Friday, December 23, 2016

A list of notable music and other things in 2016.

For all the big shitty things that occurred this year, there were a whole lot of good things that happened, too. Let us not lose sight of the positive small moments of 2016. Here's a list of a bunch of stuff that I liked this year. There's probably a lot of stuff I'm forgetting, and these aren't in any particular order. But let's get positive!
  • Piñata Records put out three new and very good records. Red Daughters' LP Dealer came out on 180g vinyl (our first dalliance with "audiophile grade" media). Lutheran Heat released their stellar debut LP Louder From the Other Side. And Southside Desire sneakily put out a 7" of their spooky live staples "Suck Me Dry" and "Party in Postmortem." 

  • Ahem's EP Just Wanna Be is more wonderful pop-rock. I got to see them live last weekend at Southside Desire's 7" release party and they were excellent.
  • Real Numbers' LP Wordless Wonder. The Nums have been making great Flying Nun-esque records for years, and their new one is their best yet. 
  • Trevor and I are in a new band called Private Interests with Johnny Eggerman (from Mystery Date) and Cameron Soojian. We're a loud fast rock band with often harmonizing guitars a la Thin Lizzy, and it's a lot of fun to play. We've played a lot of shows this year in the Twin Cities and will be heading out of town more and more in 2017. We have an upcoming split 7" with MAMA, an incredible and often sleeveless rock band from Chicago, coming out soon on Piñata. Our first release, a cassette EP called Only For a Moment, came out via our distinguished local colleagues Forged Artifacts.  

  • I had a wonderful weekend with our new Irish friends DOTT. I've been a fan of their brilliant Weezer x Shirelles pop-rock for a few years and Southside Desire got to book a show with them and Lutheran Heat on a scorching evening in June at a Minneapolis DIY space. I'm definitely eager to go visit them in Galway sooner than later.
  • A Tribe Called Quest released a new album on the Friday after the shitty shitty election and it made me feel a little better. Phife sounds great, Jarobi raps and does it well, and Q-Tip runs the show with more panache and cool hats than I ever expected he would in 2016. It's probably my fave album of the year.
  • I got a new dog. A black lab named Floyd. I love him.

  • My wife Jessica's mobile metal-casting business Pedal to the Metal is really taking off! She brings a small foundry around town, often on her cargo bike, and does small-scale artistic casting, often with public participation. She's done a lot of really cool projects, and I'm really excited for her.
  • The Franklin Avenue bridge re-opened, along with the nearby stretch of West River Road which had been blocked by a landslide. There are new bike lanes, which is nice.
  • Bernie Sanders inspired a whole lot of young and youngish people to take democratic socialism seriously, and to think about how government and policy can change to help more people and alleviate inequality.
  • The Black Lives Matter movement raised awareness of not just police brutality, but systemic racism built into everyday life that often isn't visible to people privileged enough not to experience it. More and more people are becoming "woke", which will be needed in the ideological battles ahead, and also simply to empathize with our common people.
  • My two kids are hilarious and cute and learning so much all the time.
  • So Cow's Lisa Marie Airplane Tour.  More genius out of Galway. Nervous one-man band indie rock from Brian Kelly. His "release party" for this album consisted of picking people up in his car and driving them around listening to the album, which I think is brilliant.
  • I got a basketball hoop in my driveway.
  • Local journalists David Brauer and Britt Robson started a podcast about two of my favorite subjects to hear people talk about: liberal politics and Minnesota Timberwolves basketball. They've had a lot to complain about in recent weeks.
  • Afro Deli on the West Bank was going to close... but then they moved to the East Bank, which is closer to my work. Yum!
  • Jessica and I took two terrific trips to New Orleans and New York. We filled our nights with music and our days with cheap and delicious food, and met a lot of great people and saw a lot of good friends. 
I hope that you've also had plenty of moments of excitement and growth throughout your year. Thanks for supporting the label, which continues to be a fun endeavor. I love that Trevor and his two-year old son Julian are a common sight at record stores as they keep us in stock around town. I'm looking forward to all the new good little things that will help maintain balance and keep us all going into whatever the new year brings.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Love Letter to Lutheran Heat

