In the basement of his ranch-style home in the Welshire neighborhood of South Denver, Greg Daniels is putting the final touches on the merchandise for his band Glass Hits' final show. It's Friday morning and the show at Eslinger Gallery for the Underground Music Showcase (UMS) is just hours away.
The vinyl seven-inches the band will sell have just arrived, over-nighted from United Record Pressing in Nashville despite the fact that the test presses were approved five weeks ago -- it should have been plenty of time. But Daniels says the records were physically pressed onto yellow vinyl Thursday morning and only 50 of the 300 that will eventually arrive made it on time. Probably enough for the show, he says. Still, the wooden, hand-screened covers, inserts and other peripheral pieces of the record have only been assembled for a couple of weeks, so some of the anxiety was, he admits, self-induced.
The idea to create an aesthetically opulent final record for the UMS show started back in the spring, according to Daniels. He knew the band was breaking up and wanted to do something special to commemorate the event -- go out in a style typical to Glass Hits' way of doing things. Daniels and Curts created unique, often intricate posters for every show the band played between 2009 and 2011 and many, many more after that. And that's not to mention all the record sleeves (two full lengths and numerous seven-inches) and t-shirts they made over the five years of the bands existence. Clearly they had a reputation to live up to, and fans would expect something at the very least interesting. What that became is a split record with Accordion Crimes, a like-minded band who shared the stage with Glass Hits for their swan song performance.
"I started working on it in May," says Daniels, quickly but meticulously going through the steps of screen-printing t-shirts for the show with the skillful precision one only achieves from lots of practice. "That's when I got excited and bought the wood and cut it up. Then there was this giant lull for art and record pressing."
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It's a stressful, arduous process to create your own merchandise, and there are certainly far easier ways to get t-shirts and even records made than the routes chosen by Glass Hits, but to Daniels and his band mate and printing partner Keith Curts, the process is less about efficiency than creativity. "It's about putting a little bit of yourself into what you're creating," says Curts. "We started with the first seven-inch cover. We did it in my apartment. We're like 'Well, I guess this is what we're doing.'"
It might seem odd to anyone too young to remember what things were like before the widespread use of the Internet and computers in general began to inform every part of people's lives, but in the '80s and '90s, small bands who wanted to put out a record, book a tour or have stickers and t-shirts to sell at shows had to make and do those things themselves.
"It was a necessity back then," says Curts. "If you were going to do it, you did it yourself. "You did it because you didn't know anyone else who would do it for you."
Though he acknowledges things have certainly changed, making it easier to have merch made by outside sources, the idea of getting intimately involved in the whole process is in their blood.
"I guess you could send stuff to someone to make but you wouldn't get that one-of-a-kind product," he says.
More on why the band goes to all this trouble is on the next page. It was only in the last week that things began to look like they might be ready in time. Printing the multi-colored wooden sleeves takes a lot of time and patience. Once the art is created, the image is separated into its component colors and a transparency is made for each. Those are then used to burn an image, in total darkness, onto light-sensitive material which will become the screens. Once the screens have been washed thoroughly and dried they are carefully, one at a time, used to lay on the layers of color to make the final image. With drying time and set up the process is incredibly time consuming. The pair even enlisted Daniels's neighbor, architect Stephen Randall, to locate material and print the vellum lyric inserts, something that saved them some time.
"The lesson I've learned is don't try to do it in a hurry," says Curts.
That's a great motto says Daniels but sometimes an unrealistic one. With all the steps involved it's nearly inevitable that something will go wrong and slow the workflow. The unexpected delays can be frustrating he says.
"A lot of the time you can't help it," says Daniels. "You're running to Kinko's or you're running to the printer to get the transparency, running to get the paper, running to get the ink. The other day my wife said, 'Oh, your super stressed out. Screen-printing Greg is back."
Despite the many downsides to hand-printing posters and other items, they got good at it. The pair started to take outside work, under the name Causemedic Ink, creating posters for venues around town and art for other bands. But eventually the hassles began to weigh on them.
"It was so hard," says Daniels. "It was a bad situation for me and super stressful. We'd push it back to the night before and then the screen would pop and we'd be screwed. It got to be too much of a hassle so I only do it when I really want to do it. We've had a couple people contact us recently about doing stuff for them and we're like 'Sorry, we're really not in the print game anymore.'"
After all those months of work and stress the monetary reward for putting all the merch together for the show is underwhelming to say the least. For each record the cost of all the materials - not counting Curts' and Daniels' time - was $4.50. They sold for $5 at the show, with Curts hoping only to make back the money Chuck Coffeey, owner of the band's record label Snappy Little Numbers, spent pressing the vinyl.
"It's very intense," says Daniels. "It's got to be a labor of love or you couldn't do it."
"It's not profitable at all," says Curts. "But there's this idea: Document everything. We did this. We were here. We mattered."
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