Sometime in the run-up to the new century, in the course of checking out live music, it began to dawn on me that blues was no longer the lingua franca for musicians operating within the realm of modern rock. For many bands, Velvet Underground had become the new common denominator, although for DC bands there is no mistaking the enormous shadow cast by Dischord and the bands formed by the label’s principals — Teen Idles, Minor Threat & Fugazi.
That having been said, DC’s own, Gist, moved modern rock forward right out of the gate, forging a sound that is very much its own, as demonstrated on “Miscellaneous” from 2005 full-length release, Diesel City:
[Pssst: Click the triangle above to play “Miscellaneous” by Gist.]
High school friends, Nayan Bhula and Fred Burton, formed Gist in 1995, with Jennifer Moentmann, recording demos and a couple of EPs. Despite changes in personnel over the years, their first full-length release, 2002’s Art Is Now Human, as well as Diesel City, and 2008’s Conversations, Expectations all feature Gist’s “classic” line-up of Bhula on guitar and vocals, Burton on drums and Finley Martin on bass. Recorded at Arlington VA’s renowned Inner Ear Studios with Chad Clark (Dismemberment Plan, Beauty Pill), Diesel City was the band’s third and final recording with Clark.
Gist at DC’s Fort Reno in 2005
Nayan bhula Fred Burton Finley Martin
“Miscellaneous,” according to Burton, is “about our bass player quitting the band suddenly when we were just getting going.” Undeterred, Burton and Bhula took the plunge, forming their own label, Red Stapler, in 2000, and then – in an act of audacity in the downloadable digital era – opening a bricks & mortar music store, Revolution Records, in 2003. The experience, unfortunately, revealed the stark economics of selling hard copy recordings to a generation who increasingly expected their music to be free. As Burton and Bhula point out in an interview with Brightest Young Things:
“Currently, the music industry is [screwed up]. We ran Revolution Records in DC for a few years and discovered that CDs just don’t sell anymore. Many people expect music to be totally free these days. Downloading and burning seem harmless enough, but what they don’t understand is how much time, money and energy is put into an album. Especially, for indie musicians like ourselves who have to foot the bill for recording, duplication, marketing etc…
The industry is partly to blame for pushing one-size fits all music labels and not lowering the cost of CDs. Consequently, big box places like Wal-Mart and Best Buy have decimated small record stores (i.e., Revolution Records) by undercutting costs, and selling CDs at cost or below cost. It’s one of the few industries that lets someone sell something at a loss and gets away with it. Even indie labels like Merge [Spoon, Arcade Fire, Magnetic Fields] are available at Best Buy. People need to get off their computer and experience the fun of record shopping, but it might be too late!”
Bhula and Burton’s label, Red Stapler, was initially started for the band’s own purposes. However, as Burton explains, other groups were later added “as we got to know and become friends with like-minded bands” – including Bhula’s latest musical project, The NRIs, (“Non-Resident Indian” – a term used to describe Indians when they visit their motherland but do not reside there).
All three full-length Gist recordings can be purchased, interestingly, from Dischord.