What path brought you to Communicating Vessels?
I moved to Birmingham some time after graduating. I could tell I was slowly falling in love with many things about this city. One summer I ended up spending time with a guy named Taylor Shaw. We became fast friends, we started singing together, and then our band was formed – The Great Book of John. My relationship with Communicating Vessels began in 2010 when my band started working with the label creator Jeffrey Cain. He had moved from LA to Birmingham and part of his hopes for his life here involved helping artists. The Great Book of John was fortunate to be a part of that beginning. Ours was the first full-length the label put out. In 2011 we started touring enough that I couldn’t work a full-time social work job any longer. So I worked part time and toured a good bit and then I would come in to assist Jeffrey however I possibly could. I was so grateful to have someone who believed in what we were doing so it seemed like a natural contribution on my part. It all came to a kind of crossroads in December of 2012. I shared with Jeffrey my hearts desire to do more for him, my label family, and the community as a whole. It was perfectly timed and I’ve been here full-time since. Birmingham is a bit unsuspecting in the art scene. What about Birmingham is unique and how has it come to be influential in the arts? I don’t pretend to know the entire historic backbone of music in Birmingham, but I know it is nothing new. Attention to our fair city is what is new. We have world renowned claim for such prodigy’s as Sun Ra…there is national clout for our Alabama Symphony Orchestra…we have one of the universally “band-approved” venues in Bottletree Café…and countless other examples I could share. I think what has been lacking is a strong dialogue among our citizens to help create the sustainability an artist needs to make it here. Maybe even a “stamp of approval” mentality. People being told they have to look outside of our city’s walls to get the good stuff. That has led to artists feeling the necessity to head to bigger markets. I feel like that is a major shift in our infrastructure right now. More people are out and about. Supporting venues, events, breweries, restaurants and therefore – the artists. Creating more opportunity for them to showcase and live. My favorite sort of precursor to most of the press our bands got last year was something like, “…not what you’d expect from…”. The world has basically bottled up, stickered, and been selling their idea of music from Alabama and of southern rock. Most of our artists, maybe most of Birmingham, doesn’t fit into that mold but we are still doing it.
I love how close we are to everything. Every band member, their story, their dreams, their fears, and their successes. Every part of each album they want to put out, and assembling the perfect team to help them with that. The shows, both local and while touring. We are definitely an artist-driven label. There is a lot of concern about thecaliber of the art that is put out. We push the artists to evolve and hold themselves to the highest standard. But ultimately I know it comes from this place of great respect for their abilities. We also want to be sure that in this overly saturated industry people will get to experience those great things about them. From the first track they might hear on the radio, or when they pick up one of the albums and see the artwork, or they stumble into a show where one of our bands is playing, or maybe even when they’re reading an interview with them. SO, we also feel the weight of all of those things. There is a lot work that goes into getting all of that done…and looking out for them…pushing them…and knocking on doors you believe would benefit if they’d open up to them…and a lot of hoping…and waiting…and encouraging… One time an local interviewer wasn’t satisfied with a short answer I gave about “what I do”. I told her I could spend entirely too much time trying to hammer out exactly what that entailed and all the emotions attached to it.
Never a moment I can’t be doing something. Never a moment you aren’t potentially spent…or challenged…or discouraged…or more often then not –having fun. So…there’s a lot of joy in all we do but a lot of work, too.
One of the distinguishing factors of Communicating Vessels is the release of vinyl. What drives you to make this artistic commitment?
The sound quality alone makes it worth putting it out on that format. I think most of us have a huge love affair with vinyl. As an artist I can say I dreamed of having my music on vinyl. The first time I held our record, put it on the player, and listened to it I got pretty emotional. We believe in their music and it’s a worthwhile cost.
Tell us what is in store for Wray’s tour, what can their fans expect from their live performance?
Wray can be pretty mesmerizing. Their music has a lot of the qualities that beckon your attention and compel you to get lost in it. They tend to have beautiful visuals during their shows if the venue permits. They have also been in the studio recording their new album so I think some new songs will make their way into the set. I think to see them live is to fall in love with them. Is that tempting enough?