Thanks to the Internet, it's now nearly impossible to forget about a band. No act is too obscure — or too inconsequential — to be ignored. Such is the case with the St. Louis quartet Raymilland, which existed from 1979 to 1981 and played only eight shows in its career. The band made the most of these live gigs, however: Locally, it opened for post-punk legends Magazine at the Kiel Exhibition Hall and synthprog innovators Ultravox at Mississippi Nights, while in Chicago it supported guitar whiz Adrian Belew, punks Chelsea and no-wavers Tuxedomoon. (The band was also scheduled to open for Joy Division in the latter city, a gig scuttled after JD vocalist Ian Curtis committed suicide.)
The music collected on Recordings '79–'81 is a good fit with those aforementioned groups: Think the grayscale roar of Public Image Limited's abrasive no-wave/post-punk masterpiece, Second Edition, tinted with plenty of glam-rock oddity, Krautrock-influenced percussive drone and heavy psych-pop.
Matt Harnish and Jason Rerun, the co-owners of BDR Records, which is releasing Recordings, answered the RFT's questions about Raymilland and the compilation album.
Annie Zaleski: This is the first release from BDR records, correct? Explain what this is and how long it's been around.
Matt Harnish: Well, I've got the [label] Bert Dax Cavalcade of Stars (sort of, not really that active), and Jason has Rerun Records, [which is] starting to be active again. We just decided that we'd combine the names for the releases we did together specifically targeting the St. Louis early punk/wave scene, and BDR Records (bdrrecords.blogspot.com) was the least unwieldy name we came up with.
Jason Rerun: Even though the Raymilland release is catalog number BDR No. 2; it is the first release available to the public, and we had planned it to originally be release No. 1. BDR No. 1 was then reserved for another release that we feel is ground zero for the idea behind the label [Test Patterns, a St. Louis new-wave compilation originally released in 1980]. We ran into some lengthy production delays, but that will be out in early 2010.
How long has releasing this Raymilland collection been in the works?
JR: We've been talking with the band members for almost a year, but it's been just the last handful of months that we've seriously been putting things together.
How did you guys decide that this would be the first collection to be released?
MH: We started compiling music for a proposed St. Louis punk/wave compilation CD about, oh geez, four years ago? That project became a bit frustrating, in that although we were able to unearth a lot of great stuff, we kept running into dead ends and missing people and missing music. We didn't want to half-ass it, so [we] kind of let it slip away. One of the bands we contacted who had the most material recorded was Raymilland. Jason gets the credit for saying, "Hey, if we're not gonna do the comp, let's do something with this stuff." The fact that it was really high-quality recordings and great music, plus three of the four members still living in St. Louis and being into the idea of doing it, made it relatively easy to pull together.
Where did you find all of the music/get the music from?
MH: The guys recorded everything, so it wasn't a question of having enough music, it was them sifting through hundreds of hours of demos and practice tapes to find the "definitive" versions. Jason and I pretty much just got out of the way for that part and let them present what they wanted us to release, the only exception being one track they wanted to cut late in the process ["Unnumbered"], which we bullied them into leaving on.
Listening to it now, it seems really different from what was going on in St. Louis during that time. Is that right? Describe how the band fit into the local music community then.
MH: Not being there, I don't want to make a bunch of grand statements about it, but it seems like the scene was small enough that anybody doing anything interesting was welcome. But yeah, most of the bands were straight-ahead stripped-down rock & roll, just with the added liberation of punk giving them the gumption to do originals. There wasn't really any new-wave [music], at least none we've been able to find. Raymilland aren't even that new wave in the historical rewrite version of what new wave was supposed to have sounded like. They were way more influenced by Brian Eno and Hawkwind and Syd Barrett than by Devo.
I see that the band had a song on a Sub Pop magazine compilation and had a 45 released on a label from Chicago. Are those songs the only officially released music?
MH: The 45 was first released with an art magazine out of Chicago called Praxis. Raymilland sent them a whole tape of songs to choose from and apparently the demo tape was bootlegged and sold at the Wax Trax shop in Chicago. So yeah, three officially released songs and a bootleg.
JR: They actually had one more song on a compilation cassette. It was on the famous (well, famous to record geeks who are into '80s tape culture as well) Ding Dong Tapes label out of the Netherlands. The release was called Inspiration Series No. 1, and I believe only one band member possesses a copy. It's also pretty cool to note that the Sub Pop compilation cassette they were on was the first compilation Sub Pop released.
How difficult was it convincing the band to do a show? Is everyone still local?
MH: The three St. Louis members have been getting together periodically for years to make noise, so once we locked in a time frame for getting the release out, we approached them about maybe doing some sort of live performance for it. It was pretty obvious as soon as we brought it up that they'd already come to the same conclusion and just needed some additional egging on from us.
JR: Matt put it well, but the one thing that makes this even more special is that the original guitarist is flying in from NYC for the gig. He's bringing his entire family with him as well. I have to say, that takes real commitment to have your holiday travel plans based around a reunion show!
How did it come about that the Welders are also doing a short set at the show?
MH: Going back to our original finding of songs for the punk/wave comp, Raymilland had the most music recorded, but the Welders, St. Louis' first all-female punk band, had actually had a 45 in the works that fizzled out due to a nefarious manager and unscrupulous stories of rock & roll. The four songs they had recorded were amazing, and when Jason and I decided to start doing releases of this stuff, the Welders' 45 and a Raymilland retrospective were the clear front-runners. Then we came to find out that the two bands were pretty much the best of friends back then and are all still close today. Bob from Raymilland actually drummed for a late incarnation of the Welders. The Welders' 45 will probably be out early next spring, but it was more convenient for them to play this show than to wait, and what with the close ties between the two bands, we were more than happy to have them on board.
Where can people get the album? Is it on CD or vinyl? Or both?
MH: It'll be at the usual suspects in St. Louis — Vintage Vinyl, Euclid and Apop — with hopefully some small specialty distros carrying it in the near future as well. There's definitely an interest in that period of music, and St. Louis has always been a bit of a mystery to record collectors. Not much documentation exists, so we're hoping to rectify that.
JR: The release will be available as a CD or as a limited-run LP/CD edition. In addition to the stores Matt mentions, we will be doing direct mail order. The best place to get your hands on the release is at the show, naturally!