Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Bear interviews Greg and D-Ray from COMMUNITY RECORDS

Community is an eclectic record label that works with a lot of really great bands- The Flaming Tsunamis, A Billion Ernies, We Are The Union, Matt Wixson, Stuck Lucky, etc. etc. etc. They do so much in the community (ha, pun) as I'm sure you guys know- they release compilations and host Block Party ever year. I got to talk to them about the festival, plus Head Above Water and you know, anything else I felt like.
By the way, does it seem like  I'm doing more interviewing than reviewing lately? It's because I am. To be completely honest, it's because it takes less time to interview and I have my exams last week... So I haven't had any time to talk about any new albums. I promise I'll be fulfilling all of your addictions to my opinions soon. ;)

What is the philosophy behind Community Records, and how has it evolved since you started?
Community Records started as an idea to release a compilation. Jay Bonafide, the guitar player from Public Access, originally had the idea in 2007. That compilation was to have: Public Access, Stuck Lucky The Flaming Tsunamis, The Fad, Fatter Than Albert, Tusker, & We Are The Union. We have all been friends / touring buddies for a long time. So the idea of releasing a compilation with all of our material seemed like a splendid idea. I was the one who said "ok I'll get this thing rolling" and with that I figured I should start a web-site as a foundation to support our touring and musical efforts. When this thing kicked off I did not really think it would be a "record label" but after just a few months of work, that's what we defined it as. I would not consider Community Records to be a traditional style record label. We give away about 80% of our MP3s for free, we believe that this is the most honest way to release punk rock, so we're going to keep doing that.

The philosophy has been to be a collective of bands that supports each other. We work towards creating music that is honest and unique. Most of it exists on the fringe of what people would call "punk" or "ska" some of it is not that at all. We just try to focus on releasing music that we believe has unfiltered passion and overall what we consider good. 

How involved with music are you personally? Bands you play in/instruments you play? What are your favorite bands to work with?
Both Greg and I are super involved with music. I (D-Ray) have played keyboard since I was six and trombone since the age of ten. Currently I play in several bands around the country: The Flaming Tsunamis, Vox and the Hound, and Big, Fat and Delicious. In the past I was in Fatter Than Albert with Greg, and have done tours with We Are The Union and A Billion Ernies. I also draw my main source of income from playing gigs in New Orleans, everything from brass quintet gigs, second lines, musicals/operas and cover bands. Basically, I try to play as much music as possible. Greg plays bass in the Rooks and is currently learning how to play guitar for the new awesome band the two of us are putting together.

I love working with any band who plays awesome music and has awesome ideas about the world around them. There's nothing like meeting a new group of like-minded musicians and making friends with them. The flipside of this is of course, we've worked with a few artists who have been sort of demanding and rude about getting their rider fulfilled and then some. These people are of no interest to me. No matter how popular or seasoned a band or person is in this industry or in the world, no one has the excuse to feel better than anyone. With that being said, I'd say obviously any of the Community Records related bands are a pleasure to work with. Besides being all around awesome, they help sooooo much with the label. Stuck Lucky and A Billion Ernies do a lot of our designing and screen pressing from their houses. All the bands serve as a support system to keep us making good decisions. Other awesome bands would be Sun Hotel, Dan Potthast, Mustard Plug, Slingshot Dakota, Bomb the Music Industry, Chilled Monkey Brains and The Closers always help out really hardcore with booking shows and keeping their respective scenes alive.

What has been your proudest moment with Community?
Oh man, that's a tough one to answer..... There are so many inspiring things that come our way. Most of them come in the forms of e-mails, letters, and meeting people at shows who have said that we have created any positive moments in their lives. Its amazing to know that what we do sometimes works and people respond back with good vibes.

As far as one moment in particular I would say Block Party 2011 made us proud. (For those of you un-familar with Block Party it is a big street festival we have each year in New Orleans with mostly community records bands). Watching A Billion Ernies play to an awesome crowd in New Orleans was one of the best feelings I could imagine. Those dudes & all the other com rec bands work so hard, to know that something we did helped them to achieve more success & have a fun time is something to take immense pride in. The whole day was just so fun, and creating / participating in that vibe was a beautiful experience.

Can you tell us a little about the DVD being released from Block Party this past year?

The Block Party DVD started as one of those "It'd be so awesome if we could..." ideas and quickly turned into a possibility. It seemed almost impossible to do a good job and stay within our budget. Then I went and saw some friends of ours film a live music video for another local musician at one of his shows. Turns out they had started the Greenhouse Collective a couple years ago. Like us, they are a local grassroots company only they specialize in video elements. The basic idea was this: the band and backdrop were dressed in solid white. They band pantomimed playing the single at half speed while children ran around throwing different colors of paint on them with paint brushes. The final product was sped up and matched really well with the song. The fact that they not only executed this, but were also able to do it in front of a live audience was really awesome.

