Music News

Drew Gibson reflects on the music scene in Lawrence and his band, Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk

For the past few years, Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk has traversed the country on multiple tours, often from its base of operations at a house called The Bandit Teeth in Lawrence, Kansas. Without making a conscious effort to do so, Baby Birds helped to build a loosely defined regional experimental-music scene based on friendships with like-minded artists in the middle part of America.

Befriending musicians such as Milton Melvin Croissant III and Nick Houde in Denver and Joe Annabi of Yoda's House in Albuquerque, Baby Birds found receptive, relatively nearby places to tour — well, as nearby as possible with members living in different cities across the country.

Skeletor + Me, the band's latest record, out now on Denver label Fire Talk, shows a group willing to dive into fascinating sound experiments very different from the atmospheric indie rock of its early material. We recently spoke with the gregarious and nomadic Drew Gibson about Lawrence and his tape label, Solid Melts.

Westword: What what was it like in Lawrence for musicians and other creative types?

Drew Gibson: I don't think we would really be a band if it wasn't for Lawrence, Kansas, because it was an environment that allowed us to exist and make music without a lot of pressure from any source, really. It allowed us to play a lot of shows without really knowing what we were doing, without worrying about playing a shitty show.

The thing about the Lawrence scene is that there are not a lot of bands. There are great bands there, but they all kind of share members a lot of times. A lot of bands there don't tour out of Lawrence, so they stay hidden and unknown, which is good and bad. If you live in Lawrence, it's cool, because you have all these great bands that are kind of yours, but it's sad, because I feel like people in other cities would enjoy them just as much. I think every city has that going on, because it's hard to go out there and tour.

Why did you form the tape label Solid Melts?

I don't really listen to CDs, and I don't live anywhere, so I can't have a record player. So I mostly listen to tapes. I think certain types of music sound good on them. With the packaging, you can get pretty elaborate or keep it simple. They're cheap to do, easy to send to people, easy to duplicate yourself if you want to. They feel a little more real.

I'm on the Internet constantly, and I like the idea of having something that's not part of that world. They're practical in a lot of ways. A lot of cars still have tape players. If I were to release some electronic music, a CD would be a better choice, but for the stuff people are recording in their bedrooms and basements, I think tapes are a lot of fun. It goes well with how it was recorded.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.