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19 February 2011

Record Label Spotlight: Custom Made Music.

When The Sun Hits is extremely excited to bring you the second edition of our exclusive Record Label Spotlight series; our maiden voyage was taken with the psychedelia-drenched sounds emanating from Northern Star Records, which was essentially awesome and if you missed it, you should go read it and absorb it immediately. This new Spotlight focuses on a label that has released some of my favorite pieces of vinyl in my collection and is home to several bands that this blog adores: Custom Made Music.

Just as a recap, the Record Label Spotlight series will focus on the dedicated people at work behind the scenes of our favorite records and bands - the ones out there discovering new music and finding a way to bring that music to us - the record labels. Believe it or not, there are some labels that are still honest, passionate, and fair to their artists. The Force is strong with them. These are the labels When The Sun Hits want you to know about.

Record Label Spotlights include an interview with the label, tons of information about the bands on the label (including in depth spotlights on 5 bands on the label), videos, links, photos, resources, and a FREE downloadable mini sampler put together exclusively for When The Sun Hits readers by the record label (downloads are in mp3 format). In short: It's a win.

And so without further ado, we present to you The Awesome.

Record Label Spotlight:
Custom Made Music.

Custom Made Music is owned by Dave Allison and based in Virginia. Though still in a fairly fledgling stage (the label started properly in about 2007), CMM has already made quite a name for itself as a label, as well as released some incredibly awesome albums, in that very short span of time. I actually heard of them a few years ago because CMM had released a limited Skywave 7" that I absolutely had to own, which is now out of print, so I treasure it that much more (bask in the awesomeness of said 7" by shifting your eyes slightly to the right. Thank you Custom Made Music!).

From there, I noticed they were releasing other music from essentially all of my favorite bands at the time: There was a Ceremony/Screen Vinyl Image split LP (see left; yes, of course I had to procure that one from CMM as well), for instance (by the way - a split with those bands? Best idea ever), plus other SVI stuff and other interesting things. Custom Made Music also represents more When The Sun Hits faves like Ringo Deathstarr, Stellarium, Dead Leaf Echo, and The Sky Drops, to name a few (check their website for more info by clicking HERE). CMM's vinyl releases are always unique, collectible and high quality, packaging-wise. I've consistently admired and been impressed with CMM's output since the beginning, and the label just keeps getting better with time. Support this label.

Dave Allison of Custom Made Music.

1. How did Custom Made Music get its start?

Well, it's a really long story but Custom Made Music officially started in Fall of 2007. However, I've been making and distributing records for over 20 years. Back around '88 or '89 I was in a band in high school and we'd make demos on our 4 tracks and sell them at school.

A bunch of our friends' bands where releasing tapes too, so I got the idea to make a tape that had our entire demo on one side and 1 song each by all our friends' bands. We'd trade them around and lots of people would get to find out about new bands and everyone's shows got better turnouts and people made more friends.

Once I purchased a few fanzines from other parts of the country, I realized bands had been doing this all over the world for years, so I started writing people and making friends. I started trading tapes through the mail in other states and countries. Eventually I came across a New York area punk band called Sound Bite House who had a deal where if you called a number in their ad and left your name and address on their answering machine they would send you a 7" for free. I made friends with them and they eventually decided to send me a bunch of copies of their 7" to give out in Virginia.

Soon I was meeting and writing with more and more bands who where looking to get their records distributed. That's when I started buying and trading for tapes and records to sell at shows. By 1994 I was able to start helping bands press records and then it just went from there. In 2004 I took a break from releasing records to be the booker of a venue. Then in 2007 I had been helping out with a record store here in town, stocking used vinyl and booking shows in several local venues. I soon found that I really missed being a part of putting out records, so I started up Custom Made Music and by the end of 2007 I had released three 7" records and it's been growing ever since.

2. Would you consider Custom Made Music to be a shoegaze and/or dream pop oriented record label?

Well, I'd say many of the bands that we work with are heavily influenced by the shoegaze and dream pop genre. However, we are not specifically a shoegaze label. I'm a huge fan of stripped down garage rock and punk rock n roll and we've released several records by bands more influenced by stuff like The Stooges and The MC5 recently, as well as the shoegaze influenced releases. So yes, the shoegaze sound is certainly a part of CMM but we are fans of all types of music and are open to releasing anything that we find inspiring.

