In March 2015 NPR’s “All Songs Considered” featured Demitasse’s song “Comfy Coffins”. The band was also picked by NPR as one of the top bands to see at SXSW. This has been a magical year for Demitasse – with shows all over the country and much radio play. “Blue Medicine” their debut recording has impressed critics and made new fans, and continues to reach new listeners each day.
Today is not only Tax Day, but also the birthday of Blue Medicine, Demitasse’s debut. It can be purchased through this website and through CD baby. Like proud parents, Joe and Erik of Demitasse beam into the record hole in that little blue baby.
Demitasse (pronounced “DEHmee-toss”) is a two piece acoustic group. It is the side project for Erik Sanden and Joe Reyes of the Texas art rock band Buttercup. Singing at the very limits of their range, the duo gets sherpa high with their vocals, mixing melody, spoken word, and noise. The sound is somewhere between Simon and Garfunkel, Leonard Cohen, and the Beach Boys on a dark day. Or Elliott Smith on an extremely bright, sunny day. Or John Cale tossing his car keys to Neil Young.
Joe Reyes is a Grammy award winning guitarist and multi-instrumentalist. Erik Sanden composes songs that NPR calls “jangly art rock for the left side of the brain.” Together in Buttercup and now in Demitasse, they sing together like brothers and are charmingly familiar with their audiences.
Hoping to cure sadness with sadness, Demitasse offers catharsis with their dark-pretty songs and story-telling live shows, where audience members leave changed and smiling. Underlying humor and life-affirming lyrics make the sadness pleasing – much like Roy Orbison smiling through his blacked out glasses while singing “Crying.” Note: the name “Demitasse” means that the glass is half full, even with a hole in the bottom.
Both Joe and Erik lost their fathers recently, and their debut record grew out of the chaos of caring for loved ones with long-term illnesses. Erik’s father was battling to Leukemia, Joe’s Alzheimer’s. In between trips to the hospital a cycle of songs emerged. The recording became something lovely, a place to escape and celebrate beautiful moments with family.
The album is called “Blue Medicine” a nod to how the blues are often the best medicine when one is suffering emotionally. The first single “Comfy Coffins” is Carpenters-esque in its soft-robed musicality; it is sweet and comforting. Many of the songs on “Blue Medicine” start small but swell: the coda on “The Blues or Die” may be the most compelling moment on the record. “Fambly” sings of the importance of family, especially when things get weird.
At some point in the midst of the recording Erik said to Joe, “it’s like we are alone, together.”
So Demitasse recorded the record “live” as much as possible, always performing tracks simultaneously – two at a time – so that no one would ever be alone while recording. This “Vow of Togetherness” spills into their live show. Audience members leave a Demitasse performance altered, less lonely, high on music. The Demitasse mission: to write the definitive anthem for the clinically depressed, stamping out loneliness wherever they roam.
In fact, a portion of all of the proceeds generated from “Blue Medicine” go to a non-profit anti-depression charity To Write Love on Her Arms.
Street date April 15th, 2014 on Bedlamb Records
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by Jim Beal
In real-deal San Antonio style, Alamo Town artists aren’t sitting around waiting for the music industry to come to them. They’re creating an industry.
Metal music will be exorcised from White Rabbit on Saturday, for one night at least. The occasion? The launch of Bedlamb Records, Buttercup’s collective-style label, run by guitarist/producer Joe Reyes and singer/lyricist/multi-instrumentalist Erik Sanden.
“Joe came up with the idea when he was producing Marcus (Rubio) and the Cartographers,” Sanden said. “I figure we’ve got strength in numbers and in-house production.”
Bedlamb also has a roster of inventive, imaginative, genre-defying bands that fuse pop, rock, art and a show. The launch party will feature five Bedlamb acts: Joe Reyes, Chris Maddin of Blowing Trees, Marcus Rubio and the Gospel Choir of Pillows, Cartographers and Buttercup. A non-Bedlamb band, Discoh! Mirrors, featuring members of the Morris Orchids, will open. Doors open at 7 p.m. Cover for the all-ages show is $10.
“We don’t have money or tour support,” Sanden said. “Chris Maddin’s tire blew up the other day, so I came down in the Buttercup van and gave him our spare tire. So we do have kind of a AAA road-service thing.”
Good record labels have been built on much less.
