The Drag City Newsletter! March 2014

posted March 19th, 2014


The life in rock and roll is a transient one, by what has turned out to be necessity – even more so than the rest of our “make way for tomorrow” world. There’s a certain call to stay young when making music that the younglings dance to – though you wouldn’t know it by the twenty-years-and-rising quality of work by DC stalwarts like Bill Callahan and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy. As we’re all at least kind of aware, there’s growing old gracefully and then there’s the Rolling Stones Inc, etc, right? We must face it, though – as a people, we’re over 60 years into this rock and roll thing, and it’s unrealistic to assume that we won’t soon be putting unrepentantly leather-jacketed seniors into the ground when their time comes. For as swiftly as dance crazes and hairstyles come and go, there’s a moment for many of us when we realize that what we do, however much it may be rooted in passing youthful fancy, is what we’ve always done, and what we will always do. In the face of the rolling over of industries and the waves of new hearts and souls coursing into the picture, we are Drag City for life, motherfuckers.

With the fat stack of new and gently-used music (and sometimes just a t-shirt) delivered to our door every month out of every year nowadays, how can we say otherwise? What would we rather do?  

The answer is always the same, just as it is at the end of every cradle-to-grave story: nothing! 


…and so, good news! We’re signed on for life. Even if we prefer the ink to be to be on paper and not our back, or better yet, of a figurative nature, we plan to advocate for the kind of high you can only get through your ears. That is, until they carry us out and burn us to ashes. And then it’s up to the rest. But in the meantime, it’s day-in and day-out for Drag City, so let’s get to complaining, shall we? Nothing says workaday week like pissing and moaning around the water cooler – and since we don’t even have a water cooler, so we’ll start with that. WTF, gang? On a more music-related bent, what IS it about this industry that drives us to ruin potentially awesome months with scores of overblown, self-aggrandizing and ultimately sales-frustrating music events? And why do they always have abbreviations? March turns into a wash because of SXSW (record biz Spring Break); April due to RSD, where irony of ironies, it’s best not to try to sell new records because of Record Store Day! What monster is this we have assigned to chew on our on tail, kids? We’ve got records to sell, and we don’t care what week-long beer blast you’re at! Take it from us, you’re doing better at wrecking capitalism worse than a congress full of socialists. But we’ve got just the tonic for you sheep-herders: a steady stream of new releases, come hell, high water or Lollapalooza.  

Take March (PLEASE!): the new Dead Rider LP Chills on Glass is one of the hottest new releases of 2014 – or do we mean stone coldest? Could it be both? The answer is aww yiss - a thousand times aww yiss, even! Today’s ears seem to need a hybrid of sounds and approaches - and Dead Rider supply the same, building on gut-bucketin’ rock thump with silken dancey synth textures, hair-trigger guitar leads and wildly emotive psycho-vocals, all splattered with a surfeit of steel-cut digital mush that completes the portrait with an art-astic flourish. With an unparalled visual sense on display in the video ramp-up to their March 18 release, Dead Rider are clearly one of the most overqualified underheard groups in today’s crop – so help us flip the script, and get your own LP, CD or digital copy of Chills on Glass today. And don’t miss their show coming to select cities in the weeks and yeah, months ahead (we’re looking west to you, west coast) – it brings the might and majesty along with the lunacy and laughs that Dead Rider seek to bring to everything they touch. Since they succeed in this venture, audience satisfaction is guaranteed. Sinister like the best Halloweens, Dead Rider is frighteningly unreal, and FUN. 

Also on the long-player front is a new Woo for you. And we don’t mean new as in just minted, no way! For Woo’s been wafting around since the late 1970s in their easy-to-inhabit form of home recorded ambient brotherly duo, whether anyone was listening or not! They put out three or four records in the 80s and 90s and in the advent of the web, stuck their new music up on a site with no overhead to worry about. Lately, the Tao of Woo has been reaccessed and reissued by labels like Drag City – including Drag City too of course! With the stewardship of Yoga Records, we reissued their second album It’s Cosy Inside a year or so back, who can remember (it was 2012 – research-and-destroy ed.) – but with their new collection, When the Past Arrives, we (and more importantly, Woo (and you)) take the listener precisely to the place we like to be – a future that looks something like today, comprised of many unfamiliar moments from our recognizable recent history! These light electric tracks were all left off the records that Woo made, which seems wrong given how amazing they are, until you realize that they synthesize perfectly together on When the Past Arrives in a way that will tickle today’s new age-bone as never before. More soft-focus but with the same wide-ranging acoustic, electric and synthetic instrumental assemblage, When the Past Arrives is the ultimate Woo album – and only 30-some years in the making!

