WTF demo translation: A Rant by John Ellison
WTF Records would like to respond to the many complaints we’ve received regarding our confusing and unfortunate statement about demo-tape submission by reposting this more appropriately worded translation. We apologize for any upset our first statement might have caused our more sensitive fans, and for women. Those responsible for the previous post have been dealt with by management. This message is from the WTF Pro Team. We hope this translation addresses your concerns. Please keep buying our records.
How does WTF review demo tapes?
So, you have talent! Good for you. You’ve come to the right record label because we at WTF Records are always looking for bright new artists, like you. It is true we have the opportunity to work with many of the industry’s leading musicians, something we never take for granted. But we also love discovering new talent and supporting and nurturing that talent so that people like you can be the stars of tomorrow.
You might even see us around town with some of our artists at one of the many fine local restaurants in this area. Mostly we just love hearing what our young artists are up too, like you, what new musical gear people are trying out on the road. Of course, when we’re not talking shop about the latest technical advances influencing artists, we love talking about ways our artists and our label can work together with the community to help empower young women in the music industry. We know we’ve been given a lot of success by our loyal fans and we want to share it with as many young people as we can, especially young women, like you, if you are one.
The first step in submitting a demo tape, we must consider the following about you:
* You do not have any police record or any outstanding legal issues in the area of copyright or rights to your work (we want every potential artist, like you, joining our family to be ready to take on the world and fully free to dive into their exciting new careers with WTF)
* You have a musical sound that comes from deep within yourself, something cool that’s yours alone, and something you’re ready to share with the world
* You have a style that you think says something important about who you as an artist, and about who you want to be as a musician
* [We’re not sure what we meant by the final bulleted item.]
We’ve added a highly visible link to our home page called SEND US YOUR DEMO NOW! to our home page, right below the WTF banner, surrounded by flashing neon red lights. That’s the link you need to use to send us your demo, which we want to hear immediately. Just follow the simple instructions (easier than our high-quality digital-download process, which we fixed, too, just for you!). Due to the downturn in the economy, sadly we’ve been forced to cut back on office staff. Therefore, we don’t have a way for our trained staff to greet you in person, or for you to give us your demo tapes directly. We apologize for this inconvenience. We miss being able to see every fan who wants to see us, like you. Hopefully, in the near future, we’ll once again be able to greet fans in person, like you!
Until then, keep practicing and playing your amazing music live as often as you can. We’ll have our highly trained and professional scouts working the local club scene day and night. Especially at night because we’ve done our homework and we know that’s when most bands play, at night, in bars. And that’s when most bars are open, too. We also love those all-ages shows so we can see our younger non-drinking fans, and want to encourage everyone to drink responsibly. We hope we’ll see you very soon.
If you’re eager and talented and hard working, male or female, which we assume you are, we’re sure we’ll see you very soon. We believe in each and every one of you. Finding new talent, like you, is what makes or breaks a record label like ours, WTF. And we don’t want to break. We at WTF Records want to help you make your dreams come true. Please keep buying our records.
Best wishes on your imminent success,
WTF Pro Team
How does WTF review demo tapes?: A Rant by John Ellison
So, you think you want to be a wicked pissa rock star? Retarded! Hey, you came to the right house. We know some greasy sweet rock stars. A slick load of ’em, in fact. We can’t name names on this sheet, but let’s just say that every day of the week we’re either having drinks with slammin’, crash-hot rock stars at some sweetchious bar, or they’re chillin’ with us at our pimptacular pussy palace. Sometimes illmatic rock stars come to our shibby crib and we just sit around and talk about biddies, jiggy bass guitars, or which tube amp is Obama. And we get paid to do that Ebola shit, bitches! Can you believe it? It’s razor to be us. We’re badassical.
And you want to be “us,” too. That’s understandable. You want to be off the hizzle with WTF in our grill. Naturally. Everyone does! Well, first you got to prove you got what it takes to be off the heezie at the bonzer WTF. Before we can coversate, check this:
- No chim down with the po-po, nothin’ fizzy
- Your sound is in your lunch, un-reechy
- Your style is off the hinges, dookie fresh
- Your goat is shiznot and slammin’
There’s a link someplace on our website. Find it bitches, and send us your gravy locomotive. But don’t call. Don’t write. Don’t come by. Don’t ask. Don’t beg. Don’t plop the squat out front. Don’t even fuckin’ stalk us in the wet hood. Best thing you can do is to become as rancid as you can, on your own, cuz if you’re dickum, you’ll be seen. By our tiztight scouts. Because we’re on the chicky scene. All the damn time. It’s a horrorshow in music right now. If you’re kcoolsweet, if you think you’re packed, if you think your sound is fierce, if you think you got goose, we’ll get on your ass. Fuckin’ A! Keep it real.