3. How do you choose the bands that are to be represented by your label? Is there a specific sound you are looking for?

I have to be really inspired by what the band is doing to want to put it out. When I see a band for the first time or when I first hear a band's recording, I usually decide if I like it by what type of thoughts and visions I come up with in my head as a result of what they are playing. That's really how I get into music. For me, music is something that takes me to another place. It's always been that way, since I was 5 or 6 years old. So first thing's first: I need to have that type of inspiration from the band. There is honestly no specific sound that I'm looking for other than I want to be inspired by what I hear.

4. Who are the 5 most recent shoegaze/dream pop acts to be represented by Custom Made Music?

The Sky Drops, Screen Vinyl Image, Pete International Airport, Dead Leaf Echo and

5. What do you think of the modern shoegaze/dream pop scene?

I enjoy it. I really love being exposed to more and more bands across the globe. I think what I enjoy most about it is the connection between so many underground genres that are intertwining with each other. You have bands meshing together the sounds of psych rock, shoegaze, noise pop, dream pop, goth, electro, drone rock and so on. It's great to have so many bands networking and playing shows together and making things grow. I am particularly happy to see that the lines are being blurred together more and more in recent years, as far as all of these little sub genres go. When I first got into underground music as a kid, it seemed like music was not as genre specific as much as an overall common feeling and attitude in the music and that's a direction I'm happy to see things moving back into.

6. Are there any other shoegaze/dream pop record labels (old or new) that you admire?

Creation and 4AD are obviously huge influences and labels that I greatly admire. When I was in high school in the late 80's my friends and I couldn't wait for the next thing those labels were going to release. In more recent years, I think Elephant Stone Records was putting out some great stuff with bands like Alcian Blue, Smashing Orange and others. Northern Star Records (hey, we know them!) are also a top notch label and I've really enjoyed the compilations they have put out in recent years!

7. Can you tell us a little bit about what's currently going on with Custom Made Music (new releases, new bands signed, tours, etc)?

There will be two new Screen Vinyl Image releases coming out very soon. One is a new 12" single for the song "Too Much Speed" and the other is a split 7" with the electronic artist Rude 66. We are also releasing a new 5 song EP from The Sky Drops, a split LP with
Ceremony & Stellarium, a split 7" from my band (Last Remaining Pinnacle) and our friends Pan Galactic Straw Boss, and then the new Screen Vinyl Image album will come out later on this year. 2011 is going to be very busy for CMM and we're really excited about all the new stuff we have coming out!

8. What is your ultimate goal for Custom Made Music?

My goal is to continue to release records by bands that I enjoy and get it into the hands and to the ears of people that will also enjoy it. I've always been fascinated by reaching people through music and communicating with others all over the world about new sounds and new bands. I'm in the process of expanding the mail order part of CMM to include a catalog that contains non CMM releases, so we can help distribute a lot of other bands that we like. I really look forward to building that up. Each year CMM has grown and evolved and my goal is simply to keep doing that to the fullest extent.

9. What is your philosophy (on life), if any, that you live by?

I personally live to create and to contribute to the things that I enjoy! My philosophy on life is basically to do what you want to do as long as you're not hurting others in the process.

Band Spotlights:
5 Custom Made Music Acts You Need To Know.


Ceremony consists of two members: Paul Baker and John Fedowitz. If you haven't heard Ceremony's music before, the fact that they are only a duo is almost hard to believe, considering the glorious (and gorgeous) cacophony they create. But then, these guys are masters at what they do; before starting Ceremony, they were both members of the highly lauded but now defunct Skywave (a band that also included Oliver Ackermann, currently of A Place To Bury Strangers, and the mastermind behind the effects pedal company Death By Audio). Ceremony is, without a doubt, one of the most talented and beloved contemporary shoegaze acts currently creating music. If you haven't heard their 2010 LP Rocket Fire yet, well, that's just criminal! It is beyond excellent (as is their entire back catalog), and certainly tops this blog's list for one of the best releases of 2010. (Read WTSH's interview with Ceremony HERE.)

