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Promo Ends: July 31st


Watch Surprises' "I Can't See You Em" Music Video at Dread Central! August 1, 2019

Watch the new Surprises music video for "I Can't See You Em" at Dread Central. The song appears on the new album Natural Disaster which is available everywhere now!

Brooks tells Dread Central: "My main objective was to capture the inescapability of anxiety. I knew that I didn’t want to make a traditional music video in that the performance had to be part of the landscape. I wanted the viewer/listener to feel that I was trapped in whatever space I was in. I had the idea of using the old footage while watching Kingdom of the Spiders. There was something that was authentic and completely unrepeatable about it. A director buddy of mine pointed me to archive.org. I watched hours of footage to find the moments that really sold the recklessness of the song. The one thing I noticed looking back was the commonality of the shots I chose despite the different decades of the footage. There was a cohesion that made me believe in the song more and hopefully will give folks another reason to listen/watch."

New Demons' Song "Uglier Americans" Available Now. All Proceeds Benefit RAICES. July 30, 2019

Demons has released a new single titled “Uglier Americans.” All proceeds from the song will be donated to Texas-based organization RAICES, which is focused on education, affordable legal assistance provided to those impacted by illegal and unjust raids, and opportunities for involvement from those interested in helping. Get the song now at Bandcamp.

Zach Gehring discussed the timely track, stating, “The separation of families at the border, and the policies that underscore recent activities targeting families from Mexico, Central, and South America, and US citizens are completely backwards and unquestionably cruel. Immigration policies and the inhumane treatment of people of all ages demands a response.” He continues to say “any action that can help thwart or slow down what is happening. This song is was motivated by an attempt to critique the gap between immediacy and reflection – the immediacy and urgency for those threatened by these policies versus the reflective and abstract media commentary and discourse that privileged people (like us) engage in and respond to earnestly.”

Welcome Seattle's Reader to the Spartan Family! Debut Album "Engrams" Out August 16th July 12, 2019

Welcome Seattle’s Reader to the Spartan family! We are beyond thrilled to release the band’s debut album Engrams on August 16th. Listen to the new single "Skeleton" at digital outlets everywhere here and pre-order the album on limited edition vinyl or animated picture disc here to get the song right now.

In a time of facsimiles, replicas, and false tributes, along comes Reader — a bombastic, fearlessly unusual rock quartet from Seattle, WA. Practically speaking, this means stunning and precise vocal harmonies over shattering angular guitars, unconventional time signatures, and a driving rhythm section. Less practically speaking, the band’s debut record Engrams is a journey — a dynamic and unpredictable experience that challenges the listener in all the best ways. Attempting to neatly categorize Reader's sound is a fool’s errand. No clean “recommended if you like” comparisons can be made. The band could best be described as an experimental amalgamation of melodic and layered harmonies over aggressive and mathy guitar-driven rock. Think Alice In Chains meets the late-60’s vocal stylings of groups like CSNY and Simon and Garfunkel. An original juxtaposition of forces, authentic and uncompromised in any direction.

#30DaysofSpartan Starts Now! Save 30% Off Almost Everything For The Next 30 Days! July 1, 2019

30 Days of Spartan begins today! For the first 30 days of July, share your Spartan images on Instagram with the hashtag #30DaysofSpartan. Together, we’ll spread the spirit of independent music and help others discover some amazing new Spartan artists. We’ll be featuring a different Spartan release every day and to sweeten the pot, for all 30 days you can save 30% off almost everything at the Spartan store when you use the discount code 30DAYSOFSPARTAN. Thank you in advance to all of you who participate. You are our community and you keep the Spartan sword sharp!

Spartan Profile #5: Dan Black, Landland June 25, 2019

The Spartan Profile series returns with an interview with Landland designer Dan Black, the creative force behind The Darling Fire’s haunting album artwork. Below Dan discusses sources of inspiration, the design process, and creating a narrative world within and across his artwork. Also featured is an exclusive playlist curated by Black — enjoy!

How did you, The Darling Fire and Spartan connect?

Jolie from The Darling Fire reached out and kinda explained what was going on and what they needed. I'm really bad at doing the follow-up "How'd you find out about Landland?" thing, so I don't think I ever really asked...I'd worked on art for The Pauses' newest LP about a year ago, and they're another Florida band that recorded with J. Robbins, so I suspect that there might have been some crossover somewhere in there and my name might've come up, but I actually don't know for sure, haha.

Can you talk about your career path as a designer? What led you to Landland and music-centric design projects?

