Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Home sweet home

Having been rudely awoken by my alarm at 3.45am, today has been all about flights, short blasts of sleep and remembering how comparatively cold the UK is. The past week in Cyprus has been awesome. I spent days hanging out by the hotel swimming pool, eating amazing food (so happy to find people who agree with my rice AND potatoes combination), going on a stag do with an army sniper groom and 20 complete strangers, the ensuing wedding and the time away from the internet. I'm yet to open Outlook and face the wrath of emails flooding in. That's a job for later in the week, I think.

So, what happened whilst I was gone? For one, we celebrated the 2nd anniversary of MMISL Day. Loads of you wonderful people got involved by spreading the joy and wishing your friends and family many happy returns, NME gave the whole of 'Variations On Swing' away as a free MP3 download, whilst Drowned In Sound ran a lovely piece on the band and what the members are now doing. Perfectly timed with all of this, Tropics (now featuring no less than three ex-St Louis members) posted two brand new songs online.

Closer to home, The 405 magazine ran an informative little article on a handful of UK labels, profiling BSM alongside Alcopop, Gravity and Banquet, giving a little bit of an insight behind the scenes of we indies.

I'm taking the rest of today and most of tomorrow off to wash clothes, wallow in the fact that my holiday is over, complain about my sunburn and pluck up the courage to start dealing with the email backlog, but look out for loads of exciting things coming in October including news on a couple of new releases, an Autumn sale plus a few new band recommendations and an interview or two on this here blog.

Here's a photo of someone who could very well be doing an impression of me. Brits abroad, eh?


Monday, 21 September 2009

MMISL - The bands pay their respects

As I mentioned the other day, Thursday is the 2nd annual MMISL Day, marking the two year anniversary of 'Variations Of Swing' being released to the excited public.

During their time, Meet Me In St Louis made many friends, a few of whom were more than happy to write a few words to mark the occasion...

Stu, This Town Needs Guns
I won't lie... like most people (I think) I wasn't totally convinced by MMiSL on first listen. They were clearly great musicians, but something didn't click for me for a very long time. We were lucky enough to play a bunch of shows with them and whilst they were all lovely guys (and I remain friends with many of them) I just couldn't get into it. In many ways, MMiSL are similar to another favourite of mine; Radiohead...bare with me here and I'll explain. With pretty much every Radiohead album I have ever heard I have the same reaction: "What the hell is this all about? The songs are all mixed up and weird. They've lost it. What a shame. Oh hang on...their is that one song I like though." The key is that both bands write/wrote incredibly interesting music. With every listen you discover something new. The song you liked on first listen makes you give the others more of a go. I love music that can do that. Repeated listens only help improve the music, until all you can do is listen over and over and over again. Once you'd 'learnt' the songs the live show took on a whole new life. I loved watching MMiSL and feel really grateful that I got to see them perform on so many occasions (not least in my own front room), due in part to their own bloody determination to be on tour pretty much constantly.

I remember when Toby told me he was leaving the band. I was so gutted. He is one of the best lyricists/vocalists I know of. Some of the lines he wrote on 'Variations' will stay with me forever. The fact that he was able to write such poetry, to such complex time signatures and melodies is astounding. When the band finally called time on things I wasn't overly surprised. Knowing the pressure that they placed themselves under (they were literally THE most hard working band I have ever known) it was bound to implode at some point. I just hope that there may one day be a reunion of sorts. It seems like such a shame that the last chapter of one of the greatest punk rock bands of a generation should be so inglorious. Whilst writing this I'm reminded of 'Refused are fucking dead' which documents the final months in the life of the equally hard working/genre def(ying/ining) band, Refused. There are many comparisons to be drawn between MMiSL and Refused (both regarding their music and work ethic), I just hope that unlike their luminaries this isn't the last we've heard of MMiSL. They deserve(d) much better.

"...as we get closer the room gets smaller. That's all she wants progress."

Joe, Tubelord
paper cut from the box into butterfly singes my hand digs deep for message but we all roll on continuously puzzled as teacher keeps questioning, bludgeoning the class with a thousand facts for the world external to this room, which room? the one you're in lover. we'll share in a twilight perplexed traces of dust sifting along vacuums of our breath and along from my loft a homogeneous childhood forever, until tomorrow has bled into my cranium and made me forget everything you said. just so you know...
i can still smell the plastic christmas gifts serenading pleasure at our feet.

