Friday, May 01, 2015

Your attention, please: Craw Kickstarter 2.0

Update: I'm thrilled to report that the second Craw Kickstarter has reached and exceeded its goal. The box set will be out later this year from Northern Spy. Our fund-raiser is still live through Tuesday, June 2, at 9pm EST; go here to preorder the music in both vinyl and digital formats.

Go here to hear a five-song Craw sampler.


In March of 2014, I launched a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of reissuing three records by Craw, my favorite band of all time, in a limited-edition vinyl box set. I did as much research as I could, but I was in over my head. This was the gesture of a fan, not of someone who had any idea what it meant to put out records. I counted on my enthusiasm for the project to carry me through, and while I failed to meet the financial goal I set, I was thrilled with the response.

On Monday, May 4, I'm relaunching this effort. (I will add the link here as soon as the new campaign is live.) The basic objective is the same: to reissue Craw's first three albums, all out of print for roughly 20 years, as a limited-edition vinyl box set. But the details are very different.

Much of the constructive criticism I received re: the first campaign was that my numbers were off—the asking price for the box set was simply too high. At the time, since I had put so much work into the campaign, I wasn't really interested in hearing feedback. I believed in the project, and I was devoted to my original vision. But after the fund-raiser ended and I was able to take a step back, I could see that the numbers were in fact flawed. Because of what one commenter referred to as "the economics of scale," producing 300 copies of the set rather than the intended 100 would greatly lower the per-unit price. Still, though, I wasn't sure I was ready to get back on the Kickstarter merry-go-round—as anyone who has launched a fund-raiser on that or any other platform could tell you, it's a rewarding but somewhat draining experience. For a while, I was very close to relaunching a digital-only reissue effort, obviously a drastically less costly endeavor. This seemed like the most direct route to my true goal, which is to properly situate Craw in the discussion surrounding progressive, aggressive underground rock music (post-hardcore, left-field metal, math rock, art rock, noise rock, what have you; all are inadequate to describe this band, but they're as close as one can get when speaking in shorthand), to get the sounds in people's ears and let the records speak for themselves, which I knew they would.

But vinyl was the holy grail all along. To reissue out-of-print albums on vinyl, especially in a collector-friendly, properly annotated, handsomely designed box set (Triple Point's Ben Young specializes in previously unreleased music, but aesthetically, something like call it art is the gold standard for me), is to restore the dignity of the music in question, to say, "For whatever reason, or combination of reasons, these sounds, so laboriously, lovingly crafted, have been overlooked. Let's re-present and reexamine these great works."

Enter Northern Spy, a label I've been a fan of for quite some time. I am extremely grateful to the men that run this label, Adam Downey and Tom Abbs, for saying to me, "Let's give this another shot." And not only another shot, but a better shot. We've been working on the figures for the past few months, and they look good. Craw Kickstarter 2.0 won't be a slam dunk, but I hope and believe that it will feel more like a free-throw attempt than the half-court desperation shot that was the first campaign. If we succeed, the Craw box set will become part of a beautiful, boundless catalog of avant-garde music, encompassing artists as diverse as John Butcher and Shilpa Ray, Chicago Underground Duo and the USA Is a Monster, as well as those who are closer to home and, in some cases, personal friends and collaborators: Seaven Teares, Zs, Aa. Much like Craw were, Northern Spy is bigger than genre. Way bigger.

Also on board this time around, handling design and a custom liner-notes booklet, is Aqualamb. Owners Johnathan Swafford, a former resident of Craw's birthplace of Cleveland, and Eric Palmerlee are musicians and artists with strong ideas about the value of packaging and presentation. Their business is dignifying the music they release with gorgeous 100-page softbound books—not booklets, actual books. I know they will make the Craw box look and feel so much richer than it would have otherwise.

And then there is the music itself. I've been at this a long time—"this" meaning loving music and spreading the word however I can. Craw's music is simply on another plane for me. As any reader of this blog will understand, I love all kinds of music, in all kinds of ways. And generally, I have no interest in quantifying that love. But this is a special case: I've loved Craw's music for longer, and with more intensity, than any other music. Sure, the fact that Craw are an impossibly obscure band feeds into my vehemence, but I don't love this music because it's obscure. I love it because it's eerie, mesmerizing and shockingly intense, because it's as heavy as any music I've ever heard, but in totally counterintuitive ways. I love it because it's sinister yet sad, unhinged yet rigorous, insanely complex yet strikingly coherent. I love it because it feels true and profound to me.

I've spent so many late nights and early mornings dreaming of the day when people would have a chance to hear what I hear in this music, working to get the details of these two campaigns right. This new effort feels more solid. With the last campaign, my heart was in the right place, which is a significant detail, but the logistics weren't in order. This time, with the help of Northern Spy, Aqualamb and my good friend and musical collaborator David McClelland—Craw guitarist, cowriter and cofounder—I'm confident that they are. This work has not been burdensome, because the music continues to bear the weight I place on it. I go back to it, year after year, and the feeling is the same.

The poster you see above advertises the first Craw show I saw, in Kansas City, MO, on April 21, 1995. It would not be an exaggeration to say that that show changed my life. After all, I'm sitting here, writing this, 20 years later. If you enjoy this blog, or any of the words I've written, or music-related content that I've produced, or music that I've made, I would be extremely grateful if you would simply take a look at the Kickstarter page when it goes live. Watch the video, read the text, get to know the campaign, see what we're trying to do, keep up with the effort on Facebook. Donate if you're interested; spread the word if you're so inclined. Your attention would mean so much to me.