Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Lloyd Cole does it his way

Singer/Songwriter Lloyd Cole is the epitome of an indie artist these days, and that’s a comfortable place for him to exist.

Lloyd first came to prominence in the mid-‘80s with his band The Commotions; their startling debut, “Rattlesnakes,” successfully brought intelligent lyrics and jangly guitars to a music scene in the throes of forgettable artists marketed by forgettable videos. Lloyd and the band persevered through 2 more albums before disbanding, when he then left his native U.K. to set up shop in the States.

Lloyd Cole & The Commotions - Easy Pieces - Brand New FriendLloyd Cole & The Commotions - Easy Pieces - Brand New Friend

Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Brand New Friend
Top Of The Pops – September 18, 1985

I used to spin The Commotions' material on college radio back in that era, and while I always liked the band, there was something about Lloyd’s voice that stood out to me – as a result, I’ve continued to follow him through the years and actually prefer his solo material to that of the band stuff. Lloyd is another one of those few artists I can name who hasn’t released a song that I didn’t like.

Through the years, Lloyd’s sound has evolved in many directions – from jangly pop to rock to acoustic and back around again – all the while remaining outside of the mainstream at any given time.

Lloyd Cole - Don't Get Weird On Me, Babe - She's a Girl and I'm a ManLloyd Cole - Don't Get Weird On Me, Babe - She's a Girl and I'm a Man

Lloyd Cole – She’s A Girl And I’m A Man
Late Night With David Letterman – January 8, 1992

When fans support artists they like, there’s many schools of thought relating to the definition of success. I’ve seen some people cry “sell-out” when an artist gets popular and attracts new fans (this is often the credo of the alternative nation), which always makes me shake my head in wonder – if you like something, why wouldn’t you want to introduce it to others so that they can, just maybe, experience the same feelings you do towards the music, or find something else in it that works for them?; another part of that is simply wishing good things for people you support and wanting them to do well in whatever endeavor they’re undertaking – in this case, music.

Lloyd Cole - Bad Vibes - So You'd Like to Save the WorldLloyd Cole - Bad Vibes - So You'd Like to Save the World

Lloyd Cole – So You’d Like To Save The World
The Beat (1993)

In these equations, the financial realities for the artist can sometimes affect their productive lifespan and output; like everyone else, they need to make a living and maintaining a fan base is key to their survival.

Lloyd Cole gets this, wholeheartedly: Lloyd has his own label, runs his own website, is his own distributor in some territories, and continues to create music as producer, writer and performer. Fans can even order personalized, autographed cds from his online store. Here’s a guy who superserves his loyal audience with interaction and products they continue to support: that’s Lloyd’s reality as it relates to success.

Recent case in point: Lloyd has a couple of very cool projects on the go - the first is a new cd recorded in one day: on January 22, 2010, the day after his new lineup’s debut performance, the Lloyd Cole Small Ensemble (a trio with Mark Schwaber and Matt Cullen) went into Slaughterhouse Studios and recorded 12 songs in 12.5 hours. The disc is a mix of Commotions and Lloyd solo tracks in a 'folk' trio setting with no bass or drums; guitars, mandolin and banjo ruled the day and all songs were done live with no overdubs.

Lloyd Cole Small Ensemble - Slaughterhouse Studios 01-22-2010

Promoted as 12 songs for 12 bucks (a steal at twice the price, I’m sure), it’s the first disc in Lloyd’s “White Label” series – it simply has the cd info on a white label affixed to the front of the package. The disc was initially meant to be a limited edition of 500 and even signed by Lloyd, to be sold at the band’s shows: he took 250 with him to sell on tour while the remaining were for sale on his site. Here’s my challenge: I missed the news and the disc sold out right away (D’OH!). Lloyd posted recently that he may make some more discs when he returns from the short tour next week…talk about DIY!

The second project is a new album, which Lloyd plans to start recording this month, over a 34 day period, on a relatively small budget of $60,000. Lloyd is taking pre-orders from fans as a method of financing the project: $15 for the standard cd, $45 for a limited edition 2cd set (second disc will include outtakes and other goodies).

I know other artists have done the same thing, and it sure is an interesting way to do business while directly involving your customers. Neither major labels or the fans are affecting the creative process and, if everyone’s supporting the product, it’s a win/win before the disc has even been created. Cool stuff, for sure, and a lesson to others on how an artist can maintain a career and fan base in the music business these days.

Lloyd Cole - Love Story - Trigger HappyLloyd Cole - Love Story - Trigger Happy

Lloyd Cole Small Ensemble – Trigger Happy
The Winchester, Cleveland, OH – January 27, 2010