The Rich Girls Are Weeping

12 July 2006

A more serious topic than usual, but there's still mp3s attached to this entry, believe it or not. There’s a very fine line you walk when you’re a fan of a band, and then you become their friends, and then you decide to try your hand at music writing.

The other day, that line became blurred and then disappeared entirely. And I’m here to make some corrections and clarifications on the subject of Shearwater and Misra Records.

But maybe I should back up a little. (Alternatively, scroll down for today's tracks...)

The first time I saw Shearwater, it was at a tiny show at Flipnotics, a charming coffeeshop and performance space in South Austin. I can’t be sure of the exact date, but I believe it was some time in late 2001 or early 2002. Not to be completely trite, but it was one of those experiences, looking back now, that completely changed my life. I went to rock shows, sure, and was a fan of a few local bands here and there. Thanks to some knowledgeable friends in around the country, I was hearing new bands every day -- bands that weren’t exactly the indie rock royalty that they are today – Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Interpol, John Vanderslice, Death Cab for Cutie. Embarrassingly enough, a friend from out of town turned me on to Shearwater, who were at the time a tiny side project of the ramshackly-but-on-the-rise Okkervil River. They were spectacular – but a very different band than they are now, brimming with potential and gorgeous songs that were tiny glimpse of future greatness. I was really shy (no, really!) back then, not the charming and bubbly girl you all know and love today. Somehow I mustered up enough gumption to talk to the band, and found them to be wonderful people in addition to being fantastic musicians.

After that show, I wouldn’t say I became obsessed with Shearwater, but I fell in love with Everybody Makes Mistakes and went to see the band every time they played a show, which wasn’t all that often in those days as they were incredibly busy, namely with other bands and academic pursuits.

Fast forward a few years, to November 2, 2004 – that dismal election night. It was the first night I saw Cue play (at Beerland); Pinkie was just a few yards down the road at Stubbs’ outside space seeing Interpol. It was, as they say, an interesting night for both of us. On the bill inside at Stubb’s after the Interpol show was Shearwater and Decibully. I scuttled over there after Cue’s set, wading through a sea of fashion-plate hipster kids and drunk college students and waving when I spotted Pinkie, her ex-husband, and TRGAW party-pal Dot as they headed to the afterparty at the Parish.

The ensuing show was hard to watch; Shearwater had been on the road for several weeks in support of their third album, Winged Life, and were exhausted; tensions between various band members were at a strange and tense yet horribly stagnant point. But it was the first time I had the pleasure of seeing the beginning stages of the band’s current collective onstage persona – slightly dark, slightly sinister, while still exuding a lovely and touching air of quiet vulnerability.

Not to blow things out of proportion entirely, but it was pretty special. Afterward, I talked to lead singer Jonathan Meiburg and percussionist Thor Harris on the loading dock about things various and sundry, but mostly about Jonathan’s upcoming interview with the NYC-based crew of the Wrens documentary I’ve been working on since mid-2004, whilst about 20 feet away, fifty screaming fangirls accosted Interpol’s bus. It was surreal, to say the least.

Over the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of slowly getting to know the members of Shearwater better, just as people. In addition, I’ve promoted their work in various blogs I’ve written for, I’ve recommended them to practically everyone, and dragged protesting friends to live shows -- with an almost 100% conversion rate, I might add.

So, when I found out from a friend (in confidence, to be honest) in NYC the other day that Shearwater had been 'dropped' from their long-time label, Austin-based Misra Records, I was pretty shocked. In hindsight, this was certainly news that wasn't altogether surprising (based on things I’d heard here and there for the past few months), but it was still shocking nonetheless, given the critical success of new album Palo Santo and the glowing reviews of shows on the current tour that were filtering in practically daily from other music blogs.

I knew I had a tool at my disposal -- this blog -- to reach out to a very specific sliver of the indie rock audience – enthusiastic fans, publicists, and record label staffers (yes, y’all, I see the stats and I know where you’re coming from…) – people who care about the band and their continued ability to tour and record more fantastic albums, and I felt like this was information they needed to know.

