Happily out of major-label deal, The 88 help Salzer's celebrate Record Store Day
Friday, April 17, 2009
In case you’re too broke and the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is too far a drive, check out the free parking lot concert Salzer’s Records is holding Saturday in celebration of Record Store Day.
This is the second year independent music retailers around the world are banding together to remind folks that they’re still around and still selling cool music, both on vinyl and CD.
Headlining Salzer’s bash will be The 88 along with local favorites Franklin for Short and Army of Freshmen. Miranda Cosgrove, the teen queen from Nickelodeon’s “iCarly” series, will be on hand to sign autographs.
The 88, a pop-rock band based in Los Angeles, is fronted by Keith Slettedahl, whose pipes rival those of Chris Isaak, Roy Orbison and Harry Nilsson. That’s a great thing.
The 88 have placed so much of their music in movies and television, they list their appearances by network. They also have released three albums — two indies, then one on giant Island Records. Now they’re back as indie artists with stories to tell, namely that getting signed by a major label may not be the be all and end all of a musician’s mission these days. Slettedahl expounded on that and other topics during a recent phoner.
@TO 1-Text Ragged Right no indent:What’s the latest with The 88?
We have a bunch of shows coming up. We’re going to be gone a lot doing some East Coast shows with The B-52s. We’ve been recording a lot as well.
Tell me your big label nightmare story.
I don’t think it’s a nightmare. If I look at it positively, it was a great learning experience. I don’t subscribe to that victim thing bands can get into. We made decisions and no one held a gun to our head. I never want to come off saying that particular label is evil and that the people we met are evil or anything like that. Put us back in that situation 100 times and I think we’d make the same decision.
Did the Island album do better, worse or the same as your earlier efforts?
I don’t even know, honestly. I just think it wasn’t a good fit. Looking back, that was pretty clear from the start. My wife was pregnant and was afraid that I had to do certain things. The record had to get made. The record had to come out and, you know, whenever you’re afraid and you start making decisions, the results aren’t that good.
Indie band before and indie band again. Any difference?
There’s no difference. There wasn’t even any difference when we weren’t an indie band. The way we feel as people about the music didn’t really change. But I do think it really is liberating to make music you really like without other opinions and overthinking.
I know the Island publicists were all over me to do a story on you guys when your last album came out.
We met a lot of really nice people. My only problem was with myself. I wasn’t believing in myself and I was believing a lot of other people knew more than I did.
Is there more pressure to make the first album, the second album or the current album — or no pressure at all?
No pressure at all, not anymore. I think for awhile we got kind of mixed up and tried to mold the music to fit our business situation and it’s got to be the other way around, you know? What I found out is that I want to be comfortable in my own skin; I want to be happy and the way the last record was made is not the way I ever want to make a record again. There was an obvious agenda to try to take what we do and make it fit a little more into the mainstream. At a certain point, it got even darker. They wanted us to write with a bunch of other writers.
I think the first two albums are better.
I can’t listen to stuff we did five years ago and say, “This is good or bad.” I just try to not even go there. Creatively, we’re more excited right now than we’ve ever been. We got out of the Island situation and we’ve made another record.
When’s the new one coming out?
I’m not sure how it’s going to come out. We did it all at home, so the whole approach was very different. We have to decide whether these songs will be a record. We just have to decide what we want to do and be creative about getting the music out there.
What does The 88 sound like these days?
It’s a lot like what we’ve always done and, hopefully, a little more interesting.
Every musician wants to know this: How do you get stuff in movies?
Well, we just got really lucky. We used to pass out CDs and fliers at local shows and, one night, I think it was at a Supergrass show at Spaceland, we gave a CD to a guy we didn’t know who took it home and liked it. He’s been placing our stuff ever since.
How do you survive on the road?
We’re just really straight-laced people.
No 88 beers a night?
No, we’re all married. I don’t drink and none of us indulge in any of the trappings of being in a rock band.
Since you guys chose the name, how many meanings of 88 have you found?
It can mean a lot of different things. We went with that name and it was just one of 200 on a list. The main reason we chose it is because when you hear it you don’t necessarily think “Oh, they’re this kind of band” or “They sound like this or that.” You can apply your own connotations to it. And to the four guys in the band at the time, it was the only name all of us could get behind. Our drummer at the time was really into older blues and jazz music, and there was the “Rocket 88.”
Yeah, Jackie Brenston. What a great song.
Yeah, he liked it for that reason. Obviously, the piano reference was important because that’s always been a big part of our sound.
The first time I saw you guys was at the Mercury Lounge in Goleta. You were singing a Harry Nilsson song at soundcheck. No one does that stuff anymore.
He’s one of my all-time favorites.
Any sage advice for the youngsters?
Try to have as much fun as you can and enjoy it while you’re doing it.
— E-mail music writer Bill Locey at firstname.lastname@example.org