Photos by Morgan Trinker (See the full photo session here.)
A Note from Carrie:
As a former music reviewer/critic-type, I shouldn’t admit this … but I don’t like searching for great new artists. I love listening to great bands, but I kind of want someone else to do the work of finding the good stuff, so I can just enjoy it.
That’s what Jeffery and Jim at Communicating Vessels are great at. Their ability to find talent and nurture it into something that’s even more powerful is outstanding, and we’re lucky they’ve chosen Birmingham as their home.
They happen to be local. They happen to be really nice guys. But that’s not why you should check out Communicating Vessels — you should follow them because they’ll lead you to great music. Hear what I’m talking about by clicking here and listening to a few of their artists for yourself. And read Clair’s interview with Jim below for a little behind-the-scenes insight into running a record label in Birmingham.
by Clair McLafferty
The local Communicating Vessels was founded last year by Jeffrey Cain and shaped into the local-made label/production company it is by a partnership between Cain and manager(ish) Jim Fahy. Over coffee, Jim and I discussed record labels’ responsibilities (e.g., being arbiters of good taste and funding bands), the future of the label and its home base.
What determined the choice for Birmingham as home?
It was [Jeffrey’s] home. He had been living in L.A. for about thirteen years, and moved back. He has three kids, and they wanted the kids to be close to his parents. In between the two of us — my background is in being a musician, being a freelance writer, and I had been working in the music business for five, six years. I knew the in and outs of indie retail business, and had built good relationships with labels on that side of it. I knew a lot of New York people, he knew a lot of L.A. people, and between the two of us, we could start this [label] anywhere. The proximity of here to Nashville and the relationships we have on both coasts mean we’re just able to make a lot of things happen. We can do it and not have to pay New York or L.A. rent.
Can you give a profile of Communicating Vessels — purpose of the label, focus of the artists?
We envision CV as being more of a production company that puts out records than strictly a label. It’s just easier to call it a label. The difference is that we have a studio — Jeff has a studio, so we’re able to produce those records or bring in people to come and help us. Then, those projects kinda started off with bands Jeff was already working with: Sanders Bohlke, Great Book of John. He was already helping out and getting those projects off the ground even before the label existed.
Then we’re putting out our records, we have these two weird rock records, and we are beginning to work with the Green Seed [local hip hop]. Hopefully we’ll be doing something with Paul Lansky, who a composer that people would know from the Radiohead song “Idioteque,” where they sampled him. He was the composer in residence for the Alabama Symphony in 2010, which is how we got connected with him.
The guerilla marketing campaign for the GBOJ “secret” show seemed like it was really effective. Do you think you’ll use marketing techniques like that in the future?
I think so. There are always “secret” shows going on in New York, in terms of getting writers or fans out there. We came up with that idea pretty quickly. What was so good about the show here was that it was pretty much the right mix of friends of the band, fans, and I think there were definitely some people who might’ve heard the music or looked through the windows and come in to see.
Until they create a van that runs on hopes and dreams or illegal downloading, there’s always going to need to be money coming in. What’s great about the Internet is the democratization of so much and how easy it is for people to find things and acquire music. It’s also, at the same time, the downside. People can get things without supporting or paying the artist. Combine that with high gas prices and a generally bad economy, and the fact that you’re competing with everything now. If people don’t buy a record, you’re going to hope they come out to shows, but to do that you need money. Maybe buy a t-shirt, maybe buy a record to help the band. All that stuff helps a lot.
Anything coming up or coming out that you want to get on the blog?
We have a record coming out by Gregory Scott Slay, who was in Remy Zero with Jeff. He was the drummer, he passed away two years ago this New Years Day. It’s a record he finished two months or so before he died. He had cystic fibrosis his whole life, so he lived probably 20 years longer than anyone expected. It’s a great, fun record. I was listening to that on the way over here. It’s kinda spooky good, late night record.
Then we have a record coming out from Isidore. That’s Jeffrey Cain and Steve Kilbey from The Church, the second record they’ve done. It’s probably sonically my favorite record that’s come out of the studio. He was working on that when I first met him, so it’s nice to finally see him finish it.
It’s kinda dedicated to Greg, so it’s going to be a kind of double release vinyl and I have a test pressing of it I’ve listened to a million times and I love it. It’ll be good to have that released, as an example of a project that has more weight to it besides it being from Birmingham. With those things out in the world, it’ll hopefully just feed back on GBOJ and the Green Seed. We have some singles coming out from Preston Lovinggood from Wild Sweet Orange, we’re doing a 7” for the Grenadines, that’ll kinda be the next set of three 7” singles that will be out in November.
Go listen to the music!