posted by Caroline Picard

I got this note from a friend of mine who runs a small low-fi record label called Colonial Recordings. I thought it might be of interest….


Hello!  I wanted to send a note to say:

a) I’m still working on the first Contras tape reissue.  I have all of the files digitized and sounding as nice as they can, but am still working on the art.  Not working in an office  sucks for one reason: no more unlimited access to the photocopier.  Still, I should have something ready for you all sometime next week.

b) I’ve set up a couple of Soundcloud pages, both of which let me post a set amount of audio.  One is filled with recent bootlegs from shows groups Jess and I are in (it’s updated after each show).  The current crop has sets from the Contras, Motorcycle Money, the Science Jerks and Cosine.  The second one is going to be for bootlegs of shows Jess and I have gone to but were not a part of.  Right now there’s a tape collage thing I made for our friends in Radical Dads, and a set from the CPP’s Chris Andersen’s new comedy rap group, The Happy Rappies.  It was just set up today, but I’ll pad it out with other recent tapes, and will update it as new shows happen.

Both pages are set up so that you can download MP3s of the posts if you like, or just stream them.  The Colonial-centric one will be updated over the weekend with tonight’s Shamblers set (should be good– the slowest song we do at this point is a cover of Bodycount’s “Copkiller”), which’ll knock out the oldest one… you get the idea.

There’s also a full recording of what is still my favorite show of 2010 over here:

http://soundcloud.com/february-13th-2010

postcardjapbell

posted & written by Caroline Picard

what follows is an excerpt from a publication we are putting together – a program – a zine – for saturday evening’s performance…..


A house with five rooms stood on Colonial Avenue.  We loved this house. There first lived 15 people, both the old tennants and the new.

As the old tenants moved out, as some of the new found other lodging, there were in the end five tenants.

I went to this house every day to see my friends. My father had not allowed me to live there myself because I was a girl and they boys. While I observed his wishes, I was only in my dormitory room six hours a night, if that, while sleeping.  A big house with tall ceilings, it was often cold—my friends did not like to turn on the heat. It felt like a hideout and anytime you went there someone would be doing something of interest. For instance, you could sit in the window in the kitchen and wait for Naked Neighbor to pass behind her window across the street. Or walk to the gas station to get potato chips. Or sit on the porch playing a memory game, or playing backgammon and betting with cigarettes.
Everywhere there were piles. Peter Speer made sure the house was more or less tidy. The way he tidied was by stacking the stray assortment of objects—books, sweaters, papers, socks etc., in piles. While papers and books could go in the same piles, articles of clothing became a separate pile. And while the articles of clothing pile went at the top of the stairs, for all inhabitants to sort through, the piles of papers and books were in different rooms of the house, depending on where the objects had been abandoned. There were also piles of salt and tobacco, primarily from Justin, who lived in a small walk-in-closet upstairs for a mere hundred dollars a month. Justin didn’t have a bed, but slept in a pile of clothes. He called it his nest. Because he did not have a proper room with proper furniture, most of the piles (justly or not) were attributed to him, as were the piles of salt and tobacco—as he had a habit of making his own cigarettes using a cigarette machine and the result was always a waylaid mess of stray tobacco.  We also had many parties. During those parties I made myself useful and asked for money. It gave me the opportunity to talk to many people.
In all of this, life had a comfortable balance. It felt for a while that the planets were in alignment, as each participant in the collective friendship provided a comparable gravitational pull, such that, without having to do very much at all, we turned around one another with an inherant delight. No one at this time could grow facial hair.

