Weekly Releases: How Josh Kirby Keeps Your Interest Year-Round
Words By: Jack Appleby
Photos and Music courtesy Josh Kirby
Hear the AbsolutExclusive stream of "The Plan" beneath the article.
“Release a record, hope it sells, go on tour forever, and record a new record (and hope your fans don’t hate it).”
It’s a tired model. Despite revolutionary advancements in the way we distribute and consume music, the product remains the same: a collection of songs labels push to fans bi-annually. Josh Kirby has challenged the norm with Mount Carmel and The End Of The World, a solo-project-turned-music-experiment that could change conventional thinking.
Through both personal necessity and a keen eye to an industry’s stubbornness, Kirby has taken a new route to releasing his solo music. Rather than the current standard, the Mount Carmel tracks are seeing daylight one at a time, with a new song released every week. Once every seven days, his Tumblr-based website has a new blog post, containing the song stream, new album art, lyrics, and a list of influences (see his post for "Heavy Hands" here). It’s a strategy that’s simple and elegant, even though Kirby says the process is ever-changing.
“My thought was to just change the delivery method; get rid of the album altogether and release songs episodically, like a TV show does, for a specific period of time. [i] noticed a need for experimentation within the industry; everyone is talking about how it’s broken and needs to change, but at the end of the day everyone is still doing the same thing things.”
It makes sense. Currently we market one product to consumers for a year or two (or longer, in cases like Saosin); why not spread out the coverage across a longer period of time? The rise of social media ensures that thousands of bands are thrown in every Facebooker’s face daily, making other bands irrelevant by the minute. Kirby is aiming at 20 weeks for the first “season” of Mount Carmel, meaning he will have new, noteworthy content for five months; how many bands can say they released new material weekly for nearly half a year?
The few who have tried a similar model have seen positive results. The most notable participant was Kanye West, whose G.O.O.D. Fridays bore a striking resemblance to Kirby’s vision: a weekly song, individual album art, and guest collaborations (something Josh hopes to include a few times later this year). Craig Owens didn’t go for the weekly model, but saw the value in every track his band D.R.U.G.S. had created. Usually only one or two tracks are released before an album comes out, but Owens premiered each of the band’s 11 songs on different outlets throughout February 2011, creating a massive swell of love for their debut record.
The key differences between Craig, Kanye, and Kirby are that the former two used the releases as a marketing tool for a full-length, and that Mount Carmel songs are crafted within two weeks of release. Over the remaining months, Josh’s songs could change direction to places he could have never foreseen, all while linking together in a new way.
“All of the lyrics, for new and old songs are usually written a week before the song is released, this way even if they songs are completely different in style the whole project is tied together by lyrical content, almost like a song journal. Not having huge breaks in between writing is nice too, repeatedly going through the entire songwriting process is really helping me hone in on what I like and what I don't like in terms of my songs.
I try not to let the success of previous songs affect the way I write new songs, when I start doing that then I stop writing for myself and start writing for other. However, if I notice a pattern like ‘Hey, everyone hates all of my songs that have kazoo solos in them,’ I'll probably stop shredding so hard on the kazoo. I really don't see that happening, mostly because I'm awesome at the kazoo.”
Watching the songs change and evolve has become a real treat. Over the last six weeks, Kirby has incorporated numerous different influences without affecting perceptions of the last track, listing everything from Sigur Ros to Hey Mercedes as his inspiration. The model works for Mount Carmel and is plausible for other side-projects and new bands, though it could be difficult implementing the style on the world scale that major labels work on. Kirby thinks it’s possible, though the forward thinking could prove too much for the big wigs:
“[It would only work] if a label was willing to really work with an artist to make it happen. Again, this entire industry is built around albums, when you take that away the whole thing falls apart (which, depending on how you look at it could be a good thing).”
While Josh has no concrete plans (“this is an experiment, I won't really know what happens at the end until I reach the end.”), his goal is to release a limited edition vinyl package containing each song. On the surface, this seems to head back to the old ways, but is actually again inspired by television’s latest moneymaker, box sets.
“The limited edition vinyl box set is for people who really want it. That way the supply is always even with the demand and we're not selling people crap they don't want.
Whether the strategy works or not is of no relevance; it is the thought process behind it that is most important. This type of experimentation is desperately needed, and it’s the creativity of Josh Kirby and his musical peers that could make waves in the nearly flattened music industry.