Alan, Colour

Meet Me In St. Louis. Their EP is amazing* and their album is one of my favourites ever. Every single part has such value, nothing is too much and nothing is out of place. Such rhythms, lyrics, chords, riffs, melodies. And they were so friendly and encouraging to four 18 year olds who were making music together at Kingston college...

Shane, Function Records


Shit. Two years already and more than four years since Toby played his news bands demo to us through the PA after soundcheck at The Star. It was just him and Paul playing the first carnation of 'I am Champagne and You Are Shit' and it was amazing. About a year later they were kind enough to let us put out their first record- the EP with the longest title ever. By that time they were five: armed with genial shredder Olly; the world's energy source Louis and Benny- the spine of a second great band.. Then they released another brilliant album through Kev and a while later, it was done. Anyway, enough back slapping, they stacked and I miss them. xx


Happy MMISL Day!

DIY

A piece I wrote about BSM and DIY ethics for This Is Fake DIY online magazine. Have a read.

MMISL Day

On 24th September 2007 Meet Me In St Louis released their debut - and unfortunately, only - album, 'Variations On Swing'; an incredible, influential and much-admired record

To mark this years greatest unofficial bank holiday, we only request two things:

1) You crack out your copy and turn it up loud

2) You post a few words about the band, what they meant to you, why you loved them so, and anything else you'd like to share. The comments on this blog are open to anyone (you don't need to sign up for an account) and we also have a Facebook event with a wall begging for your love and attention.

And although not a mandatory request, remember it's only polite to wish your friends and family a happy MMISL Day on Thursday! Greetings cards, gifts and cakes are also optional.


T-shirts and EP's




To help this years celebrations, we've re-printed one of the bands old t-shirt designs and they are now available to pre-order via www.bsmrocks.com in a choice of two colours. They're available in youth large, small, medium and large, but if you require a different size, let me know asap and I'll see if the printer can squeeze an extra one in for you.

We're also offering a very limited number of special bundles over on our Boot Sale Music website, which combines the above t-shirts and old copies of MMISL's debut EP, 'And With The Right Kind Of Eyes...'

Happy MMISL day for Thursday, everyone!


Thursday, 17 September 2009

You think you're balanced until the power goes out

Yesterday was the longest day of my life. It started off in typical fashion, playing email catchup, packaging a few mailorders and listening to good music. At just before 1pm I heard a weird beeping noise which turned out to be the phone sitting next to me. The digits on the answerphone base unit were flashing and the voice was trying to speak, literally as if it was trying to use its dying breath to warn me. By the time I figured out the electricity was about to trip out, it was too late. Everything shut down. 1200 homes in East Oxford lost power.

I sat back and folded my arms. There's been a problem in the area for a few days now and this wasn't the first time the electricity had gone off this week. I'll just wait it out.

Nine hours later the lights came on.

I think the biggest difficulty I faced was the fact that I had no idea when the problem would be resolved. I had a small amount of charge left on my mobile, so could make calls and get online for an hour, perhaps. The same with the laptop which had enough battery power to last a short DVD or an hour of typing. But how do you ration when you don't know how long the issue will last? This must be what it was like for those lads in Alive.

I took to drinking warm beer, reading odd pages of books, peeing in the dark and walking slower than usual to delay the inevitable boredom when I reached my destination. It's incredible just how much you rely on electricity and it sometimes takes these moments to make you realise. I lose track of the number of times I thought "I'll put some music on... oh no, wait" or "I may as well make some lunch" or even "my phone's going to die soon, better just put him on to charge" before that horrible realisation sets in. I now understand why Fred Flintstone was always so damn angry.

The aftermath

By the time the power came back on I'd achieved a fair amount. The glory of hearing the buzz of those little wires crackling into life all around the flat filled me with joy and sent me into a technological overload. I flicked light switches on for fun, I watched TV, typed out emails and listened to music all at the same time, and I charged my phone so I could film the mess I'd created through the 9 hour blackout.

Dramatically soundtracked by Talons, here's how BSM HQ ended up on 16th September 2009:

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Available for weddings, bar mitzvahs and the biggest Monday night parties

"80... 79... 78... 77..."

