing originals and standards, as well as an official bootleg, available only as a Kickstarter incentive, brimming with local guests. Those contributors include Ed Stephenson, Steve Riley, Bernie Petteway, Mark Simonsen of The Old Ceremony, Mary Boone of the North Carolina Symphony, and th’ Bullfrog Willard McGhee. In addition, Paul Friedrich of The Onion Head Monster fame is creating artwork for new T-shirts and bumper stickers.
The Casbah show on New Year’s Eve will be two parts jazz and one part variety show, with Footnotes tap dancers and music duo Kate McGarry and Keith Ganz opening for the Wolves.
"The night is going to start as a sit-down jazz show. In the intermission, there's going to be a tap ensemble performing a couple of numbers,” explains Lamb. “Then we're going to come on and just rock it out.”
Lamb says he was delighted to welcome the Grammy-nominated McGarry to the bill.
"She’s new to town. She's lived Manhattan for many years, and now she's here,” he says. “She wants to get the word out, so I called her up and she said she'd love to do it.”
Tomorrow night’s show begins at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15.