Here’s a simple test you can try at home: Turn off your cellphone for an hour. Just one hour. Then, observe how many times you think about checking your phone, your texts, your Facebook page, your Tumblr page, your RSS reader, your WordPress blog, and so on. When I do it, when I shut off my media via my smartphone, I think about my phone a lot. It feels like I’m missing something. I translate this impulse (in me) as: Can you see me? When my phone is off, I’m alone. Very alone.
Although iTunes isn’t directly “media” or a social networking tool (although the Store has links to Facebook), it fills a kind of contact point to the interconnected world. iTunes has my wants in its “wish” lists, it knows my weaknesses in its “purchased” lists, it wants to help me remember my friends with “gifts.” I can, if I want to, share with anyone virtually everything I do in iTunes.
Cutting iTunes out of my life (as was my pledge earlier this year, that I would abstain from purchasing any music from iTunes for a full year), has been a little like turning off my phone. Obviously, it’s forced me to face my addiction to Apple’s version of digital music. Surprisingly (and more importantly), it’s also forced me to face my inner aloneness. The illusion of visibility online, as I’ve observed it in my life, through websites and social-media tools, translates into a kind of two-way channel of validation for the things I like to believe about myself, including that I know what’s cool in music.
Easy validation was there. Seeing the music I like headlining iTunes (or appearing in a Spotify feed piped through Facebook, or linked in Twitter), at a subtle level validates that I’m listening to the “right” music. That what I’m doing with music is cool, too, because practically anyone can see what I’m doing, and, in turn, I can see what everyone else is doing. It’s an approval mechanism that works both ways. You approve of what I think is cool in music. I see you like what I like, so I get a chance to approve (or not) of what you’re into.
It seems obvious, and this is all stuff I knew already, but knowing in an off-hand way differs from knowing. What’s reset many of my music assumptions came when I stopped looking at iTunes as my primary way of seeing what’s new in music, digitally speaking. What’s being “remastered” for iTunes. Which artists are “all in,” and which are still “holding out.” It obscured me from seeing iTunes for what it really is. iTunes isn’t new-music news. It’s what’s new in music marketing. It’s a sales channel to tell the (Apple) universe what to buy. It’s all marketing information, paid for and positioned by companies selling products. iTunes can’t tell me who I like. Or who I am in music. It can only suggest what I can (or should, in Apple’s opinion) buy, which in itself is the slimmest of views into the world of real music. By turning off iTunes, I’ve had to go back into myself to see what I think about music. By myself. iTunes and social media exist to sell us something. They’re fun, easy, ubiquitous. That’s the insidious nature of it all.
When I walk into any small indie record shop (like The Business in Anacortes), I find literarily thousands of bands, records, and songs I’ve never heard that are anxiously waiting for me to browse my way to them. It’s always been true, but without access to easy-to-buy music from anywhere now, I find going into record shops more compelling. You might hate what I like on vinyl, or you might love it. Neither of us will know. Because this year is about collecting music on vinyl (with occasional digital downloads that come with the vinyl, when record labels can make that happen). I’m discovering new bands and new music. I’m making decisions about what to buy based on me. And because my friends can’t watch me buying actual records in a record shop, I do that without them, too.
When I left iTunes behind I thought I was simply facing off on my need to have Apple’s latest releases digitally dropped (silently) into my iTunes library, unnoticed and uncounted. Leaving, I was rebelling at Apple’s assumption that they alone know what’s cool in music, rebelling at being forced to organize my music library in ways that help Apple, not me. When I listen to music now, on vinyl, I do that alone, too. No one can “follow me” or “friend me” or “subscribe to me” or “tweet me” or “like me” or “reblog me” or “contact me” about what I’m listening to. They can’t validate me, approve of me, or “unfriend” me.