Third on the Drag City Hit Parade for March is actually second – the second volume of Fred Armisen’s Local Heroes series, that is! Fred’s got a roaming ear when it comes to artists whose work deserves a wider hearing, even when their output is limited to one dang song! Last month, volume one hit with the divergent sounds of The Blue Jean Committee’s 1979 bubblegum opus, “Massachusetts Afternoon,” and The Fingerlings’ 1982 new-wave “Embrace Me.” For this second installment, Fred travels to the upper-Midwest for a quintessential slice of Norwegian-American lounge-pop, “Sparkling Apple Juice” by The Bjelland Brothers and then hitches back east with A Taste of New York on their rickety vehicle “Can We Stay With You?” Truly, a wealth of undiscovered talent and some genres of music that we’re sure no one’s ever heard of before!

Also on our March date is the latest offering from GOD?, David Novick’s sophomore release, Your Sister’s Hand. David’s a west-coast songwriter in the classic sense, but his rural psychedelia fits into the San Fran scene like a true missing link, and this is a record that’ll also fit onto turntables everywhere that people appreciate synthesis in pop music. Your Sister's Hand is a gently loping dark horse to carry you into spring!


Yes, Spring! Spring, and the Earth lives again! Renewal! Bands are determined to live again, in the witness of fans, friends, strangers and whoever else dares show themselves! It’s a challenge for everybody, and all around the world, Drag City artists are coming to the plate. Look for New Bums, Purling Hiss, Ty Segall, Death, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Alasdair Roberts, Dead Rider, The Howling Hex, OM, Sir Richard Bishop, Laetitia Sadier and High Llamas, either on tour or for one night only, in venues around the planet during March and April.


At this point, it’s hard to think that anyone doesn’t know about the band called Death -  but there really was a time when almost nobody knew about them but the band themselves – and that lasted a really long time; in the history of Death, probably the longest time. That was followed by a period where even the two surviving members of Death didn’t really think about it anymore. The next phase was when some collector-types (for the purpose of giving them their propers, we won’t call them collector-scum, cool?) discovered a box of the Death single “Politicians In My Eyes” b/w “Keep On Knocking” sometime in the early 2000s. Not only was this an ultra-rare private press record and therefore worth serious cash, it was also a record of rare distinction in that it featured proto-punk performances by a trio of African-American teenages, all three brothers, who were super into rock and influenced by groups from their native Detroit like The Stooges and the MC5, but relatively unaware of the burgeoning international punk movement afoot when the tracks were recorded in 1975. So, sometime in the past ten years, the third phase of Death began, and the gradual awareness began. One collector-type led to another and that led to us issuing an album's-worth of those '75 recordings For the Whole World to See, which led to massive notice and appreciation and acclaim and that led to the making of a documentary feature eventually called A Band Called Death. Meanwhile, additional recordings from the lost era of Death were issued as Spiritual-Mental-Physical. During this time, the two remaining Hackney brothers, Bobby and Dannis (David Hackney passed away in 2000) began playing Death shows as well, which have turned out to be powerful spiritual, mental and physical affairs for all concerned. Now we enter the fourth phase of Death: the whole world has seen, and the process of coming around to Death has been accelerated by the release of the documentary last year. Now, we can’t keep enough copies of the albums on hand! Into this wild situation, a third archival Death release arrives. III will be released on April 22nd of this year, and the “North St.” single has previewed two tracks from the album for those who couldn’t wait for more Death! III focuses on the later stages of Death following the release of their lone single. It features the full-bodied, furiously rhythmic rock sound of For the Whole World To See, along with the deeply introspective side of Death featured as well. A couple tracks from after the demise of Death bring a narrative close to the story so far, and now the vaults are empty. Throughout III there is a strong undercurrent of melancholy along with a defiance, a refusal to surrender that typifies all of Death’s recordings. There is joy as well. This is an amazing third chapter to the story of Death and a phase we look forward to living through. Join us, once again, in Death. Coming to you April 22nd.


Well, depending where you are longitudinally, April streams may be ripe and swelled with rain. Or you're somewhere beautiful like Brazil or California, just waiting for your water rations to come through. No matter what your hydration situation, April, she's-a coming! And when the time comes, we trust you'll wade through the showers of consumer detritus to grab hold of the records that will truly quench your mind's thirst before they go slip-slidin' away. Take, for instance, Dizzy Polizzy, the child's garden of verse-chorus-verse, standing of the verge of de-evolution and total freakin' hissteria at the dawn of the the one and only Purling Hiss. These recordings were made circa 2004-2006, when the skylines of Philly were the border of the world for young Michael J. Polizze, just before the resolve to rock his way to somewhere better ( Lancaster - Lancaster's nice!) bred the fuzz and rumble, the behomoth of Purling Hiss. On Dizzy Polizzy we hear the innocent young strings of a shattering rock sound tangling together with the haunting flavor of an old country blues disc, a basement tape, a copy of a show from the Star Club or Gazzeri's, maybe - a veritable basement tape in a new age! Mike was putting his craft together, but the songs come on with the same wild-eyed mania, even as they rise past the shadows of their influences and toss out an initial classic or two. A sweet companion piece to Public Service Announcement - or lacking that, a simple thousand days of summer with a cooler of your favorite by your side. The Hiss came from days like this! OK, school's out - time to get Dizzy! I think you know what kind of Dizzy, too. Dizzy Polizzy, in stores April 22nd.


