THE SCENE: North Adams indie label signs Philadelphia band
North Adams — The North Adams record label Sounds and Tones has signed A Day Without Love, an indie rock band from Philadelphia. The band, which has already sold 250 copies of its new album Island, is a smart move for the fledgling label.
In the 1980s, small record labels came to prominence, releasing punk and independent music that steadily found an audience of misfits throughout the U.S. and even the world. The movement culminated in the success of Nirvana, the band that was nurtured by indie label SubPop and went on to sell seven million copies of its album “Nevermind.”
Now, indie labels are in an interesting conundrum: while it’s easier to reach people than ever before, it’s hard to cut through the din of pseudo-advertisements, Kickstarter campaigns, and trending social media posts. Musicians with fans are well poised for a small label. Fans are confirmation of the artist’s talent and likability, their drive, and their business tactics. Once inroads exist, the record label can continue with grunt work such as promotion and mailing press releases to people like me. A Day Without Love still has a long way to go, but their nearly 1,000 Facebook fans are a good indicator of their modest success.
A Day Without Love’s music is a piece of the fragmented hipster movement – the emo of the 1990s refined and polished. Some songs are multi-tracked symphonies, such as “Honesty Policy,” which starts with acoustic guitar, shaker, hand claps, and frontman Brian Walker’s signature angsty vocals. Some lyrics lean toward the cliché, intentionally: “Oh, Kim,” Walker sings, in a lilt reminiscent of Frankie Valli, “don’t be with him”. The song ends with a Four Seasons-esque bass line: “Oh Kim, you’re such a bitch, you treated me like shit.”
Then, there is “Things I Can Tell.” The opening riff is almost a direct quote, intentionally or not, of one of Scotland’s best indie bands, The Frames. The song continues on in a similar style to that of the Scottish group. A Day Without Love might be huge Frames fans, though it’s likely the band stumbled upon the sound themselves. Needless to say, “Things I Can Tell” is worth listening to. It’s a dark collage of dynamic ranges, mid tempo drums, and heartfelt, vague vocals about relationships.
Music lovers in the Berkshires should be excited: Sounds and Tones has made a connection to an up-and-coming artist from Philadelphia. For anyone following the local music scene, Sounds and Tones is run in part by Christopher Hantmann, who is a major presence in North Adams’ Common Folk Artist Collective, the group that has been facilitating live music and art displays.
Hantmann and the Common Folk crew seem to stay updated on the regional scene; last week, I wrote about the collective and their fortuitous Moon Hooch show. Signing A Day Without Love to Sounds and Tones is another step in that same direction: a band with a devout following poised to explode.