First off, if we're talking about impressive press packages on the local front, indie-pop troupe The Nobility sets the standard. Between the retro "EPK" that just turned out to be a copy of Ferris Bueller's Day Off and the explosion of media they sent along in advance of their The Secret of Blennerhassett Island, The Nobility owns the hilarious-press-package game like Marlo Stanfield owns street corners. Although Bellamy Baylor's shoe-in-box press kit got our attention as well.
But enter Anchor Thieves, a local trio of power-pop- and grunge-minded alt rockers. A few weeks ago, the Thieves sent me a heavy-ish, dense package wrapped in nondescript brown paper. As my colleague Adam Gold and I are wont to do when a mystery package of this ilk shows up, we had our "What's in the box?!" moment, and then I opened it.
The box itself is, as you can see above, a Hemingway Cigars box. But inside, rather than stogies, I found an airplane bottle of Jack Daniel's, several nautical- and pirate-themed temporary tattoos, what we call a "one-sheet" (a bio with contact information and so forth), a CD featuring the tunes "Unusual" and "In a Fire," and a note that reads as follows:
So it's not a box of cigars.
But we did get you a hipster survival kit. Maybe you'll find it useful.
You're receiving this letter because we've long liked what you do.
Maybe you'll like what we do.
[Press link redacted]
Well. With the copious chatter lately about what "hipster" even means, the Thieves' timing is pretty strong. But rather than gallivant off down the semantic rabbit hole regarding my thoughts on the word "hipster" (Hint: We're all hipsters and also who gives a shit), I'd like to list the reasons why Anchor Thieves' press package is acceptable and impressive, and why attention must be paid:
1. The music isn't bad.
You guys can yell, "No you're not, go to hell!" at me all you want, but I am in fact a music critic and a music journalist. I report what I deem to be newsworthy to my readership, and I share facts and opinions about music. You see, as tweeted by drummer Simon Lynn, Anchor Thieves recently finished a record called Malefactors, and it will be out some time soonish (how's "soonish" for some hard, fact-based reporting?). Anyway, they've shared these two preview tracks — "Unusual" and "In a Fire" — on Bandcamp and with me in CD form. And it's not bad. As previously stated, I consider it to be "power-pop- and grunge-minded." That's just to say, it sounds like it was made by dudes who have listened to a lot of the heavy but catchy guitar rock of yesteryear that we all know and love. Dino Jr. and Sebadoh, Pixies and The Breeders, Nirvana, maybe some Pearl Jam. Plus probably some Britpop and power-pop here and there. Pulp and Blur, Supergrass, Oasis, maybe some Dire Straits. It's not groundbreaking — it sounds like rock music made by people who have listened to rock music for a really long time. And you know who likes stuff that sounds like that? People who have listened to rock music for a really long time. I'm going to listen to the full album.
2. It's polite and succinct.
Pretty good rules to follow with a press release: Don't send me a nine-page bio with a story about where you purchased your first guitar, and don't be a dick. Both happen regularly. Nobody really wants to read a bio (especially the person you had write it for you and others like him or her), and I'm practically never in the mood to be insulted by mail. A guy once sent me a poster about an upcoming show with a note that read (and I'm paraphrasing here, as I threw that shit away), "You're probably not going to write about it because you guys have shitty taste, but here it is anyway." Oh ha, good one! Next time, just purchase your postage and materials, write your message, and throw it in the garbage can yourself.
3. They didn't just send me a Facebook message.
Yes. Because I am a person who is alive, I have a Facebook account. And because I'm under 55, I — as are you, probably — am plugged-in enough that I will likely see any notifications I receive within an hour. But you know what else? My work email address is on my Facebook page (and the Scene's site). Our street address is also on the site. Scroll down to the bottom of this page. See it? Send stuff there. Or to any one of the many email addresses we regularly share here on the Cream.
Now, before I go insulting the good, decent, polite, hardworking folks who send me Facebook messages about their projects and shows and so forth, know this: It's not really that big a deal. I can read it in a message just the same as in an email. Reaching out is reaching out. Basically, you're just bringing up work at a dinner party. But that's the way it is now. Facebook is everyone's front porch, and why locate and drive to my office when you can just leave it on my porch. (Reading between the lines: I'd prefer it if you just drove to my office. Figuratively, of course. Here: prodgers[at]nashvillescene[dot]com, or music[at]nashvillescene[dot]com, or cream[at]nashvillescene[dot]com.)
4. The package doesn't overshadow the music.
Anchor Thieves' press package is funny and lighthearted and informative. (By the way, yes, there's technically a small amount of free liquor in it. But before you cry "Payola," let me tell you that we at the Scene are constantly inundated with records and food and drinks and passes and reading material. But the vast majority of the stuff we're sent doesn't get written about. Why? Because the vast majority of things are shitty.)
Anyway, I had a laugh at AT's note, and I listened to the songs. Done and done. It stood out from the pile of one-sheets and CDs just enough, and it gave me some pretty strong blog fodder.