Thursday, April 16, 2015

April musings from the Best Local Record Label in Minneapolis.

We're pretty excited about City Pages naming us to be the best local record label in Minneapolis. This came as a surprise this morning when I grabbed the annual "Best of" issue off the rack outside my paying job on a coffee break. 2014 (and early 2015) was big and busy for us, seeing the release of two Mystery Date records, Narco States' and Black Diet's debut albums, Southside Desire's sophomore LP and 7 inches from Sex Rays and Grolar Bears. We had both the Piñata Records Hit Parade in February, and then Piñata Records Field Day in August. We're all really pleased to be recognized in this way.

This winter has seen us taking some time away from label duties. Trevor and Marvel had their first baby in November, and I've been taking more time to relax after getting my kids in bed, instead of formatting album art, coordinating wav files from mastering engineers, and e-mailing blogs, radio stations and newspapers in a sometimes Quixotic effort to promote these brilliant slabs of music we put our logo on. But rest assured, there are some great new releases coming soon. Black Diet will be releasing their second album in the summer, and it sounds fantastic. They're really stretching out, while maintaining their classic approach to music-making (i.e. being a talented band playing good songs). Wait until you hear the album version of "Fever", "Find a New Love" and "Stateline". They rule. We will also have our first foray into the world of cassettes (so fast and cheap to produce!), but I don't think I can tell you about it yet. Just know that it's one of our most absolute favorite artists, and we're honored to be a part of this sublime album.

We've also opted against some kind of release for Record Store Day. We love records, we love record stores, and thanks to the annual block party at Hymie's Vintage Records, we even love Record Store Day. But, we feel that it's really expensive and time-consuming to clog up the record presses just to put out something on a day when most customers are (I guess?) looking for soon-to-be-eBayed 10 inches from The California Raisins or something. So no RSD gimmicks from us.

But we're feeling so shiny and honored this week, so here's something for y'all...

We want you to get 25% off your entire order from our Bandcamp page for the rest of the week (offer ends April 23rd). This offer is for anything on our site.

Use this discount code when ordering: bestlabel

Thanks so much for paying attention to the bands we work with. They're all incredibly talented, and we're just so happy to be working as a part of such a brilliant community of artists and fans.

Friday, January 16, 2015

A short essay about Mystery Date's New Noir.

Johnny, Grady and Steve. Photo by Katie Riemer
First, the news. Mystery Date have a new album. It's called New Noir and it officially comes out on Tuesday, January 20. It's available on LP, CD, and all the downloadable doo-dads you can shake a log-in/password combination at. It's a really great, ambitiously unified album. Here's what it sounds like:

Secondly, I'll try to explain my love for Mystery Date, via a long story.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Mystery Date's debut LP New Noir hits shelves on January 20!

Steve, Johnny and Grady. New Noir. 

We spent last night putting LPs, inserts and download codes into jackets for Mystery Date's incredible new album New Noir. We've released all the preorders, and anyone ordering it from now on will immediately get a full download and the record or CD will ship out within 2 days. Come to the release party!

January 17
Eagles Club (2507 E 25th Street Mpls)
w/ VATS and Teenage Strangler
8:30 PM/ $5 / 21+

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Narco States' Psychedelic Opus: Wicked Sun

Narco States Wicked Sun Release Party
Friday December 5th, 9 PM
Triple Rock Social Club
with L'Assassins, Violent Shifters, Filthy Cheaters
$6 / 18+
Sponsored by Pabst

First of all: this record sounds so good. It sounds exactly like a "heavy freak" psych-rock band should, in my opinion. I love that Aaron has a realllly long organ solo. The drums sound muddy and bloody, but you can hear everything. Nick's bass propels the music more than accompanies. I love that Mike's lyrics are sometimes goofy to counteract the surrounding dust storms of drugged-out noise ("He wore the sweater that you gave me last year/ I wouldn't wear it cuz it was too square"). From the opening count-in to Nate's crushing guitar solo 3 minutes into "Wicked Sun", I love this record. Buy it, and see these guys play.

photo by Katie McGuire at Piñata Hit Parade

There's a story I love to tell about Narco States and how they came to be aligned with Piñata Records. In August of 2012, after I sent the masters for Southside Desire's Songs to Love and Die To to United Record Pressing, I started a Facebook page for Piñata Records, in an effort to make it look legitimate. The whole point of starting a record label, and designing a logo, was to try and trick critics and radio people into looking twice at the album. Within a day of making the Facebook page, we received a message from our old friend Mike MacBlane-Meyer. Would we be interested in putting our logo on the back of his new band's 7" EP? We could get another record in our catalog, further legitimizing our "label", and we'd get the opportunity to try to promote another release, getting our name out there as well as providing support to a band we liked. We said yes, and just like that, we had an actual record label.

Some assorted things about this album:

  • Wicked Sun was recorded in basements (I can't remember whose, but I think either Justin's or Aaron's). 
  • The first song "Lost in Time" also ends their first EP as a live version of a then-new song at the Hexagon bar on September 29, 2012 (Southside Desire shared this bill. It was a fun night).
  • The pressing plant sent lots of bad test pressings and kinda jerked the band around on this one. In the end, they told them that the records may not arrive until 2015, so we all started planning for a winter release party. Then suddenly, they were shipped in October. Thus the long delay between the record coming out and the release party.
The release party for this album is like this...