Ceremony. Regret.

The Sky Drops.

The Sky Drops are Rob Montejo and Monika Bullette, a duo based in Delaware, and their amazing sound is often described as "gaze-grunge". After releasing the impressive Clouds of People EP in 2006 and the even more captivating full length, Bourgeois Beat, in 2009, these guys have created quite a buzz about themselves in the shoegaze and dream pop scene. With another EP on the way in the Spring of 2011, The Sky Drops are sure to capture the hearts of even more fans; When The Sun Hits is most certainly looking forward to that release with great anticipation.

If you are thinking that the name Rob Montejo sounds familiar, you'd be right, as he was one of the guitarists of the classic gazer band from the early 90's called Smashing Orange - a shoegaze band that rocked harder than most, and that had a fabulous 60's psychedelic edge that other bands of the time simply couldn't touch. Legendary stuff. (Click HERE to read our interview with
Rob Montejo.)

The Sky Drops. Long Way.


Stellarium is a four piece shoegaze/noise band from South East Asia, who's super fuzzed out, feedback laden sound is unforgettable once you get an earful. With one excellent full length self titled LP under their belt and a split 12" LP with Ceremony coming soon (to be released on Custom Made Music), Stellarium have already made quite the name for themselves in the realm of shoegazers and noisemakers alike. Their LastFm page states that the band members are "well-equipped to unleash a blissfully edgy assault on the senses...they might just want to melt your face." This is pretty much the best description of this (or maybe any?) band ever. And since I've heard their records, I know this isn't that much of an exaggeration. In short: they rule. (Read our interview with Az Kadir of Stellarium HERE.)

Stellarium. Fader.

Dead Leaf Echo.

Dead Leaf Echo is a 4 piece from Brooklyn. The band recently released a 7” entitled Half-Truth (October 2010) on Custom Made Music, which featured an unreleased B-Side. Another release by the band was the excellent Truth (October 12th, 2010 (2&1 Records). It was mixed by legendary 4AD producer John Fryer (NIN, Depeche Mode, Cocteau Twins); that in itself is a major accomplishment. Impressively, the band also has regular opening slots for Ulrich Schnauss, and A Place to Bury Strangers. Recently, Dead Leaf Echo opened for legendary gazers Chapterhouse.

Atmospheric and moody soundscapes are only two of the many melodic textures Dead Leaf Echo incorporate into their music. They have been called highly textural. And they do it the way it's supposed to be done, which is as refreshing as it is hypnotic. This adeptness of multi-textural soundscapes, paired with LG's meandering and shimmering vocals, make for some intense and and clever music.

Dead Leaf Echo. Half Truth.

Screen Vinyl Image.

When The Sun Hits has been supporting this amazing band since the blog was born; and years before that, too. They are one of the most exciting bands creating music right now, in our opinion. (Click HERE to read our interview with the band). The band is based in Virginia, and their sound has been described as "a blend of electronica, psychedelia and intense sonic soundscapes...heavy sampling, Blade Runner-era synths", along with echoing guitars and vocals are the band's modus operandi, ranging from the darkest moments of Suicide & The Jesus and Mary Chain to the deep grooves of early Hank Shocklee productions, dub, and Can era kraut. If you are thinking this sounds amazing, you are correct.

Screen Vinyl Image features ex-members of the Washington DC shoegaze outfit Alcian Blue, who have also played in and with Ceremony and Skywave. (Also mastered the Disappear record by Ceremony). And if all of this wasn't enough, the two also run a record label called Safranin Sound - a must check out.

Screen Vinyl Image. Slipping Away.

Free Download:
Custom Made Music Mini Sampler.


(band name/song title)

1. Pan Galactic Straw Boss. Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man.
2. The Sky Drops. Explain It to Me.
3. Last Remaining Pinnacle. Students of the V.U.
4. Pete International Airport. 21 days.
5. The Sky Parade. I Should Be Coming Up.