Merge


A brief bio of your label: Who started it?
Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance of Superchunk. They still co-own and run the label today.

When?
Summer of 1989 was when they decided to start the label.

First band signed and/or first release?
First release – Bricks “Winterspring” (cassette). Bricks was Mac’s band while in college at Columbia University in NYC. Also featured Ms. Laura Cantrell (who has gone on to quite a solo career) and Andrew Webster (who went on to play in Tsumami).

Where does your label call home? Describe your headquarters.
The label was started in Chapel Hill NC, with Laura’s bedroom serving as the first “office”. We now call downtown Durham NC home. We moved here in the summer of 2001, when Merge bought a 3 story building, with our offices on the top floor and our “warehouse” in the basement. We rent out the street level floor.

Your name? What are your primary duties for the label?
My name is Martin and I handle national press/publicity for the label.

Who are a few of the bands on your roster? Most recent signee.
Our most recent signee would be a band out of LA called The Broken West. Their debut album (“I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On”) was released in January (2007). We also recently signed Oakley Hall from Brooklyn NY. Their Merge debut will be out in the Fall of 2007.


Other bands on our roster include: Spoon, Superchunk, Arcade Fire, The Clientele, The Rosebuds, The Ladybug Transistor, M. Ward, Destroyer, Camera Obscura, David Kilgour, The Clean, Richard Buckner, Portastatic, Robert Pollard, Lambchop, The Essex Green, Lou Barlow, White Whale, Imperial Teen, Radar Bros, Tenement Halls, Annie Hayden, East River Pipe, Teenage Fanclub, American Music Club, Crooked Fingers, Neutral Milk Hotel, Third Eye Foundation, etc etc…

What is the best method for an unsigned band to capture your attention?
Well, that’s hard to say. We do not have an A&R department per say, but all demos that are submitted do get listened to in due time. Basically, Mac and Laura still decide what will be released on the label, based simply on stuff that they love and want to be associated with. Unfortunately we do not have the manpower to be out there scouring the clubs on a regular basis scouting for new talent. Things tend to come to us in their own way. It’s not scientific, but it’s worked pretty well out so far.

Used to be that one of the best ways to get noticed was to score an opening slot for Superchunk on tour, so that Mac and Laura would be a “captive” audience so to speak. But since Superchunk doesn’t tour much any more, I’m not sure what the secret would be.

Any upcoming release(s) you’d like to plug?
Here’s what we have on the horizon:

March 4th: ARCADE FIRENeon Bible – CD/LP
April 10th: THE ROSEBUDS – Night Of The Furies – CD
May 8th: THE CLIENTELE – God Save The Clientele – CD/LP
June 5th: THE LADYBUG TRANSISTOR – Can’t Wait Another Day – CD
July 10th: M. WARD – Duet For Guitars #2 (reissue) – CD

In the pipeline: SPOON, IMPERIAL TEEN, OAKLEY HALL, ROBERT POLLARD, and much much more….

Don’t worry, there’s currently no intentions of turning Rock Sellout into the Arcade Fire blog…I just noticed a lot of traffic from Google searches coming in (from Sean’s Friday post), so I thought I’d give the people what they wanted.

Their first performance was “Intervention”…

Am I the only person who will never tire of instruments being smashed?!

Their second, “Keep The Car Running”…

MP3s of the performances are posted on Sand Is Overrated, click here to grab them before they’re asked to take them down.

Per Merge Records:

Fresh from their five show NYC run, Arcade Fire will be on Saturday Night Live this Saturday, February 24th! They will play two songs from their forthcoming release, Neon Bible. Saturday Night Live airs on NBC from 11:30 PM to 1AM EST on Saturday nights. Check your local listings for channel information.

Also, NPR’s Live Concert Series posted downloadable audio from last Saturday night’s Judson Church performance. Check it out HERE.

If you want to check out some live video of the Judson Church performance as well as a review of the show, head over to Stereogum.

Let’s just hope they skip the Target sketch this week.

www.mergerecords.com
www.nbc.com/Saturday_Night_Live

The Arcade Fire
Neon Bible

Imagine that you are standing on a dark, deserted beach. The last strings of sunlight are touching the ocean, and the water turns from dark blue to pitch black. Complete silence surrounds you.

Then, the first wave comes crashing onto the beach.

This is the image that appeared in my mind when I first heard the opening track of The Arcade Fire’s new album “Neon Bible”. I’m not going to get too poetic though, I just felt that I had to share this imagery to set the mood, per se. However nearly every song is like dark waves crashing over you and sweeping you out into the ocean; sometimes you’re riding high, other times floating peacefully.

The Arcade Fire have really outdone themselves, and possibly every band in their genre with this album. There’s not a single err among the songs, all richly arranged with full-on orchestra, mandolins, intense vocals and you name it.

