By Kimberly Chun and Johnny Ray Huston
CONSIDER THE FALL 2005 bumper crop of new, mostly indie releases by Bay Area artists to be the fruit of the past five post-dot-com years of careful seeding and nurturing a regimen that involves much watering (holes), active listserv support systems, nutty house parties, relentless touring, and utterly rad music-making.
How else can one explain the number and quality of releases this year? We can try.
For instance, Sub Pop's Rogue Wave and Kelley Stoltz, as well as Comets on Fire, "were all signed independently of each other. There wasn't a headhunt to see what was going on in San Francisco," label publicist Joan Hiller says. But she does suspect that regional proximity to Sub Pop's Seattle HQ and a certain like-mindedness factor in. "There's the same kind of laid-back camaraderie that we tend to see in the Northwest, and it's similar, not that these bands don't take themselves seriously but that they're really excited about doing what they do and really committed to making fantastic records and touring a bunch."
Others, like Kill Rock Stars honcho Slim Moon, go further: He counts a fifth of the bands (Deerhoof, Gold Chains and Sue Cie, Nedelle, Gravy Train!!!, Numbers) on his label, as well a fifth on sister imprint 5RC (Xiu Xiu, the Advantage), as Bay Area-based. "I left 20 percent of my heart in San Francisco," he writes in an e-mail. "But seriously, I think the Bay Area has the most fruitful scene going, and it produces many of the most interesting, fun, and challenging bands in America."
Ryan Murphy, director of sales at Drag City, offers some context for the presence of Bay Area acts such as Joanna Newsom, Ben Chasny's Six Organs of Admittance and August Born, Faun Fables, and the Fucking Champs on the Chicago indie: "San Francisco is just one of those towns that has always had a scene that interesting groups are gonna come out of. That ebbs and flows, but anyone who knows a little bit about the history of rock will know that in every era there's been someone from SF, even if it was Journey in the '70s or Dead Kennedys in the '80s. It's not a particular sound but a particular consciousness that demands to be heard.
"A lot of people would draw lines from that to the '60s, but it's probably just as much like the DIY thing of punk. They want to do it for themselves, it's a very handmade art, and they're coming up with a sound that's all their own. There's a sense of self-reliance. The same is true of Fucking Champs back in the day they did it on their own, with the help of friends, before they reached out to the military-industrial complex that we represent."
Selected upcoming fall releases
Numbers, We're Animals (Kill Rock Stars, Sept. 13) Expanding their sonic palette as drummer Indra Dunis steps up on vocals. The terribly excellent three also have a split KRS 7-inch with Adult. coming Nov. 8.
Latoya London, Love and Life (Peak/Concord, Sept. 20) Life after American Idol.
Blackalicious, The Craft (Anti-/Epitaph, Sept. 27) Check the guest list: George Clinton, Floetry, Lyrics Born, Lateef, and Pigeon John.
Grandaddy, Excerpts from the Diary of Todd Zilla (V2, Sept. 27) Modesto dirt.
Miguel Migs, Vol. 1 House of Om Presents: Get Salted (Get Salted, Sept. 27) Santa Cruz guitar player turned deep-house dude gets salty.
Paula Frazer, Leave the Sad Things Behind (Birdman, Oct. 4) More gorgeously mournful songs from the sad lady of Bernal Heights.
The Advantage, TBA (5RC, Oct. 11) The Super Mario Bros.-fixated combo of "serious dudes that rock with good nintentions" tap the obsession again.
Deerhoof, The Runners Four (Kill Rock Stars, Oct. 11) Fresh from opening for the Roots, the Bay Area quartet unveil their latest, six months in the making yet stark in comparison to recent recordings.
Kelley Stoltz, The Sun Comes Through EP (Sub Pop, Oct. 11) He claims it's a lot like his long-awaited forthcoming full-length, which means he'll strike the perfect balance between eclectic, shroomed-out psych experimentation and classic oh-so-high '60s pop songcraft.
Rogue Wave, Descended Like Vultures (Sub Pop, Oct. 25) Zach Rogue picks over rock history's remains and uncovers the juicy bits.
Hella, Homeboy CD with Concentration Face DVD (5RC, Nov. 8) Jaw-dropping skills and tours with System of a Down and Mars Volta.
XBXRX, Sixth in Sixes (Polyvinyl, Sept. 13) The Oaktown boys go nuts and strike out into new turf on their follow-up to 2001's Gop Ist Minee.
Persephone's Bees, The Notes from the Underworld (Columbia, TBA) A psych-pop duo in the Jellyfish mode makes good with Smash Mouth, Third Eye Blind, and Dwarves producer Eric Valentine.
Some recent releases: Xiu Xiu, La Foret (5RC); John Vanderslice, Pixel Revolt (Barsuk); Veronica Lipgloss and the Evil Eyes, The Witch's Dagger (Gold Standard Laboratories); Gravy Train!!!, Are You Wigglin' (Kill Rock Stars); Paradise Boys, The Young and the Guest List (5 Points); Thee More Shallows, More Deep Cuts (Turn).
And don't forget the superstars: Bonnie Raitt, Souls Alike (Capitol, Sept. 13); Neil Young, Prairie Wind CD/DVD (Reprise, Sept. 20); Santana, All That I Am (Arista, Nov. 1).