I've been working with my friend Jes as Landland since 2007, mostly making posters for touring bands like Arcade Fire and Phish and all points between...before that, I had a brief period of working for Target as a graphic designer and doing screenprinting and poster design as an afterhours hobby. Eventually, the hobby overtook the day job, and we've just been steadily building out our screenprinting studio piece-by-piece and making a TON of work ever since. The first few posters we made were for our own bands and bands that our friends were in, and that slowly and gradually led us to working for bands we didn't know, and then larger and larger bands, and expanding that to film posters and all sorts of self-initiated work. There's a lot of record packaging design peppered in there, but the posters and other work like that usually keeps us too busy to do record packaging as often as I'd like.

Talk about the creative direction for the Dark Celebration artwork — what were you hoping to accomplish or communicate?

There was a lot of back and forth leading up to actually starting to design the art for the LP; I usually like to ask a lot of questions about which parts of my work a band is gravitating toward, or what they were looking at when they decided to get in touch with me. We talked a little bit about some past posters I'd made that gave a point of reference for the kind of illustration they were hoping for, and Jolie sent over a lot of materials to give me the general feel of the album. They were really on the ball with everything, so we were actually talking about what the album would look like before it was recorded. Jolie sent over a list of adjectives to give a sense of the mood, and then her lyrics of course. I don't really like to rely on lyrics directly, but it definitely helps to suss out the themes that run through an album and the kind of atmosphere they're hoping to create. Somewhere in all of that, there was some direction that maybe it should be dark and show some sort of forest fire scene. I sketched up an idea that included an old fire watchtower and an indirect hint at fire off in the distance, and we just pushed on from there.

How would you describe your creative process?

That back and forth I mentioned is a lot of how it starts...most of the work I do is for someone else's band or project, so it's important to get a feel for what works for what they're doing. The other side of that coin, is that I'm also always pretty conscious of developing a body of work that feels relatively cohesive and a visual vocabulary that's almost like world-building in a way; even though everything is dealt with on an individual basis, it's not crazy to imagine that the watchtower from the cover of this could exist just down the road from the abandoned amusement parks in some of my poster work, or the boarded-up gas station that shows up on a Jeremy Enigk poster. There's always a real push to satisfy the design needs of whatever I'm working on while also creating a thing that fits within the rest of my lexicon.

As far as the actual execution, I draw everything by hand; first sketching it out in pencil where I can obsess over perspective lines and compositional details, and then once all of that is pinned down, I'll usually transfer that layout onto a piece of clayboard where I can dig into all of the fine detail work. Clayboard enables me to fill dark areas with ink (like most traditional illustration), but also to carve out light areas and create white space where I've already laid ink down. It's a really versatile way for me to work, and opens up a whole realm of technical possibilities that I didn't have back when I mostly drew on paper. The illustration is definitely the most labor-intensive part of the whole process, so I really like to make sure that the groundwork is laid and everyone's on board with what I'm doing before I launch into that. After that's finished, I'll go through and add color where necessary...that usually happens digitally, but everything that you see that looks like illustration is all always done analog.

How does music inspire your design work?

When I'm working on posters for a specific band, I try to make a thing that isn't derivative of the visual communication they're already doing (album art, merchandise, nouns in their lyrics or song titles, etc), but rather a thing that could exist within the world they've created. It's a step removed, but not wildly disconnected, if that makes sense. Album art is a whole other thing, where I really want to communicate with the band and make sure we're hitting all the points we can as far as what they want. Moreso than a poster, album art lives with the band for a lot longer; it becomes a part of their permanent discography, and when it's done well, it can help shape a person's listening experience when they sit down to listen to the album. I'm a little bit old, so I really have a huge soft spot for the idea of getting an album, putting it on, and having nice packaging to pore over and dig into as an accompaniment of the music. Thinking about how a person is going to handle the jacket and all of the parts of the record, and how they move through the packaging is one of the most fun things about designing this sort of thing. Like, I used to sit there and just study the thanks lists in these things, and the bands they'd mention in there were like little clues as to what else might be cool out there. A cookie crumb trail of nerd shit to build a cool experience around an album. With the jacket for "Dark Celebration," one thing I wanted to try to do was create a path where people would be pulled in by the front cover, and then moving to the back would work as sorta zooming in to the charred wood and bits of the aftermath of the fire that's happening off in the distance. The idea of taking in an overall scene and then spending time with it to notice the details around you.