Three years later, in September, we learned that the landlord would evict the house on Colonial Avenue in April of 2003. Starting in September he hired three men. Those men came to Colonial Avenue five days a week from seven in the morning until four at night. They made coffee in the kitchen and spent the rest of the afternoon downstairs in the basement where we recorded music.
Exactly what they accomplished remains a mystery. Sometimes they sawed things—as evidenced by the sound of metal teeth chewing through wood and the remaning piles of sawdust they left behind. Always the sawing was done in the morning. By noon, these gentlemen sat around on practice room beach chairs smoking cigarettes and swapping stories. Moving Peter’s recording equipment back and forth and around the room on incidental purpose.
Eventually one man, Able, started asking Lucas for change. Presumably a practical joke, Able would wait at the bottom of the stairs for Lucas to come groggily down into the world, into daylight.
Months later everyone moved out.—
What furniture wasn’t wanted was left at the landlord’s behest.
(only)
In the dead of night, same day, everyone came back with a mob. Some thirty students returned to Colonial Avenue for a party. The front door unlocked, much of the furniture still there, the crowd discovered Able on the couch in the living room watching television. Someone gave him a case of beer and at first he was quite pleased.
Until someone else threw a chair on the ground and stomped it.
Someone else began to beat a spoon against a plate.
Someone else through a couch out of the second story window.
Someone else punched a hole in the wall.
Someone else—the angry hippy no one knew very well—began shooting bottle rockets in the back yard.
It was a residential neighborhood.
Eventually the house was destroyed.
The police came. Upon their approach the angry hippy turned off all of the lights. People indoors hid as quickly as possible and when Able finally had to get up to open the door, the officer turned on the light. Immediately apparent, three people hid under the bare, broken, kitchen table as though there was a table cloth to hid beneath, another hid with legs peeking out from behind a corner chair in the living room. Another could be seen under the living room couch, still another frozen on the stairs as though in perfect camaflouge….
Upstairs in the attic closet I held my breath with six others, wondering at my folly. For certainly if the police came up this way, there would be no escape save through the window, which was precarious. I realized then that someone else was urinating.
The police did nothing, but say “Stay out of trouble. There have been some complaints.”
To which Able said, “Yes sir,” denying any knowledge of any bottle rockets whatever.
When we came down someone put a bat through the television screen.

The house is currently on the market for $850,000.

posted & written by Caroline Picard

Back in January, a lovely serial publication 33.3 opened itself up to submissions. I submitted something, which I’ve included here; while I knew it was long shot, I took such pleasure in the crafting of said piece that it became a worthy task in and of itself. There are a host of reasons why it would not be published in the stable of 33.3’s books – for instance, I am talking about a band that no one knows about, or the fact that I am proposing a band of which I am a part. I like to think, however, that it’s worth reading all the same, and perhaps for those same reasons. Like apartment galleries, small independent, raggedy-anne rock groups have cropped up all over the place. Like crab grass – and with the internet what it is, those same bands have managed to squeeze out the larger infrastructure of Sony and Virgin Records: bastions of an older music-business-archetype made of people who still hope to make money at what they do. The alternative route, the route of basement record labels, like small presses, like non-traditional art venues press out out the older infrastructure because not a single soul is doing it for any kind of profit. In fact, many of the gleaming xerox-copy bands that tour the country are going into debt – to buy the van, for instance. So. To that end, I supply my proposal, applaude 33.3 and the world at large for its astonishing self-sacrificing individuals who make such idiosyncractic practice reach any kind of audience whatever.

Many thanks, 33.3 for wading through the (likely five foot deep) spread of proposals.

phone-call-contras

33.3 Proposal : Thee Iran Contras: The Murderbirds : “s/t”

FROM THE SHADOW COMES THE MOUSTACHE

There was a point at which I became an adult. While hardly perceptible, the moment nevertheless passed, and I along with it so that at once I found myself on the other side of a bridge. It was as if I stood in a new country, for with this new footing, I saw, as they were, the old tropes I’d taken for granted in my youth.
I recalled an instant in Peter Pan. Like Wendy, we meet him chasing after his shadow—a naughty thing that seems to have run off without warning, presumably leaving Peter in an existential Purgatory. He chases his shadow into the room of a sleeping girl, Wendy. He wakes her up and eventually, she helps him sew his shadow to the tips of his feet; he will not lose his shadow again. It is fixed. In the film the scene is less than three minutes, the shadow more an excuse for the characters to meet than anything (it seemed to me before) of real significance. It is forgettable. At least it was to me at six, lying on the floor of our living room. As an adult, however, the scene has gathered potency and, to my mind, is one of the most revealing scenes in the whole tale.
Peter Pan is a boy who doesn’t have to grow up, lives in Never-Never Land as a leader of other like-minded boys. Locked in a state of self-imposed exile, the feral children must stay children in order to remain free from the trappings of the world. They cannot reach puberty. Consequently, Peter is asexual: his shadow has split away from him. It takes the enchantment of a young girl, herself on the cusp of puberty, to rouse Peter’s lust. Unknowingly, she calls the inkling of desire to the foreground of his consciousness, and with a tender skill and compassion, Wendy calls Peter back into the world of humanity. She brings him back into time.
I propose a book about The Murderbirds, an album recorded last summer in Oakland California, in the cottage of a carpenter who lives kitty-corner to a halfway house. As an infrequent triangle player, he hosted Thee Iran Contras for a weekend, disappointed when his guests refused the elaborate breakfasts he’d prepared, “Because they were afraid I’d ask them to pay for groceries,” he said, mournful.
I am in this band. I am the only girl, now woman—a tambourine player and, along with Ben Young, a singer. I was not, however, present this last recording.falmouth