People always talking about the 90s anymore, like they can’t remember how hard we were all trying to get out of them without blowing it. Just to make it out alive. Gay 90s? That’s not the way we remember them. No, around the Ivory Bunker, they were the Kray 90s – as in Krayola 90s, as in The Red Krayola 90s. As in, we released eight new Red Krayola records and nine vintage Red Krayola records in the 90s! Yeah, that’s seventeen in all – more than we did on Royal Trux in the same period, more than we did on Palace Brothers, Songs and Music put together as well. Standing aside from the pure numerical dominance of the Red Krayola in the 90s, all those new records were awesome then and have aged mightily. And the reissues were classics before we got them, and the stuff we were lucky to get from the archive, like Coconut Hotel and Live 1967 became essential pieces in the history of the early Red Crayola. The run has continued in the new millennium, but in the process, some of the releases have fallen out of print on one format or another, and some aren’t available at all anymore. We’re taking steps to rectify that, and the first of those steps are a hop, skip and a jump, all appearing together on April 22nd with a trio of vinyl releases bringing back the sound of The Red Krayola from the 60s to the 90s. Coconut Hotel was famously their attempted second album for International Artists in 1967, rejected for being too far out. And it IS pretty far out – right where we like to go to get far out. We got that out in 1996, and the LP has been out of print for over a decade, so that’s nice to have that back. Hazel came out at the end of ’96, and featured a full complement of new players and songs that made the 90s run of new releases so invigorating – a new phase Red Krayola, but one that clearly fit in with lineage of The Parable of Arable Land and Kangaroo?. Singles is a previously CD-only compilation originally released during the final days of the golden era of CDs, and now appears for the first time on LP, collecting 45rpm releases from 1968-2002, including four singles releases from those ultimately enjoyable days of the 90s. Don’t call us nostalgic or nothing, we just don’t see any point in hating such a vast swath of our finite time on the planet – particularly not when it had so many great records from The Red Krayola!

Sure has been a long cold winter – but you know what they say, that means it’s gonna be one HELL of a summer! I don’t know where they get that shit – what, do they know we got a Black Bananas album coming in June? The Electric Brick Wall is fully erected, and on 6/24, it’s coming down HOT - so just to make sure that people don’t get, like, the bends or something, going from this ice-cold season (musically speaking) to the season of Black Bananas, we’ve got a little 7” to give you a tip on the way the shit’s gonna go down. For those of you still Swagg Walkin’ to “Hot Stupid” and doing yer modified Electric Future Slide to “RTX A Go Go,” put your iPod on the shelf and get set for “Physical Emotions”! This is gonna require you to find some new joints – we just can’t get loose enough to make it with the ultra-sleek, super trippy sound Jennifer and the boys have cooked up here! This definitely represents for the bounce part of Black Bananas, and Electric Brick Wall brings both sides closer than ever, but “Physical Emotions” is just OUT when it comes to that. So WAY out. And the flip side is a Hot Chip remix on “TV Trouble” from Rad Times Xpress IV that matches “Physical Emotions” for pure synthed-up joyriding. This single’s gonna rule and then the albums gonna double down. Slip on some Bananas on April 22nd, and feel the “Physical Emotions” all over your body. And if you can't wait to get physical, jump in the stream here!


So that’s what’s going on! We just laid March and April on you, told you who’s out in public and now the wheels are in motion and it’s gonna happen. You know, though – there’s a world beyond April. It’s a bit behind the curtain now, but we’re looking forward to getting to that world of the future, in our little rocket ship from planet Earth. Sure, it’s a world of imagination – but if you can imagine a new record from Oren Ambarchi, Stephen O’Malley and Randall Dunn; if you can imagine one of the craziest Royal Trux reissues yet; if you can possibly conceive of a single from Ty Segall or an extended single from Neil Michael Hagerty and The Howling Hex; if you can envision, in your heart of hearts, a group called Pusswhip Banggang…whew, if you can do all these things and shake your cans to Black Bananas too, then you’re ready for the Drag City rocket ride into summer! Nice work with the brain power. We’ll come back to you with the details – in April.

Til then, feet on the ground; money goes to the record store. Or send it to us directly.

In sales (and very few returns),


Rian Murphy

Drag City Inc.

March 2014