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Bite-size music
Lunch Records follows up Dear Leader with Four by Four

He may call his label Lunch Records, but it’s a wonder that Paul Buckley even has time to eat. When you take a peek at Buckley’s schedule — there’s his day job as marketing and promotions director at WXRV 92.5 FM "The River"; his night gig drumming for Aaron Perrino’s post–Sheila Divine outfit Dear Leader; and his round-the-clock duties as founder and CEO of Lunch, which he moved from Salem to Newburyport earlier this year — it’s hard to imagine how he can cram so much music into 24 hours.

Oh yeah, Buckley also became a dad two years ago. He bought a new house (hence Lunch’s new Newburyport zip code), and he’s just released a cool single by X frontman John Doe. Now, the former Orbit drummer’s label is about to reach more people than it ever has thanks to an agreement he’s signed with IODA, a worldwide digital distribution company that’s putting the entire Lunch library on-line through Apple’s iTunes store and eMusic. There will also be digital-only releases.

"I’m totally out of my mind, but it’s when I do my best work sometimes, when I have a lot of balls in the air," Buckley tells me during some rare down time after work and before, as he apologetically mentions, he’ll have to jet to "play Mr. Mom." The arrangement with IODA, he says, "is another way I can get more music by bands into the marketplace. It also puts me in a nice position to start to reel in different bands from all over. I didn’t really have that [worldwide distribution] to offer before, and a lot of labels don’t have that."

Back on November 6, Buckley was behind the kit for Dear Leader’s CD-release show at the Paradise celebrating the outfit’s second full-length, All I Ever Wanted Was Tonight, a streamlined slugfest of hot-wired electric guitars, martial beats, and Perrino’s inimitable clarion-call vocals fueling torrential songs of thorny political outrage and urgent, palpable alarm. The disc — released on Election Day — was among the 10 best-selling CDs overall at Newbury Comics (and the fourth-best-selling independent-label CD) during its first week on the shelves.

"Dear Leader is clearly the flagship band right now," Buckley says. "We’re all just taking it one step at a time, but it’s definitely moving along nicely." A tour is in the works for next year, and Buckley’s been talking with European labels about releasing both the new CD and Dear Leader’s 2003 full-length debut, The Good Times Are Killing Me, overseas. The band also plan to record an "Instant Live" CD next year. In the meantime, Dear Leader have a show booked downstairs at the Middle East on December 4.

This jolt of activity at the label has followed a fallow period when, as Buckley puts it, "a lot of my bands were either moving on to other labels [Bleu to Aware/Columbia] or moving to LA [Helicopter Helicopter] or breaking up [the pre-reuniting Shods]. That graduating class was going off to do other things and moving on in life, and I was as well." Then Buckley had a brainstorm for a fresh start: four bands, four songs apiece, one compilation. The result is the just-released Four by Four: Volume 1 disc, a sharp collection featuring tracks by a quartet of under-the-radar bands from in town and out: Taxpayer (Boston); the Fever Monument (Lowell); Morning Theft (New York); Red Door Exchange (Easthampton).

As the Volume 1 tag suggests, Lunch is looking toward the future — Buckley envisions Four by Four as an ongoing project, and he’d like to release 10 volumes — rather than relying on a dependable catalogue of releases by established local luminaries like Perrino’s Dear Leader. Four by Four, Buckley says, is a great catalyst for discovering new talent — "a way to bring new bands into the fold. I wanted to start new again, not necessarily with bands that obviously want to get signed to a major label but with bands who want to garner bigger audiences and grow with me, as opposed to outgrow me right away."

Some of these bands may wind up releasing full-length albums on Lunch, some may not. Either way, they stand to expand their audiences and their profiles, Buckley says, both through the distribution of Four by Four and through the potential crossover appeal to another participating outfit’s audience. (Bands interested in being considered for future volumes can either e-mail Buckley a link to their music at paul@lunchrecords.com or send demos to Lunch Records, Box 206, Newburyport 01950.) And the four-song format gives the listener a good sense of what each band is about. Tunneling guitars ring and echo through Taxpayer’s gleaming song sculptures; the Fever Monument’s Lemonheads-meets-Buffalo-Tom indie-pop riffage has a scruffy bustle and buzz. There’s the splintered melodic sweep and soft/loud dynamics of Morning Theft and the shivery left-field nocturnes and piano-dosed spookiness of Red Door Exchange. Four by Four does a commendable job of introducing, and illuminating, each outfit’s musical identity.

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Issue Date: November 19 - 25, 2004
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