My mother used to call the Contras my “lost boys.”
My brother, eight years older, has sustained an elusive suspicion for the seven years we’ve recorded together.
My sister, an opera singer, suffered when I told her I’d joined a band in college. I could tell she thought it would pass as a fad, but her anxiety increased as I regularly called home with news of new gigs, borrowing the banter of my bandmates and talking at length about our collective greatness. For her, the band represented the cruel potential of fate: to have passed her over so many time, despite rigorous training, to show me favor, the youngest sibling without an ounce of musical ability or training. When she and her husband came to a show, “Loft of Love” in 2002, I watched relief relax her face. Peter Heyneman, our loyal drummer, was beating a set of bandstand drums we’d found in the trash with fly swatters.
We have always been immensely pleased with style.

My boyfriends admitted outright disapproval.
Because, I suppose, they see the band as a threat of some kind. In fact the scenario is reversed. It was I who sustained an unconscious androgyny. Just as it was I who would never grow up. It is as if I flew into the house on Colonial Avenue in Annapolis Maryland, perched on the eaves and waited for one of the inhabitants to notice me. And when they did I tried to beat them up, and when they thought that was funny, we started playing music. Playing music grew me up.

You may want this to be a story about sex, but it is not. Or if it is, it is indirectly so, and perhaps in the way that all of life is about some combination of lust and a desire for intimacy, those inclinations are essentially pulled by another pole of simultaneous and unavoidable individualism. All blessings and curses at once. Therefore the book I propose is not a series of confessions by a 20-year-old virgin. Nor is it a host of sexual escapades that come of sleeping with bandmates. Rather, it is a piece about a boisterous enterpise, the mythos we created together, and how that funneled into the final making of The Murderbirds—what is the final album. It is about the responsibility we all have to make stories and independent culture. Through these people, I learned about happiness for the first time, and for the first time cherished my position as a woman among men.
Last August, Knoxville residents Ben and Tara Young came to California for the first time. Upon arriving, Ben (a liar) took his wife on a tour of the town, boasting his knowledge of the city. They ended up in the Tenderloin—what is probably the only sketchy neighborhood in San Francisco. There they were propositioned by their first transvestite and ate at a Chinese-vegetarian-cult restaurant.
The Murderbirds incorporates about half of the band. It is quieter than most of our albums and primarily acoustic. Ben Young sings about how terrifying California is with the other, traditionally less vocal members of the band. It’s a little anti-climactic, the anti-hero of albums.
*
Over the seven years that Thee Iran Contras have been recording, we have put out 22 albums. There are over 12 alleged members, 8 core members and at any given time as many as 3 of those core members might be missing. In each instance, and at variant locations from Maryland, to California, to Chicago to Tennessee, we make up songs in an improvised, collaborative fashion. Peter Speer, Moog player and Label, records each take, every failed attempt, and every bit of gold. He edits his favorite songs and releases albums. The band, in turn, memorizes the albums for later performances. Through this process, we have built a collective mythos, establishing along with it an exponential sense of meaning.  In order to portray that, I would share some of the stories about the band members. Stories, which I believe, the public would like.
The book would feature an extended interview with Peter Speer, as well as short stories that interrupt an otherwise journalistic account of how The Murderbirds was recorded. Peter Speer runs a Xerox copy Colonial Recordings out of his basement in Brooklyn. His father and older sister regularly take him aside to suggest that he set the music aside, offering him Burberry coats and shiny shoes and Brylcream. They do not see the merit of his practice. Without it, however, we would have no stories. Peter Speer points to the substantive meaning behind such forgettables. We make meaning for ourselves. We make up songs about gnomes and men on stilts and sneaky fat and facial hair options. We can’t help it.
murderbirds Human beings necessarily do this; we necessarily fall in love and bind ourselves to a variety of created fictions. To share these fictions is to create a family; it is an imperfect and vulgar family, certainly, but it is nevertheless a family. To document these efforts, to log them and reinforce them with public appearances is an act of defiance. It is an act of independence. Making music is not about being famous. It is about participating with humanity in one of the most basic ways we can.  Just as independent presses are important bastions of alternative non-stream culture, so independent labels and music, the rough cuts and Xerox copies, express a different, non-commercial, value system. One that is dedicated to the present just as it is dedicated to philos.
Without this family, I would have lost something. I would not be the same sort of woman, but likely a woman inclined towards Sarah Jessica Parker feminism. Happily, I am one instead who believes in the emphatic and joyous shaking of fists. One who picks fights in the style of Baudelaire, with joy and mortality mixed up at once.

