The Art Lord's Sam Herring and William Cashion met in art school at ECU, and it was like one of those Reese's Peanut Butter Cups commercials, only "You got Kraftwerk in my hip hop." "When I came here I was looking for a producer to make hip hop. I was a freestyling MC," recalls Herring, aka The Art Lord, Locke Ernstfrost. "William had this crazy album he had done called Computerness, which is Kraftwerk and Aphex Twin hanging out on acid fucking around with an Apple. It was strange but intriguing, and when I heard that two weeks after we met, I thought, 'I want to make music with this dude.' I knew we weren't into the same thing, but maybe we could do something. I was still thinking about hip hop."
Herring got to know bassist Adam Beeby because he worked at CD Alley in Greenville (before it closed) and, absorbing his influences along with the artists such as Joy Division and New Order that Cashion loved, spun Herring off of hip hop into another direction.
Assembling his new friends, they started a band with two keyboards, a bass and the former MC on the mike. They stayed in the woodshed for a while and wrote ceaselessly. The band developed an extensive backstory about Art Lord, the leader of the art world, who--isolated by his fame and stature--chose to disappear, only to return 20 years later as a singer with a band of Self-Portraits (since no one else could play well enough, of course). "It was kind of a satire of the way we treat our icons in our society--how we view them and how they might view themselves," Herring says.
The self-described post-wave dance band's first studio album, as yet untitled, was recorded with Zeno Gill at Pox studios, and will feature 11 tracks, most released in more primitive iterations on previous home-recordings.
"We've been together two and a half years, but you can get pulled into that sadness of 'Does anyone care?'" explains Herring. "We want this to be a good product not just for the fans but for those that might help us take this further."
Art Lord & The Self-Portraits play Local 506 with Peelander-Z Wednesday, Sept. 14 at 10 p.m.
Tennis & The Mennonites is another relatively new band looking to make a big splash. Graphic designer Jerstin Crosby was asked to do one album cover too many, and suddenly he decided to make his own music. "It was a long time coming," he says.
The name came from a show with The Honored Guests (for whom he'd done album cover art) in Virginia that Crosby ended up opening. Tennis was what he'd thought about calling his duo with an old high school buddy from Alabama, but it's who he went on as that night.
"It was at this weird party in this weird town in Virginia. It was actually a lot of people there's first party. And this Mennonite girl started massaging me while I was playing guitar. I didn't know what to do," Crosby recalls. "It was weird, she had a Winnie the Pooh sweatshirt and stuff. Afterwards, we wrote 'Tennis & the Mennonites 2004 Tour' on the back of their van as a joke. So when it came time to send the recordings to radio stations, I was like, 'We could probably use this name. It's road-tested.'"
Crosby recorded it with The Honored Guests drummer Andrew Kinghorn very informally.
"I was just really wanting to record a few songs on acoustic and then I had met Maria [Albani], and I was like, 'Well, maybe I can have some bass on there too' ... Andrew's drums were just sitting there and he was like, 'I could just put a beat on there and it probably wouldn't take long'--and it didn't. He heard the song two or three times and then recorded drums," says Crosby.
Before he knew it he'd recorded the album and Albani and Kinghorn were suggesting he send it to the local radio station WXYC, who started playing the song "Magnets," one of the last they'd recorded. Realizing this might be more than a bedroom project, Crosby recruited drummer Stu Cohen (Kinghorn was busy with The Guests). Crosby had met Cohen when he did the art for the Heard Together compilation Cohen put together.
The album (also untitled as yet) was recorded on the cheap in Albani's house with Jeff Byrd (Spoon, Pinback), who flew up from Austin with much of his equipment. The 12 mixed tracks may be pared back to 10 after mixing. In the meantime, they've talked to several labels ("all good options"), but haven't discounted putting it out themselves. Crosby hopes to have the album available before the end of the year.