Vinyl record to CD to mp3 to live streaming...and back? The evolution of music is one that has, pardon the pun, come full circle. At least that’s the case at Boxing Clever, a downtown St. Louis advertising agency whose new record label, Boxing Clever Records, deals only in vinyl.
Jim Harper, Boxing Clever’s creative director and head of business development has had a passion for music dating back to his youth, when he joined the first of seven bands he would play in over the course of his band career.
“When I was 18 or 19 years old I was in the punk rock scene a little bit,” says the St. Louis native. "I was in a punk rock band called 'Snake Ranch,' in probably 1988 until ’91 or ’92. I was in in a band called 'Bionica,' one called 'Pave the Rocket.' So I’ve always enjoyed music very much. Once you start you can’t stop.”
The desire to make music carried over to his helping rebrand Boxing Clever from a print production company, Four Alarm Studio, into an ad agency 2008. One of the company’s first “passion projects” was designing concert posters for University City store Vintage Vinyl. They get paid in store credit, which they have subsequently used to purchase more music.
In between representing companies such as the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and spirit maker Brown Foreman, they’ve continued working with other fun side projects including ‘Fake Anything,’ their site dedicated to making ads around fictional items mentioned on television shows. Harper says they have now decided to put their focus into one medium: music.
“When you’re an agency and you have a passion project, you want to show someone what you can do with something," Harper says. "With something like this, when people are interested at all it makes us feel great. Because that’s what a passion project is – it’s that work that you want to do and you want to show people you can do it,” he says.
The idea to create the label as the company’s latest side project began developing back in January. The process is pretty involved and very detailed, right down to the letterpressed packaging, done by All Along Press in Soulard. Each of the six unsigned bands selected supplies their own pre-recorded single, which is then formatted from an mp3 to a suitable format for vinyl.
The singles have one song from each band on either side, and the bands are then paid by being allowed to sell 100 of the records independently, and the rest are sold on the Boxing Clever site.
The first round of musicians includes two St. Louis bands: Vanilla Beans, and Superfun Yeah Yeah Rocketship.
Harper says that bands have approached them to do digital music, but they aren’t the least bit interested.
“You know if you buy a song you get to listen to it…but for those of us who grew up around vinyl, holding that in your hand is just the most important thing,” he says. “There’s a lot that went into that package, and the vinyl process itself is amazing. I know it’s been said a million times, but the sound of vinyl isn’t like anything else. There’s no other format that you can replicate that sound with.”
The label debuted online in June, and has already sold half of their first edition. The next class of artists has already been recruited, and will include rock and hip hop musicians from St. Louis. Harper says the label is hoping to just break even with this first round of artists – but at the least he hopes to rekindle a slow love of listening to music in a time and place where everyone’s finger is on the pulse.
Follow Erin Williams on Twitter: @STLPR_Erin