Dear Garth, Sara, Matt and Justin,

This is Damien from Piñata. This is a little bit awkward, but I just have to get these feelings out, and this is the way I chose to do it. I'm in love with your music, and also with you. It all began in 2014 when I read about your single for Shoot Into the Sun on Hymie's blog. As soon as I got off work, I raced over to Hymie's and bought the record. I listened to it over and over, and told my friends and loved ones about my favorite new band.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

An Interview with Anna McCarthy of DOTT

Anna and Evan are currently DOTT. Photo by Sinead Axworthy

One of the biggest thrills of putting out a record is to have someone across the world hear it and become a fan. I 'll always remember when someone in Tel Aviv ordered a Southside Desire record, and how Mystery Date's 7" was a surprise big seller in Japan. Convincing friends to buy your record or go to your shows is relatively easy, but it's really cool when strangers from strange lands embrace your music. I'm often curious about how that person found us.

DOTT are a pop-rock band with meticulous female vocal harmonies, constant innovative drum fills and really cool dual guitar interplay. They are based out of Galway, Ireland and have three excellent releases with Graveface Records in Savannah, Georgia. They toured the United States in 2014 and did multiple showcases at South by Southwest and CMJ. Recently, principal songwriter, singer and guitarist Anna McCarthy and guitarist Evan O'Connor married and relocated to Toronto, which has led to a new two-piece incarnation of DOTT, with programmed beats and woozy double guitars.

Getting back to the point that began this post, DOTT was introduced to me by my friend Carlos in 2013 via Google chat. If he hadn't told me about them, I likely never would have heard about them and become a fan. Here's the unedited transcript of that G-chat:

Carlos: I’m enjoying pop music from a group called DOTT, and i think you might too.

Damien: ye syes this rocks!
no no don't stop a-rockin!

Carlos: yeah, right? their song “Tefl” has shades of your band.

Damien: I'm only on track 1 so far

Carlos: well, enjoy!

Damien: where they from, Los?

Carlos: the Irish land

Damien: Just like Thin Lizzy!

Carlos: something called “Galway”

Damien: that's a nice town

Here's that album, called Swoon.

Shortly thereafter, I bought their record, played it for all my friends, and I've been looking forward to DOTT visiting the Twin Cities since then. On June 18th, they will be at the Turf Club with Graveface labelmates Stardeath and White Dwarfs and Casket Girls. This was the last show on DOTT's tour, so I asked if they'd be interested in spending an extra day in Minneapolis for a second show. So on June 19th, they're playing with Southside Desire (who haven't played a show since last August) and garage-poppers Lutheran Heat at a DIY venue called Coming Soon in South Minneapolis (here's the Facebook event with more info).

Anna was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about DOTT's past, present and future.

What was DOTT's first practice like, and how long was it before you played your first concert?
A little awkward but fun. I'm pretty weird to jam with, I have really specific ideas for how I want the parts of songs to sound like but am really bad at communicating it. It usually involves me making ridiculous sounds to mimic drums, bass and guitars. But we get there in the end. We had a couple rehearsals with friends and it was a bit stop/start for a few weeks but then Tony joined us on drums and we played our first show and recorded the EP within a month.

Graveface Records in Savannah Georgia put out your first few releases in the U.S. How did they find DOTT?
I'm still not entirely sure... I got an email from [Graveface founder] Ryan out of the blue and completely forgot about it for about 6 months. By the time I came across the email again I had gotten really into one of the bands he had recently released. Then I checked out some of the other bands on the label and realized how awesome Graveface was. I finally mailed back and it was the start of a beautiful relationship with the beautiful Ryan and his label. :-) We managed to squeeze in a show in the Graveface Record Store in Savannah last year which was the stuff dreams are made of.

DOTT- the four-piece band.
What prompted the move to Toronto from Galway?
We've always wanted to spend a year living in North America. Visas were impossible to get for the US and they were practically giving them away for Canada. Toronto seemed to have a really fun music scene so we chose there.

How has it been going from a four-piece to a two-piece band? Do you see it as a permanent change?
No, it's definitely not a permanent change but we've really enjoyed it for a different chapter in the Dott story. We originally planned to find new members to fill in for the half of the band who couldn't come to Toronto. But then I started writing and recording song ideas using drum loops and fell in love with how it sounded. The new EP (Beverly Baldwin which will be out on Mirror Universe Records, NY on July 26) is a document of the songs we wrote and recorded in the months we holed up in Toronto waiting for the long winter to pass.