Narco States Wicked Sun Release Party
Friday December 5th, 9 PM
Triple Rock Social Club
with L'Assassins, Violent Shifters, Filthy Cheaters
$6 / 18+
Sponsored by Pabst

Saturday, October 25, 2014

SEX RAYS Down South Juking Tour Blog Vol. 1

Written by Sex Rays' Joe Hastings. Listen to, and please buy,  their new 7" on Piñata Records.


October 15th, 2014

It all started with CHUCK BERRY, we grabbed the tour bus drove 12 hours straight down to St. Louis, Missouri to see the godfather of rock'n roll. We hung out in the alleyway of Blueberry Hill where he plays a monthly residency and has been for years. I spoke to him a number of times that evening and while shaking his hand, he looked me straight in the eyes and smiled at me as if he recognized me from the time we did an interview together for the St.Louis Post Dispatch in 1998. I'm certain he doesn't remember! He is totally cordial, awesome, and is playing every show and song with the same earnestness verve that any human could do three days before their 88th birthday!  

Here's the hand that shook the hand of the godfather of rock n' roll- Chuck Berry!!!

After the show we hit the streets of St. Louis and 12 hours later walked into Vintage Vinyl on Delmar and hooked up with G-Biz who is stage managing the rest of the tour-

Now as we leave St.Louis we hit the arch 
and immediately drive to party on Beale Street a few days before our show at the Buccaneer Lounge in Memphis, Tennessee!!!

While walking these lovely ladies started talking to Hastings, grabbed his hair, pulled out a comb,  and started giving him a sweet makeover on the streets of Memphis! 

His hair was solid 70's after that awesome interaction-

While in Memphis we hit Sun Studios once again love that vibe! 

Here's the actual microphone that Elvis used to record, "That's Alright, Mama"!

The more Rock 'n Roll the better! "Rocket 88" as told by the tour guide Marla, is attributed to being the first actual rock and roll song! Ike Turner was on that track-

Here's some interesting bathroom wall graffiti in Memphis-

We decided to go to Holly Springs about an hour outside of Memphis to go see "Graceland too".  Only to find that the owner had shot a guy who tried to rob him three days ago and then died himself yesterday apparently of a heart attack!

"Graceland Too" is a place where you could show up after the bar is closed. It's open 24 hours a day and you get a personal tour from the owner (now deceased) Paul McLeod. He is self described as Elvis Pressley's number one fan. Throughout the years he has collected many many things all related to Elvis. He brings you on a guided tour of his home which looks like a small version of Graceland-so awesome and crazy- here's a link to the YouTube tour-

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Released! The Sex Rays "Midnight Caller"

I've been using the term "roadhouse R n' B" to describe the new Sex Rays single "Midnight Caller". That's not entirely accurate, because only in my imagination, and maybe in a good movie, would a song this incredible be played in an actual out-of-the-way rural highway bar. "Midnight Caller" is a perfectly composed, performed, and produced garage-rock dynamo that would make Peewee Herman dance on top of the bar when it hits the jukebox.

The Sex Rays have been in our circle since their inception, with Trevor, Gloria and myself having shared a practice space with bassist Joe Holland for years. He and guitarist Joe Hastings, upon their departure from the Fuck Knights, started a one-time Link Wray cover band with drummer Ben Crunk for a tribute night at Lee's Liquor Lounge in 2010. They opted to remain a band, gradually filling their repertoire with original songs. Their name is an amalgamation of their two primary influences: the punk ferocity of Sex Pistols and the rumbling blues rock of Link Wray (though I lobbied unsuccessfully for them to just be called Motorcycle). They frequently perform 3 sets a night, like a good old-school bar-band, but their originals are their best and most spirited songs.

"Midnight Caller" and its B-side "Where's the Tambourine?" (not to be confused with a certain other Piñata release) were both recorded in basement analog studios in South Minneapolis. The A-side was tracked at Mike Wisti's Albatross, the B-side at Eliot Gordon's Disgraceland. The songs, which would be perfectly great tracks as minimal productions that simply capture their live spirit, sparkle with subtle flourishes on these takes. Tambourine, organ and tape effects boost them into A-plus territory: rock n' roll students exceeding expectations.

This record comes out today, October 14, 2014 on 7" record, and all the online retailers you can think of. Ask for it at your favorite record shop, or get it from our online store.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Grolar Bears - Midnight Stew 7"

We're really excited about our most recent seven inch release from the symphonic funk collective Grolar Bears: Midnight Stew. Grolar Bears are a unique entity in the garage and soul obsessed Twin Cities music community. Their live band fluctuates between 9 and 19 pieces, including a full horn section, multiple vocalists and four percussionists. Bandleader and bassist Jonathan Kramer creates rough sketches of the songs, sends them to musicians to work out parts, and then brings his portable studio to record their contributions. The different parts of "Midnight Stew" alone were recorded in such diverse locales as bedrooms, a church, practice spaces, an auditorium, and in some cases, an actual studio. 

Musically, Kramer puts a laser focus on getting just the right orchestration of the many instrumental parts that go into each song. Grolar Bears' previous release was a sweeping instrumental soundtrack to a fictitious 70's exploitation film. On Midnight Stew, vocals take center stage, but never get in the way of the piano line,  the congas, or the saxophone riffs. It all works together in a way that pays homage to the great 70's productions of David Axelrod and Quincy Jones. The B-Side features an instrumental mix that allows the listener to really appreciate the musical performances captured.

Midnight Stew is now available directly via our Bandcamp store, at Hymie's Vintage Records, and on September 30 will be available worldwide in stores and on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, etc. via Darla Records Distribution.