Court of Appeals

Kansas City record label curbs its name but not its enthusiasm

"Maybe we should just sleep on it," Tim McGraw once sang. Unfortunately for Curb Appeal Records, McGraw's record label (Curb) didn't take his advice to heart. One cease-and-desist letter later, the Kansas City-based label is changing its name to Appeal Records. What won't change is its stacked roster of bands: local (The New Amsterdams, Blackpool Lights), national (Patrick Park, 8mm, Pablo, The Last Almanac) and international (Australian journeyman Paul Kelly). Those assets amount to an optimistic future for the label despite the omnipresent storm clouds of illegal downloading, market saturation and the fact that records just aren't selling like they used to. But you won't hear too much griping from label manager Enrique Chi, whose charisma is such that he could probably sell a Slayer CD to Mitt Romney. The native Panamanian barnstormed our state-of-the-art podcast shanty to share some Appealing tunes and a new single from his own band, Making Movies.

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The Dog and Pony Show

Court of Appeals

"Maybe we should just sleep on it," Tim McGraw once sang. Unfortunately for Curb Appeal Records, McGraw's record label (Curb) didn't take his advice to heart. One cease-and-desist letter later, the Kansas City-based label is changing its name to Appeal Records. What won't change is its stacked roster of bands: ...

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What's with the cease-and-desist order?

Somebody on Curb's legal team figured out that we exist and sent us a little letter, which means "you better stop what you're doing, or we'll sue" : I think we could probably fight it, and we'd have a good chance of winning because Curb Appeal has a completely different meaning than Curb. But that would be very expensive.

Give us a little history on Curb Appeal.

Jim Suptic of the Get Up Kids wanted to do his own thing and put out a record and not be tied to any label, and Alex Brahl was just finishing up at Vagrant Records : We put out the Blackpool Lights record and that helped us get our feet on the ground : We ended up releasing four albums that year: Blackpool Lights, 8mm, Pablo and The New Amsterdams. More recently we released a Patrick Park record : He's originally from Denver and he moved out to California to start his career. It's a pretty common story: a major label signed him and put out a record and he didn't become a pop superstar so they just kinda forgot about him. But he's the real deal: gorgeous acoustic finger-playing and his voice is perfect live.

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Flee the Seen / The Becoming

  • Friday, April 4, 2008, 8 p.m.
  • Uptown Theater, 3700 Broadway, Kansas City, MO
  • All ages / $8


What are the challenges to promoting bands from different markets?

We're an independent label so we're not throwing around a ton of money : Over the last couple months we've had to take a little pause; it's not news that selling records is a tough way to make money right now. We're doing some restructuring to plan for The Last Almanac and Paul Kelly releases. We're trying to figure out the new model for how to make money selling records. It's hard for anyone whether you're a huge hit or a small band to make money selling your CD at Best Buy anymore : We're leaning more on the digital side of distribution.

What other sort of brainstorms have you had?

The simple thing is to spend money smaller; to micro-market. It used to be that you'd throw your money on national campaigns for everything: college radio, publicity and all that stuff. Now it's so easy to track who's buying your records digitally. In two minutes you can pull it up and figure out that The New Amsterdams have sold 150 CDs in St. Louis but they've sold 400 in Chicago and 300 in Minneapolis : You have to focus in and be like, "Let's blow them up in Chicago."

I don't think everyone's screwed. I think it's flooded. I think there are a lot of people making records that honestly aren't good but somehow they convince people to spend money on it : I think creative people will still be able to find a way to do it.

You have a Making Movies record forthcoming?

We're putting the first single on iTunes April 15. Instead of releasing it as a full record, we're going to do three EPs in the next year. In May we're releasing the first one and we're going out on tour.

What are The New Amsterdams up to these days?

They're actually on the road right now. They're opening up for Big Head Todd, which Alex works on the management side for. They're playing to a different audience, so that's good for them.


Appeal Records manager Enrique Chi

Doesn't seem like a totally natural fit.

Yeah. Matt's been kind of venturing more into I hate to call it this, but hippie rock kind of stuff.

Do you think he's going to hear this?

I hope not. But you know it's more Americana and straight-up rock and roll : It's no longer the emo thing. He doesn't need to be playing in front of 16-year-old kids.

You've actually enlisted Matt Pryor as a producer for Making Movies, right?

Yeah. He's been awesome as far as that stuff goes. We basically spent a couple days working on the songs acoustic, bare-bones. Then he helped us do the tracking of the main rhythm tracks for the record : He delved into each song and was really involved and put his heart into it.

The Last Almanac is an upcoming release?

Yeah. They're from St. Louis. Josiah Rosen played in the band Augustana. The record that he played on actually has sold like 400,000 copies and they have a mini-hit on the radio. But he kind of got burned out and wanted to do his own thing so he moved back home and made this record and got in touch with us.

What has Blackpool Lights been up to?

They finished up a couple tours and Jim Suptic had a baby. He's working on a new record and piecing together how he's going to be able to tour and all that stuff.

Tell us a bit more about Patrick Park.

He's from Los Angeles and he recorded this record with a couple different producers. One of them Dave Bianco is famous for working with Tom Petty. We put out the record last fall and he did a handful of dates with Aimee Mann and he's doing some dates with Sea Wolf and Big Head Todd. One of the songs on the record we put out is called "Life is a Song" and it was licensed to be the last song on the last episode of "The O.C." : It was the one and only "O.C." episode I've ever watched.


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