January 22, 2018

New shirts for "old school" Tooth & Nail bands

Buy Velour 100, Havalina Rail Co., Bloodshed, and Ninety Pound Wuss shirts here!

Two years ago a bunch of people encouraged me to design some new shirts for 90's bands. Nostalgia is as "in" as ever, and I am constantly designing and ordering t-shirts for my athletic teams, so I am familiar with the process. The prospect was appealing because I would have more creative freedom and fun than with sports apparel.

My vision was simple: create NEW shirt designs with the permission from the musicians. This doesn't seem revolutionary, but most of the shirts for sale online are unofficial reprints. I have Facebook ads blocked in my browser, but the rare times I get on Facebook on my phone it is littered with ads for bootleg band t-shirts.

I reached out to about a dozen different musicians, and made progress with four: Jeff Bettger of Ninety Pound Wuss, Matt Wignall of Havalina Rail Co., Trey Many of Velour 100, and Jonathan Caro of Bloodshed. They all shared my vision of new designs rather than just reprinting the shirts they had in the 90's (which would probably even sell better).

Three of the four guys had strong opinions about the designs, which is logical because they are creative, visionary people. Matt Wignall went so far as to design the shirt himself (except I recreated the original Havalina logo). Jeff Bettger had a specific vision to honor John Spalding, who passed away in 2008; I executed his design idea with a photo he shared.

Trey Many wanted the art to represent the album Of Color Bright, which was challenging but eventually doable. With Bloodshed I had complete creative freedom, and ended up polling potential buyers and they chose this incredible image from the NYC public library (free use with no restrictions).

Well, as high as the interest seemed, only the Ninety Pound Wuss shirt sold (23 of them). I am using TeeSpring to sell the shirts for a variety of reasons, but partially because of its simplicity. And with TeeSpring I know the quality of the fabric and screen printing is GREAT (have used them to order shirts for my school where I work).

TeeSpring requires a minimum of 10 orders, and the other three all failed. Well, that was two years ago, and I decided to try again because every couple months I would get an email from someone wanting to order. So a couple days ago I relaunched the sales for the four bands:

Havalina Rail Co. (buy here)

Bloodshed (buy here)
Velour 100 (buy here)



Ninety Pound Wuss (buy here)

I want to make it clear that my profit on each shirt is in the pennies. Only one of the artists wanted a cut of the profits, so the price of that shirt is a little higher. But this is very much only for fun, and not a business.

There are some downsides that I am frustrated about; primarily shipping costs. For one, if you buy multiple shirts there is no shipping discount (well, there is if you buy multiple shirts with the same design. But if you want to combine two different design/bands there is nothing; argh!). And two, I based the store in the USA because that is where most of the potential buyers are. The international shipping costs are ridiculous. I apologize about this, but it the downside of using TeeSpring. I do feel the pros outweigh the cons though, and even with the too-high shipping costs most of the shirts are under $20 total.

Finally, we need at least 10 buyers for shirt! And we are off to a solid start. The Ninety Pound Wuss shirt has 9 orders so far, and TeeSpring actually changed the goal from 10 (the typical minimum) to 6. I am not sure why, but it may have to do with the fact that the shirt has sold well before. I am hoping the other shirts will also have a reduced minimum. But surely we can find 10 buyers for each shirt below?




January 19, 2018

It Takes Years To Get Here; The Prayer Chain's Top 25 songs

Considering how long I have been blogging (this is year 15), it is surprising how little I have written about The Prayer Chain. They are one of my favorite bands of all time, but they broke up at the end of 1995.

The most thorough post I have done on the band is about the 20th Anniversary of Mercury and the alter-ego Cush, which last released an EP around that same time. And then I wrote quite a bit about the band in my best of 1995 post, which of course included the release of Mercury, but also me seeing them perform in Birmingham and working their merch table (footage of the show at the Crush Warehouse is incredibly online, and I show up in the video a few times at the end.)

They did play the occasional show from 1996-2003, but have been inactive since. Well, mostly. Three-quarters of the band (Tim, Andy, Eric, but no Wayne) did perform as Cush and play two Prayer Chain songs in 2015. Here is the title track from Mercury, and they also played "Chalk":



Anyway, "it takes years to get here." 2018 brings the first true Prayer Chain concerts with all four members since 2003. I actually think I was at the last real Prayer Chain show, which was in August 2003 at Flevo Festival in the Netherlands (great video of that show here).

The 25th Anniversary of Shawl has thankfully been embraced by the band with a Kickstarter to release the album on vinyl for the first time, and for two shows in California and Tennessee. They have already reached the first "stretch goal" of $27K to add the Nashville snow, and the next stretch goal of $30K is to ensure the shows are recorded professionally and released. Support that now if you would like to own Shawl (and Mercury) on vinyl and/or see one of these shows:


With the Kickstarter and the active social media presence of the band, I have been listening to The Prayer Chain a ton over the first few weeks of 2018. Mercury is by far my favorite thing the band ever created, and I listen to it frequently. However, I don't think I had listened to Shawl or any of the other releases straight through for maybe a decade.

But as I re-listened to everything, I decided to add The Prayer Chain to my growing lists of artists I have written top 25 song posts about (here is a list). The other added inspiration to make a list was my discovery of PlayMoss, which I wrote about yesterday. I love Bandcamp, all of The Prayer Chain's discography is on Bandcamp (except Shawl, but hopefully it will be added), and PlayMoss makes Bandcamp playlists (!).

