Monday, May 4, 2009

Taking Hold and Standing Ground: The Satin Peaches - 5 / 8 - at the Crofoot

Interview with bassist Aaron Nelson

(Satin Peaches - May 8th at the Crofoot with: w/ Mick Bassett and the Marthas, Gigantic Hand, and JSB Squad)

(words: jeff milo)
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Like so many other long-established industrial sequoias, be it Wall Street, the big auto companies, newspapers or republicans – the music industry is now starting to feel the basilica pillars holding up its top floor suites crumbling away thanks to the undermining might of wholesome DIY revolutionaries.

It hasn’t come like a thief in the night or some Bolshevikian ruthless decapitation-fest…but it’s come from bands like The Satin Peaches – who causing change simply by holding their ground, however frustrating or nerve-wracking, against the shoulder-padded bigwigs who took them all around the country and the world when they were only old enough to drink in Windsor, telling them they were the next big thing, recording their songs and flushing a glittery shower of rock star party lifestyle upon them…and then…stopped talking to them.

Attempted murder by ignoring… As the story goes – the band formed out of high school, amongst long-held friendships growing up in Commerce Township. As co-founding member Jesse Shepherd Bates said, he and singer George Morris were looking to make pop music but never wanting to stray into that under-whelming, over-done territory of revivalism. Based on myspace demos, they were contacted Oasis manager Marcus Russell – floating in something like contractual limbo based on a hand-shake for a while, before actually signing to Island Records and getting down to work in a studio.

Wined, dined and whisked from their hometown of Detroit, the band (currently: George Morris, Aaron Nelson, Ryan Wiese and Jeremy Smith) slid through an odyssey of one somewhat erratic recording session and then more of a cleaning up and getting-down-to-business session, eventually finishing up what would become the Morning Maid EP.

The tunes were shimmering with warm fuzzy guitars, driving rhythms and an unstitched art-punk-inflected splatter that gave it a voice of up-all-night weariness yet cutting enough, both in lyrics and in hooks, to sound like a band that knew it needed to watch its back. The songs fell on deaf ears at Island, who signed a band that was in the middle of a growing period and evidently fired the A&R folks who originally brought them in. Needless to say, the rest of Island weren’t sure about the new creature that had unsheathed from its cocoon. According to singer/guitarist Morris, Island essentially stopped talking to the band. Those kids will probably just get bored and probably go back to college or something—maybe wind up working at coffee shops and dealerships or some other random gray blurred cubicle job.

But the band stayed together. They kept touring when they could and they continued to write. They became tighter as a band, growing out of their original Radiohead-ish /Strokes-ian leaning penchants and galvanizing their classic 60’s Brit-pop and more mind-bending experimental post-rock pedal-pushed adventurism – which lead to an even stronger live show in presentation and chemistry.

And they made the bold decision to "quit" their label. They weren’t dropped. They quit – and stayed together. And, they kept their friends – namely Shepherd-Bates and fellow singer/songwriter Mick Bassett – who were starting up a fledgling label of their own, online, called Sleek Speek.

Seemed like the perfect vehicle to release their purgatory-bound EP – as a digital download (released last March). Hence, the Peaches and their EP’s final release are just another, albeit considerable, domino to fall against the un-rooted music industry and its archaic, miser-like ways of trying to bind artists in an unfeasible system of commerce. What happens next?

The band returns to touring in this early summer – and kick of a series of shows this week that take them through Hamtramck, Lansing and over to Mt. Pleasant and Kalamazoo – as part of a reintegration back into their home town and home scene.

It all starts May 8th at the Crofoot with: w/ Mick Bassett and the Marthas, Gigantic Hand, and JSB Squad

Here’s an Un-Cutz Interview with bassist Aaron Nelson – from late March, regarding the Morning Maid EP, thoughts on the music industry, the state of the band and…whatever’s happening next…

What's new, what's the word? Sum up last year and this year (so far)...

Aaron Nelson: 2008 was a very stressful year for the band. We had gigantic goals for ourselves that were all suddenly turned upside down by the events which unfolded. The plan was to be releasing our EP 'Morning Maid' on Island with 'Still Sour' being pushed as a major single all over the world... It was too good to be true! When things didn't go as planned it took us awhile to reassess our situation and come up with a fresh game plan but by the end of [2008] we had things figured out again. The highlight of 2008 for me was our tour with Alejandro Escovedo in October. Easily one of the coolest people I've ever met.. Every single thing about him said 'rock and roll' yet at the same time, completely professional and respectable. We learned a lot from him and became a better band because of that tour. [This year] we were able to print 1,000 copies of 'Morning Maid' (and released digitally, March 27th on Sleek Speek). We're excited to finally be able to put something in the hands of our fans, something we haven't been able to do since we were in High School. We're very focused and ready to invest all of our time in bringing national attention back to the Detroit music scene. I'm confident it's as strong as it's ever been before and that's really saying something.

What’s the status of your Island connection? What’s the story there?