A lot of Landland’s work seems centered around animals and the natural world — any particular reason?

That's definitely more Jes's thing than mine...I think her narrative tendencies are bit stronger than mine are, or rather, I go a much more subdued route with a lot of my work, where most of the narrative is in the implication of past lives in these places I'm drawing. It's all little bits of evidence that people have been around at some point, but not really holding anyone's hand to spell out exactly what's going on or why they've left. Jes is much better at creating scenes where you're seeing action taking place...schools of fish moving past weird islands, or birds perched on ruins of whatever thing's all caved in by something that happened long ago. I think there's some amount of crossover between her world-building and mine, but a lot of that can be chalked up to the fact that we see everything the other one is working on all time, and part of why we're best buds and make sense working together is because we're attracted to a lot of similar imagery. I don't think I could do this stuff without her, or at least it wouldn't be nearly as fun or interesting.

What else inspires you as an artist / designer?

I try to build a lot of time in my life to travel a lot within the U.S., and am constantly wandering around in places where a lot of people don't usually go (or haven't in so many years), whether that's old logging roads up in the Pacific Northwest, or out in the old uranium mining territory in the canyons of Southern Utah. You end up in these places that used to have great utility to people, where they built towns and roads, and then completely left the whole thing to be swallowed up by nature and returned to the earth. It's really interesting to see the bits of evidence of the past and build vague narratives around it. I've also always looked at old signage and the way messaging works in specific environments...I've been into signs and old billboards and things like that since way before I could read—with almost an embarrassing level of obsession—and love integrating that interest into the work that I'm making for bands and things like that.

Who are some artists (musicians, visuals artists, writers, etc.) who you really admire? What about their work do you connect with?

Phil Elverum of Mount Eerie, for both his music and his visual/design work. It's all perfect. I share a studio with the Minnesota members of the Vacvvm (Aaron Horkey, Mike Sutfin, Brandon Holt & Mitch Putnam) and those guys are a constant inspiration...they push me to constantly try to step up my technical skills, and they're all great to be around. Ryan Duggan, Mike Mitchell, Aaron Draplin, Jeremy Enigk, Tim Kinsella, Owen Ashworth, Jay Ryan, Sonnenzimmer, Daniel Higgs, Marcel Dzama, David Shrigley, a million others. There's a bunch of people I look up to a lot, and a lot of them are friends, which I feel really lucky for. Tons of poster artists...there's an excellent community of people doing work that are constantly refreshing the medium, and it's cool to see that happening in real time.

What should people know about St. Paul, MN?

I'm actually still learning about St. Paul...I recently moved back here after about five years of living in Chicago, but when I was here before, I was mostly a Minneapolis person. There's kind of a big divide between the two places, or at least there was back then, where St. Paul was always sorta the sleepier and more residential city, and Minneapolis is where you go out and do things. This entire place is littered with references from The Hold Steady & Lifter Puller songs, which is kinda cute, but only important to probably a handful of people...super mundane landmarks like a specific Party City in a strip mall, and intersections that get name-checked as places where some desperate things happened that are actually just places where they put an Aldi or whatever. It's got a good mythology to it, and plenty of rock history. The day Prince died shut this entire place down and turned it into a metro-area-wide memorial dance party. The harsh winters scare everyone away, but it's secretly incredible here.

What else should folks know about you and Landland?

We're constantly working on things...so much poster work all the time, and art prints and weirdo little notebooks and pins and things. We've done a few collaborations with Field Notes, which was really some bucket list stuff to be involved with. I've also started a Landland record label as a sort of hobby thing to give myself more projects, haha...we've released a bunch of records by Slow Mass (an incredible post-hardcore band from Chicago that tours constantly), Chris Brokaw & Geoff Farina (from Codeine & Karate, respectively), Birthmark (Nate Kinsella of American Football), Tim Kinsella/Joan of Arc, and we're slowly getting ready to do vinyl reissues of all of Jes' band Best Friends Forever's discography, which I'm pretty psyched about. We use Instagram more than anything (we have separate accounts: @landlandcolportage & @_jseamans), but there's also a secret Facebook group that's kinda huge and a really good place to find out about our stuff as it's happening (search for "Landland Appreciation Society" on FB). We also travel around to SXSW and other music festivals, where we set up a booth and stand in front of the things we've made, talking about the things and selling them to people. The biggest takeaway is that we stay really busy, haha. I don't really know how to do it any other way.