Another feature of PlayMoss is that you can make playlists that include songs from a variety of sources, including YouTube. YouTube was clearly the next best option for including the missing Shawl songs, as there are many fun live performances on YouTube.

Because The Prayer Chain only released two LPs, the majority of their best tracks are from them of course (the first 12 songs below are from either Mercury or Shawl.) Honestly I had a hard time not including all 10 songs from Mercury. But there are still some fascinating and great other Prayer Chain songs out there, either outtakes from Humb/Mercury or older standout tracks and demos.

Here are my top 25 Prayer Chain songs in the order I prefer them. What did I leave out? I already know the band will say "Grin", which was a song they performed in most of their shows, but one I never enjoyed that much. It is much better live though, and if you need to hear it, this is a great live "Grin" recording.


As I outlined in my last post, PlayMoss is new to me, and this is only my second playlist using the service. And it is the first using a combination of Bandcamp and YouTube sources. Feedback on functionality or problems is appreciated.

January 18, 2018

Playmoss and Bandcamp Playlists

I am a Bandcamp apologist; for years I have been promoting the site as by far the best way to buy music in this streaming age. I have criticized Spotify at length, and will continue to boycott it and encourage others to do the same. If you are new to this debate: simply, Spotify pays musicians practically nothing, but with Bandcamp the artists get paid by far the most of any other digital platform.

My primary--and really only--gripe with Bandcamp is the inability to make and share playlists. Playlists are one of the primary reasons people pay money to Spotify (and ignore the fact that the subscription fees they are paying go to a corporation and not to artists).

That brings me to PlayMoss- one can make Bandcamp playlists! Not only Bandcamp, but also YouTube, SoundCloud and just about all other streaming services. And you can mix and match. The service can be free, but the free playlists are only a maximum of 15 songs. But for less than 2 $/€ per month, you can pay for an upgrade that enables unlimited length of playlists and unlimited sharing/embedding. I paid the fee immediately to support these programmers who have created something I have desired for years. (Apparently Playmoss has been around for a couple years but sadly I never noticed.)

I will be using PlayMoss extensively on this blog moving forward (assuming it works as well as it initially appears). I will attempt to stick to Bandcamp tracks, as there are direct links to purchase the songs, and at times limits to how many times a user can stream a track (this would be the biggest and most important upgrade to Spotify and other streaming services; to require purchase of a song or albums after playing it a few times). If the song is not available on Bandcamp, I'll then use YouTube. (Because even without a subscription, artists they get paid a higher amount per play on YouTube than Spotify.)

Final comment before my first PlayMoss/Bandcamp playlist: Bandcamp would be wise to go ahead and buy Playmoss, or incorporate the same feature into their own website. Bandcamp has been around long enough that they have the resources to add a playlist function, and in my opinion would lead to even more money for the artists, and for Bandcamp itself.

My first playlist is my top 25 songs of 2017, but only those that are available on Bandcamp. This list is similar to my top 25 albums of 2017 blog post, but with a few additions to replace the albums that are not on Bandcamp.

Because this is new, I would love feedback. Specifically, I am curious if all the songs play, if any skip ahead, etc.

January 9, 2018

Phoebe Bridgers

Phoebe Bridgers released her debut album, Stranger in the Alps, last year and it came in at my #8 album of 2017. However, I have listened to that album more than anything over the last month. Yesterday I went down a rabbit hole of musical discovery in an attempt to find other Phoebe Bridgers' songs that aren't on the LP.


(As usual, this post will be rather short and focused on the songs. But if you are looking for some Bridgers long-reads I recommend these essays/interviews from Gold Flake Paint and Bandcamp Daily.)

The rabbit hole is far deeper than I imagined. Bridgers, now 23, has been writing and performing for much of her life and in her own words began writing real songs at age 16. There are countless songs and videos of her performances online. Below is a list of the songs that have been recorded professionally, and can be purchased online.

To start of course is Stranger in the Alps, Bridgers only full-length. Her voice has matured since earlier recordings and I find a radical difference and improvement than how she sings in the old songs and videos. She describes the process in the Gold Flake Paint interview: "...Tony [Berg] the producer would turn off all the lights to make me emote more, so I recorded most of the songs in complete darkness, as far as the vocals.” That process worked perfectly and her voice is strong yet simultaneously fragile, and vulnerability is communicated not just through the lyrics but her actual voice.



Her first official release is the 2015 Killer 7", which can be purchased from Ryan Adam's label's webstore or as a digital EP from Amazon. It contains earlier versions of the songs "Georgia" and "Killer"(the newer, LP versions are far superior) but also an otherwise unreleased song, "Steamroller".


Another older song, "Waiting Room", is a free download from the 2015 Lost Ark Studio Compilation:

The final song available on Bandcamp is her 2017 Christmas tune, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas".

The only other remaining song I own of Bridgers is a cover of the Emmylou Harris song "Prayer in Open D". It is available on the 2016 To Emmylou covers album.

Here is a fun YouTube playlist someone put together that showcases some more rare and older Bridgers' tunes, covers, etc., including one as far back as 2011.

And finally, I'll end with her NPR Tiny Desk concert, which is phenomenal: