Happy 20th Birthday To Deep Elm!

deepelmrecords

Deep Elm records is celebrating their 20th anniversary. I wanted to take some time to talk about it. I’m 30 years old, so Deep Elm was already making moves when I was a kid. To put this all into context, I was 10 years old when they started, and 12 years old when the first Emo Diaries came out. Deep Elm has been a label for as long as I can remember. It is also a label that has been hugely important to me.

Brandtson’s Trying To Figure Each Other Out was probably the first Deep Elm record I ever heard. Admittedly, it was already a few years old by the time I heard it. My first exposure to the label was via one of those free samplers you got at shows. I got my hands on a copy of Sound Spirit Fury Fire (Deep Elm Sampler Vol. 3) at a show, and was introduced to a whole bunch of bands that I still listen to now. Camber, Pop Unknown. Brandtson, Benton Falls, and Planes Mistaken For Stars were all represented. They are also bands that get regular spins over a decade later. It was, and this is going to sound cheesy, a life changing compilation. It was my first major step into independent music. It was a lifeline to a vital scene that has been hugely important to me.

I use this phrase a lot, but authenticity matters. It does now, and it did back in 2001/2002. I was, by all accounts, a giant poseur back then. I listened to punk rock, but I didn’t really understand it. I may or may not have owned a Good Charlotte cd. I wanted desperately to fit in with the cool kids in bands that went to my high school. I never did, I was a fat kid with a mohawk and a Rancid t-shirt. I went to local emo and punk shows, but didn’t get it. I hadn’t really figured out how to use my bullshit detector. Deep Elm provided a path for me to walk down.

The records they put out were, and are, the definition of authentic. Genre didn’t matter, it was all about heart. It still is. I remember listening to Desert City Soundtrack for the first time. I remember the feeling I got when I first listened to Latterman on the way home from Tower Records. I remember the first time I heard Camber’s “Improbable Upside.”

I remember the first time I got an email from them. Not a form email or whatever, but an actual email. It was maybe a year or two into me doing this blog. I was just some dude who was running a blog on, at the time, Blogger. To get any level of acknowledgment from Deep Elm was huge. It motivated me to give a shit. I’m definitely still just a low level blogger at best. I’m not breaking bands, I’m not a taste maker. I talk about bands I like. I review records that I think are good. Even then, I was still important enough to get in contact with. That means a lot.

I hope Deep Elm is around for another 20 years. There is a shitty kid like me just discovering independent music, and this label has a hell of a lot to show them.

Deep Elm Records

PS: Deep Elm has their entire discography as Name Your Price. Go get a bunch of stuff.

PPS: That stream of Sound Spirit Fury Fire is missing some songs that appeared on the CD. Bummer.

Digging Through the Compilation Shelf.

compgridCompilations were a fucking way of life. They were the best route to find new bands. They were around long before the internet was THE INTERNET. They were around long before Spotify, BandCamp, SoundCloud, and other services made it easy to “try before you buy.” They’re things that don’t really happen anymore. One part is because of the internet. Another is the overall decline of brick and mortar record stores. They’re not financially viable to manufacture and distribute anymore, and it’s kind of bummer.

Without pulling the shitty “back in my day” card, the decline of record stores and readily available physical products has been the biggest change in music that I’ve seen. I’m old enough to remember a time before file sharing, iTunes, and web commerce as a viable option for music existed. Small record labels, if they had websites at all, still lived on mailorder. You printed out a form, mailed them a money order or some shit, and waited. Oh, how you waited. It wasn’t the most conducive way to discover music. You could read liner notes, but if bands didn’t thank any other bands it was a no-go. So you turned to local record store, and their “compilation” section.

I’ve always been broke. That definitely made it hard for me to discover new bands in my teenage years. I couldn’t afford to buy albums all the time, and it had to be worth it if I was going to drop the $16 at Tower Records. So I always dug through the compilations. At around $2 a pop, they were the best things in the world. If i was curious about some new band on Lookout! Records or something, just go grab their most recent one. Same with Asian Man, Epitaph, Fat Wreck, Go Kart, Matador, Hopeless, BYO, Vagrant, Deep Elm, and so on et cetera. You’d get to hear that new band you were wondering about, and probably some unreleased song from a band you liked already. How could you go wrong?

The first compilation cd I ever bought was probably Mailorder Is Still Fun. As I touched on in another thing, Asian Man Records was my jam. I was mail ordering a bunch of records, and decided to get this compilation. As a teenage ska fan, it was the best I could have hoped for. Slow Gherkin, Less Than Jake, The Chinkees, and MU330 were all on it. Through that compilation I got introduced to Korea Girl, who I still believe to be one of the most criminally underrated indie rock bands in the world. I heard Alkaline Trio and The Broadways for the first time. 16 year old me was stoked. And that compilation was already 2 years old by the time I bought it.

It all spiraled from there. The first time I heard Camber, Planes Mistaken For Stars, and Brandtson was on Deep Elm Sampler #3 (Sound Spirit Fury Fire). The first time I heard The Mr. T Experience, Bratmobile, and Common Rider was on Lookout! Freakout Episode 2. And Hopelessly Devoted To You Vol. 3 was where I first heard Dillinger Four, The Queers, and The Weakerthans (it also sparked me into buying one of my all time favorite records, Left And Leaving). Marc’s A Dick And Gar’s A Drunk: The Johann’s Face Story is where I first heard the Traitors and No Empathy. What I’m saying is that compilations were always important to me. In that spirit, I wanted to make a quick list of my favorite compilations. I’ve linked them to their respective page on Discogs. In no particular order.

Honorable mentions go to Short Music For Short People and Fat Music Volume 5: Live Fat, Die Young (both Fat Wreck Chords). The former for absolutely fucking nailing the gimmick. The latter for having one of my favorite Propagandhi songs.

If this kind of stuff had a resurgence, I’d be right there ready to go.