When I was in Austin a few weeks ago, the phrase "Keep Austin Weird!" appeared in stores and bars nearly everywhere. A quick Google search on the term brings up sites throwing around academic phrases such as "collaborative fission of coordinated individualism" although Wikipedia breaks it down into simpler terms and says the slogan refers to a movement to preserve the independent small businesses in the city.
Now, there's no such organized movement here in St. Louis to protect our quirks at least not yet. But a new record store opening at 2831 Cherokee Street this week i.e., the same location as a former branch of the Record Exchange is doing its part to add individuality to the town. Called Apop Records, the store will sell music, books and crafts that all tend to gravitate toward the non-mainstream side of things.
"We're hoping that since this city has a lot of established stores that carry Top 40, classic rock, a lot of fringe-indie and jazz things that are pretty standard that we can specialize more," says co-owner/operator Tiffany Minx, who sports a shock of bleached-blond hair. "That's a good thing about moving into a city that already has a bunch of record stores. You kind of find your niche, and it's not necessarily competing with anybody."
Soft-spoken co-owner/operator Dustin Neumann defines that niche broadly as "older electronic, industrial, '60s psych, world, garage rock pretty much all the stuff that other stores [in town] might have a little tiny section of." (Touchstone stores elsewhere include San Francisco's Aquarius Records and Twisted Village in Cambridge, Massachusetts.)
Unlike the store's former location in Columbia, though, don't expect to find a ton of mainstream indie-rock; in fact, Minx says they'll probably be lowering the price on some of those titles so Apop can "start totally focusing on the things we want to get."
Like the store's work-in-progress concept, Minx and Neumann are still figuring out if neighbors will be amenable to in-store performances, or if they want to start selling, say, coffee. On the day I visited the space was gloriously under construction. Cheerful red-black-gray-and-white murals were starting to appear on the walls, matching the haphazard arrangement of dusty old record bins and boxes and boxes of stuff. Although Minx and Neumann moved the store and its contents from Columbia last summer, the pair took its time scouting various areas of the city before settling on Cherokee. ("Mostly for the tacos!" Minx quips.)
The duo takes just as much care running Apop Records, the store's namesake and home to acts such as local experimental gurus Skarekrau Radio and regional stoner-sludge warriors Warhammer 48K. Known for elaborate packaging Warhammer 48K's Knife Hits EP came in a petri dish sealed with Urban Decay-colored wax and for being selective (in the good, quality-control sort of way) about what it releases, Apop isn't going to become a local St. Louis label per se. Don't worry, though: Neumann says he's certainly not against working with local bands. It will, however, remain a label with underground cachet.
"I guess [the label is like] how our store is to kind of somehow find whatever thread of special uniqueness that winds around a lot of different genres," Minx says. "A lot of the music on the label is pretty distinct and different from each other."
Neumann agrees. "The idea with Apop wasn't to limit it to one particular style. You can't say it's a noise label or a punk label or [an] electronic label. [The] label balances new artists along with things that have just been completely forgotten."
Recent releases include music from Duchess (an all-girl band from California that Neumann says "does something in between no-wave and black metal, for lack of a better description") and Chicago's Lovely Little Girls, which Minx laughingly describes as "kind of skronky...it's almost fairy-tale-ish, but horribly awry, in a really pretty disgusting way. I don't know." A reissue of Skarekrau Radio's most recent album, The One Eyed Swine Is Queen (which we reviewed in the February 7, 2007 issue) with a booklet is also imminent.
The joint Brain Regiment/Dozemary Pool CD-release show at 9 p.m. on Saturday, March 31, at Blueberry Hill's Duck Room (6504 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-727-4444) is a tale of beginnings and endings. The latter trio is releasing Three Pieces, which is reminiscent, vocally and riff-wise, of Radiohead's The Bends (seriously, check out the soaring Yorke-isms and "Just"-like distorted guitar squeals on "Yes," found on DP's MySpace, myspace.com /dozemarypool).
Brain Regiment is releasing the five-song EP Dissolution and the title is apt, seeing as how the band is breaking up. As with previous releases, its pop hooks are covered in grimy melodicism and rough-hewn textures that conjure Dinosaur Jr., Guided by Voices and Built to Spill. Of note here is the seven-minute ominous drone "South City L," whose staticky melody is an interesting cross between Peter Gabriel and Sonic Youth.
Attention Sullen fans: Shanna Kiel comes to town with her new band, Black Fur, also on Saturday, March 31, at the Creepy Crawl (3524 Washington Boulevard; 314-531-3888). The show starts at 9 p.m. Expect some noisy punk-pop in the Bikini Kill-Muffs-Magnapop vein, at least judging by demos found on MySpace (myspace.com/blackfurmusic). Annie Zaleski
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