An unruly mob has taken over the King's College venue in London. 500-strong they're baying for blood, desparate for more frantic partying action having witnessed Andrew W.K. rip the stage up, arms flailing, sick everywhere.

"51... 50... 49..."

The security look at one another and shrug. "What can we do?!" they ask with paniced expressions.

"27... 26..."

Despite the lights being switched on the kids are still trying to scramble onto the stage. They cheer in mass, counting down from 80 hoping for a repeat performance of the chaotic encore of just 2 minutes ago.

"21..."

Andrew's finished. London has partied hard and the night is all but over. So what happens next? What can possibly finish this off?!

"16..."

A particularly frightened bouncer looks up at Ben and I in the DJ booth and makes yet another plea for us to play a record. We shake our heads, smirk and hover a finger over the flashing mixing desk. This has gone from being a gig to a party, to a full-blown riot.

"9... 8... 7... 6... 5..."

Someone could get seriously hurt in a minute.

"4... 3... 2... 1..."

And then it begins:



We saved lives tonight.

The Ben and Kev DJ Experience is available to hire for weddings, bar mitzvahs and massive Monday nights out in London.

PS. An email received from Andrew this morning:

Dear Kevin,
Thank you SO much for your DJing at the sho
w. Everyone was raving about your song choices, especially Jimmy Coup, who was just over the moon about you playing "Don't Stop Believing" right at the very end, with such perfect timing and relevance.

Love,
Andrew


Party hard.


Monday, 14 September 2009

Joining the dots

I'm having another one of those spells where I feel as though I have loads of dotted ideas in my head, but can't quite figure out how to draw the line between them all. It's a little bit like sitting with the jumbled up pieces of a puzzle, casting your eye over the completed image on the box but unable to work out where to begin. I have the end picture in sight, it's just the process which is missing a few pieces.

A pointless blog post if ever I did write one. Hopefully more will be explained over the coming weeks as a few things start to happen, and perhaps you guys can help me dot a few i's and cross a couple of t's?

I'm off to London tonight to DJ at Andrew WK's gig at King's College. It promises to be a lot of fun although my set's going to seem a little hollow without it's usual 'Party Hard' centrepiece.

PS. MP3 fans: We now sell a number of releases digitally via www.bsmrocks.com/shop for less than you can buy them on iTunes, etc etc. Get involved. Support your scene.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Zines

I've started reading a new book. I have a horrible tendency to skip between novels before finishing any of them but have recently completed three in a row, so feel as though I'm on a small run of form. My latest 'thing' is books which help give me ideas. 'The Long Tail', despite being unnecessarily drawn out in places, and Chris Anderson's follow-up, 'Free', both helped with that and nights spent laying in bed with my paper companion more often than not descended into hours of me tapping away notes and possible solutions to problems in multiple text messages, stored away in my mobile phone's drafts folder. A couple of weeks ago, as I first began to embrace my new-found addiction to the US DIY culture, I bought a few books and a couple of DVDs to try and give myself a better insight and perhaps learn a little more about the forgotten concepts of a pre-broadband music industry.

The first of the new set of books to get the once-over is called 'DIY: The Rise Of Lo-Fi Culture' and begins by talking about zines.

The concept of a fanzine is a straight-forward one and something I'm very well aware of, having spent a few weeks writing my own one (and printing all of 30 copies) well before the label began. It's a passionate job with little or no financial reward, put together by a non-professional writer, typically in their teens or early-mid twenties, seeking to share their love with the world and maybe build/join a community.

But doesn't that sound like a blog to you?

It got me thinking about zines in 2009 and realised I can count very few now. The days of the quickly slapped together, cheaply photocopied and stapled publications, which are as likely to leave your hands covered in grubby black marks as they are to leave your head filled with new information and inspiration, seem to be behind us, as everyone has turned their attention to the easy solutions; Blogger, Wordpress, Tumblr, Twitter and the rest. Those easy-to-start yet quickly forgotten online diaries, of which there were 112 million as of December 2007, with only a small fraction being updated on anywhere near a regular basis.

Am I just being an old fool, reticent of change and desperately trying to cling on to old, romantic notions, or has the real sense of community died with the printed product? Has the internet, for all its good in uniting people from one side of the world with the other, and giving us previously unthinkable tools for publishing and promotion, actually stolen the heart out of what was once a thriving market? Have the local, niche scenes, once fuelled by an incredible sense of passion and pride, lost their disciples to the noise of the world's diverse and ever-expanding array of distractions?

