The CD Solution

Unsigned bands keep their local connections even as they spread their commercial wings

When Ulloa took on management of For Squirrels earlier this year, his first move was to repackage the band's existing full-length CD, Baypath Rd, as a six-song compact disc. The CD was promptly mailed off to college radio stations around the country. "It was strictly a promotional tool to get the word out about this band on a national level," Ulloa says. Of the CD format in general, he notes, "You'll probably get reviewed more, get written about more, and you'll definitely have more radio stations playing you."

The quantitative increase of local CD releases is matched by a dramatic improvement in the quality of local recordings, as well (even though, as Glenn Richards notes, lower CD manufacturing costs have led to a few bands releasing substandard work on compact disc). "But by and large, most things that are coming out on CD are pretty well thought out, pretty well presented," he says.

Richards attributes the improvement to experience. When his local music show on WSHE began in 1990, Richards says, "I think there were less bands that were technically proficient in the studio than there are now, and I think it's kind of increased every year. I noticed a definite increase in studio technique, that there was a whole bunch of bands who were just average, and a few that were above average, and even fewer that were exceptional. And then, as each year went by, bands that had made second and third recordings got better and better and better."

Richards points to Cell 63, which not long ago released Once Upon a Drunk..., its second CD in as many years. "The packaging is really good, and it's approached from more, like, with an album in mind," he says. "I think that's something a lot of bands have done. They've changed their reference from, 'We're going to release a demo on CD' to 'We're going to record an album.' I think that has changed everything."

Jim Camacho of the Goods says his band's recording experience (which includes a home-studio-made cassette, a five-song vinyl EP, the 1992 CD/cassette release Five Steps To Getting Signed, and the new CD Mint, set for release in January) has been invaluable. "We've learned a lot over the past four years since we've been making tapes and stuff."

Camacho recalls an episode from the Mint sessions at the famed Criteria studios in North Miami, when the guitar parts for "I'm Not Average" weren't miked properly and had to be re-recorded. "So just with that kind of perspective, when we go back in the studio next time, we'll save a lot of time because we'll know exactly what kind of guitars to use to make the sound fullest. Although our songs switch around from style to style, we're beginning to hone in on our sound."

Though South Florida's commercial radio stations continue to turn a deaf ear and success is measured in terms of hundreds of units sold, the rewards are worth it, says Jim Wurster of Black Janet, whose Love Thirsty (released on both CD and cassette) won the Jammy Award for best independent release in 1993, and who released a solo project on CD a few weeks ago. "I love going in the studio, taking those songs in there and building them up, seeing what comes out," says Wurster. "It's a great feeling of accomplishment. It's not easy to get done.

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