Because their Indiegogo reached $3,000, Mike Brown and Zac Decamp leave on a flight this Thursday for L.A. It wasn’t your average fund-raising campaign. It’s not for a tour, it’s not for an album pre-release, The Geneseo born duo, together in a band called Geneseo, released an album that is nominated to win a Grammy Award for “Best Recording Package.” And, frankly, deserving so.
It’s an album that wrote a song between a dance of art and music. First it was a CD, a collection of tunes the childhood friends had been working on over the years when the two were in town at the same time. When finished in Spring 2013, they sent it to their friend Brian Grunert, who just happens to be a six time nominee with one Grammy under his belt already for his continuous work with Ani DiFranco. Grunert heard a theme throughout the album, and together with Annie Stoll, found a way to define it.
Laying the lyrics out across a five panel fold out and covering them with lotto scratch off material, the two graphic designers left windows of words and created a poem. Geneseo then wrote an 11th track to the album using the words left out. They made a website with a story of a local sunken ship where the bonus track can be found.
After the first and only release by Geneseo, The Recording Academy took notice and the two are shocked.
Needless to say, their handmade album, “Automatic Music Can Be Fun,” falls under the category of true collaborative art. With only 500 handmade copies and a quiet release, it’s not the type of album that normally gets noticed by the Academy. It’s competition, however, is.
Geneseo is battling four other groups of established art directors for the golden gramophone.
There’s typographer, Jonathan Barnbrook, nominated for David Bowie’s The Next Day packaging. It’s a box of 3 cd’s and five simply labeled photography booklets.
They’re up against Bruce Duckwoth (and team) for Metallica’s Through The Never (Music From The Motion Picture). It’s a design folds into a cross. You may know Duckwoth’s other work from the Coca Cola Bottle or the Amazon logo.
Hova’s in there too for Magna Carta…Holy Grail by Jay-Z. Artist Brian Roettinger made an album with a booklet that also uses scratch off lyrics. It got paired with an app that leaked snippets before the release. This app also came under scrutiny for collecting too much personal information in which Mr. Carter tweeted after questioning, “sux. must do better.”
Geneseo does have one semi-independent challenger; Reckless Kelly, the country band out of Austin, has an album that comes with a fold out lunar map with glow in the dark symbols revealing GPS locations of songs and the corresponding Shoshone Indian moon phases. It’s actually quite incredible and there’s even a secret code to crack!
However, they don’t have an Indiegogo to get to the Grammys.
With Reckless Kelly at 192,589 likes on Facebook and, creators, Shauna and Sarah Dodds also nominated last year for another Reckless Kelly album, they probably have a nice hotel.
Geneseo and Decamp’s finance are going to stay with friends, possibly book a cheap motel and come back when it’s all over. Online, they asked for a meager $3,000 for the trip. This money was for plane tickets, food, and possibly enough to cover the work days they’re missing back here. They even needed money for their guest ticket to the ceremony.
It’s a modest venture, and accordingly, a modest album.
Naming it “Automatic Music Can Be Fun,” the two have made the understatement of the year, as each song is a dreamland of thoughtful fuzzy melodies and a studio quality sound that could only come out of the wonderland that Brown produced the album from.
Temperamental Recordings, Brown’s converted church studio, is another dream, in itself. The walls are covered with antique guitars and classic amps to match. Electric organs butt against each other, so many as to make isles. Taxidermies adorn them, with wooden ships, fish on the wall and birds in the air and more slide guitars and mandolins filling in any space left.
Their Indiegogo prizes included use of this place, one of the many prizes no one claimed. Brown offered a recording session for $1000 and a night of drinking with him as DD, and a couch to crash on after for $500. Decamp offered to DJ your house party and Decamp’s finance would have even cooked vegan soul food for you and four friends: all things, that if his competition offered, would be a show on VH1.
Brown and Ducamp are the only musicians on this list list for “Best Recording Package.” The others are artists that came secondary to the album creation. “Automatic Music Can Be Fun” is the only music/art/music collaborative piece. This may be why it got noticed but that doesn’t change the band’s attitude.
Talking with Brown at The California Brew Haus Sunday, he has no intention of ever winning. He just smiled with his elbow on the bar, drinking Genesse Red Eyes. He had opened our show, playing beautiful looping folk music on a single antique guitar. We couldn’t pay him and he wasn’t broken up about it. He drank for Thursday and answered modestly to my continuous questions.
How could he ever get noticed by The Recording Academy?
Brown said Grunert says it’s the price tag. It reads: “This album is scratch off and it wrote a song for you.”
The only problem is that the package is so beautiful, so modest and simple all the way down to the imperfections, you’ll never want to scratch it off. Which, for the record, takes about an hour.