In the video for the ACBs' surfy pop nugget "Television," the members of that group have been transformed into bloody zombies. But the local quartet is very much alive. Its latest album, Little Leaves, is starting to get some attention from national blogs. And along with Ghosty, Fourth of July and Shy Boys, the ACBs are part of a new local label, High Dive Records.
On Friday, the ACBs celebrate the release of Little Leaves with an early show at RecordBar. The Pitch recently chatted with frontman Konnor Ervin, bassist Bryan McGuire, and High Dive founder Jeff McCoy about their new adventure together.
The Pitch: First, let's talk about the new album. Your sound seems to have evolved into something more specific. Also, why did you call it Little Leaves?
Konnor Ervin: The last record we put out was constructed track by track, and this time we wanted to record live takes of the full band. We've been getting together for the last couple years and playing songs from demos I had made, and in the process of finding the right songs, we kind of developed a sound, I think. Once we had enough material we were excited about, we went in and recorded live over a weekend. We tinkered with the tracks for about a year before it was done.
Little Leaves is taken from a song lyric on the album. It refers to living the manual-labor life. I'm a landscaper, and I experience life by myself for the most part. I enjoy being by myself, but there's definitely a growing sense of detachment from the real world, which can be kind of discomforting sometimes. That's basically the gist of the album.
Can you tell me a little about the backstory of High Dive Records?
Bryan McGuire: Basically, what it comes down to is that nobody in the ACBs is good at self-promotion. We have always been terrible at it the entire time we have been a band. It's just not in us. It's easy to get excited about your friends' bands, though, and promote them. So the idea was that we could kind of team with these bands that we really like, and everybody could root each other on, and the whole thing of getting the word out becomes easier that way.
Jeff, you work in plumbing or something?
Jeff McCoy: [Laughs.] Yes, right now I run a commercial plumbing-supply business. I started a business out of college where we had a patent and manufactured countertops for laboratories and hospitals. Then I sold it, and I now run this plumbing business.
So naturally the next step was to form a record label ...
McCoy: I had been friends with Bryan and Konnor for a while, and about a year ago, Bryan reached out to pick my brain about the business end of releasing a new record and promoting it. He kept saying that they weren't very organized as a band, and that they were interested in forming a label or collective type of thing.
Ervin: Mike [Nolte, Ghosty bassist and recording engineer] and I were talking about the same thing around the same time: banding together with some other people in town and kind of presenting ourselves in a way where if you like one band, you'll probably like the others. We were calling it a "fake record label." But McCoy made the idea seem a little sturdier.
McGuire: McCoy is a big music fan with good taste — he has a massive wall of records in his house — and he's also a business-minded guy, so it seemed like he might be into what we were thinking about. With him, it's not, like, somebody's dad giving us money to help us out. It's a guy who gets what we're doing.
McCoy: At first it was going to exist basically for Little Leaves, but gradually we pulled other bands in and settled on this team concept, which has become more about bringing attention to some of my favorite music and art being created here in KC.
Jeff, I assume you don't have illusions of getting rich with an indie record label, so what are you hoping for?
McCoy: Basically, at the end of day, it's something I always kind of wanted to do. Obviously, I will not be quitting my day job anytime soon. I think as long as we can make enough money on Little Leaves to make the next record, I'm good with that. It's a really tough business, a very flooded market. But think if you have a quality product, you can make it viable to continue making records. And I just really want to help these guys. All four bands on the label are personal favorites of mine, and I think the new music we're getting ready to put out is really good.
How did you get Fourth of July onboard? They've been an anchor on [Lawrence label] Range Life Records for a while.
McCoy: I've known [frontman] Brendan [Hangauer] for a while. When I got married a couple years ago, I rented out RecordBar and had a private concert for friends, and Fourth of July was the opening band. We became buddies, and I knew they were recording, so I told Brendan what we were doing with the ACBs. He thought it was a cool idea and similar to what they tried to do with Range Life before everybody on that label kind of scattered across the U.S. And when I reached out, he happened to have the record done, so it just worked out.
What specifically does High Dive do for, say, the ACBs?
McGuire: A lot of it is kind of boring stuff, like the website, which looks good, and which you'll be able to buy all the bands' music and merch from. As opposed to a plain old Bandcamp page.
Konnor: Basically, we paid for the cost of the making of the record, and High Dive is paying for the record to be pressed and for merch. And he's handling mailing and things like that. So in that sense, it's just nice to have somebody carrying the other half of the load for you —everything together is pretty overwhelming, as we've learned.
The other thing is that the contract is so intentionally light for us and for everybody who's on the label. McCoy is not in it to make money, and he's not only just saying that; he's actually putting it into the contract. It's almost like he can't make money on any of this. So it's very easy to sign something like that.