I'm not saying that everyone with a blog to their name need throw their keyboard out of the window and reach for the nearest Prit-Stick to start hand-crafting their outpourings, I simply use the zine example more as a symbol of the overall problem than a single issue which needs consideration. Where has all of the creativity gone?

Bands: When did it become ok just to poorly record a song, upload it to Myspace and sit back waiting for the majors to come knocking? Has that ever, just once in the history of the internet, actually worked? Get out there, play some gigs, stand at your merch table and shake the hand of everyone who buys your CD. Thank them for their time and let them know you mean it. Stop looking for the quickest route to success and start thinking about what you're doing and what you're hoping to achieve with it. You have more control over your career than ever before. You literally need nobody else. You make the decisions, and you reap the rewards. Man up.

Managers: How many new bands from the past 10 years will go on to build sustainable careers? It's hard to look past people such as Muse, and they only just scrape into the decade. So why insist on sticking with the same old, constantly failing formula of a limited 7" single on a 'cool' indie label before looking for investment to make a big splash with the debut album and be forgotten by the sophomore? You're a manager, by definition you are leading these people. If you don't inspire creativity amongst the ranks, who will?

Labels: Sales are declining, we get it. So why not do something about it? There's no sense of achievement in simply copying others; find your own style, your own niche, your own ways of doing things. The press tell you that digital sales are difficult to harness but have you really tried? In my mind, there's a world of possibilities there. Make one work for you.

Magazines: Like with labels, your sales are declining. More and more people are realising they can find the same bog-standard information about their favourite bands for free on Wikipedia, rather than paying to read your by-numbers interview, and they trust their friends opinion of new albums over your unknown writers. Re-build your community. Give your contributors identity and let readers know who they are and why they can be trusted. Make yourself a tastemaker with a quality control radar to help guide fans through the minefield of new music. And don't portray bands simply as musical equipment carrying monkeys, tell us more. Who are these people really? What do they listen to? What makes them tick? Much like us labels, you need to find a way to mix the physical and digital world before you lose both.

Obviously it isn't just that easy. It's not a case of sitting up in bed one night, throwing your book away mid-sentence and crying out "by George I think I have it" - the music industry cannot and will not be cured by one person, one night, but that doesn't mean you can't play your part. Stop mindlessly accepting the current state of play and start to remember how things used to be, back when only the most creative could survive. Maybe it's time we took a step back to take the next two forward?





PS. Sorry about the rant

Monday, 7 September 2009

KD@XFM

Feeling very low on blog title inspiration today and have seemingly regressed to the mindset of a frog. Not that I ever was a frog, so regressed was probably the wrong choice of word. Lets just file that as extra proof of a difficult day.

Here's a video of Manchester Orchestra showing you around their hotel room and (more importantly, if we're honest) Kevin Devine performing live at XFM...



Fact 1: Andy Hull from Manchester Orchestra reads this blog. Hi Andy!

Fact 2: Kevin Devine's album 'Brother's Blood' is brilliant and won't be his last for the label this year. In fact, there may be two more. Ooh... Twist!

Fact 3: I've recently started using the word "twist" since laughing at it in 30 Rock, which I've become unreasonably obsessed with lately.

Fact 4: Other obsessions include fried chicken and the music of Grown Ups.

Fact 5: Grown up is a term rarely used to describe the fanbase of the band I'm listening to right now. As I've previously mentioned on one more than one occasion, there's a reason I don't let Last.fm scrobble my music.

Fact 6: Scrobble is probably the most ridiculous word of the 21st century

Thursday, 3 September 2009

500

This is my 500th blog post. Lets take a moment to let that information set in...

Seriously, five-hundredth?!!

I've been watching the little counter ticking over as I bounced my way through the four-hundreds and sped towards this landmark. To anyone who has read the full half-century: Thanks. And sorry. Its been a long and often boring ride, but hopefully you've found the odd rose amongst the thorns.

I started wondering what I should write about to mark such a brilliantly round number of blog posts and there was only ever going to be one winner; another round number.

