“You can’t hug an mp3!” Dominique Miniaci told me over grilled cheese sandwiches at the Chat n’ Chew, just outside of Union Square recently. “It’s sound and it’s also the artwork and the physical holding of the product that’s cool, that’s artistic and something you feel close to.”
Beautiful and young, this businesswoman – formerly a distributor of coffee as per her family business – now distributes something else. Vinyl.
Along with her bearded partner and East Village Radio host, Mike Newman, they run Beyond Beyond is Beyond Records, an offshoot of Newman’s EVR show by the same name.
“The overarching word would be psychedelic,” he said between grilled cheese bites. “That just narrows things down for people. It’s not like you have to be on psychedelics to enjoy it, but it works as an overarching thing.”
This local Brooklyn brand – shorthand BBiB – has been a radio show for four years and a regular record club since October 2009 for friends interested in listening to high quality vintage audio (Shhh! No talking!). Now, BBiB also releases records and digital audio via Bandcamp as a carefully curated selection of psych sounds. Each arm is an organically grown offshoot of Mike’s musical tastes combined with his ease at amassing cool friendly music lovers on the radio every Friday afternoon, and beyond.
“I think we have a lot of good shit to offer,” Mike continued, “And with this kind of music too, the consumers and the bands all generally dig vinyl, the bands are like, ‘Oh man I want to get my record made, they don’t care if a CD is made.”
The duo decided to join forces to start the label early in 2012 and began planning their debut releases, especially during a trip to Austin Psych Fest in March. They put it out into the ether that they would be starting a new label, and recommendations abounded on who they might consider for curation, like their first release in November, Run Slow, by Prince Rupert’s Drops.
“Prince Rupert’s Drops was a recommendation from our friend Chris Millstein,” Mike told me, referencing the head manager and buyer at Kim’s Music. “We told him we were starting a label and he was like you guys have to check out this band Prince Rupert Drops. He saw them open for Endless Boogie, and we’re big Boogie fans and we were like, ’Oh shit we haven’t even heard of them.’ But we saw them and we instantly knew there was something super special going on. They’ve been playing together for years and they’ve never had a record. “
So Mike brought his ear to the table, and helped make sense of and curate three years of recording sessions with a band that had formed in 2005. The sessions included “original bassist Brad Truax (Home, Dan Melchior’s Broke Revue, Interpol, to name a few).. acclaimed comics-artist Leslie Stein (guitar, vox), fellow former Broke Revue-er Bruno Meyrick-Jones (guitar, vox), former Osprey Steve McGuirl (drums, percussion)… multi-talented bass-player Chad Laird (Land of Tomorrow, Jantar).. and synthesizer-sorceress Kirsten Nordine (Jantar).”
“So it was actually a lot of fun to sequence,” Mike continued, “and we were all bouncing ideas off of each other about how the songs got sorted out, a song from this session, one brand new one and then this, you know, Bruno and Leslie having a female song and then one with Bruno singing and then one with Chad and Leslie harmonizing, and it was just like and we wanted to put something together that had that textured old feel. It sounds pretty cohesive.”
The second release, out in February 2013 comes from Helsinki-based four-piece Kiki Pau, recently heralded for the musical shift they’ve taken on this third album by the digital pages of Spin Magazine as “…woodwinds, hand drums, and guitar twang tracing links between pagan rituals under the midnight sun and Indian ashrams half a world away.”
Though the record is effect heavy, and songs are long (and rewarding), Mike says, you need guys like Kiki Pau – Henrik Domingo, Pauli Saarikivi, Olli Juvonen, and Aleksi Gustafsson – to be the brains behind their big textured sound.
“The brain has to figure out how to carry it out, not the equipment, not the effects,” Mike said of the recording process. Adding, “I think sometimes the limitations are good.
“I even hear musicians saying that in the studio they’re so inundated with, ‘You can do whatever the fuck you want’ because you can cut and paste everything, and because of that everyone’s just overwhelmed.”
Though Dominique, Dom for short, admits their vintage big rock psych sound “is not the easiest sell,” it certainly pays off for the right listener, and it’s those audience niches that will be the future of the way the music industry does business. “It’s something we have to accept – the future is now.”
“If someone takes the time to listen, they’re going to get blown away,” Mike said. “But it’s one of those things where you play the first single and the lyrics don’t come in until 5:15 and there’s a slow build up. If you’re the kind of press person that needs to hear stuff – like gimme the vocals! – it’s not going to be there. If you give somebody the right idea of what they’re in for, and it’s the right person that would like that, they’ll check it out.”
What it comes down to though is pretty simple. “I just like forcing everyone to enjoy my taste!” Mike admits. But it’s his love of music, unique taste and knowledge base that gives him the credibility to do so. At least that’s what he told folks who asked why he always gets to pick the records at record club. Simple, he said, “Because I’m cultivating a thing, as opposed to somebody’s going to bring in the Flashdance soundtrack.”
There is a timeless quality to the sound that Mike is cultivating, captured by the first two releases, that is pure rock, cutting to the core of the psych genre and redefining it for a modern collector. Perhaps that timelessness is inspired by Mike’s day job as head writer of the syndicated radio show Nights with Alice Cooper, just up the street from our Chat n’ Chew table, where Mike eats regularly, “for the music.”
Upcoming BBiB releases in 2013 will include MMOSS and Quilt split 10″ record and a JJUUJJUU release in March/April. Then Mystic Swedish Nomads, Our Solar System in April/May and Velcro Lewis Group (last year’s “Steam Powered Man” video, below) in the summer.
The most refreshing thing about Mike Newman, besides his long hair and easy demeanor, is his point of view. According to Dom, his musical taste is “a place for people to go when they want to cut out the noise and seek a curated selection of music.”
“There’s not really a leader, or producer type anymore, that tells the artist, add this or add that.” Dom said of her partner. Adding, “I’ve never been to a record club and not liked the record.”
So far we’re psyched we can say the same about the label, too.