Slumberland Records Is 20 Years Old

Which is kind of crazy. Just before my 18th birthday I put on a show at my Dad’s “farm” that featured some of the earlier Slumberland-related acts like Lilys, Swirlies, and Small Factory. (When the label was based in D.C.) It lasted two of the hottest days in July. Hundreds of people showed, but my father regretted his decision to let me try my hand at show promotion when someone almost burnt down a few trees with fireworks. I remember wanting to book Velocity Girl, but it hadn’t worked out. They were probably too big then: “My Forgotten Favorite” felt like a massive hit to the people writing and obsessively trading zines. It was kinda my Summer Of Love, where I found a path from the hardcore, thrash metal, NYC noise, and SST of early high school to the DIY K “love rock” (Some Velvet Sidewalk, Lync, Karp, Beat Happening, etc.) and the buzz and sweetness of Slumberland. (Check out the beginning of Swirlies’ “Sarah Sitting” to see what I mean.) Showing my roots, I liked the shoe-gaze best: The Ropers, Henry’s Dress, Black Tambourine, Swirlies, Lilys, etc. And, yeah, everyone loved My Bloody Valentine/Pavement. (I found a cassette copy of Slanted & Enchanted stuck beneath some bushes in the backyard a few days after the shows ended.) I say this anniversary’s crazy because founder Mike Schulman has so admirably stuck to a specific sound and aesthetic, while always founding a way to mine the best of it. That, and it’s hard to believe this little label we were supporting one 7″ at a time — a label that, okay, felt refined from its first release — is still here and bigger than ever.

It was a smart move starting the label again after a hiatus in 2001. During Slumberland’s existence, Schulman has released classic albums folks know well. There are also collections that hold a special spot for me personally. Like Sleepyhead’s Punk Rock City USA from 1993. So twee, but so good. I think folks recognize the MBV-nodding brilliance of Lilys’ In The Presence of Nothing and the scenery-stealing charisma of Kurt Heasley’s live presence back then (even when he was going for it solo). What about Ropers’ “Sunbathe” 7″? Once you start paging through the official discography gems pop out like crazy. Some of these old/new bands are playing together at the 20th Anniversary show in D.C. tonight and NYC tomorrow. I put together a few MP3s from some of my favorite earlier releases to get you in the mood.

Lilys – February Fourteenth” (MP3)
Black Tambourine – “Black Car” (MP3)
Swirlies – “Sarah Sitting” (MP3)
Sleepyhead – “Different Colored Letters” (MP3)
The Ropers – “Waiting” (MP3)
Small Factory – “Merry-Go-Round” (MP3)
Boyracer – “Sunshine And Violence” (MP3)
Honeybunch – “Mine You Own Business” (MP3)
Henry’s Dress – “1620” (MP3)
Lorelei – “Today’s Shrug” (MP3)
Velocity Girl – “My Forgotten Favorite” (MP3)

self-titled has a good feature that includes various Slumberland folks’ favorites with some sounds. Velocity Girls’ Kelly Young nails that noise/pop thing I was talking about:

While it might be cheating since it’s a compilation, my pick for best Slumberland record is Black Tambourine’s Complete Recordings. For me, it’s a complete distillation of what the label was all about at the beginning: angry noise and sweet, sweet pop. As far as my take on the band and record as a fellow Slumberlander, I’m reminded of some notes from [R.E.M.’s] Peter Buck. I think they’re from Dead Letter Office, referring to hearing Pylon’s “Crazy” on the radio: “I remember hearing their version on the radio the day that ‘Chronic Town’ came out and being suddenly depressed by how much better it was than our record.” That’s how I felt on first hearing BT.

You’ll find more of these gems as self-titled. The show info:

11/13 – Washington, DC @ Black Cat #
11/14 – Brooklyn, NY @ Bell House %

# w/ Crystal Stilts, Brown Recluse, Frankie Rose and The Outs, the Ropers, Nord Express, and Lorelei
% w/ Crystal Stilts, Brown Recluse, Frankie Rose and The Outs, the Ropers, Nord Express, Lorelei, and the Pains of Being Pure At Heart

Make sure to stop by Slumberland to catch/keep up on things. Bonus Lilys:

Lilys – “Claire Hates Me” (MP3)