Discover: Temporary Residence Limited

J. Edward Keyes

By J. Edward Keyes

on 09.13.12 in Collections

Like most independent labels, Temporary Residence Limited had inauspicious beginnings. “The first release I put out was a band – in the loosest sense of the word – that I was in with my roommate in college,” explains founder Jeremy deVine. “I had no money and no idea what I was doing. It took us two years to put out three 7-inches.” To say things have changed would be an understatement: When I talk with deVine, he’s frantically finishing up work on a $250-a-pop vinyl box set of William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops, one of which will be included in an exhibition commemorating the September 11th attacks, on which the Disintegration Loops reflects. The label’s growth may have been slow, but it’s also been steady, guided more by a dedication to a single vision than any regards for commercial viability (“If I love it, then that’s it,” is how deVine describes the label’s aesthetic).

But though they’re home to both the vibrant indie rock of Pinback and the dense instrumentals of Fridge, the label’s biggest success has been with post-rockers Explosions in the Sky, whose work soundtracking Friday Night Lights – both the film and the subsequent television show – brought them from the margins to the mainstream. “This guy Brian Reitzell called me one night and said he was a music supervisor for Sofia Coppola and was interested in Explosions in the Sky scoring her movie,” deVine explains. When the Coppola movie in question, Marie Antoinette, shifted its aesthetic, Reitzell offered the band for another film instead. “He was like, ‘I just got hired to supervise this high school football movie for Universal, and I’d love for the band to do that.’” But while Reitzell was enthusiastic, the film’s director was not convinced. “He was totally not sold on that idea. He wanted, like, a classic symphonic score. So they had this meeting in Austin, and it was the director, the music supervisor and the band. And during that meeting they were talking about the movie, and the guys in the band were like, ‘We all know the book [that the movie is based on], because the book is about the football season that took place at our high school during our freshman year.’ And that was the director’s a-ha moment. He was like “Whoah, whoah, whoah – you’re from Midland? Holy fucking shit!’”

While Explosions remain the label’s breakout stars, their history is rich with classics. We asked deVine to tell us about a few of his favorites, and you can hear even more on this free Temporary Residence sampler.

Jeremy deVine’s Favorite TRL Records

This was probably the first time I really felt the label was truly starting to get noticed by anyone besides my friends. I signed Tarentel after a friend stayed at my apartment and left a cassette on my floor that was given to him by Jefre Cantu from Tarentel. I wore that tape out, and subsequently wore Jef's ears out talking on the phone about every bit of music we were both excited about – everything from Rex to Neu! to Miles Davis. He introduced me to so many bands that would become staples in my life (Eno, This Heat, Steve Reich). From Bone to Satellite was their first album. It took what seemed like a year to record, and cost us a small fortune to release. We likened it to our hobo version of My Bloody Valentine's Loveless. It quickly became our biggest -selling record to that point – and a good thing, as the label would have very likely died a quick death if this hadn't recouped. The band have taken innumerable creative left turns since, and have yet to come full circle back to the sprawling, widescreen soundtracks of this record. To this day it feels more timeless than 90 percent of the like-minded music that was gaining popularity at the time.

In early 2000 my friend Lee Gillespie from The American Analog Set sent me a CD-R of some live AMANSET tunes. Also on that disc were two live songs by a new Austin band called Explosions in the Sky. As has been reiterated, and sometimes misrepresented many times by now, he sent it with a note attached that simply read, "THIS TOTALLY FUCKING DESTROYS." He was right, of course. The horrible quality of that live recording actually made EITS sound like an instrumental Dinosaur Jr. circa Where Ya Been?, which was alright by me. I quickly struck up a friendship with Munaf from EITS, and we became close friends. He refused to send me the band's first album, How Strange, Innocence, until after they'd recorded something the band deemed more representational of their sound. They were convinced I'd reneg on my offer to sign them if I heard it. In retrospect, that seems pretty silly, but I am grateful to have Those Who Tell the Truth as my true introduction to Explosions in the Sky. They drove up to Baltimore and stayed in my freezing cold apartment for a week. I had lapsed on paying the heating bill so that I could save up money to pay for the recording. They all slept in their winter coats and gloves, tucked inside sleeping bags. The label consisted of whatever available floor space was in my house. I did not own a computer. My friend Trevor Kampmann recorded this record in his house in Washington, D.C., and I attended and semi-assisted in the sessions whenever I wasn't working at the hardware store. I remember desperately wanting to make sure they left Baltimore with a truly great recording, and I remember being sincerely worried that they didn't like the way it came out. Turns out they were into it, as were a lot of other people. This was now the label's most popular release, by a long shot. In the grand scheme of things, it's not one of the band's more well-known albums, but it remains to this day one of the most important records we've ever released, and ultimately worth every bit of sleep lost in the miserable, freezing cold winters of Baltimore.