Reyes and Sanden will tune up for the Bedlamb launch with an 11:30 a.m. acoustic gig Friday at Main Plaza.
by Jeremy Martin
Buttercup’s label gets serious (sort of)
“It was at one of our Grackle Mondays,” explains Erik Sanden of Buttercup, the de-facto heads of Bedlamb, which Sanden describes as less like a traditional label than “a collaborative or some communist group … a brotherhood … a book club.” “We had no consideration of recording an album at that time, we were all about the live show. But [James] Wilton comes up with a bag of quarters and puts it on the stage. He says, ‘I want you to use this to record an album.’ It was about $110 in quarters … and it was clear that he dug that shit out of a wishing well … the coins were all copperized.”
Inspired by this petty theft, the guys in Buttercup (Sanden, Joe Reyes, Odie, and at that time drummer Jamie Roadman, who recently left the band and hasn’t yet been permanently replaced) raided their bank accounts for an additional $200 or so, and their debut album, Sick Yellow Flower, was born. The album was the first released under the Bedlamb imprint. The exact date of the rusty-coin investment is forgotten, but it clearly happened before 2005, when the album dropped, or as Bedlamb member (“signee” seems like the wrong terminology, considering Sanden says all label contracts amount to at this point is a handshake profit-sharing agreement) Marcus Rubio dates it: “I think I was 14 then. It was definitely a couple of years before my mom started driving me out to see you guys.”
Rubio, 21 now, is finally past the point of being described as a “child prodigy,” but Sanden and co. have been playing music since Rubio wore diapers. Ditto Jackson Albracht, frontman for another Bedlamb band, Cartographers. Most of the Bedlamb crew (which also includes Reyes and Sanden’s side project, Demitasse, and Blowing Trees’ Chris Madden) in fact, are young enough to have been fathered by Buttercup, and we’re talking biology here, not musical influence.
But Reyes — Buttercup guitarist and producer of most Bedlamb releases (manager Rose Baca calls him the label’s “common denominator”) — insists that the age gap between his band and the others isn’t as important as their shared musical sensibility. As appreciators of ornate, independent-minded pop music in a city more interested in metal, hardcore, and other no-frills rock styles, Reyes said, the Bedlamb bands were fated to come together. “A lot of roots music is popular in San Antonio,” Reyes says. “At one time, we were probably the only band in town with an Elliott Smith cover in our set. I think Jackson and Marcus probably responded to that.”
Reyes records Bedlamb albums under a set of restrictions he calls a “vow of chastity,” which stipulates that studio embellishments like Auto-Tune and click tracks are forbidden, and his early version of Pro Tools software must never be upgraded.
Considering that Bedlamb has been releasing homebrewed albums since 2005 — and as recently as last year when Buttercup’s The Weather Here, Marcus Rubio’s Oceanic Tremors, and the self-titled Cartographers debut all dropped — calling Saturday’s Bedlamb showcase at White Rabbit a “label launch party” seems incorrect, or maybe even disingenuous, but Sanden explains they’ve just recently realized the Bedlamb name is more than just a literal label, an excuse to slap a sleepy sheep logo on a CD cover, and that everybody might benefit from presenting a more unified front.
“I think we finally figured out that we are a collective team,” he says. Watching the other bands on Bedlamb’s roster perform recently, Sanden says, “I was like a mother hen, blooming with pride. I thought, man, everybody here is so talented. This could be an artistic explosion.”
But if Sanden’s swelling maternal bosom leads you to believe Bedlamb signals Buttercup is retiring to an executive, elder-statesman role, think again.
“Fuck no,” Sanden says. “Now we just have to work harder to compete with these guys.”
Next up for Bedlamb as it becomes the real deal: promoting a label compilation album, featuring previously unreleased tracks from the bands and available for sale at the launch party; making all the label releases available for digital distribution; and “touring, touring, touring” with a “rolling circus of performers.”
Also, a membership drive. Though the Bedlamb scene seems incestuous, with bands sharing members and instruments (see “Swell maps,” July 29, 2009, for a rough idea of the musical multitasking going on), Reyes recording most releases, and former Current art director (and drummer for Rubio’s Gospel Choir of Pillows) Chuck Kerr designing most album art, Sanden insists the label isn’t a closed-circle clique. They’re currently looking to recruit an as-yet-unnamed local band, considering releasing solo work from the well-diver extraordinaire, Wilton, and always interested in adding new bands to the lineup.
But, “they have to work,” Sanden stipulates. “They have to have a job.”
Right now, there’s no real money to be made, unless you’re willing to swim for it.
“Ultimately, we’re just one more string of spaghetti, thrown up against the wall to see if it sticks,” Reyes says. “If someone would offer to buy our label for pretty much any amount, we would sell out immediately.” •