Buffalo's sunken treasure
Indie band Lemuria is an island unto itself
Sometimes DIY really means do-it-yourself. And Buffaloindie-pop band Lemuria certainly takes that credo to heart.
This is one band that doesn't need much help marketing, entertaining, or feeding itself. Its members run a record label, own a screen-printing business, perform in several side-projects, and serve up some great $0.99 breakfasts. And that's just their day jobs.
By night, Lemuria'sindie-pop-meets-punk combines sweetness and energy with melody-driven hooks and charmingly intelligent lyrics. The band follows in the tradition of early '90s punks Jawbreaker and Discount with music that emphasizes candor, friends, and wall-to-wall basement shows.
The trio's dueling vocals --- guitarist Sheena Ozzella's confident confessional voice versus drummer Alex Kerns' mellow foundation --- blend into a playful mix of storytelling and emotion. And bassist Jason Draper gets in on the back-ups, too.
The band has played more than 200 shows in two years, so conversational sing-a-longs must come naturally with the three crammed in the same van for so long. The constant traveling demands that the band's members stick to day jobs that are, as Kerns notes, "very open for us to go touring."
And they've got good reason to get out of the house once in a while: in 2006 the band recorded a split CD/LP, Your Living Room's All Over Me, with prolific and recently retired Portland songwriter Ben Barnett (Kind of Like Spitting), as well as a 7" single for Art of the Underground, the record label run by drummer Kerns. Its Single Series mails a new 7" record to subscribers every other month for $25 per year (including shipping).
The Single Series features more than 100 subscribers, including more than 50 from Japan. Initially there were doubts about its chances for success, but, due to the subscription service, Kerns says, "they always sell out before the release, so each single kind of takes care of the one before it." Past singles have hosted songs by Washington singer/songwriter Robert Blake and The Only Children, a project featuring former members of The Anniversary.
Despite majorlabels boo-hooing over the "the death of the CD," Lemuria's music lives mostly on tiny plastic discs, both digital and analog, which suits them fine.
"The problem with [full] albums," says bassist Draper, "is that none of the songs really stick out because it takes so long to listen to the whole thing."
EPs --- short, cheap, four- or five-song recordings --- give bands like Lemuria a chance to get onto stereos without too much, while keeping the benefits of an old-fashioned case and disc.
"I've never bought an iTunes release," says Draper. "I like hard copies of albums. I like being able to look at the art work.
"I think actually owning a copy gives you more of a connection to a band," Draper says.
Connections that thrive in medium-sized cities like Buffalo and Rochester, places that Draper notes are "big enough that there's a lot of people, but not big enough that you get lost in the crowd."
Lemuria's connection to Buffalo's Custer Street --- an area home to basement concerts and an important touring stop for traveling independent acts --- has allowed the band to build connections with like-minded musicians throughout the Northeast, what Kerns describes as "a tight community of bands that...all kind of book our own tours through a similar network of friends."
This spring the band will put out another 7" split with New Jersey band The Ergs before the pair tours the country. After that, the summer will see Lemuria recording a full-length record, followed by a tour of Europe.
Clearly the band has the sound and smarts to go big, but it's more than capable of success on its own terms.
"If people like us and want to help us with it, that's cool," says Kerns. "All we want to do is write music and tour."
Lemuriaplays with Potboiler, Tin Armour, Break the Glass, and John & Trevor Experience Thursday, January 11, 7 p.m., at the A/V Space, 8 Public Market, 615-8446, $6.