BSM100

It seems like only yesterday we were talking about '50 Not Out', our 50th release, which saw the light of day in April 2008 in the form of a 50 track (you've spotted the pattern, right?) MP3 compilation CD. It was a fine day and something I was very proud of. Well guess what? Next summer will see our 100th release! Somehow - and I honestly have no idea how - we've already managed to bash through almost 30 releases since last April, and have another 30 sitting in the schedule between now and the start of 2011. With a bit of careful counting, the big 100 sits squarely in the middle, exciting, intimidating and boastful.

So... What do we do? I've got a few ideas, and will no doubt have a million more by the time the date comes around, but what you can be sure of is we're going to celebrate in style, people! We're talking cake and hats here!

Pens at the ready, fact fans

Having checked and double-checked the release schedule to ensure we really are fast-approaching this milestone in DIY music, I noticed one or two interesting, erm, "mishaps" in our past. Riddle me these...

For some reason, the catalogue numbers between BSM010 (FogDonkey's 'Hot Town Fever' CD - our 13th release in Feb '04) and BSM020 (Jeniferever's 'Iris' CDEP - our 16th release in June '04) do not exist. During that period we released two 7" singles, but nothing more, and neither of those were officially marked with numbers of any kind. '50 Not Out' is listed at BSM053, whilst the four releases running up to it were BSM044, BSM054, BSM056 and BSM055, in that order. The ability to count is not in my job description, apparently. However, despite all of these issues and confusions, our 100th release is currently on track to be BSM100. All's well that ends well, as they say.

Another somewhat surprising discovery is the fact that BSM is in fact a very sexist label. By the time we reach 100 we will have worked with 59 different bands (not including those from compilations), incorporating somewhere in the region of 200 people; with a grand total of just 7 females!

oops.

Conclusion

BSM is a male chauvinist record label which can't count, releases a silly number of bands, writes an even sillier number of blog posts and plans to turn 100 by eating cake.

Here's to the next round number. Cheers!


Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Colour - Anthology, explained

The day of Colour's last ever gig is getting ever-nearer. It's already sold out and promises to be an amazing night, in equal parts fun and sad.

On September 21st we release 'Anthology', the Colour disography. It's an album many of us hoped we wouldn't see for a long time yet, marking the unfortunately early demise of this amazing band, but at least on the bright side; it's absolutely amazing! A brilliant collection of 13 tracks spanning the last couple of years of recordings, making it an essential item for all avid fans. Alan (vocals and guitar) explains the origins of each track taken from the record:

Conversations, Silverbeast and Outerspace
These came from our second ep conversations. This EP helped us find our sound and 'Conversations' seemed to be our best recieved song so far. It pushed us on to our nextEP .

Shamu, Some Miles and Over The Moon
These three were released on another CD-R release called 'We Are All Over The Moon'. We sold this at shows and online and must have sent out quite a few. 'Shamu' named after a resident at Sea World, 'Some Miles' a re-write of an old song and 'Over The Moon', a fan favourite and set finale for many months. Colour recordist Jamie Field unleashed a phenomenal conducting talent with the 'Over The Moon' choir. Xtra Mile Records approached us to release it but asked to release 'Chutes' instead when they heard our latest efforts.

Chutes and Tired Eyes
Our first proper release on a split 7" with Rotary Ten. The b-side 'Tired Eyes' ended up left unheard until now. Both songs feature Tubelord's own Sean on bass. And 'Chutes' orchestral intro features our favourite producer Jamie Field on piano, Trood on marimba, and me
sharing a small glock with Dave Ccatmur. Or as we like to call him - Catman.

Unicorns, Run Like You're Being Chased and Jewels Like Fairy Lights
After a long break we released this EP, our new manager, Stars Redmond, put together a nice cd and vinyl combo. Yes i said combo, like on Mortal Kombat or Tony Hawks. 'Unicorns' probably took the longest time to write of all colour songs. 'Run Like You're Being Chased' is how Lewis' p.e. teacher described his 100 meter sprint. It is my favourite Colour song.

Talullah's My Mothers Name and Dinosaurs
'Talullah' would probably have become our next single to follow 'Unicorns' but wasn't yet recorded when we split. When BSM approached us to release our back catalogue we thought we ought to record these last songs so they didn't get lost in the sands of time...

And there you go. Colour. 'Anthology'. RIP.