This is a band that, for all intents and purposes, ought not to be remembered. The music is ephemeral, the shows more about performance and, even, a fleeting kind of activism, than anything else. Bands like these are not supposed to go down in the canon of history. Rather, they are recalled through oral tales told by mothers, fathers, and grandparents in the late hours of the evening: the hours when the imaginations of children are most susceptible to fancy.
Bands like Thee Iran Contras celebrate a non-commercial camaraderie. I think you should accept this proposal because, the music industry is changing, and the old Sony and Oasis hogs are being forced to slow down their operations because the Internet has become a new site for small-time distribution. Colonial Records might not be the most famous independent label, but for that reason it is an example of something peculiar to our times.  A book like this reminds everyone that music is worth making for its own sake, not for all the glossy photos one may or may not be exhibited in. There are no eating disorders in this story.

we just got this super-sweet review/interview posted! you can read it here, or check it out on its original site here! Thanks Laura!

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Preserving our Independents: Green Lantern Press

By Laura Pearson | 12.10.08

Caroline Picard is the Director of The Green Lantern Gallery and Press, and–like the two Chicagoans featured in the last installment of Preserving Our Independents–she is busy. That is, in a creatively productive sense. In 2005, Picard established The Green Lantern in a building above the Singer Sewing Shop at 1511 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago. The 1,200-foot loft space serves as a venue for all kinds of community art events–exhibitions, film screenings, readings, live music performances, even occasional “acro-cat” circuses and informal break-dance battles.

Besides being a gallery owner, Picard is–among other things–a painter, collagist, writer, and bookbinder. By establishing an independent press as part of The Green Lantern (now a 501(c)3 organization), Picard reinforced her desire to work across mediums. The Green Lantern Press publishes limited edition original fiction with an emphasis on “underdressed intelligence.” According to the mission statement, these are works that “relate old dusty books to contemporary experience without a lot of noise and pointing”–works like Nicholas Sarno’s God Bless the Squirrel Cage, Moshe Zvi Marvit’s Urbesque, and A.E. Simn’s Lust and Cashmere. The GLP also publishes Phonebook, a handy guide to alternative art spaces in the U.S.

A unique aspect of the press is its “slow media” approach: Books are printed in small, collector’s editions of 1,500. The first 500 books in each print run feature silkscreened covers designed by local artists. The remaining “no frills” editions are sold at a lower price, allowing the books to reach a larger audience. This is just one way that Picard, and her collaborators at The Green Lantern, approach their publications and projects with imagination and resourcefulness. Picard believes that many Chicagoans have these qualities in spades. “I don’t think I could have started [in any other city],” she says. “There is such a strong DIY tradition here. I was talking to a friend of mine once about how Chicago is like the Wild West, where anyone can come and set up a little shanty, put a sign out, and sell bonds. People will always come to check it out. They buy the bonds and, generally speaking, the bonds are legit. Sometimes they’re fake, and then people stop going…. But how crazy that people are always willing to give you the benefit of the doubt!”