What are two things you really like about living in Toronto?
The amount of amazing shows to go to any night of the week. The fact that there's actually a summer here and you can go outside and enjoy the outdoors without needing to pack for the Autumn and Winter just in case, as you do in Ireland. A drawback is there's no ocean to swim in, which kills me.

How's the new album coming along? Is your recent cover of David Bowie's "Heroes" indicative of the new sound?
It's still coming along nicely, but we've decided to release the EP this summer and continue working on the album when we get home to Ireland. We really wanted to do something to mark our time here in Toronto and we recorded all of the songs ourselves in our small but lovely apartment wedged between Chinatown and Kensington Market. Learning how to record ourselves has allowed us to create the sounds we've always wanted to create. We're definitely not experts and we're still figuring out what we're doing but I'm really proud of how the new EP is sounding and can't wait for everyone to hear it.

DOTT had a busy South By Southwest and CMJ a few years ago. What makes those kinds of showcases worthwhile for you?
It's a great chance to play to audiences who might never find you otherwise and they're a hell of a lot of fun, especially when you love the people in your band and get to play with amazing bands. The flip side is it costs the band an insane amount of money to get there. But luckily in Ireland there is an organisation called Culture Ireland who provide funding for bands who get selected for these showcases. It lessens the dent in our bank accounts but doesn't come close to covering what it really costs. But if we were only making music to make money I think there's a lot more than that that we'd be doing differently. We love doing it so we are happy to work and make money to spend on having an amazing time playing music with our buds.

This is Minneapolis, so what's your favorite Prince song and why?
"Nothing Compares 2 U" because it launched Sinead O'Connor who is obviously amazing, but that's kind of a cheat answer... "When Doves Cry", because I was obsessed with the Romeo and Juliet soundtrack when I was a young'un. As I grew up I continued to listen to it and the vocal performance and lyrics took on new meanings and I fell even more in love with it.

What would go on DOTT's ideal tour rider?
Rosé Wine, PBR, pizza and puppies.



Monday, June 6, 2016

Red Daughters' Dealer LP and the Value of an Appropriate Medium

Toning and stoning

First, the important things. Red Daughters' album Dealer is coming out on big fat 180 gram vinyl via Piñata Records on June 10 in Minneapolis, and June 24 worldwide. There will be a release party on June 10th at the James Ballentine VFW in Uptown. Please come, and/or buy the album!

Listen to the album and buy it here:

The details for the release party are as follows:

Friday June 10
Uptown VFW (2916 Lyndale Ave S)
with Black Market Brass and Ruben
9 PM / 21+ / $8

Now, we'll discuss the fact that we are re-issuing an album that came out in late 2014.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

L'Assassins: "Fire of Love" Pre-Order and Tourdates!

Photo by Joe Holland
We're so totally thrilled to be announcing that Minneapolis garage-punk sensations L'Assassins' new seven-inch "Fire of Love" is coming out on September 18th, and pre-orders are now available. Tests have been approved, records are being pressed, jackets printed, e-mails to shrugging music critics sent, and blog posts are being carefully worded (right now, in fact!). And here's the thing: a pre-order gets you a download of both songs immediately.

And here are the details about their release party!

Friday September 18, 2015
Lee’s Liquor Lounge
w/ Krank Daddies
Black Widows
DJ Travis Ramin
9 PM / $8 / 21+

Fall 2015 Tour Dates:

Sept 18, MINNEAPOLIS -  Lee's Liquor Lounge with The Krank Daddies, Black Widows, and DJ Travis Ramin

Sept 22, CHICAGO, IL - Livewire with Curio, The Heeby Jeebies, The Real Gone

Sept 23, CLEVELAND, OH - Venue TBA, with Scoliosis Jones,  Toro Blanco, The Torments

Sept 24, BECKLEY, WV - Fosters Tavern

Sept 25, RALEIGH, NC - Ray Pryce Capital City Bikefest

Sept 26, ASHEVILLE, NC - Hellbilly Hootenanny with Nekromantix, The Koffin Kats, The Loveless, DDC

Sept 27, NASHVILLE, TN - Foo Bar with The Tip and Deadly Low Fi

Sept 29, FORT WAYNE, IN, Brass Rail with TBA

Sept 30, MADISON, WI - The Wisco Bar with The Rotten Tommys and Skizzwhores

Here's the story about L'Assassins and this really great new record...