And this aloneness is forcing me to discover who I am in music today. If I want to spin the vinyl of “Go-Go Boots,” by the Drive-By Truckers, no one sees. If I want to play Sera Cahoone’s records over and over, especially “Deer Creek Canyon,” even the same side or single song over and over, the number of “plays” isn’t recorded and no one sees. If I want to hunt down used first pressings of classic records like Spoon’s “Kill the Moonlight,” Sleater-Kinney’s “The Woods,” or even a first pressing of Sigur Ros’s “Ágætis byrjun,” no one sees.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m no Luddite. I love technology. It’s just that I’m feeling the consequences of how easy it’s been to get unconsciously sucked into the web vortex. As I write this column, I’ve heard that Apple is preparing to launch its own cloud-based music service, much like Pandora and Spotify. A natural step, you’re thinking, given that they have so much digital content already, for sale, and presumably their good relations with all of the earth’s record labels means the labels want it, too. Apple does have a lot of music to sell. No doubt the Apple cloud player will have built-in ways to sell things. I recently discovered that Amazon’s cloud player now plays better (just a little buggy) with my iPad and iPhone, and with iTunes. But I’ve also discovered that Amazon’s long corporate memory remembers everything I’ve ever bought from them, not just digital downloads, every CD and LP as well, going back years. Years. It’s just a little creepy. A new iTunes cloud player will sit somewhere in the middle of this crowded new cloud pipeline.
When we’re young, when we realize we’re separate beings alone with our thoughts, fears, insecurities. Facing our human destiny, we look for things to help us answer “Who am I?” I’ve come to believe that music is a great way to discover who we are, at any age. Social media seems like it’s a reasonable tool for exploring our inner unknown selves. There’s the snag.
We’re still alone in this life, in our bodies and in our minds. By turning off one media stream in my life (iTunes), I’m learning how to explore (and trust) this new overgrown, sprawling, tangled, difficult, new-music landscape. No maps, no trail guides, and no refunds. I’ve had to listen to songs and records by myself without anyone to cheer me on. I’ve had to live with my doubts about some of what I’ve chosen, living with my uncertainty about new artists.
We’ve become a nation of voyeurs, and it feels like a kind of mental rot. Social media promotes an aspirational state of mind, not reality. It’s a vehicle to tell the world how we want the world to see us, not how we really are or what we really feel, while it drives a numbing homogeneity by limiting what we see to those things our friends see or things paid for by corporations showing us the stuff they want us to see (and buy).
Stopping the iTunes feed this year has meant embracing my inner aloneness. And as a result, I have a vast new collection of pretty cool music (my opinion), and many more new band obsessions. Trouble is, you can’t see them. Neither can Apple. Without iTunes, my world is still filling up with music at a super fast pace that I can embrace and obsess over. I’m alone. But I’m learning how to be happy with what I find inside my own mind. Learning to be happy alone.
- John Ellison (Indie Street contributor)
WTF Records “Sight Lines”: A Rant by John EllisonWe at WTF Records are proud as a guy who’s just learned his third wife is going to have her first child in a non-community property state. Come on, we’re kidding! The guy isn’t even married to her. He’s just chilling at her place playing Halo until he can save up enough to get his Honda out of impound, then he’ll totally get back on the part-time rotation at Dairy Queen and finish Community College. Stop nagging!“Sight Lines” the new record by Veronica Fellows, will be released in May. Their new sound has been described as “indescribable, just out of reach…” (Rolling Stone); “Shimmering, almost without substance…” (NME); “Just plain spooky, like no one is even in the room playing these songs, that totally get stuck in your brain stem…” (The Napa Valley Safeway Saturday Shopper).“Vanishing Point”1) Gone Baby Gone2) Lost3) You’re Never Here4) Ghost5) Empty Houses, Empty Rooms6) Faded Photograph7) Forget About “Us”8) Can’t Come InThose costumers who place their orders for the “deluxe” LP/CD/T-Shirt/Thong/Foam Finger package will also get the “Record Store Day Only” 7-inch (that we’ve not supposed to sell online but we do, just don’t tell those people who run that “Record Store Day” thing, if they are real people—we don’t think they are—we think the whole “Record Store Day” thing started as a rumor at Bonnaroo in 1998 after a night of heavy drinking). That’s three bonus tracks on crystal clear vinyl (so clear you can read through it, it’s that clear—set it down and you’ll never find it again—we’ve lost a case of em already):1) I Miss You2) Your Voice is Fading in My Memory3) I Don’t Think I Ever Knew You
WTF Records Merch Sales FAQ: A Rant by John Ellison
Dear Valued Customer,
Thank you for searching for and visiting this WTF Records Merchandise Sales FAQ. To better serve you, the music fan, the person we’re here to serve, apart from our artists of course, and our valuable record resellers and their websites, who sell our fine records, and the fine clubs that host our artists and help them live the life of professional musicians, we created this FAQ to get you FAST accurate answers to the most common questions people have about how we do things at WTF Records. We still think how we do things is the best way to do things. But some people are confused for reasons beyond our control, so we created this FAQ.