I corresponded with Picard about the origins of The Green Lantern, book publishing as compared to co-op milk production, and future projects.

Laura Pearson: I’m curious about how you started The Green Lantern. Did it begin as an individual project or a collaborative effort?

Caroline Picard: The Green Lantern began years ago in a series of conversations that ebbed and flowed between myself, Nick Sarno, Jason Bacasa, and a handful of others who happened to be in the same bar or coffee shop at the same time. Depending on who was involved in the conversation, it tended to have different emphases, For instance, I remember sitting on a stoop with Moshe [Zvi Marvit] in Washington D.C. He suggested we one day buy a warehouse building and open a bar with live music for our friend, Peter Speer, who runs an independent music label called Colonial Records (at the time an undeveloped idea without a name). Moshe suggested we could fund the press with the bar, offer live music, and hang art on the walls. I believe we had just come from a lecture given by Noam Chomsky, after which Moshe (age 20 at the time) and I (18) shook the man’s hand and informed him that we wanted to start a revolution. Chomsky gave us his card. I think, somehow, opening the bar was tied into the revolution idea, but I can’t be sure.

A few years later, after college, Nick and I were roommates in San Francisco and the idea resurfaced. This time we thought we’d start a literary journal. We did the research, felt daunted by the economic prospects and, in all honesty, didn’t have the money. The house we lived in caught on fire; I moved to Philadelphia, another roommate moved to Florida, and the other two–Nick and Kate–stayed in the city.

Obviously, things don’t turn out the way one expects, though I think this is generally for the better. We’d always been interested in independent venues and culture, and it was probably only a matter of time before one of us set up shop someplace. The literal beginning of The Green Lantern happened somewhat arbitrarily. I had lived in Chicago for a year, house-sitting. I decided I would stay in the city more permanently and needed to find a more permanent place to live. I looked at various apartments–dark garden places with sketchy landlords and high price tags. In the midst of this, I happened to walk past the Singer Sewing Machine Shop. Above it, there was a For Rent sign. I went to look at it and realized that it would be cheaper to run a space than go to grad school. It would also be more efficient to run an apartment gallery than to rent a single apartment and a studio (I was painting at the time). So I took the place. The next day I called Nick and asked him if he wanted to start the press with me. That was it.

LP: Were there other small publishers that you looked to for inspiration?

CP: I don’t know. Featherproof, certainly. McSweeney’s. Even the not-so-indie New Yorker magazine.

We got our business model from Slow Food organizations. I worked for a year at The Cowgirl Creamery, an artisan cheese company in California. For that year I helped make 350 cheeses a day (their production has gone way up since). The Slow Food movement has enabled mom-and-pop dairies to stay open. By becoming organic, they are able to control their price points, and thus thrive outside of the rubric of co-op milk production, which, from what I understand, is a real machine that streamlines production to such an extent as to squeeze out the little guys. I really liked this approach, because it showed how innovation and creative thinking could create new avenues of economy that then liberate the individual within the corporate system. Obviously, The Green Lantern has a long way to go before we get to such a point. I hope we can though.

LP: GLP publications are lovingly designed! I understand you’ve chosen different silkscreeners (Mat Daly, Alana Bailey) to design the covers. Any specific artists you’d like to work with in the future?

CP: This year we’re working with Nick Butcher from Sonnenzimmer. I don’t know who we’ll work with next year, but I like the idea that each year is a kind of screen-printer’s residency.

LP: What’s next for GLP?

CP: I’m working out the exhibition schedule for 2009/2010 this January. We will be publishing a few smaller books, in editions of 100–200, a long prose poem by Devin King that references The Odyssey, a translation of Rimbaud’s “A Season in Hell” by Nick Sarno (the proceeds of which will be donated to a children’s hospital in San Francisco), as well as a reprint of The North Georgia Gazette, a newspaper published in 1821 by a fleet of English sailors who were trapped in the Arctic for nine months. Our edition will include the original manuscript, as well as an excerpt from the Captain’s journal, some annotations kept by the transcriber, Lily Robert-Foley, and contemporary artworks by Jason Dunda, Daniel Anhorn, Rebecca Grady, Deb Sokolow, and Nick Butcher, who will be pressing a 7-inch record. This book–it’s probably our most ambitious project–is due for release in February, in an edition of 250. Nick Butcher is also going to be making the covers.