This represents the first time we signed an artist that I viewed as truly out of our league. I was such a massive Fridge fan (check out their stone-cold late '90s classic, Eph), but they were a hyped British electronic-rock band signed to the same major label that made Portishead a household name. I'd honestly never even considered the possibility of working with them. They delivered Happiness to their label, Go! Beat, who rejected it and sent the band on their way. Kieran from Fridge decided to release it on his own label, Text, in the UK. He asked their webmaster, Jon Whitney, for suggestions on appropriate labels in North America. Jon asked if I'd co-release it with his label, Brainwashed. Eventually, I would join the live iteration of Fridge, further cementing the "how did I get here?" vibe of the whole thing. Happiness is one of the best and most forward-thinking records we've ever released. It's ridiculously good. In a twist of fate, I would introduce Kieran to his future wife, and this whole band would become dear friends who still mean the world to me. The paths that these things take sometimes, it's funny.

I had decided I wasn't going to include any of my own music, but then I realized it's maybe somewhat relative to the story of the label's very humble beginnings. Sonna existed from 1998-2002. We released a couple albums, some EPs and some singles. From a songwriting perspective, I think this was our strongest work. I do think the recording is better on our previous album, but with only four days to record and mix, it's a minor miracle this sounds as good as it does. In retrospect, Sonna's biggest contribution to the world would be the bands that it brought to the label: Tarentel, Explosions in the Sky, Eluvium and MONO were all peers and fans. I do kind of wish we'd made one more record, as I feel like we were hitting our stride in terms of comfort in writing and playing together. But we all had different parties to go to, and our final show still stands as one of the fondest memories I've ever had of being in a band. Payan's Rugs FTW!

I met Matthew Cooper in late 2002 in Portland, Oregon. He was working at Everyday Music, which was my go-to destination for multiple copies of the first Boston LP. One night he sheepishly handed me a couple CD-Rs and told me they were "just something he does in his spare time." He said the project was called Nervous Plants, a name which I admittedly wasn't crazy about. He asked if Eluvium was any better. It was. Lambent Material was the very modest but auspicious beginning of one of the longest and most rewarding collaborative relationships I've ever had. Rarely a day goes by without an email exchange between Matthew and I that mixes hilarious nonsense and descriptions of whatever we're eating at the moment with occasional, subtle business undertones (if absolutely unavoidable). All Eluvium records are brilliant and unique, and almost all of them can in one way or another be traced back to ideas sparked on Lambent Material.

When MONO finished their first album, Under the Pipal Tree, guitarist Taka Goto got in touch with me about releasing it. I liked the record, but thought it was simply too derivative of other bands to really stand out on its own. I was always really cautious about getting pigeonholed as a "post-rock label," which dictated some of my decisions over the years when it came to new bands. It was all for naught: that pigeonhole turned out to be totally unavoidable, no matter how diverse the roster was. But I digress. I liked MONO, but didn't feel it was the right fit at the time. Taka and I stayed in touch, and he sent me One Step More and You Die a little while later. I thought it was an improvement, but still didn't feel as though they'd found their own voice, so to speak. But again, Taka and I still stayed in touch. He asked for recommendations on producers in the United States, as they stood to save serious money recording anywhere other than Japan, where studio rates typically run in the several thousands of dollars per day. I suggested Steve Albini, as I'd worked with him a lot and was very fond of his sound and his insight. They decided to record Walking Cloud with Steve, and once again Taka sent it to me for consideration (he is nothing if not determined). I remember very distinctly the first time I heard this record. It was truly crushing. It had elements of their past, obviously, but they had progressed so significantly that it was almost hard to believe so little time had actually elapsed between albums. Thank goodness for Taka being such a strong, determined person, because I'd absolutely regret having not worked with MONO. They've become such an integral part of the label and a part of our family over the years that it's really difficult to even recall why we didn't sign them in the first place. In retrospect every one of their records is great, and they're still making stunning music of the highest caliber that has truly become uniquely their own.

