Press kit/booking advice?

jeglican 9/1/12

I'm sorry that I seem to be always swamping you guys with questions, but you always seem to have great answers!

My band and I just finished recording our first album and have started playing gigs around the local area, but I'm trying to come up with strategies to get our material seen more and reviewed and such, so I'm trying to put together a press kit to show to magazines and booking agents, but I really have no idea what to do.

I remember reading that you guys got your big break through a review from Pitchfork. What was your guys strategy in sending out your music? Any advice you guys have from that time in your band when you were trying to get word out would be absolutely invaluable. I'm sorry I haven't been able to pick your brains in person yet. I can't thank you enough for all the advice you guys have given me.

Band Member
michael.james 9/5/12

Andy! Good to hear from you again and sorry for the late reply.

Here is a brief history of how we got to where we are: in 2000, we formed the group Garmonbozia and over the next two years recorded approximately 10 CD-Rs of challenging, cinematic, proggy and almost unlistenable stuff. Buried in there were some of the kernels that would become the essence of Blitzen Trapper (Pink Padded Slippers, Texaco, Sadie, etc.). We played around town multiple times a month and spun our wheels. For good reason, we changed our name in 2003 and recorded our first "proper" record - done mainly on a Fostex 8-track, then dumped to ProTools and overdubbed with Greg Williams, who's become our go-to guy for almost everything. We had a product and didn't know what to do with it, ended up not really doing anything with it and continued to spin our wheels.

By accident, we made Field Rexx - entirely self produced and super lo-fi. By this time we were wondering what kind of "magic" needs to happen to get the tunes out there. We began working with a local publicist/friend and that helped create a groundswell of local recognition. We embarked on a completely fruitless West Coast tour and garnered our first licensing deal with a British company that promptly went out of business (as far as we could tell).

We went back into the studio with Greg and recorded the working title "BT3" and shopped a few songs around to no avail and shelved the record. All the while we continued to play Portland and Seattle, and the crowds grew slowly, but they grew.

Out of the blue, Eric had written and recorded most of Wild Mountain Nation. We shopped that around again for quite a few months, got a modicum of interest from small and medium indies, but no bites. So we decided to pony up, release it ourselves and hire a real LA publicist. And it worked. Suddenly blogs were writing about us and the publicist got the record to Pitchfork who gave it the crown of thorns Best New Music. We sold 5000 CDs in a week. We couldn't keep up with production and labels were chomping at the bit. Good problems to have. After courting with Domino for a bit, we were approached by Sub Pop and it seemed a natural fit. The rest of the story has been pretty well documented.

During the WMN days, we were approached by a very good booking agent in Seattle who had noticed the clamor over us. He warned us that if we work with him, we will need to be on the road alot, like at least 6 months out of the year. We agreed and have been on his roster ever since - and he's obviously gotten us some killer opening slots as well as headlining tours.

Wow - this has become long-winded! Let me boil it down: dominate your local market first - you can probably do this all on your own. Parlay that into regional recognition - for you Chicago is your best bet for getting noticed - and play the shit outta that town and Minneapolis too. Hire a big city publicist that has a good resumé and believes in you - expect to pay a few grand for their services. The more good press you get, the more name recognition you'll have with booking agents that are willing to take a chance and get you an opening slot on a tour.

Hone your songwriting skills, play as many shows as you can in as many places as you can, and if you're good and people like your stuff, you'll start getting offers from places you'd never imagine.

Good luck Andy - hopefully we can hook-up this fall.

jeglican 9/5/12

Thanks a million for the reply. Honestly your advice is invaluable, and its so difficult to understand whats a good way to go about all of this stuff because noone every really conveys their experience. This is great advice, and its pretty cool to hear about what went on behind the scenes. Looks like I gotta get my ass in gear. Thanks man, I'm sure I'll see you guys soon. Actually I just noticed youre going to the Loft! I went to school right down the road, so I'm going to hit up the show. I'll see you there.

OCDBT4ME 9/13/12

Wow!  This is really interesting stuff, Michael, and I'm not even in a band!  How wonderful of you to share your experiences with burgeoning musicians like Andy!

I'd love to see more of the band's history revealed on its Wikipedia and AllMusic entries since they're lacking any info prior to 2003.  Or... maybe I'll just wait for Brian to produce the BT 'Behind the Music' episode - "Coming up after the break...things take a turn for the worst when..."  Darn. I got nothin'. 

gatorbutts 9/14/12

Michael, thanks so much for sharing that history.  Question - the first "proper" record you refer to in 2003, your self-titled debut - was the material on that essentially a "best of" from the previous Garmonbozia stuff, or was it just what you'd been working on lately?  It looks a lot like the tracklists to the 2002 Garmonbozia CDR "RL" (what does that stand for?) and also 2003's "Duble pepy Magik Plus" I've come across.  Anyhow, it's all good stuff and I/we appreicate your filling in the gaps with the band's history.

Oh, and speaking of older stuff - there's an old Garmonbozia track "Tallahassee" which I think is from 2000's Tremolopsi CDR that I love.  You ever think of recycling that killer melody for a future release?  "...shake, shake money out...don't let your fire go out so easy..." (sure I butchered those lyrics!).  And "The Checker and the Thieving Magpie" track from the "Omnibus..." CDR just kills! "Hey...babe.. maybe I'm the checker I'll be up in lights...livin' high and free...for all the world to see"

Erik 7/5/19
Hey Blitzen Trapper!

What a band… what a history… I share some long past memories with you guys. The music and feeling that you give me on your albums and shows is out of this world! One of my life changing moments was actually during a concert in The Hague in Het Paard. The story begins on a day with a good friend. We woke up after a long night, not knowing what would come, we decided that we should take it easy. So we flipped a coin. The beach or the city center to visit the numerous record stores of The Hague. It was heads and the city center it was. Walking down the street we passed Het Paard (The Horse). This is a small stage and saw that you where to give a show that evening! We bought tickets and hung around the city for a while. It was when you released Furr and I had Wild Mountain Nation already in my record collection. I knew all the songs. The show starts… and just then, an angel walked in the room. I did not loose her out of my sight for the rest of the night. We made some eye contact and I headed to her after the concert. We hung out. Better yet, we still do, ten years after that day that we flipped a coin and by luck went to your concert. I thank you guys for this precious memory. This year I asked her to marry me  and I want to implement your music in our wedding. As an honor to all of you!

Thank you again! 

Best regards,

Erik from the Netherlands

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