The next book we’re gearing up for is an original novel by Terri Griffith, due out this spring. Next fall, we’re going to release a book called The Concrete of Tight Places, by Justin Andrews, as well as a collection of short stories by Ashley Murray.

Which, I guess is to say, we’re going to be really busy. In the best way.

LP: In keeping with the final question of my last column, what are three words you’d use to describe your independent publishing experiences in Chicago?

CP: Wide open. Supportive.

posted by caroline picard

this poster was made in a limited edition by super star Mat Daly

 

Anytowne, UK – AD 700 (#3)

September 30, 2008

posted by Caroline Picard

this was originally published in one of our zine’s “THE ARCHIVE”

Written by Peter Speer

ANYTOWNE, UK – AD 700 (#3)

I’d hitched a ride on an oxcart with little to my name—a lumber log, a gypsy lamb, assorted trinkets.  My cloaked chauffer, more troll than dwarf, and more dwarf than woman, drove with a liberal whip, her bearskin smock undulating Turkishly in the damp Spring eve.  We’d stopped for a grog-nip under a sloping knoll’s shadow, the rising moon catching a fleeting nap behind a passing cloud.  My feet were numb in the cold, and I’d begun to grow tired.

At first I paid little heed to the rustling in the branches, to the flocks abandoning their stately perch.  I saw a fox, then two, then all manner of varmint scampering from the outlying brush.  Their pace quickening with their numbers, an escalating stampede, a rising tide of fur and claws, darting with alarm from their secret homes.  A putrid wind followed them from the forest, the air itself expelling an urgency in its exit.  It groaned, howled and spit, roaring past, parting the weeds, loosening my footing.  It smelled of rot, semen and cinnamon: the musk of spell-craft.  I spied my driver high above, atop the hill, incanting in tongues, her hideous complexion bathed in an emerald moonlight.  I was paralyzed.

Sun-flares erupted in the periphery, my knees gave out, my shoulders fell fast.  My tongue felt suddenly huge, alien, hostile.  My stomach quaked, my throat heaved and I cried out with everything I still commanded: a primal rattle that left me hoarse and gasping.  I tore at my clothes, certain they were in flames.  I ripped at the grass.  I wanted only to slow its whirling.

Then earth grew deathly quiet and shook!  Monoliths rose from its surface all around, perfectly formed and set, growing to extraordinary heights, radiating a womb’s warmth and rotating with the cadence of my slowing heart.  I could not close my eyes, I could not stop from drooling.  Indeed, though I knew myself poisoned, and felt my mind scurrying like so much local fauna, this was no fantasy!  I was at once awash in the helpless surrender of a complacent invalid, beholden to the supernatural spectacle unfolding around me, and yet focused with sober intensity on the rising rhythms approaching from the dark of the wood.

Dun!  Dun!  Dun-dun!  Dun!  It snapped me back to the ground.  I could feel the chill of the dew.  It grew louder: DUN!  DUN!  DUN-DUN!  DUN!  A fog hung low and crept towards me.

I was immobile, lying on the field, rigid, panting, staring upwards.  I saw myself running in the heavens, regressing in years as I passed the stars: now old, now young, now an infant, now a spark.  I felt the shaman woman’s chanting trickle down my spine as my life passed before me, constellations warping around my visage in the ether.  Explosions of color, patterns forming and collapsing on one another, shadows dancing everywhere.  I shook uncontrollably, and as I shook florescent vapors radiated from my joints.

I rolled onto my chest and managed to rise to my knees, vomiting violently forward in the darkness.  The bile simmered on the lawn, and I followed its steam upwards, my eyes catching the seething void beneath an earthen hood.  If I could have run I would have run, but I don’t have to tell you, dear friend, that it was hopeless.  The druids had already arrived…