By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
One of the ways to get everyone on the same page was involving musicians. Restrepo brought Liles on board about a month ago to provide content for the sites and hire an office full of people to provide customer service. And it didn't take Liles long to figure out exactly whom he wanted to fill out the staff. His new job had given him the kind of stability he had never had, and he wanted other musicians in town to receive the same kind of support. He knows what it's like to take a tour of friends' couches, hoping you won't get sick because you don't have any insurance to take care of it or enough money to pay for anything. So far, among the musicians he has hired are Dave Gibson (Slowpoke), David Monsey (Junky Southern, Cottonmouth), Mike Jerome and Mike Graff of Course of Empire, Doni Blair (Hagfish), and Scott Johnson and ex-New Bo Kenny Withrow, both of whom played in The Slip with Edie Brickell.
"This is the first job I've ever had where I have insurance and full benefits and stock and all that," Liles says. "I want some of these other musicians who've been living for the last 10 years with no medical insurance to be in a position where they can work at a job where they're involved with music all day long, but they still have insurance. There will be 30 or 35 customer-service people that we'll bring on in the next few weeks, and most of them will be musicians, I imagine."
Hiring musicians isn't the only way Liles is working to support the local music scene on a local level. Earlier this year, HEIRESS-aesthetic released Static Orange, a 31-song, two-CD set featuring contributions from bands and musicians such as Pleasant Grove, Tele, Lewis, Meredith Miller, Slow Roosevelt, Legendary Crystal Chandelier, Reed Easterwood, and Centro-matic. Static Orange was given away at area high schools and shows, and has been made available free with every purchase of a local CD at Bill's, CD World, various CD Warehouse locations, and The X in Denton. All of the bands on the compilation will appear at a series of concerts at Trees from May 25 through May 29.
The idea for Static Orange came from Matt Gunter, a local teenager who contacted Liles about helping him put together a collection of recordings by local bands that were just starting out, trying to find room in a crowded scene. Gunter wanted to give people a reason to come down to Deep Ellum and see these bands, help get them on their feet so club owners would be forced to book them. But when Gunter enlisted Liles to assemble the disc, Static Orange became something different, bigger than he and Gunter could have predicted.
"When Matt Gunter originally asked me to do it, you know, the idea was to make this record specifically for high school kids," Liles says. "And after I started working on it, it became less for high school kids and more about high school kids. The kind of linear theme in the record is what it's like to grow up in suburban Dallas, the different situations you happen upon, the different decisions you have to make. I mean, I really wanted it to have a specific theme. I think after what happened in Littleton, Colorado, a lot of people that are our age are really out of touch with the way kids think, and what their perception is and stuff. I think this record will give people insight on what it's like to be a teenager."
To help people get into the theme, Liles split the compilation up into a "Passive" disc (features cuts by the Immaculates, Brian Houser, and Tele, among others), and an "Aggressive" one with tracks by Valve, Buck Jones, and Caulk. One of the bands on the "Aggressive" disc is Lewis, which will release its first album later this year on the resurrected Deep Ellum Records, now run by Russell Hobbs and Patrick Keel.
Liles laughs a bit when he hears this--not at the fact that Hobbs and Keel have rebooted Deep Ellum Records, but that they are still calling it by its original name. As much as Liles still supports local music, he no longer wants to be involved with Deep Ellum--not the record label, and definitely not the area. He can't get gigs there anymore (just three since Thanksgiving), and it's no longer the same place he helped build. And neither is Deep Ellum Records. He's not sure what either of them is anymore, but he doesn't want to be a part of it. His future is online.
"It's kind of ironic, because I started that label because of Patrick Keel," Liles says, laughing. "Patrick Keel lived in Austin at the time, and he blew into town and started signing all of these Dallas bands. And now it's 13 years later, and [Russell] and Patrick are partners--it's a weird circle. I wish them luck. I don't have any ill will against them. I think the decision to call it Deep Ellum Records in 1999 is not the brightest decision in the world. To tell you the truth, anybody that attaches themselves to Deep Ellum to further whatever it is they're doing is misguided." He pauses, then adds. "Unless they own a restaurant."