Last week, local mood merchants Kingsbury announced a relaunch of their website as a portal to every piece of music they've recorded, as well as all of their lyrics, "embarrassing" photos, music videos and "the ideas we have." Their entire catalog is now available for download free of charge and to celebrate there is a brand-new EP, Lie to Me, ready for download on the site and a show this weekend at Taste.
Yes, Kingsbury has bowed out of traditional music media and taken the album-sales paradigm to a different level. While Radiohead and others already have done the free online-LP thing, Kingsbury has laid out their past and future. At this point, their only means of making money is a virtual "tip jar" on the site.
Vocalist Bruce Reed clarifies, "We're not exactly putting everything on the site," he says. "The songs still need `our` stamp of approval and we're absolutely our own worst critics."
In keeping with the spirit of the band, the move isn't a rebellion against oppressive record labels or a publicity stunt, but a matter of cold, hard fact. The band loves their Post Records label and hates to watch record-shopping go by the wayside, but people aren't buying in the ways that they used to.
"The way the podcast culture has completely taken over is a huge influence with what we're doing with this record. I don't think people are really gonna be selling records much anymore," Reed says. And it makes sense to "create an infrastructure `where` people are at least paying attention and remaining active. It's not as financially viable as the last 30 years of music, but what are you gonna do? Technology changed. It's not like the MP3 destroyed music, it's just the culture is totally different."
Toward the beginning of the year, members of Kingsbury got caught up in election fever and the resultant demand for up-to-the-minute news and opinions. They found themselves talking about politics more than music and wondering why their band even mattered in the bigger picture. Some soul-searching led them to think in a new way about digital media. Kingsbury also realized that they are uncomfortable with many aspects of band life.
Having called Orlando home now for five years, the four-piece Vero Beach natives released a nationally acclaimed full-length LP in 2007, but the guys never quite found the joy of lugging gear around on tour — though they love the performance aspect. Nor does the band have even a mild tolerance for the drudgery of selling themselves and their wares. Even so, when it comes to badgering blogs and magazines for a review, Reed understands the job: Every band, no matter their success level, is expected to run that full-court press with each release or tour. And the band has done it before.
"With The Great Compromise `their 2007 full-length on Post`, we were all incredibly proud of that record, so we wanted to do everything we could to promote that record," Reed says. "We did all the traditional means. We hired a PR person. We got great results, but we didn't feel the results were so good we wanted to go through that process again."
"We spent a lot of money," says drummer T.J. Burke. "Again, it was the traditional way to do things. We played over 50 shows between January 2007 and April '08, and with gas steadily going up we started thinking, ‘Wow, it cost us $80 to get here. We could've sat at home and added friends on MySpace and got a better result for free than the five people we played to."
Says Reed, "You're paying a dollar every time you mail something out and `we sent` hundreds and hundreds of envelopes to college radio stations and all the blogs." At this point, he reins in the conversation; he doesn't want to gripe about where Kingsbury has been, but rather promote what is happening in the now.
As a whole, Lie to Me is the answer to the conclusion many would draw about a group of admitted studio rats that have shed nearly every outside responsibility other than recording songs: That the band would get lazy. As Lie to Me demonstrates, however, the unbending sterility of ones and zeroes hasn't corrupted Kingsbury's music. If anything, the EP is the most intimate record they've released, a luxuriously nightmarish half-hour of loss, nostalgia and minimalist confusion. Gone are Reed's lovelorn upper registers of "The Great Compromise," or the faint traces of Floridian twang that blew through much earlier tracks like "The Open Sea."
In songs on Lie to Me, like the supernaturally mournful "Back in the Orange Grove," Reed barely leaves the darkness, preferring a wounded growl over melodrama, and the epic instrumentation behind him is content to ride a single note to the breaking point rather than overemphasize the point. The band's restraint doesn't give way until the final two minutes of the last track, "Holy War," when it erupts into a sea of crashing cymbals and a feedback tide.
Their record-making process has definitely gone digital. "This time was really seamless because we bounced the `song track` files from our studio computer, e-mailed them `to the mixing company, whom they paid via PayPal`, and they're gonna mail us a CD back," Reed says. "We didn't even have to send them a CD this time. It's lightning fast. The only physical element of this whole process is us getting the CD back."
Drummer Burke half-jokes that even their song-playing has gone digital. "The guitar is analog, but it goes into a digital box, he laughs. "With how much better digital recording is getting, it's harder and harder to hear the difference."
Kingsbury claims to stand by every downloadable track and sonic experiment on their site, with one exception: the pictures. "Some of those are pretty cringe-worthy," laughs Burke.email@example.com