Minneapolis garage-punk luminaries L'Assassins have more than made their mark on the Twin Cities music scene. They've notched two European tours along with several U.S. sojourns, and they're about to hit the road behind their new seven inch. A-side "Fire of Love" was written specifically for L'Assassins by Twin Cities new-wave king Chan Poling (The Suburbs). Their savage B-side "Liar" sees the band at the snarling top of their punk-rock game. These two songs cement L'Assassins' international reputation as bad-ass ladies making bad-ass music in the vein of Thee Headcoatees, Trashwomen and The Pandoras.

When L'Assassins shared a bill with The Suburbs in the fall of 2014, lead singer Chan Poling had already become familiar with the band's amalgam of garage-surf-punk rooted in trashy B-movie culture. To their surprise, he approached them with a song he'd written with them in mind: "Fire of Love". L’Assassins and Poling quickly worked out an arrangement, and hit the studio with he and his Suburbs bandmate Steve Price producing. They also recorded the band’s own just-finished "Liar", supplemented by an organ part by Poling. The resulting record is an incendiary blast that slips perfectly into the rest of their four-year-strong catalog.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Black Diet release another Good One!

When Mugsy told me that Black Diet's new album was to be titled The Good One, I immediately thought the obvious extension was that their debut, Find Your Tambourine, was now by default The Bad One. This came as a shock! Remember, this was an album, recorded pretty much live in a weekend, that captured the immediacy of their concerts and is infused with all sorts of accidental beauty that can only come from not fussing too much. Well, apparently Black Diet feel it was a rush job, and they were eager to move on. It's a great impulse to look forward and move in new directions. Artists that strive for longevity need to reinvent themselves and find new muses to keep fresh and feel relevant. Though I certainly still adore their debut, I can say with sincerity that The Good One is indeed very good.

The album opens with David Tullis doing that great snare-kick-tom-kick-tom-kick-snare-kick count-off into Jonathan publicly revealing his ambivalence about Minneapolis. "State Line" is a great song; our icy outpost gets so wrapped up in itself that it's surprisingly rare to hear an artist admit that, yes. Sometimes it sucks here. And it's catchy as hell. "Fever" shows us that Black Diet has indeed grown and expanded their bag of tricks since FYT. More than any other of their songs, "Fever" channels CBGB's-era new wave in the same way The Stones did on Some Girls. "Brother" treats us to another thematic departure from songs about sex. We're allowed to eavesdrop on JT's intimate conversation with his brother. Musically, this covers similar ground to FYT's "Cry", but it's given more emotional depth by Jonathan's vulnerable lyrics.

"Do A Little Wrong" is the album's showpiece, with all musicians and voices in beautiful form. "Used to Be In Love" and "Loving Me Still" are perfect pop gems (the latter featuring a very Garth Hudson organ solo from Sean Schultz!). "Find a New Love" brings us the deepest groove, locked into an almost Kraut-rocking rhythm section with scorching dual guitars from Schultz and Mitch Sigurdson. Saved for last, "Calls" with its single voice and electric guitar is the least-produced song on the record. When paired with FYT's "Don't Sleep Alone", it almost acts as a bookend for their first two albums. It shows me that these two albums should not be pitted against one another, but enjoyed as two acts.

Black Diet have been a very ambitious band since we met them (and probably before that, too). They never feel fully satisfied with anything they do, always feeling that at least one thing could have been better executed. That's an important thing in an artist, but I truly hope they take a moment in the near future to reflect on all they've accomplished in the last couple years. They've made two truly great albums that defy simple genre labels, and have pushed both themselves and their peers forward.

If you're in the Twin Cities, come to their Release Party at First Avenue. It'll be fun, for sure.

Friday, July 24
8:00 PM

First Avenue Mainroom
JC Brooks and The Uptown Sound
Red Daughters
Southside Desire

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.