Indie rock band Nightmares For A Week have been in the game for a while now, consistently working hard, getting out on the road, and putting out new material. While many might think a rock band has business and tour managers, and roadies carrying their gear around for them everywhere, that’s often not the case. Most groups, Nightmares For A Week included, take a do-it-yourself (or DIY) approach to recording, distributing and touring.
This notion has held true for this group’s new album Celebrations, released last month. Joining us for an informative guest blog on what it takes to make it as an indie musician, NFAW guitarist and vocalist Bill Manley offers us some insight on the steps and the process it requires to put out a truly DIY recording.
OK, before we get going check out the song “Arrows” from Celebrations.
Putting Out Your Record DIY:
If there’s one thing I have learned since being in bands since I was fourteen years old, it’s that you can only rely on yourself. And, by “yourself,” I really mean your friends, family and community members. After all, one couldn’t possibly do everything by themselves. And, those aforementioned are really an extension of yourself after all. Even as the introvert in me cries out, humans are social beings who look to each other to survive. Our parents raised us, teachers taught us, bands we idolized growing up showed us how to rock. Sound cliché? It is, but there’s a reason cliches are well…cliches.
There’s a sort of obligation one feels when they are closely connected to a piece of music or art either by geography or maybe a project you’re more personally invested in. Whether it’s your own art or album your buddy made, I can’t help but to beam with pride when another full-length record or art installation is born from the Hudson Valley area. A win for Kingston is a win for all of us. This is where we grew up. These are my people. That being said, I didn’t always feel this way. The realization didn’t hit me until I was older. Now, maybe I’m just less jaded or possibly it’s a small whisker of wisdom rearing its head. Either way, I wanted to make our next record a truer reflection of our home. That is when we decided to make our own imprint/label, record our own music, screenprint our own album art, and press up our own t-shirts. We wanted our next record to be a family affair.
It had always been “punk” to do things DIY. Whether it was putting records out yourself because no one else would or maybe it was simply a sense of self-sufficient pride that lit the DIY fire in your belly? For us, it was a mix of these reasons. No matter the motivation, the DIY ethos has always garnered a sense of respect from peers and fans alike. Purists might gripe at this list below because I suppose one could argue some of the points I make aren’t truly DIY. However, I’m not here to argue but simply share how we made our latest record Celebrations. And, it was all worth it.
01. Write a Record
– Naturally, the first step is to write an album. It is also the most difficult. Putting out a record DIY is extremely time consuming but it’s worth it. You are going to be more emotionally and physically invested in the project than ever before so you want to make an album you are proud of. You are going to be eating, breathing, and sleeping your record for the next few months. It is also helpful to establish an imprint or “label” that you would like to release your album under. We released the record under our own imprint Boneshaker Records (which you can check out here). We have put out other local acts prior to release our own record. Keep it in the community.
02. Record It!
– These days, we are spoiled when it comes to the accessibility and ability to track records DIY. One could say we are in the gilded age of home recording. Between Garageband and Pro-tools, not to mention the array of other programs available, one’s studio could consist of a laptop, a couple mics, and an interface. Now, thanks to the power of the technology and the internet, one can truly empower themselves and become their own engineer. It is smart to have a least one member of your band familiar with recording and the programs aforementioned.
Even if you book time in a real deal studio, you will still be able to be in control of the session. Though we recorded most of Celebrations in a studio, we engineered and produced the album ourselves. We also recorded much of vocals and extra guitar parts in our drummer’s apartment. Sean-Paul the bassist/vocalist, has had years of recording experience which came in quite handy! So all in all, it was kind of a hybrid between home and a “real” studio session.
“The Destroyers” is a music video from the band’s 2013 record Civilian War.
03. Create The Artwork
– So many options out there! We worked with our good friend graphic designer/artistic savant Ryan Williams who is A Subtle Difference Design (visit here). DIY culture has always been about keeping it local (i.e. Dischord Records signing only DC bands). Not only is he our good friend, but he is extremely talented and has a way of capturing the essence of an album by translating it into a captivating and aesthetically pleasing visual. That being said, it is also extremely helpful having a member of your band be familiar with Photoshop and Illustrator in case you wanted to go rogue and get it done yourself.
After the art for the album was complete, we wanted to screen-print the jackets of the records and inserts ourselves. Lucky for us, Steve our drummer is a screen-printer by trade at Antilogy Design and Screenprinting (check that out here) so we had access to the equipment which made it possible to make screens of the artwork and screen print everything by hand. We had to order the materials including plain white jackets, inserts, and paint to get the job done.
Digital: **Disclaimer: Most of this section’s info is well known unless you’ve been living under a rock.**
– If you are planning on releasing your album strictly digitally, Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon are popular platforms to host your album. Your music can be searched and listened to from anywhere in the world by thousands of listeners. You will need to upload your music and artwork on to your computer so you will need a digitized version of both.
Here’s a stream of the title track from Celebrations.
– I would recommend reproducing your album on vinyl or even cassette tape. Because digital music is so accessible, if fans are going to buy a physical copy, more often than not, they are going to want something palpable like a vinyl or cassette tape. We used a company called Gold Rush out of Texas (which you can visit here) to reproduce our vinyl. Reproducing vinyl by ourselves was out of our means so we did some research and made a decision to outsource to Gold Rush.
Since we were screenprinting the jackets/inserts ourselves, we just needed the actual vinyl and they were happy to accommodate. They have a range of color options as well! They have quick turnarounds provide great customer service. Though vinyl is pricey, people are willing to shell out the extra dough especially if it is attractive and comes with a download code. Do not get CDs made! I can’t stress this enough. Nobody buys them and they end of taking up space. I have boxes upon boxes taking up space in my garage as we speak. However, they make great coasters.
05. Mail Order
– Make sure your band has a good system for mailing physical copies out. You want to make sure you package well and ship out in a timely manner. You want a good reputation so that fans will have no reservations about ordering from you in the future.