Thanks for stopping by. Makes sure you check out Landland’s site to see more of Dan’s work (pick up a print or two while you’re there!), and buckle up for The Darling Fire’s debut record Dark Celebration, which is out everywhere now!

Welcome Fallow Land to the Spartan Familly! Debut Album "Slow Down, Rockstar" Out July 26th! June 19, 2019

Please join us in welcoming Ann Arbor’s Fallow Land to the Spartan family! We're beyond excited to announce that we'll be releasing the band's debut album Slow Down, Rockstar on July 26th. Listen to the premiere of the new song "The Hope" exclusively at BrooklynVegan and get the song instantly when you pre-order the album on limited edition vinyl at the Spartan store and Bandcamp.

Fallow Land was born in a time of trepidation — a period of unease and anxiety following multiple losses. The result: Fallow Land's debut EP Pinscher, a guitar-driven narrative centered around disillusion. Two years have now passed since the release of Pinscher and with time has come critical praise, healing, and evolution — all elements that fueled the creation of Fallow Land’s debut LP Slow Down, Rockstar. For Fallow Land, the album marks a sonic progression. In the spirit of bands like Foxing, American Football, and Minus the Bear, the record is driven by rhythmically-nuanced textures. The sum of the intricate instrumentation and layers create a lush and mathy soundscape. While records within this genre can border on self-indulgent, the Matt Bayles (Isis, Minus the Bear, Pearl Jam) produced Slow Down, Rockstar remains accessible, memorable, and melodically compelling throughout the entire album.

The Darling Fire's Debut Album "Dark Celebration" Out Now! June 13, 2019

The debut album from The Darling Fire, Dark Celebration, is available now! Produced by J. Robbins (Jawbox, Burning Airlines), the band features members of The Rocking Horse Winner, Further Seems Forever, Dashboard Confessional, Shai Hulud, As Friends Rust, among others. Get your copy on limited edition vinyl and at digital outlets everywhere — and don’t miss the band playing two record release shows at Arlene's Grocery in New York City this weekend! Get it here!

Spartan Profile #4: Ian Fursa, Video Director/Editor June 6, 2019

Hey folks, we’re back with Spartan Profile #4 — an exclusive interview with video director/editor Ian Fursa. Check out our interview with Ian below where he takes us behind-the-scenes of the production of The Darling Fire’s brand new music video “Saints in Masquerade.” Here at Spartan we are fired up about every piece of content we release into the world, but this video is something special — a dark and heavily stylized journey that perfectly captures the essence of the band. Please enjoy Ian’s thoughts below on inspiration, creating an 80’s aesthetic, nostalgia, and working with The Darling Fire.

What inspires you as a director?

Everything in life! I’m very into studying how metaphysical philosophy, psychology, and social psychology play into our art and daily lives. I think the most beautiful visuals and most powerful stories are just creative ways of showing what some deal with on a daily basis in a way that strikes that same emotion.

What were the central themes or ideas you were exploring with the video?

I’d say fear of change, how that can breed within some family dynamics, and how media plays into it. This video’s story was actually inspired by my girlfriend’s family. She is a first generation American, so there is a constant duality between traditional and modern ways of living in her home. I was actually really happy when I thought up the idea of using new versus old toys to symbolize the fight against change.

Visually, the video reflects such a specific time period — what elements were important in creating that aesthetic?

I think we really got lucky with locations on this project. Some scenes are almost solely lit by the neons and arcades that were on location. This really set the tone for the video on the first day. I tried to bring that same feel to the house scenes by always having this one teal spot light shining somewhere within the scene, but since that color of light wouldn’t normally be in a house setting, it gave us a more stylized look. That lighting mixed with our choices in props, I think tied everything together to give the video a more time specific aesthetic. 80’s baby!

Can you talk about the process of acquiring all the props and setting pieces?

I am really thankful to members of the band that put a lot of hard work into the masks and some other props we used. The masks were simple white masks that Jolie and Jeronimo took the time to paint and age based on the character that would wear it. The handheld video game was treated in a similar way too. Also, thankfully the owner of the house location was a vintage collector, so the process of dressing the house set was really picking and choosing what these surreal characters would actually have in their home, while also trying to keep to a certain color scheme and time period.

The use of lighting and projections is really striking throughout the video — can you talk about the feel you were trying to create with those elements?

Well, we knew from the beginning that we wanted it to have an “80’s vibe” with the look of neons and drastic light to dark contrast. Once we decided that we were going to go more surreal with how we told the story, it opened us up to the idea of using the projector to show the media broadcast being almost imprinted onto the parents through these bright beams of light. It became a really cinematic way of blocking the TV when you want someone's attention.

