Æ: Aglet Eaters

“Don’t meet your heroes”: AE meets Blueneck (Part 1)

Posted in Discover, Feature by R on August 29, 2015

blueneck cover

“Don’t meet your heroes,” he tells me, taking a sip of wine.

I’m talking to Rich Sadler from Blueneck. We’re sitting across from each other 10,000 kilometres apart. He’s recounting a Radiohead-related tale of woe that befell his friend, and I’m pretending to be surprised to learn that Thom Yorke is a twat.

I joke – there’s never any need to convince me that Radiohead are a bunch of wankers. However, in keeping me from a life of shattered dreams and cynicism, Rich’s wisdomous advice appears to overlook one tiny detail:

I’m talking to Rich Sadler from Blueneck.

I refrain from telling him the damage is probably already done.

—-

Blueneck are not a group that frequents shoegaze circles. They aren’t even a name that pops up too frequently within the community. It could be because up until recently they hadn’t even the foggiest notion what to qualify their sound as. They’ve had the label ‘post-rock’ thrust upon them by over-enthusiastic third parties (independent publications not unlike this one, e.g.) but Blueneck never set out with any such intentions. No one in the group had even heard the term before having it stamped all over them.

Rich is one of the lucky few to have had the chance to be a fan of the band before being in the band. He recalls seeing them live before they’d released their first album, Scars of the Midwest, and wondering:

‘Why are they not huge?’

Then, when they toured for The Fallen Host, he toured with them.

‘Why are they not huge?’ – a standard reaction when you first hear Blueneck. I recall my own First Time; playing The Fallen Host while at work. Even under stark white light in the middle of the morning, ‘Low’ managed to stop my world. For a little over 9 minutes, it was just the two of us, spinning in infinity.

The live experience is a grandiosity that we scattered fans can only imagine.

 
How do they do it?

I can’t bring myself to ask the question, even though I’m longing to know the answer. Innate curiosity fights the urge to preserve the magic of the Blueneck sound by leaving technicalities shrouded in mystery.

Curiosity wins.

‘How do you do it?’

They live miles apart, the Bluenecks. They have lives and jobs. I can’t imagine how they find the time to be in the same room for more than a couple of hours every month. With both space and time against them, how is it even feasible for them to create anything at all?

Enter, the internet.

Spending hours in a studio writing, testing and recording tracks is a luxury most groups just cannot afford – least of all when they have to balance distance, families, work, and the basics of adult existence. Blueneck aren’t any different and Rich, being the furthest away from the others, makes a two and a half hour trek down to Bristol when the tracks are finally ready and it’s time to lay them down.

They’re not the first band to embrace the dropbox method of recording. Tears Run Rings rely on a similar technique, recording albums while divided by cities. Meanwhile, The Microdance make sure lyrics and composition are perfectly in place before they hit their Brick Lane studio (or Los Angeles) to churn out an album. Epilogue, Rich reveals, was recorded almost entirely remotely, and Rich and Duncan still have an album’s worth of songs waiting to be tracked.

‘They’re not Blueneck songs, though,’ he forewarns, pre-empting my apopleptic fit. The internet can only overcome the tyranny of distance by that much and Rich and Duncan’s project is both a resolution and an experiment. He seems intent on assuring me that Menace At The Dam has close to nothing to do with Blueneck, and I can’t tell whether to be excited or apprehensive about a potential departure from the established, accepted, worshipped norm.


 
Despite their elusiveness, Blueneck are far from unknown, scads of fans hang on to their every note, buy their albums, go to their gigs, and pick up their merch. Sure, it doesn’t hurt to be signed on by Denovali, but it does lead you to the obvious question:

File-sharing: good or bad?

It’s not a cut and dry question and Rich takes a while to respond. Understandably, he can’t take a definitive stance.

‘I’m torn,’ he tells me. ‘There wouldn’t be a Blueneck without file-sharing.’

I’m clearly not the only one who found out about Blueneck through word of virtual mouth before buying their album. Downloads, streams – whether legit or no – do little to further the economic ambitions of a band. But they’re what drive an audience to attend a gig, to buy a t-shirt, to invest in the vinyl.

‘We never expect to earn anything from album sales,’ he says. It makes me think of a ‘legal’ service like Spotify which may pay a cent for a thousand plays. Rich knows better than to expect to turn a profit from online services alone – I think they’d be lucky if they even managed to break even – but find me a 21st century band that does.

It’s a blessing, not a curse. Without the extrinsic motivation, or even the expectation, of making money off a recording, a band is free to focus on creating what they want to create, a listener less likely to be turned off by the ‘polish’ that coats anything released to achieve a commercial or economic result.

Rich concurs, even though I never say this out loud.

“We wouldn’t care if no one bought King Nine. It’s the album we wanted to make.”

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