Matt Gibson had a tough decision to make in 2011. He either had to figure out how to keep his band, the Extraordinaires, alive in the wake of Punk Rock Payroll, the record label they’d been a part of going under, or accept an offer to go on tour playing in Man Man.
He ended up accepting and touring with Man Man as a multi-instrumentalist in support of their album Life Fantastic until 2012. His experience touring in a nationally recognized act didn’t yield the results he’d originally imagined though.
“I think I was going into it with a lot higher hopes of meeting more people and meeting more people that wanted to hear new music, or being able to share the Extraordinaires music with them,” Gibson says. “Or meeting people to make contacts with them that may be able to help with the Extraordinaires. But now looking back, that may have been a naive thought. Because the reality of it is that everybody is trying to do the same thing and you really need to have something that’s impressive to peak your head out above everybody else’s. Nobody really cares unless there’s really some hype behind it.”
But he did come away with added comfort for playing in front of larger crowds among other things that helped his main band after rejoining in 2012, which come up later in this piece.
However, Gibson later found out what he thought about bands needing hype to catch the attention of the public may not be true. He and the rest of the Extraordinaires took the crowd-sourcing approach in the winter of 2012 to aid in releasing their upcoming album, Dress for Nasty Weather, their first on their new label, Color Theory Records, which they are running with Justin Wolf of Lux Perpetua. Through a Kickstarter campaign the Extraordinaires surpassed their goal by $2,000.
“Because for what we accomplished with Punk Rock Payroll,” Jay Purdy says, “it was really hard to lose that support system. But it was really inspiring to know that people had taken notice enough that we could do another book.”
Now working under the Color Theory flag, the Extraordinaires want to “keep the spirit of Punk Rock Payroll alive,” as Purdy puts it about the original label that released their first couple albums – with handmade books.
“Our current goal is to be an outlet for bands to do interesting releases,” he says. “As far as vinyl, CDs and digital downloads go that’s kind of standard practice. Because when we were on Punk Rock Payroll, simply by aggregating all of our resources, we were able to do these really unique releases.”
Punk Rock Payroll started as a small merchandise company in 2003, by Frede Zimmer focusing on buttons and screen printing and eventually grew into to being a label for a small roster of bands. Releases on PRP weren’t just conventional CDs, tapes, vinyl records, or even digital downloads, but much more. The boutique label put out music that were more like art projects than just albums.
For example, the Extraordinaires have put out each of their albums on CD accompanied by a hard bound book with the albums’ lyrics printed on its pages. This is more than appropriate for the band’s tendency of telling stories in their music. A song about to come out on Dress for Nasty Weather and personal favorite of Purdy’s is “Stray Bullet,” a tune that he says a bit like a modern version of Pinocchio but a bit darker. And don’t forget about “The Egg of Columbus,” from 2009’s Electric and Benevolent that tells the story of that certain Italian that discovered the Americas. And from the upcoming Dress for Nasty Weather, they are bringing their first music video to light for “Blue Moon.” In it each member of the band plays the role of a Charlie Chaplin-like character, meets what Purdy describes as an “Amerlia Earhart character,” document their day together with her and maybe fall for her, too.
Some of the other ambitious PRP releases have included the Armchairs album which was put out on CD placed inside a throw pillow accessible by loosening the drawstring and Dangerous Ponies made mobiles that had the CD as a part of its pieces that hung in it. Kill You in the Face put out a science fiction-based concept album including a digital version of a comic book that they made along with album’s music. In addition, they molded it into the shape of a ray-gun housing a USB disk with a digital copy of both the comic and the album on it.
These sorts of projects are what made it tough for the Extraordinaires to accept the fact that PRP was going under. It became a part of their trademark, so to speak, but also that the other bands involved were getting behind the projects, too.
“Everything kind of gravitated toward doing some very artistic releases,” Gibson says. “So all these amazing things were starting to happen and unfortunately as everyone started to gain some momentum, the head of Punk Rock Payroll was going through some pretty tough personal times and he couldn’t keep up with what the bands were putting together.”
Gibson says that because it was tough for Zimmer to continue taking button and t-shirt orders, so the money wasn’t coming in. But he and Purdy are feeling good about where the Extraordinaires stand after the response that they got some time ago during their Kickstarter campaign. The money they raised went towards bringing their recording efforts to the next level by working with Kyle Johnson at Fancy Time Studio. Prior to the Pen Pals EP and Dress for Nasty Weather, all of the Extraordinaires albums were recorded in Wolf’s home studio.
Dress for Nasty Weather features some songs that have been around for a relatively long time. Purdy says there are even a few that predate the first Extraordinaires album, Ribbons of War. The personnel on Dress for Nasty Weather is just as extensive as the instrumentation, featuring Purdy as vocalist and on guitar, piano, accordion; Gibson playing bass, piano and vocals; Mike Harkness is the drummer; and Zach Poyatt plays lead guitar; Koofreh Umoren plays trumpet. They’re joined by Vinchelle Woods contributing backing vocals; saxophonist Dave Fishkin; and Billy Dufala on flute and percussion.
Purdy did keep the band going while Gibson, his main song writing partner whom he’s been writing with for over 10 years, was away in Man Man.
“We have these libraries of recordings, so if we have a song that’s in d minor, we have all of these musical phrases that we can pick and choose from and fit into the song like ingredients in a cake or something,” Purdy says.
Gibson’s return in 2012 brought the opportunity of contributing to the writing process again, something that he was denied while touring with Man Man and prompted his departure from the band. He says the reason he left Man Man was wanting “to be more of a part of the creative portion of being in the band.” He goes on to say that he was at the ground level of some of the songs on the most recent Man Man album, On Oni Pond, and at the time had expressed interest in being a part of contributing that moving forward. However, he could tell that that wasn’t going to develop.
“It just started to feel, to me, that it was wasn’t going to be what I had envisioned,” he continues. And in return I was missing out on being in the Extraordinaires. And I know what I get out of being in the Extraordinaires. I get to bring things to the table and have people work on it with me and be excited about it with me. And that’s what I was sort of yearning for, I wanted to get back to that. So that’s why I saw my out (of Man Man) and I took it.”
However, working with in Man Man in their song writing sessions is the other aspect of being on tour with them that Gibson benefitted from.
“My role in Man Man was most that of being a multi-instrumentalist, even playing multiple instruments in one song,” he says. “So I became a better-rounded musician. When I got finished with them I had so many song ideas. I mean so many ideas, because I was playing a lot of guitar at the time too. It was fun to bring more song ideas to the table for the new album.”
But even before Gibson returned, Purdy had a good feeling about his song writing relationship continuing with Gibson while he was playing with Man Man.
“In that time we talked,” Purdy says. “And we knew we were going to make music together again.”
The Extraordinaires will celebrate the release of Dress for Nasty Weather at Johnny Brenda’s this Saturday, July 12 with Grandchildren and Teen Men. More details here.
Color Theory Records, Dangerous Ponies, Fancy Time Studio, Kill You in the Face, Lux Perpetua, Man Man, Punk Rock Payroll, The Armchairs, The Extraordinaires