IT'S A HOOT

CD/DVD The Green
Owl Comp is high-minded, high-flying fun
— for a good cause.

 

BY FRED MILLS

 

Few are the compilations that feature a compelling roster of
artists (or, among those that do, include tracks that amount to much more than
cast-offs and demos). Fewer still are those benefit-designed compilations that
will accomplish more than merely registering a momentary blip upon the public
radar (the self-selecting nature of comp consumers tends to mean the compilers
are preaching to the choir). No so, hopefully, with the diverse likes of this one,
assembled by Green Owl Records — Ben Brewer (The Exit, Appletrees), Ellenike
Abreu (Appletrees) and producer/musician Stephen Glicken — and aiming to raise
cash and consciousness for the Energy
Action Coalition, described in the liner notes as “the largest youth based environmental
coalition in the U.S…. [and] currently working on the Campus Climate Challenge”
dedicated to helping colleges go carbon neutral.” For more details about this
and other EAC activities you can go directly to the organization’s website at
www.energyaction.net.

 

And if the term “by the people and for the people” ever had
any resonance, this is it. Nary a duff track is present, with high-profile high
points including Feist’s luminous, twang-pop take of “Honey Honey” (a Reminder track reworked at a BBC
session); Of Montreal pulling a Rufus Wainwright via the piano ballad “Feminine
Effects”; The Exit’s thumping, agitated “Hey Man”; Juliana Hatfield serving up
an anthemic slice of powerpop, “Back to Freedom”; Pete Yorn, who submits the
wonderfully chiming/dreamy “Old Boy” (originally available only as a bonus
track on the Circuit City version of his 2006 album Nightcrawler); and — of
all people — Muse, with a kind of Rush-goes-spaghetti-western live recording of
“Knights of Caledonia,” which isn’t nearly as pompous as that description
implies.

 

Sure, there aren’t really any thematic or musical connecting
lines between the tracks, no “connective tissue,” as Pitchfork so helpfully pointed out in a recent, oh-so-generous 5.6-rating
review of the CD. But despite the naysaying from that indiecentric portal, The Green Owl Comp does work quite nicely
as a mixtape, fuckyouverymuch.

 

The accompanying DVD is up to snuff too. Not only does it
feature previously unseen videos by The Appletrees (with its jangly, carefree
vibe, feathers-shower pillow fight and gentle nods to John & Yoko, “Messin
Around” is the feel-good vid of the year), Young Love, The Exit, Satori, Violens
and Rebecca Schiffman, plus an interview with Energy Action’s Billy Parish, it
also includes a raft of bonus audio tracks. Always nice to have extra tunes by
the Bad Plus, Asobi Seksu (a sizzling CSS remix to boot), Dragons of Zynth and
Earl Greyhound, among others. The set’s packaging, natch, is created from 100%
recycled paper. But you won’t feel like recycling the discs at the local used
CD store — this one’s a keeper. Hey, if your friendly neighborhood BLURT is
saying it, then it must be so. Contact Green Owl at their official website

 

Tell ‘em
we sent ya.

 

BLURT: When and why did
Green Owl come together — what have been some of your more notable
accomplishments to date?

ELLENIKE ABREU: Green Owl really got moving at the beginning
of 2007 — this is when we really started getting artists to contribute to the
compilation. We had been wanting to do a benefit album for Energy Action for
awhile and we needed a way to put it out. We thought, what better way to
release it than through our own label? We also wanted to be able to release our
own music in a sustainable way.

 

We recently hosted a show at SXSW that we were really
excited to do. We traveled to Austin
on our Green Owl veggie bus [powered by biodiesel and vegetable oil] and
showcased our bands. We have some clips of performances and the ride down on
our websites. There is also an interview that a college organization taped for
us down there up [on the site].

 

When you started
planning The Green Owl Comp, what
were some of the responses of the artists who wound up contributing to the
project?

Most everyone we approached gave us a track and were really
cool about it. We got some really nice responses from the bands; they all
thought what we were doing for Energy Action was quite notable. Everyone thought
it was great to be doing a compilation that actually benefited something they
cared about. Getting all unreleased music from everyone was definitely a
challenge but we found many artists were willing to find something suitable for
the cause.

 

How is your label
making itself carbon neutral? There is, obviously, a contradiction between
the notion of producing a physical artifact such as a CD (recycled paper 
notwithstanding) and becoming 100% green, which would require an all-digital
release.

There is something about holding an actual album in your
hands that is just rewarding.  We look at physical albums as pieces of
art. Everything from the way it looks to the way it feels to the way the packaging
is made is considered. I think fans know how hard bands work on their music and
artwork so they do appreciate owning the actual CD or vinyl.  We do
believe that digital releases are the way of the future but that producing
physical art in a sustainable, organic way is important as well. Our
compilation is currently available in Whole Foods, which is a great pair for us
and lends a hand to organic living. 

 

All of our physical releases are made with 100 percent post-consumer
products that, if so desired, can be recycled through our website
Carbon offsetting is available on our website as well as a zip code engine
which locates the nearest alternative fuel stations in your area. We also have
a veggie oil bus that we travel on whenever possible to help reduce carbon. With
all of these efforts we are basically trying to show people ways to become more
environmentally conscious if they would like to do so. 

 

[Pictured: Feist]

 

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