By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Delays are to be expected in the music business. Even at the lowest level, entire albums can be buried in avalanches of red tape and broken promises, perpetually shelved until everyone involved starts to wonder whether they will ever see the fluorescent light of a record store. Until a band comes along that can write and record its own songs, master and press the recordings, assemble them, and distribute the albums to stores, delays are as inevitable as another losing season by the Dallas Mavericks. People and machines can be unreliable, and so can everything else when something absolutely has to be done yesterday.
Look at Lucinda Williams' recently released Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, an album that went through two record labels, four producers, and six years before it slowly found its way into the bins. Or Peter Schmidt's debut solo album; he lost a year of his life and all of his savings trying to finish a record that could have--should have--been completed in three months. Or the Dooms U.K.'s Art Rock Explosion, the long-awaited follow-up to 1994's Greasy Listening; it has long been put on hold because the band's dollars didn't make enough sense.
With better luck and timing, the three new records on Dave Willingham and Philip Croley's Two Ohm Hop record label could have been released months ago. The records--12-inch EPs by Light Bright Highway ("Moon Glory & the Seventh Sun") and Sub Oslo (untitled), and a seven-inch single by Stumptone ("Circles/ Jeremy Bentham's Boots")--were all recorded more than a year ago. The trip from tape to vinyl for the Melodica Festival all-stars was a slow one, filled with the kind of obstacles that seem to pop up when everything has to be done just right.
"They've been working on getting that stuff out for a long, long time," says Chris Plavidal of Stumptone. "They just want to do it right the whole time. So far, so good. The ones that are finished are just awesome."
It's strange that a quest for perfection delayed the release of the three records; Willingham doesn't seem like the type who sweats the details. In these pages just a little more than a month ago, he said, "Perfection is good, but you can push it a little too far...You should just relax and have fun, and let what happens happen."
It was more than just Willingham's desire to get things right that pushed back the release of the records. His work as a producer left him with little time for the record label, and problems with the manufacturer--a company that had never pressed vinyl before--complicated matters further. Plus, Willingham's ambition got in the way as well; it's hard enough for a fledgling label to put out one record, let alone three at the same time. But that's the way he wanted it.
"I knew that once I got the OK to do it from all three of those bands, I knew that I wanted to do it all at the same time, instead of stagger them," Willingham says. "Kind of make it more of a bang at once. With three things at once, it kind of took a while for it all to fall into place."
Things began to fall into place around two years ago, while Willingham was recording Plavidal's Stumptone project. Willingham had just built his 70 Hurtz studio in Argyle--a short hayride south of Denton--and Plavidal helped him break it in. The pair had worked together before; Plavidal's band MK Ultra recorded a single for Direct Hit Records with Willingham a few years ago. This time, the recordings had no other purpose than to test out Willingham's equipment and Plavidal's songs. Eventually, Willingham convinced Plavidal to let him release some of the recordings on the record label he hadn't yet started.
"I've been recording Chris Plavidal for a long time," Willingham says. "I had always wanted to put something out by him, and he was always [saying], 'Well, I don't know.' He had some other people wanting to put some stuff out. I guess he finally decided it would probably be better if I did it."
"He let me stay out there for so long, I figured he should get to do something with it," Plavidal says.
The result is "Circles/Jeremy Bentham's Boots," probably the most conventional of the three Two Ohm Hop releases, even if it is by default. The clear-vinyl seven-inch alternates between experimental meandering and pedal-pushing rock, but never chooses a side. However, it doesn't necessarily reflect the current version of Stumptone. "It was recorded with a totally different group from what I'm playing with now," Plavidal says. "We play the same songs--well, we play those two songs--but they're really different now."
The band has always had a very fluid lineup because of band members' commitments to other bands and projects. Stumptone has, at times, fielded up to eight members; other times it's consisted of just Plavidal--the only member to survive every incarnation of the band. "It was fun just to try totally different lineups, to try and have as many people as possible and then try and have nobody, just to see what would happen," he says. "Sometimes it was really cool, and sometimes it was moderately cool."