Guest Columnist: 45 Forever #1
There's something inherently cool about vinyl. Beyond the evident heightened sound quality there's something more to this archaic format, something more than the look, the touch, the smell; there's rumination; there's the childlike excitement of the whole thing. It’s how Rough Trade stays in business, how Moshi Moshi stay so cool, and it’s the thing that has inspired writers, musicians and filmmakers the world over. It’s Anita handing William a copy of Simon and Garfunkel and it’s The Count grappling with death. It’s the reason budding music tycoons get into the business... to release the pinnacle of indie cool, the 7” single. It has, for years, been the platform to launch any new band worth their salt in the realm of guitars, and the point in which they can declare their existence in the music archives.
One band who have done just such a thing are American bubblegum indie band The Drums, who’s wonderfully upbeat and forebodingly fascinating pop singles through Moshi Moshi have been the stuff of Camden dancefloor dreams for the past several months, paving the way for a new “gay aesthetic” in pop, and bands such as Sound of Arrows.
The Drums are a band very much made on the back of their vinyl singles, not just placing huge importance on the format but to use their words, “insisting on it”, and taking the single as a concept, artwork and all, just as seriously as any full-length. The band say, “Singles are an opportunity for listeners or collectors to hear just a fraction of an album that will hopefully paint somewhat of a picture of the sort of band you are. The song, the artwork, the production quality (or lack thereof) is all of equal importance”.
“Our first two 7"s were released on Moshi Moshi, and I remember when we received the first shipment to our apartment in Brooklyn, the band were all living together at the time and we simultaneously tore through the cardboard box so we could each pull out a copy and examine the label, and the vinyl itself. It’s amazing to see and hear your music on vinyl. It’s literally a dream come true. As a kid that's really all I wanted for any of my bands."
The Drums, and drummer Connor Hanwick particularly, remembers being a teenager, when his tastes had moved passed what his brother liked. He and his friends had just started going to record stores and thought highly of themselves for spending time sifting through vinyl. Any vinyl junkie can titter over hours spent in record stores, to walk out several hours later, dazed and clutching some worn copy of ‘Graceland’. It’s both nerdy and cool. It’s part of a lost art form of buying records. Something utterly lost from the download generation, and even, arguably, the CD generation where my childhood was spent.
“My first CD was probably something dumb… my first 7" was something cooler”, says Hanwick.
“It’s a lot of work to track stuff down sometimes. When I have time and when I’m on tour I go to a lot of record stores in different cities. It makes it exciting again. I use my iTunes also, but physical releases are the way to go as it's a whole experience more than just having the songs. It's irreplaceable”.
The Drums, along with myriad music aficionados, are happy to see a return to labels that work, sometimes (but not always cleverly) exclusively, in vinyl. “Labels that do vinyl but also include a digipack have made it possible for people to take in music in all different ways. The internet has 'everything' but there is still stuff that you can't find in any way other than randomly finding it in a used bin in some record store in the middle of nowhere. It's important for people to adjust to technology and not get overly absorbed in their own nostalgia."
They also stress the point that this bratty, self-righteous puritan mode that music should only be heard one type of way is reflected by modern indie labels, and places such as Record Drop where the digital and old-fangled co-exist so harmoniously, and a purchase of one format comes automatically with the other.
This retains the feel of buying a record, and owning a genuine, original, piece of the band, but with all the convenience of having music available in the ether. And bratty notions aside, it’s that exclusivity of owning the physical that can drive the popularity of a song. The standard 500 run on indie singles makes them lusted for.
"That’s a big part of its charm. It’s like when you're a kid and finally find some obscure record or when you find some obscure band that none of your friends know, that’s exactly it, you feel exclusive or somehow special. As you get older I think you take it a little less seriously or you get off on it a little less because you can understand the absurdity of such a thing. But i don’t know, I still get super excited when I stumble upon something that only a limited number of people have or know about”.
The Drums are such a vinyl-led band, with guitarist Jacob designing the majority of their artwork; they admit they won’t see the album as fully realised until they see the actual 12" record in their hands. It’s a sentiment that proves the relevance, or validity, of vinyl, even with a completely modern approach to recording.
“I guess artists now consider the flow of their album in a different way. That break or intermission is gone so the record can flow more cohesively. I always preferred when an album showed different characteristics from side A to B. When we put our album together in terms of track listing we thought of it terms of side an A and B side. There is a loud bell sound at the end of the song that we think signifies the end of side A. We wrote part of the record in Florida and part in New York, with the resulting difference in character between those two halves, it only made sense that it be in a side A / side B format."
Ultimately it doesn't matter how people consume music, but both The Drums and I agree; it’s the closest format for now. It’s got the history, the kudos and cool, but is also affordable and sounds charming. There are numerous ways for a band or artist to represent themselves; visually, sonically... yet it’s the textural, multisensory experience of a proper record that can tempt inspiration on a striking scale. It’s survived cassettes, and looks to survive CD’s. It’s the ultimate format for any music fan.
Connor Hanwick’s first 7” record was The Vaselines ‘Dying For It'.
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