AN: We're completely free and clear of Island now. The story behind all of that drama is basically the exact same story you've heard a dozen times about major labels from other bands... They're not exaggerating! In the beginning they treated us like we were a guaranteed smash hit and wouldn't be able to walk down the street without being recognized, no doubt about it. Being 18/19 years old and confident in our music, we ate their bullshit up even while we heard all those horror stories from other bands about major labels. I don't know if there's any other way you can take it when dozens of British people are spending thousands of dollars on just your food/drinks while they tell you about the famous bands they worked with.. As soon as the honeymoon was over though, everything went to hell. First, Island fired the A&R staff that found us and actually liked our music. The very people that were the deciding factor for us in choosing Island over other labels, just vanished... I remember when we got that phone call from Marcus(our manager), we knew things might start getting crazy from thereafter and we were dead on. From that point on our budget consistently shrank for recording, tours, and promotion... With the funds cut off we couldn't finish our record, so we had to make it a mini-album. None of us really liked the idea of that, but we had to settle and convince ourselves it could work... Still though, things got worse. About a year went buy and while Island kept telling us good things and had plans for a release/promotional campaign, nothing ever materialized. Nothing was organized and it took days, usually weeks, to get a simple question answered. Last summer we reached a breaking point and agreed with our management that we needed to get out of the deal, so we terminated the contract. Yes, we were the ones to quit! Technically no one can say we were dropped... The accurate way to describe it would be 'forced to quit'. Hah. We couldn't wait around anymore doing nothing while these business people sat on their asses and treated us like a negative asset. Thanks to our management, we were lucky to fully retain all the rights to 'Morning Maid' and we are once again free! Free to be a band... not a stock.

Can you detail the story of morning maid? how/where it started and how the recording experience went?...if you can remember back…

AN: Morning Maid started with Owen Morris flying out to Northville for a week to see what we were like and if he thought we had enough strong material for an album. He didn't know if he wanted to work with us and we didn't have any clue who he was really... just that he had produced Oasis records. He came to George's house and watched us practice in the basement while taking notes on everything we played for him. Most songs he said were shit. Some songs he said were boring. Honestly I don't remember if he liked anything we played him during that first practice ... but I think he just got along with us. We did this for a few days and slowly Owen admitted us that he liked our music and thought we had enough material for an album. I think he was just playing weird games with us... I'm convinced he's an insane-genius who's so bored with life he's constantly inventing new ways to live... Ways of living that most people wouldn't ever want to experience but to Owen... It's the experience that is living. Anyway, we recorded 4 tracks with Owen and then flew out to L.A. to finish 2 more with Dave Sardy, he also mixed the 4 we did with Owen. He was great, very professional and quick.. He knows exactly what he wants to do and does it effectively.

How, if in any way, songwriting, as people, or whatever…have you changed, as a band, since your first steps into those recording studios with Island…the first week or so of recording Maid...

AN: A lot has changed since those first recording sessions with Owen at Allaire Studios. We have a lot more material that we consider album-worthy. We now understand how to shape a song to reach it's full potential. Every song we write now has something special about it that makes us like it, besides it just being a good song. We've learned how magical dynamics can be. George has learned a lot about singing. Ryan and I have just naturally gotten better at executing what we hear with our instruments. Jeremy has learned what being a good drummer really means. It's really night and day for us looking back. We can't wait for another chance to record a full album with a great producer... I'm confident it'll come out amazing... More amazing than anyone really realizes.

Talk about the move forward with Sleek Speek?

AN: Well really the decision to release it online started with the cold hard fact that we weren't going to be able to release 'Morning Maid' physically on a national scale. The more we researched how the music industry has taken shape online, the more we realized that this was actually a very good thing to be doing... with unlimited potential. It could actually turn out to be the superior path to what we're trying to accomplish. The blog community has exploded in the past few years and are now, in my opinion, just as relevant for success as exposure in major music magazines are... Sleek Speek is a label Jesse Shepherd-Bates and Mick Bassett thought up about a year ago and I'm excited to see where it takes us. 'Morning Maid' is officially being released on Sleek Speek and you can expect anything else we put in the near future to be as well. I think you can say the same for Mick Bassett and the Marthas and JSB Squad. Sleek Speek is really more than just a label though and I think you'll be seeing it take shape throughout the rest of 2009 and into 2010. If all goes to plan it's going to evolve into something unique. I guess you could say Sleek Speek is our answer to how the Internet has taken hold of the music industry across the world.

What's coming up next, what are you looking forward to in 09?

AN: We hope to be recording the beginnings of a full album this Spring and are setting a goal of having something finished by Fall 2009. Depending on if anything happens with a label from now until Summer(Recording budget?), we can't say for sure yet what exactly is going to be happening for us. We've started laying some tracks down at Erik Roosen's house(Detroit Hollywood Studio) who is the drummer of Mick Bassett and the Marthas but it's evident we have a lot to learn about recording ourselves. After recording 'Morning Maid' with such accomplished producers we've set the bar pretty high for how we expect our recordings to turn out. At the very least we hope to lay down the foundations of the next album but we're hoping we'll be able to get it sounding good enough to record and release ourselves. Who knows though...

1 comment:

maxr said...

That's a lesson right there- don't sign to major labels! I mean it!!