Now, this is where I have to insert a very important sidebar. I’m a professional writer in the “real world” (though almost all of my writing in that capacity appears online), and have been for nearly seven years. The work I do in a paid capacity is very different from the kind of writing I do here and on other blogs. This is a labor of love’ve taken on to promote the work of musicians I care about -- because no, I don’t make any money from writing for and curating this site, or any of the other blogs I contribute to. To a certain extent, I'm using also using this site to develop a portfolio of music-focused writing to augment my other portfolio work: Covering companies and industries for a business information publisher.

But I digress. What I’m getting at here is that I did something Monday that I absolutely never would have done were I writing about one of the companies or industries I follow, and something I’ve now learned one can’t really get away with when blogging either. Namely, I didn’t follow up with primary sources to clarify the story my friend had told me – more specifically, with the band, with the label’s manager, and with the label’s owners. I had trusted that the information she’d given was fit for public consumption and completely accurate. Needless to say, it was not. And that’s where that line between concerned friend and professional journalist disappeared entirely. Now, that being said, it wasn’t my intention at the time to engage in spreading scurrilous gossip against Misra and its management; my main concern was to let everyone know that one of my favorite bands, and most importantly my friends, were in a position to find a new label. I wanted to help out.

Needless to say, as often happens in highly charged emotional situations, it came to light that some of the facts of the story were misconstrued. Since yesterday, I’ve talked with Phil Waldorf, who runs Misra, Michael Bracy, one of the owners of the label, and Shearwater’s Jonathan Meiburg. I’m glad they took the time to all speak with me, and I’ve heard three really different stories about what’s going on here, but there are places that everyone’s stories do intersect: the first being that Misra Records is not shutting down – far from it, in fact they are on the verge of rolling out an ambitious expansion plan. Secondly, Misra has not ‘dropped’ Shearwater and the label is committed to supporting the band and their new record Palo Santo; furthermore, Jonathan, Kim, Thor, and Howard are in no danger of being booted from the Misra roster. Finally, and this was very specifically highlighted by my talk with Jonathan, since Shearwater have a per-record contract with Misra, they are currently free to shop around for a new label for future projects, should they desire to do so.

There is, naturally, a lot more going on behind the scenes that I’m not at liberty to discuss here, namely because everyone was very careful to delineate what was on the record, and what was most definitely off the record in our conversations. I don’t really blame them for that!

So, I hope this clears things up for everyone out there. Thank you for taking the time to read this post -- and most importantly, thank you for your continued support of this blog and our other endeavors. It’s greatly appreciated.


Your requisite NME buzz band sample: It's a few months old, but sometimes it takes time for these things to make it all the way to Texas -- you know, despite the speediness of the interschitzel. Dig the silly wonderfulness of the "OI! OI! OI! Punky chips ahoy-ness" of the shout-along chorus on "I'm Always Right" and the post-Interpol, actually-ripped-from-Television-y'all jagged guitars on "I'm Not Sorry":

The Pigeon Detectives -- I'm Always Right
The Pigeon Detectives -- I'm Not Sorry

Apparently, The Pigeon Detectives know my ex-boyfriend (::rimshot::). In all seriousness, they seem to be friends of the Kaiser Chiefs or something. Buy their new single, "You Know I Love You" on iTunes.

On this side of the pond, get your uh, somethings out with Pony Pants (hands-down the best band name in ages, n'est-ce pas?) -- may I recommend them over the appallingly dull and current bloggerbuzz faves Cansei de Ser Sexy? Yes, I believe I can. Beats to make the indie kids dance, deliciously naughty lyrics? Hello, Pony Pants! Thx to the boys at Badminton Stamps for the heads-up. (Stream the whole album here.)

Pony Pants -- Sexual Pickle
Pony Pants -- Factory

And, yes, though the new Mountain Goats, Thermals, and Ratatat albums were leaked yesterday, I'm not sharing. Not yet... Well, to be honest, I'm still stuck on Get Lonely, and imagine I will be for a few days, at least. Check out tracks at You Ain't No Picasso.

And, speaking of The Wrens, they have a new website. No, really!

On deck tonight, after a disco nap: Cry Blood Apache and White Denim @ The Chain Drive. Should be a wicked time, come out and rock out like crazy with us. Totes? Totes!


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