I noticed at a recent live show, by one of your amazing creative recording artists, that the merchandise table was well stocked with your high-quality virgin vinyl records, but there didn’t seem to be anyone available to sell any records to me. Do you have any idea why this was the case?
No. In fact, we’re surprised you would ask this question. Real music fans appreciate that selling records is more of an art than it is a business. Sometimes art is about things we initially can’t understand. We pride ourselves on having the most cases of high-quality virgin vinyl records on hand for real music collectors to purchase at live shows. Just seeing these records at live venues, even boxed up, makes real music fans happy, who gladly set aside their materialistic wants long enough to appreciate that good things are worth the wait.
I noticed at a recent live show, by one of your amazing creative artists, that the professional on hand to work the merchandise table, selling your high-quality virgin vinyl records, didn’t seem to have enough cash on hand to make change for everyone’s purchases. Do you have any idea why this happened?
No. In fact, we’re surprised you would ask this question. Dealing with the public is an unpleasant, time-consuming, dirty job. Live events place enormous pressure on our professional field staff. Many customers, probably people like you, expect to be able to buy an item for $3 at the merchandise table and pay for their purchase with a $100 bill. No record label should be expected to deal with people like you. People who care nothing about an already stressed professional carrying large amounts of cash into the most dangerous parts of big cities, to bars and clubs late at night, places where most people wouldn’t carry any cash with them if they had a choice. We care about the safety of our staff and would never ask them to put their lives at risk, just to sell records to you, not even our high-quality virgin vinyl records. What’s wrong with you?
I noticed at a recent live show, by one of your amazing creative artists, that the professional on hand to work the merchandise table, selling your high-quality virgin vinyl records, stopped selling merchandise so that he could step outside and have a cigarette, leaving several customers in line waiting until he finished. Do you have any idea why this happened?
No. In fact, we’re surprised you would ask this question. Obviously, you have little or no empathy about personal addictions and the toll they place on music professionals and the industry as a whole. Cigarettes are the single most difficult addiction to beat. We at WTF Records have a generous benefits package available to all of our valuable employees. We encourage any of our staff who still smoke to seek help to free themselves from their addictions. True music fans understand and accept that some people find it very difficult to quit smoking, which in turn affects their home and professional lives. Maybe you should be a little more generous in your attitudes about the suffering of others, and less about your material wants.
I noticed at a recent live show, by one of your amazing creative artists, that the professional on hand to work the merchandise table, selling your high-quality virgin vinyl records, couldn’t sell me one LP because he didn’t know how much to charge for it. No prices were available. Do you have any idea why this happened?
No. In fact, we’re surprised you would ask this question. The pricing of our high-quality virgin vinyl records is done using a complex industry calculation based on a number of complex factors, so the price we set is the right price. The public frequently has no idea how hard of a business ours is. They might see one record is one price, while another record is a completely different price. Real music fans and collectors know they are making an investment when they choose a WTF title, even if they can’t purchase it. They know what is obviously alluding you, that some records need to remain unpriced and unsold because they’re collectable. Or, they must remain unpriced and unsold because they are technically out of print, even though a case of “out of print” records has been taken to the live show by the artist. This doesn’t make them available. Maybe you should just buy all your music online.
I noticed at a recent live show, by one of your amazing creative artists, that the professional on hand to work the merchandise table, selling your high-quality virgin vinyl records, had t-shirts to sell but wouldn’t let me try one on before I bought it, to be sure it fit me. Do you have any idea why this happened?
No. In fact, we’re surprised you would ask this question. We have no company policy preventing customers from trying on one of our free-trade organic cotton Rock Tease© brand t-shirts before purchasing it, for purposes of fitting. Every one of our highly professional field representatives is allowed to deny access to merchandise by a customer if he/she thinks allowing the customer to interact with it might damage it. Perhaps our field representative thought you might stretch the t-shirt out of shape, or stain it in some way, making it unsalable. Perhaps you should be asking questions about your personal grooming, not to us, but to someone responsible for how you appear in public.
Thank you for choosing WTF Records. We could never make music if we didn’t have our loyal fans like you buying our quality virgin-vinyl long-playing records. We’re confident we’ve raised and answered all the relevant questions you might have. Thank you for your support.