The album as a whole is as intense and theatrical as their previous efforts, although perhaps a bit more dramatic as well as more put together. And, they’ve gotten quite catchy as well: “Keep the car running” is sure to be one of the first songs to stick to your brain for good couple of days, followed by the sombre title track, “Intervention”, “Windowsill” and “No cars go”.

But these are really only examples. Trust me when I say that every song has something to offer, whether it throws you into a thrashing current, or a calming flow.

Just jump in and let the tide lead you to the lighthouse.

Believe in the Neon Bible!

U.S. release date is March 5 on Merge Records


The Broken West are from L.A. and are comprised of Ross Flournoy (guitar, vocals), Dan Iead (guitar, backing vocals); Brian Whelan (bass, backing vocals); Rob McCorkindale (drums, percussion); Scott Claassen (keys, backing vocals). Each member brings impressive musical muscle to the band’s first full length album I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On released on Merge Records.

The band has created an album that is exceptional from start to finish with a consistent sonic experience throughout. That’s not to say all the songs sound the same, on the contrary, every song on the album is unique. I’m trying to say that despite each song being unique, they are all infused with what one could term The Broken West Sound.

What is that sound? I’ll try to explain.

“The Broken West Sound”

*carefree sunny days lying on a beach with a car radio playing (this in spite of lyrics that occasionally probe the darker side of human existence);

*soaring sing along melodies supported by harmonies that were meant to be there (think Grateful Dead – the masters of harmony); and

*instrumentation, percussion and tones that recall 60’s and 70’s rock music (echoes of the Beatles in particular George Harrison’s wonderful selection of guitar tones, Elvis Costello – before he got lazy, and the Kinks) merged with modern pop sensibility.

When all of these factors are put together “The Broken West Sound” is created – an undeniably modern sound with infectious melodies that somehow recall some of the best days in modern music…before all the noise of massive musical marketing budgets drowned out all that was good in music. It’s interesting to note that their lyrics occasionally seem to reflect this sentiment, a desire for better days that may have slipped away. In a few words The Broken West, lyrically and musically, invoke a reminiscing feeling in the listener.

“Down in the Valley” is my favorite track on the album. It epitomizes that retro feeling characteristic of The Broken West Sound with a Hammond organ tone on the bridge, harmonies that would make Jerry Garcia jealous, and handclaps…god I love handclaps supporting a solid percussion section. “Shiftee”, one of the slower tracks on the album, starts out acoustic and intimate until it explodes with texture. It has a decidedly Beatles feel/progression to it, an image helped along by the Leslie infused guitar tone that recalls George Harrison, tom heavy drums, and catchy keyboard melody. “Slow” is an instantly likeable pop rock tune that hits the chorus within the first 10 seconds of the tune…I challenge anyone not to be singing along after the first listen. Also of note is “Big City”, another instantly likeable tune featuring a wicked driving bass/distorted keyboard riff.

For the record, and to be perfectly clear, while I have described elements of their music and of The Broken West Sound in terms of other bands, the sound that results is all their own. For those uninitiated to the feel good melodies and harmonies of The Broken West and more reserved when it comes to experiencing new music, I recommend hitting the four tracks above before delving into the rest of the album.

Then again, if you dig music that is consistently on the pop side of rock (and if you trust my instincts) I recommend that you just buy I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On and listen from start to finish…you’ll end up digging it first spin through. I did.

David Morley

I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On will be released January 23, 2007. Be sure to check out “So It Goes” in our player!

Band
MySpace

If you were making a mix for our readers, what would be the first three songs you’d select?
1) “I am the Cosmos” – Chris Bell
2) “Nicotine & Gravy” – Beck
3) “Serious” – The World Record

Name any musical influence(s)?
The Band, The Beatles, George Harrison (solo), Dwight Twilley, The Byrds, The Kinks, Teenage Fanclub, Joe Pernice, Rolling Stones…


What new music are you currently listening to?
Sloan, Califone, The World Record

Name a band (current or defunct) that would be your dream act to open for on a major tour?
Tom Petty, Teenage Fanclub

Who, if anyone, would you like to collaborate with?
Thom Monaghan (a producer), Ethan Johns (producer), Dwight Twilley, Tom Petty, Norman Blake

Tell us something about you that we can’t find on Google.
Brian (bass, vocals) bought his car with money won from karaoke contests he participated when he was a kid. (No joke.)

Band
MySpace

Wanna hear the first single from the new Arcade Fire album? Head to their website and click on Win’s section of the site. There will be a link to Win’s Scrapbook at the bottom of the page. Click on the image similar to the one above and enjoy.

I guess if you’re lazy, you could just go and click on the second song in our playlist. Heh.

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