[Q&A] The Sheila Divine reunite, tap Kickstarter to fund new album

Last Thursday, veteran Boston indie-rock band the Sheila Divine announced they were officially reuniting after eight years to record a new album, and reached out to fans via fundraising website to help pay for it. Recently, several local acts — including Aloud, 28 Degrees Taurus, Drug Rug, the Russians, Arms & Sleepers and others — have gone the Kickstarter route to fund albums and tours, with Drug Rug earlier this month tapping the site to help pay for a new van.

But the Sheila Divine, a former Roadrunner Records band that toured the globe and released a handful of albums and EPs, appeared to be one of Boston’s first so-called “established” bands to publicly reach out for fan donations before stepping foot back into the studio.

The response has been swift. In the four days since the reunion announcement, the Sheila Divine have raised $3,821 from 75 backers, leaving 55 more days for the band to hit their goal of $5,000. One supporter immediately chipped in $500 on the day the Kickstarter page went live. For that person’s generosity, the band will record a cover song of his or her choosing, and be given ownership of that track. For the record, those who donate a manageable $30 receive a digital download and a t-shirt. Not a bad deal.

This morning I reached out to the Sheila Divine’s Aaron Perrino to discuss his band’s reunion — they perform FNX Radio’s Disorientation Night #5 at the Lansdowne Pub on Sept. 30 — as well as the decision to base their comeback around Kickstarter. Here’s the email exchange:

Michael Marotta: After eight years and a bunch of occasional one-off reunions, the Sheila Divine have returned to record new material. Why now, and was there something that inspired everyone to get back together?

Aaron Perrino: Dear Leader had made a bunch of records and I was considering doing something different just to shake up my creative process be it a solo record or collaborating with new people. A few weeks back (actually while I was in the hospital for the birth of my daughter) I got an unusual amount of requests for The Sheila Divine: a number of show offers and a request for a compilation. In addition I had been hanging out with Brian Charles (who produced New Parade) a bunch talking about recording together again and getting nostalgic about the good old days. I decided to play a few of the reunion shows and after rehearsing it just sort of felt natural that we should write some new songs. It just feels like there were forces or happy coincidences driving us to play again and make a new record.

MM: The reunion announcement was maybe the first by an established Boston band to be accompanied by a Kickstarter request. Usually Kickstarter has been used for musicians just starting out, looking to raise coin for a first album or EP. Why have TSD gone the Kickstarter route?

AP: My day job is working in Digital Strategy for The Barbarian Group. I’ve released nine albums in TSD and Dear Leader the old fashioned way either through record labels, or paying for it with show money. For this record I wanted to do something creatively that used the power of the internet on all levels. To me the Kickstarter model is interesting because you know whether people are interested in what you’re doing or not. In addition to Kickstarter we are going to stream the recording sessions on U Stream and people can participate in real time into the outcome of the record. I’m still figuring out how the experiment will work, but giving people a voice in what we are doing sounds like a fun idea. I’m thinking of it as a crowd sourced subservient web band at times and at others fans can see what its really like to make a record.

MM: Is it weird asking fans for money upfront, or is this just a new twist on folks actually having to pay for music? And does it continue the trend of greater interaction between musician and artist?

AP: I understand how it might be weird to ask people for money to make your records, but at the same time its a different era in the music business. When TSD 1.0 was around it was all about sending songs to labels in an effort to get signed. I just look at artists like NIN, Amanda Palmer, and my cousin’s band Portugal the Man who are all using the web in interesting ways to sell and promote their music. For the average person who would buy our record $10 to help the band make an album doesn’t feel weird.

MM: In theory, no one has to pay for anything, but they still can get the album if others chip in. How do you plan to distribute the album once it’s finished, and do you think the “pledge rewards” are justified? In my mind, $30 for an album and a t-shirt seems reasonable (not to mention the satisfaction a fan has knowing their contribution directly helped fund the record, as opposed to say, buying it at the store and knowing large percentages go to labels, managers, reps, etc).

AP: The people who contribute will get the record weeks in advance as well as be included in the making of it along the way. We want to send rough mixes and alternate takes for people to experience the whole process of creating an album. Fans can argue with us over the track listing, song order, and album artwork. I think the rewards are justified. Most people just want the music and maybe a t-shirt. The higher priced stuff on there is more me being funny although some have actually inquired. Again, I see the pro’s and con’s in the matters of public opinion in asking for funds, but I think all those years trying to make it in the music business sort of predisposed me to being a whore.

MM: What’s The Sheila Divine’s schedule like? Are you waiting to hit a certain monetary level before recording, or have you already started? Any other shows planned beyond the FNX Disorientation gig?

AP: We are flying to Belgium (of course) to play the Crammerock festival in early September. We are booked to go into the studio in September to record the songs Pacemaker and Horses that are unreleased TSD tracks from the past. We have a show for later in the year in Boston and will start the new record sometime in October.

MM: Even though it looks like you’ll hit the $5,000 mark easily, would you not make the album if that amount wasn’t raised?

AP: I imagine we would record something regardless. It’s just the difference between doing it at home or having the luxury of a great producer and the studio. Whether we totally fail or not, the goal is to capture what we were doing on New Parade and expand upon it. It cost $80,000 to make New Parade back then. I think we can be more economical without a record label this time around.

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