August 28, 2008
Reporting for NPR, Jacob Ganz referred to the “perfect storm of Internet hype, e-commerce, and rabid fan response” to describe the fast rise of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. But perfect storms are meteorological coincidences, whereas rock bands on the rise – even unsigned, “independent” ones – are the product of human actions. Thus, Internet hype, e-commerce and a rabid fan response require posting MP3s and getting them to the right bloggers, connections with online distributors, and booking the right shows. A band’s success today might not include a label but it will require managers, publicists, and, of course, distribution, all of which was available to CYHSY from the beginning.
|Photo by Davey Wilson|
The truly unique feat of CYHSY was that an unsigned band sold about 100,000 copies of its first release within a year without a label. Today it has sold about 300,000 copies including domestic and international sales; surely the envy of thousands of local bands. Many onlookers believed that the 9.0 rating on PitchforkMedia.com (Pitchfork) was the reason for their success. But it was the road to Pitchfork and its aftermath that reveals the band’s rise to be a product of talent and hard work, but not without help from people in the music business.
In late 2005, when I first heard about the CYHSY explosion, I cynically asked myself: “Is there a music industry person operating behind the scenes”? There were two, both friends of the band from Connecticut College. Dave Godowsky was in the publicity department at Rounder Records, and then Nick Stern was Director of Publicity for Atlantic Records. Some big label industry experience was behind the rise of a band touted as the poster child of the “independent” and DIY music business.
Nick Stern, manager of CYHSY, takes little credit for the band’s success. His role, he says, was essentially giving “advice to good friends from college;” asserting that the band exemplifies the DIY ethos. Moreover, Stern is adamant that “No one can do anything without a great fucking record.” Stern also notes that most bands have managers. But anyone who has a friend in a great band will tell you that most bands starting out don’t have managers or close friends in the business. Furthermore, many in today’s new music business understand that managers and publicists are more important than labels.
More on CYHSY: The Rise of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah; Hard Work and College Friends in the Music Industry Can Really Help
August 26, 2008
Love is Dead
2008 | Engine Room Recordings
In an era of the beloved 3½-minute indie rock song, Alex Lowry boldly writes epic-length songs that ambitiously and uniquely eschew traditional verse-chorus structure. This fact necessitates at least two listens to wrap your arms around the songs’ complexities. But unlike most bands attempting the epic rock song, Lowry’s long songs, with few over-indulgences, work beautifully.
The lyrics on Love is Dead are introspective, semi and pseudo biographical, simultaneously serious and amusing, poetic and conversational. The music is melodically creative, instrumentally strong, non-derivative, and produced (Lowry) and engineered (Aaron Nevezie) with enough professionalism and market awareness to attract hundreds of thousands of consumers. You’ll laugh at, sympathize with, and maybe even learn from Alex Lowry’s journeys of self-discovery and disillusionment. And through subtle sarcasm, sometimes masked in Midwestern twang, Lowry actually concludes that love is not dead, unless you’re an idealist.
The record’s opener, “Whiskey,” sets the stage of the author’s personal journey and that of the listener. Organ chords captivatingly and quickly introduce the drum beat, one that represents driving on a real and metaphorical road, to which Alex sings: “Streets lead to tunnels, tunnels lead to New Jersey, New Jersey leads to the states, states lead to the ocean and I’m standing in a field.” As a Kansas native, Alex is establishing the viewpoint of his journey from the Midwest to NYC. He continues with the words “Roadside love, midwestern hearts have come undone.” The rest of the record describes this journey of coming undone. In “Whiskey”, and throughout the whole album, multi-layered rhythms and melodies keep the listener fully engaged within a rollercoaster of rock orchestration that maintains a beautiful acoustic sensibility.
More on Lowry: Love is Dead