Started up only four years ago, Aural Gravy has made an impact, working with notable acts such as The New Kinetics, The Peripherals and Kelsea Rae Little, as well as reissuing out of print favorites from the likes of The Modlins and Secret Apollo. Headed by David Miano, the label is driven by his love of music with a focus on postpunk, garage rock, and indie pop. It’s a long way from his native New York, where his memories include covering Tony Orlando.
Miano was part of a musical family back in Buffalo, NY. “My dad played guitar in several rock bands during the 60s and 70s, The Soul Brothers, The New Era, Skylight, to name a few,” he recalled. He took piano lessons as a kid, and then took up the bass.
“I think I took piano beginning when I was about eight or nine. That’s just a guesstimate though,” he said. “I think I always just had a love for music, and seeing my dad write and play showed me how to make it. I remember one time my dad let me play drums in front of an audience with his band one night. He had taught me “Tie a Yellow Ribbon,” and I not only played the drums to the band’s accompaniment but also sang it at the same time. I was four years old. I had to put a block under my shoe so I could reach the kick pedal.”
“I used to write songs in the basement on a four-track recorder when I was a teenager, but I never had a band until I came to San Diego. It’s only been since 2010 that I finally put together an actual group. We were called Postcrush then and more recently we’ve gone by the name Cut. The players have changed but the band has basically just been an outlet for me to write songs and record them,” he said.
Now based in University Heights, Miano started up Aural Gravy not long after he started, the band, in November 2010. “Initially I was thinking of the label merely as a vehicle through which to release my own music,” he said. “It turns out I got so caught up in the San Diego music scene and began adoring some of the bands that I couldn’t help but invite them to release their music on my label. It was only early this year that I finally put out my own record. Four albums from other acts came first.”
Why is he willing to risk time and money? “Belief that the music deserves to be heard and that the bands should be afforded every opportunity to get their name out there,” he said. “I’ve definitely put more money into this than I get out of it, and if i don’t make it back, I’m not going to get bent out of shape about it. At the very least, I will have helped somebody out and in my own way have will have thanked the community that makes this sort of thing possible”
His recent move into reissues is simply an extension of his love of music. “The reissues constitute our attempt to preserve San Diego’s music heritage. Fabulous records from days gone by are either partially or completely unavailable. Some artists from our city may never have had a record label to begin with–they simply released their music independently. What this means is that once their original stock of LPs or CDs ran out, there was no clear way for people to obtain their music anymore. This is material that deserves to be heard and heard again over time. We’re going to do our best to keep it alive.”
Miano’s enthusiasm for music is such “that it will be much more likely I say yes than no to any particular idea that someone may have,” he said. “Want to put 3-D glasses inside your CD? Of course. Want to do vinyl only? Let’s make it happen. Want an edible record? Here’s some ketchup.”
For the moment Miano plans to continue working on the reissue series, while looking for new talent. “So if you see a great up-and-coming band, let us know about them!”
Daniel Cross – EP (self released)
Five track CD, featuring four acoustic guitar fronted alt rock/ Americana, not a million miles from the Lemonheads or a rockin’ Steve Poltz. Cross plays everything except the drums and lead guitar work and sings, all vocals his. The fifth track, disc closer, “Wasted,” is a basic electric riff rocker with touches of 80’s power pop, but the track that makes the album is opener, “Take What’s Mine,” a frantic acoustic rock number that includes references to selling a soul to the devil and a goodbye to innocence. And that’s with a chorus that sounds like it’s sung by a young Wolfman Jack. Aces. My favorite song here is probably “Around the World,” a really nice edgy power pop jangle ballad, with a sing a long verse and a great pre-chorus line, but for me the selling point is all of Cross’s sonic splashes on the song; the hand clap break down, banjo like guitar at 3:13 and especially the vocal counter point in the coda.
Produced, Recorded, Mixed and Mastered by Mike Gustin at MTG Studios, La Quinta, CA www.auralgravy.com
Facts on File – Bring it Back
Post punk brilliance, starting with the minimalist shapes and color tones of the cover artwork and topped by a batch of excellent songs. The trio’s music – equal parts drone, punk energy, rolling bass notes, twisted surf guitar lines, stop start vocals and more add up to a sound that harkens back to mid-eighties UK bands such as Jesus and Mary Chain or Echo and the Bunnymen. On the American side of things, think combos like Jonathan Richman and the Unknowns, with more than a bit of sixties melodic sensibilities and plenty of reverb. The ten tracks all hold up well, with just enough garage rock kick to make it an album you’ll want to play loud. Favorite tune at the moment is opener “The Flood” which sounds like the Mighty Lemon Drops until it hits 2:06 and moves into Cramps territory for awhile. Also tops is “What You Want” with staccato vocal intro and near spy/ surf guitar intro – it’s quirky and good, while “Get to know Me” adds a bit of bubblegum pop to the mix – great song. It took a couple of plays, but this album is a real grower.
Recorded at Casa de Fuzz, Boyle Heights, California. Engineer Alex Stott www.reverbnation.com/factsonfile
Viva Apollo – Skeletons
Awesome. Tough to categorize, but mix blues, rock, surf rock, soul and even a dash of garage rock and you’ve got Viva Apollo. It’s only a four track EP, but two of those tracks are really, really good, in fact amongst my favorites so far this year. The best tune is “Should’ve Known” which comes across like a groove filled vintage classic, complete with fuzzed out guitar licks and Hammond drenched backing. Amanda Portela has one heck of a voice, with presence to spare and passion in every syllable. But the band is tight – this is no template rock. This a band that values melody. Every part is integral and well thought out, as is evident in the other fave track, “Take It Out.” Here bassist Elliot Ramsey is band MVP, with a wonderful line that’s all about the rhythm. That he changes it at 1:10 is just one of the many signs of excellent songcraft here. And that’s not to sell guitarist Ryan Amyot or drummer Brendan McGill short – The whole track revolves around a repeating surf guitar and twangy reverb, matched to pounding drums and that sinewy bass line. You’ll want to hit the replay button. It’s refreshing to hear the nice variety of guitar sounds in Amyot’s musical pallete. The other two tracks are really good as well, though they are the opposite of the first two songs reverb bombast. Still just as passionate, however – “Going In Circles” even echoes the Zombies a smidge, and includes the disc’s title in its coda.