Since 2013, Denver Public Library cardholders have been able to download albums by local artists at the website volumedenver.org. The library, which pays artists a set fee to offer this music to patrons for a period of two years, has the ability to host 200 albums at any given time. To bring further awareness to the library’s local-music-sharing initiative, Dave Wilkinson, former Wax Trax record slinger and currently a librarian at the DPL’s Park Hill branch, proposed the release of the first of what he hopes will be a series of five seven-inch records of songs that reflect various eras of Denver’s musical history.
In early 2015, Wilkinson, along with Park Hill head librarian Tara Williamson and Bobby Erskine, who works in the book-lending department at the Central branch, proposed the project as part of the library’s Risky Business Initiative, a grant program for innovative staff-led projects whose goal is to generate enthusiasm for the library and its services. Wilkinson believes that the seven-inch record, which includes the songs “Master,” by the band Accordion Crimes, and “Runner,” by The Raven and the Writing Desk, will be a good way to draw attention to volumedenver.org. As part of the proposal process, Wilkinson made a mock-up of what the record would look like, including a 45 adaptor bearing the Denver Public Library logo.
“People have a standard idea of what the library provides and what it does,” Wilkinson says. “With this seven-inch release, we’re trying to [turn] attention to the fact that we have different services to offer in addition to the more traditional [ones].”
With such a large pool of bands in Denver, Wilkinson had to narrow down the selection of featured bands in a way that made sense for the library. Accordion Crimes and The Raven and the Writing Desk both have literary references in their names and seemed like a perfect fit. Accordion Crimes is the title of an E. Annie Proulx novel, and The Raven and the Writing Desk takes its name from the Mad Hatter’s riddle in Lewis Carroll’s Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
Preparing to put out a record has been an arduous process, but Wilkinson and the DPL have received help from knowledgeable folks in the music industry. Wilkinson approached both bands, which gladly contributed tracks; from there, he contacted Paul Breckus at Aardvark Record Mastering, who prepared the lacquer to press the plates, which were then sent to United Record Pressing in Nashville. In between, Wilkinson consulted with Chuck Coffey of the Snappy Little Numbers imprint, whom he credits with clearing up some of the mystery and uncertainty of the process by outlining his own methods for releasing records. For the past month, Wilkinson has been preparing the final product, a limited edition of 300 records.
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Wilkinson describes the records’ unique packaging as follows: “The aesthetic is that of a reference item, and it would be [from] the lower shelves of the basement, and we discovered them,” he says of the “found-object” look, which includes materials from old books. “Of course, there would be a date stamped on the pocket on the inside cover of the original book,” he continues. “Each seven-inch is individual and repurposed from the book that was at the end of its cycle. Each one is cool and quirky. The randomness and the kind of found-object quality of it means you get to take home a piece of the old-school library. These will be handed out at the release show and other functions we will have to engage with the public, like with Record Store Day.”
Since the project’s inception, Accordion Crimes has gone on indefinite hiatus, so The Raven and Writing Desk will perform at the record-release event alongside a band that includes Accordion Crimes singer/guitarist Bryon Parker, former Lion Sized guitarist Josh Bergstrand, and Echo Beds, which will play some Accordion Crimes material in addition to its own compositions. The combination of musicians is a reflection of the connections within the local music culture, something that also encouraged Wilkinson along the way.
“I was influenced by exposure to the environment of Wax Trax, and Duane Davis having done [label] Local Anesthetic. I feel like I’m just doing what the family expects. It’s also a classic way to support a local scene. I read Bob Rob Medina’s Denvoid and the Cowtown Punks, and it just further reinforced getting this done. Also, watching documentaries on Dischord Records and Factory Records — I thought I could be that guy sitting in my apartment with wall-to-wall [records] that looks like [I run] a record distro.”
DPL Showcase: Denver Public Library Record Release
7 p.m. Sunday, March 13, free, hi-dive, 303-733-0230.