Are there certain music videos that have been especially influential in your directing career?

I’d say this video was very influenced visually by films like Blade Runner 2049, Poltergeist, ET, and Close Encounters. I do try to keep up with watching current and older music videos so there are definitely some that inspire me to this day. Just to list a couple that come to mind: Jon Hopkins - "Breathe This Air, Childish Gambino - "Sober," and Kendrick Lamar - "Humble."

Can you describe the process of collaborating with the band during the production?

I had a great time working with The Darling Fire on this. I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a band that was as involved with the process as they were. Like I said earlier, Jolie and Jeronimo were such a big part of designing the props, finding locations, and just being on set with great ideas. This video wouldn’t be what it is without their help!

Are there any behind-the-scenes stories from the shoot that you’d like to share?

Ok, so the only thing I can think of is how the first filming day went! My plane landed the evening before so I hadn’t been to any of the locations before we went there to film. I really didn't think we would have been able to get all of the shots/angles we wanted for the band performance scenes with the time we had allotted at the arcade. So, morning of shoot day comes, with a lot of scheduling still up in the air, but after a fairly quick setup we got every one of the shots we wanted. Things just kept going smoothly and we were done hours before we had to be out of the location. Everyone kept talking about how it felt like time stood still for us. It really was nice and was an inspiring way to start the day.

Do you have any upcoming projects that you are particularly excited about?

Well I am pretty excited for the release of this video! Besides this though I have a few commercial projects I directed and two short films I did cinematography for that I am excited to see how they do! You’re just going to have to keep your eyes out for them.

What was your favorite arcade game growing up?

Honestly I didn’t really go to arcades growing up, but I can tell you that my favorite now is the Star Wars Battle Pod. I’ve always loved fast paced racing games and sports like go cart racing, BMX, and I even got really into building and racing drones for a bit. So, the Battle Pod seems to be one of the only games that can hold my attention for longer than a game or two.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned to Spartan Records for upcoming Spartan Profiles and updates on the The Darling Fire’s debut record Dark Celebration, available June 14th.

New Florida Man Music Video "Holy Roller" Premiering at Flood Magazine! June 3, 2019

Charleston, South Carolina noise-punk agitators, Florida Man, recently released their sophomore full-length, Tropical Depression and today we've teamed with FLOOD Magazine to premiere their new music video for standout track "Holy Roller." Tropical Depression is a sinister slab of riffs and feedback that offers hardcore heaviness with noise rock menace and--as evidenced by "Holy Roller"-- a surprising dose of groove-laden hooks. The band often uses tongue-in-cheek aesthetics to interrogate darker themes, and the video for "Holy Roller" finds Florida Man posing as a public access cable cult. FLOOD praised the "fiery" track and said "the video, like most of Tropical Depression, is entirely over-the-top, with the band shredding in the type of church you only see on community access television." Get the album now on limited edition vinyl and at digital outlets everywhere here!

New Surprises Album "Natural Disaster" Available Now! May 31, 2019

Surprises’ long-awaited new album Natural Disaster is out now! After releasing three successful LP’s with the fan-adored band Sullivan and dozens of solo tracks over the past ten years, songs seem to emanate from all levels of Brooks Paschal's consciousness. However, Paschal’s new project Surprises is something different. It is cathartic, it is reckless, and it is personal — a striking new narrative from a familiar voice. Natural Disaster is a concentrated amalgamation of all the driving, melodic, soaring, and fragile moments that made Paschal’s previous work so appealing, but with instincts driving all direction, we're thrust into a new and unchartered creative territory. Get it now at digital outlets everywhere and on limited edition vinyl.

Early Praise for Natural Disaster

"...an irresistible mix of melody, biting lyrics, and resonate songwriting."- Sound The Sirens

"...big, booming choruses, hook-laden verses but with contemporary sensibilities that give the listener a well-intentioned wink and some worldly wit."- PopMatters

"You might know Brooks Paschal as the vocalist for early 2000s indie rock group Sullivan, but these days he’s fronting Surprises. Think a grittier Jimmy Eat World and you’re not too far off the mark."- The Alternative

"...takes an emo-based sound and maneuvers it into pop-rock/power-pop gold."- Substream

"...Raw, catchy & volatile..."- Atwood Magazine

"infectious melodies...passionate, melodically woven lines..."- New Noise