Hey local bands—you know how you’re always bitchin’ about not having enough money to put out a CD? There’s a solution, which bands around the country seem to have down, and yet Salt Lake bands rarely, if ever, employ: the split CD.
A split CD is when two bands pool cash, resources and music to put out a single release, usually with two to six songs per band. Why do they do this? For a variety of reasons it just makes sense, says Blue Hour singer-guitarist Greg Midgley, whose band has just released such a disc with local favorites Alchemy (available at Orion’s Music, Graywhale and Wasatch CD). “We all have limited resources, so the bottom line is we all could more easily afford to put out the material this way.”
Blue Hour (Midgley, guitarist Chris Thompson, bassist Charlie Lewis and his drummer bro Oliver Lewis) and Alchemy released Exit Seating last month. (Since Alchemy has graced City Weekly’s pages numerous times, they were gracious enough to step aside and allow Blue Hour the newsprinty limelight.) The disc features four songs from each band, tracks each band had in the can that were “just lying around,” says Charlie Lewis.
Alchemy’s tracks (“15 Milligram Manifesto,” “Spiderpedes,” “Walking Dead” and “Deus Deusconditos”) were surplus, the balls-out minimalist rock not exactly congruent with the no-less rocking, but more complex, material on their recently released Color/Horror/47minutes/English. Nevertheless, they wanted to get it out there. Blue Hour’s songs (“Sirens,” “Electrocute,” “Goin’ Insane” and “Stop Motion”—all sonic salad bars that evoke Zeppelin, the Stones, the Flaming Lips, Devo and Mercury Rev) were recorded long ago, but well after the band’s debut, the Stop Architecture EP. These were languishing while they tried to decide whether to release them as a downloadable, Internet-only disc or bank more songs for a full-length.
Alchemy guitarist Jeremy Smith, being a producer and label proprietor contributed recording and mixing gear, as did Blue Hour, who purchased some of their own, expressly for the project. The members handled production chores themselves, with help from Scott Mahaney, who recorded and mixed Alchemy’s tracks.
Once finished, Charlie Lewis designed the artwork, and various band members have pitched in to silkscreen and glue-stick assemble red, white and black paper gatefold sleeves for the 400 discs (plus number the first 100 as a “limited edition”). “We probably all have liver damage from the silkscreen fumes,” jokes Charlie, “and my hands are sore from silkscreening.”
“Most CD production companies have a 1,000-unit cutoff,” explains Oliver, saying it cost about the same for Blue Hour and Alchemy to get this run of 400. That doesn’t sound like much of a deal, but to the two bands it makes sense. More people, Charlie says, “can’t get rid of 1,000 CDs.” Ask any other local band and they’ll tell you it’s true; a year after receiving their lot, most of them have boxes of their album left over and are begging you to take one. With a smaller do-it-yourself run, it’s also easier to recoup the initial investment, so a band doesn’t go thousands of dollars into debt—which they may be paying off long past their existence.
Additionally, the members of Blue Hour say it holds unique non-economical benefits for each band—chiefly, cross-promotional exposure. “It’s beneficial to do a split,” says Midgely, “because fans can get ‘two for the price of one’ and there is some variety.” Blue Hour fans who may not have heard Alchemy (and vice versa) will be exposed to new music, likely become fans and maybe even come to shows and buy other CDs by each band. Thus, the benefits extend beyond the two bands into our beloved, beleaguered music scene by raising awareness of the bands.
Beyond that, “it’s satisfying,” says Oliver who, with Tolchock Trio, will again use the splitting technique when they issue a vinyl 7-inch with the Red Bennies. “It’s almost like growing your own food.”