When Touch and Go Records made their completely unexpected announcement that they would effectively cease operations immediately in March 2009, the fate of their remarkable roster of artists was honestly pretty far out of my mind. We've always had a pretty strict no-poaching policy at Temporary Residence Ltd. If an artist is already committed to another label, we will not actively pursue that artist. Because of this, we naturally assumed we'd never get the opportunity to work with any artists on the more respectable artist-friendly labels, Touch and Go chief among them. They were easily one of our biggest influences in the early years, and our respect for what they built and achieved cannot be understated. That said, we welcomed The Black Heart Procession, Three Mile Pilot and Pinback with open arms, without a breath of anticipation. With only six members in the groups combined, we managed to sign all three in one impromptu trip to San Diego. The first to deliver an album was The Black Heart Procession. I'll be the first to admit I wasn't particularly awe-struck by their previous album, The Spell. But Six, in my opinion, was not just a return to what made them so unique and inspiring, but was also their finest record in a decade. When they announced the end of The Black Heart Procession earlier this year, I had mixed emotions; it's sad to see it end, but what an amazing album to end on. Some of their strongest songs and most striking imagery are in this album.

The second in the San Diego trifecta, and without question one of my all-time favorite bands. Not only could I never have imagined we'd work with this band, I honestly never expected them to actually finish a new album. By the time we signed them in 2009, it had been 11 years since their previous album, and they seemed still a ways away from completing a new one. But I love being proven wrong, and the delivery of this record was a big one. Everyone who works at Temporary Residence is a huge Three Mile Pilot fan, so we hold this one close. I'd initially worried that a 12-year gestation period on an album would make for a bloated, indulgent mess. But few groups are this good, this intuitive, and this self-aware. They delivered. Big time.

In retrospect, 2009 was a pretty big year for our bucket list. That's the year that Pinback, The Black Heart Procession, Three Mile Pilot and the Books all joined our modest family. The Books' previous label, Tomlab, was slowing down operations, so the duo approached us about releasing their new album, The Way Out, as well as remastering and reissuing their entire back catalog. 2009: the year of no-brainers. The Books' entire catalog was ceaselessly brilliant, a rare example of a band breaking new ground with every album, constantly looking forward, and becoming increasingly influential and impossible to pigeonhole all at the same time. There aren't half a dozen artists making music in this decade that can say that. The Books called it quits earlier this year – at a perfect time, in my opinion. The Way Out cemented their place in the canon of forward-thinking, left-leaning music with considerable emotional resonance, and perfectly set the stage for co-founder Nick Zammuto's new band, Zammuto.

This one was years in the making. Bitch Magnet were, without exaggeration, one of the most influential bands during my formative years. They are one of the bands that made me want to start a band, want to start a label, want to go to shows. I never saw them live – they broke up before I had the chance – and I probably included them on a hundred mixtapes throughout the '90s. Eventually I got sick of making tapes for people, so we decided to remaster and reissue their entire catalog so I'd have something cooler to give my friends. Actually, that's not how that went down, but it's maybe a better story. The important part is, it's now readily available for the first time in over a decade, and it looks and sounds better than ever. It's insane how many bands were unquestionably influenced by Bitch Magnet: Don Caballero, Rodan, Superchunk, Crain, Sunn O))), Battles. I could go on 'til we all fall asleep (if you haven't already).