They were super interested when we brought the idea to them and were really awesome to work with in terms of hashing out ideas. Over the few months before Block Party, they built homemade shoulder harnesses for the cameras out of PVC pipe, I and a friend built three 4'x4'x4' camera stands out of wood, and we had several meetings planning out certain shots and which bands would be covered. Unfortunately, there was no way to get every band on camera so we settled for those who would benefit most from the footage. The bands you can plan on seeing a couple songs from are Caddywhompus, Stuck Lucky, A Billion Ernies, Murphy's Kids, Mad Conductor, The Forthrights, Informant, Best of the Worst, The Rooks, Chatty Cathies, The Lollies, and RX Bandits, as long as they approve the footage. Special features on the DVD will be extra footage from the bands, interviews with festival attendees, and a walkthrough of the festival to give an idea of what it looks like.

All of the cameras were awesome HD rigs: either Canon 4D's or some camcorder of which I cannot remember the name. There were at least two cameras on each of the bands being recorded, sometimes three. One stationary camcorder 40 feet directly in front of the stage on one of the camera stands and one 4D walking around in the crowd/pit, sometimes there was a third on either of the two camera stands flanking the stage. One of the cameramen even had a 10 foot gib we were able to put to use in the evening. (It's the crane thing you see at music festivals swinging over the crowd.) The audio was fed to two sources and mixed by two different people to make sure we have two choices when it comes to audio.

That's so awesome, dudes! Now, can you tell us a little about the behind-the-scenes of Head Above Water? How successful has it been so far?
When the oil spill started last year, it was like watching a slow motion train wreck. Only the slow motion picture lasted about 4 months and the entire city either was screaming in disgust or turning their heads away from having to view the carnage. Sorry to be so grim, it is just a reality that this is the biggest ecological disaster to have hit the United States EVER, and it happened an hour away from where we sleep at night. With that said, D-Ray and I knew we had to do SOMETHING.

We thought the best thing we could do was a compilation. After talking about it back and forth and sifting through ideas, we arrived at "lets call up EVERYONE we know and see if they want to be a part of this". We got 36 bands to say yes to the idea of a free digital download where all donations would go to a local non-profit who is working everyday towards combating the entities that have and continue to destroy our gulf coast.  We wanted to release this sooner, but in light of such a big project, it became obvious that the most effective time to release this was one year to the day after the oil started spilling into the gulf. (April 20th 2011)

It is so far successful and will hopefully continue to be this summer. We have over 2,500 downloads so far and have raised over $400. We will be pushing this free download at all of our shows & with all of the promotion we do for the rest of the year. You can download it now / view the track list at: 

What do you consider to be the best albums of the year so far?
I'll precede my answer with an explanation. I don't really seek out new albums or really listen to the newest music. I'm not even sure if I can come up with 10 favorite albums of 2011. Usually I listen to old vinyl, CDs I've been listening to for years, or NPR or WWOZ, the local independent jazz station here in New Orleans. With that being said, here my favorites in no particular order other than the earliest one's came to mind first... I apologize in advance for a less than normal list.
- New Flaming Tsunamis record (unreleased)
I'm biased because I helped write and record this album, but I still think it's going to be my favorite of the year. So much heavier and well produced than anything TFT has ever released.
- Caddywhompus - The Weight
This is a very close second. Even though it's only a 4 song EP, this record packs such a punch. You know those bands you're crazy about and think everyone else would be too if they heard them? This is that band for me. Experimental, rock-pop infection.
- Spraynard - Funtitled
Absolutely, without a doubt, my favorite new band...and I have none of their albums. I've only heard Funtitled one time through on a car ride this summer, but that's all it took. I'm a sucker for pop punk with awesome lyrics about living life to the fullest and loving your friends.
- New We Are The Union record (unreleased)
Once again, biased because I recorded trombone and organ on this record while on the Ska is Dead Young Guns Tour with WATU. BUT I find it is worth mentioning because it is such a huge breath of fresh air from this band. Instead of spreading themselves too thin and making an ok full length, they took their time and wrote 5-6 really catchy tracks. 

What is the funniest thing you've ever seen happen at Block Party?
That's a great question. I'm trying to rack my brain for hilarious things that have happened. Mostly when I think of Block Party I just think of fun & manically running around handling the 700 logistical aspects that have to happen during the day. So I guess the funny things I usually miss out on. D-Ray brought up the killer drunken cannonball that Jimmy Doyle from The Forthrights / The Fad did into the crowd from the stage during Stuck Lucky's set. That was pretty hilarious. I'll send a picture over when I can.

The most fun I have had..... gang vocals and stage dives during A Billion Ernies & Stuck Lucky performances especially this past year. Its one of the most amazing experiences to look out over a group of friends in our home town all having a good time to the music of my best of friends. In the words of Jonzee of Stuck Lucky "Block Party is better than Christmas". 

Okay guys, if you haven't checked out Community Records do it, look at their Head Above Water Comp, donate to The Gulf Restoration Network if at all possible (any amount helps), and check us out while you're at it!

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