The WTF Pro Team
Golden Grrrls (Slumberland)
Golden Grrrls is a band in a hurry. Their debut full-length LP, “Golden Grrrls” (Slumberland Records, 2013), clocks in at under 30 minutes for everything, both sides. And with their power-pop approach, two of their new songs come in under 2 minutes, with eight more songs under 3 minutes, and only one song breaking into the “long-play” space at 3:08 minutes. This means that when the Grrrls play live, they can pretty well rip through their entire catalog super fast, under 45 minutes, unless they take time to talk to the audience, which they keep brief. That’s barely enough time to get to know them. You’ll have to buy the record so you can spend a little more time with their sound.
Of course, such is the territory of power pop. The genre survives because of its use of hooky rhythms and bouncy, playful themes. The 1970s and 1980s were full of power-pop bands providing what amounts to a generational soundtrack for those decades. Power pop is also a chameleon genre, absorbing other elements as it has grown and developed. It has to change or die. It doesn’t seem to burn out, it just changes shape and rolls in new elements to survive. Which is why, I think, the Grrrls’ live sound comes across as almost punk, thrashing and roaring as it does. Punk and glam rock found their way into the expanded definition of power pop years ago, so the punk edge fits. Bands like Cheap Trick took power pop into the mainstream (I know, I never thought I would mention Cheap Trick in any of my reviews). But roots are roots.
For me, it was the arrival of The Nerves in the 1970s that saved things. How many times has a band from Los Angeles saved modern music? Lots, probably, but that’s for another review. But once the mainstream saw what power pop did to fans, the genre seemed to be everywhere, and nowhere. It sold well. It showed up in the sound of bands like The Plimsouls, The Knack, and The Beat. (I know, now I’ve mentioned The Knack!) Lyrically, the messages seemed to stay the same. Boys and girls, love and lust. Thankfully, we don’t get as many songs about cars as we did then.
The point I want to make (citing these old power-pop dragons) is about production values. The Nerves’ sound, one of the best, is just as fast, built around a blazing guitar and speed, and their production was bright. Super bright. With “Golden Grrrls,” the sound seems muted, blunted, whatever. I almost wish they could find a happy medium between this fine first studio effort and their belt-sander live style. Lyrically, they’re there. Right in the power-pop zone with their boy/girl cheerfulness and harmonizing. It’s sweet. Maybe not that far from a kind of LA sound after all (the Grrrls hail from Glasgow, so well-done on the genre projection).
For me, the most interesting aspect of power pop, apart from its survival after so many years and mutations, and even punk as far as that goes, is what happens to artists who start out wanting to do songs at speed. It sets up a kind of emotional barrier, in my mind, to how far a song can go lyrically toward expressing the full emotional spectrum of life. It all sounds like dance music. I suppose you can dance to anything, but, generally, power pop deals with the flower of youth and young relationships, that kind of thing. He hates me; he loves me; she’s undecided; she’s jealous; he’s cheating. Or friendships. Or not knowing what to say in a new relationship. Or feeling old at 25. Now, that’s alright. As I said, it’s sweet. It’s what we all experience, then move on. It’s a self-focused world that expires quicker than you think, and it can almost be fully explored rather quickly by a band on one or two records. Too much and it can all sound “samey.” Audiences are fickle; they get bored and move on. In the end, I think power pop becomes a trap, forcing artists to leave it behind, or remain at their own peril.
That said, I’m impressed with the level of talent of Eilidh Rodgers, Ruari MacLean, and Rachel Aggs. Especially Rodgers. I have a bit of a thing for female drummers. Power pop often dazzles on the lead guitar, overshadowing everyone else. But with the Grrrls, Rodgers stays in the frame, driving the energy of these super-fast 11 songs as much as MacLean’s guitar does. And it sounds like they’re having a lot of fun doing what they do, dueling and chasing each other’s sound.
The power-pop path isn’t as easy as these bouncy songs suggest. Many have covered this ground. There are memories of past giants creating the style and sound back in the day. Even with all that baggage, the Grrrls have cut out a space for themselves with this frisky launch. The test will be what comes next. Perhaps they’re setting something in motion that will stand apart and be as defining, in time, as the past masters have done. Whatever happens, this is a fun record and worth a look. You’ll be getting in on the flash start with this band. But remember, they’re fast. Super fast. Don’t expect them to slow down for you, or to wait for you to catch up.
- John Ellison (Indie Street contributor)