The Feminists: Could Be A Coincidence

A few weeks ago Beland and Grief picked me up for rehearsal and were bursting at the seams to divulge “important Femcorp business” that they refused to elaborate on. They were mumbling about vengeance and outrage and generally it was all very mysterious and my curiosity was completely piqued.
“What’s going on?” I asked innocently as we bumped along in the gray mare en route to retrieve Mike from work. “Why won’t you guys tell me?” My imagination was already overheating. Were we finally being rescued from the indignity of day jobs? Was there a wealthy investor who had finally realized all they wanted to do with their millions was finance a scrappy little rock band but still leave us with 100% creative control? Perhaps we would be featured as Band Of The Year in Time magazine?
“Look, we’ll just show you”, was all they would say. Grief pressed something flat and square into my hand. I looked down. It was a cd.
“Why-” I started to say and then realized. Staring back at me was…our album cover for “She Could Be”. Except it wasn’t our cd. It was another band’s cd, released six months after ours, with the same photo on the front cover. The same photo that Grief and I had so painstakingly hunted for and researched so thoroughly…the one that was deeply buried in the U.S. National Archives, the one we looked through about 10 000 photos to find. Mind you, the background had been removed and the colors changed. But there was no mistaking it.
“How did this happen”, I finally managed to sputter. Well. How indeed.
This is how. Well, this is our theory anyway.
We sent three copies of our record to Maplemusic. You know, Maplemusic. Big Canadian ‘indie’ record label, Toronto office, lotsa big names, etc., etc. After a short volley of e-mails and conversations, Maplemusic told us to go away. Not interested in our music, apparently.
But quite interested in our graphic design and packaging. Here was a brand new release, from Maplemusic, with a cover that looked suspiciously similar to our own. And looky here, the same A&R guy that blew off The Fems is listed in their thank-yous. Could be a coincidence. Or maybe when it came time to design the packaging for this other band, our A&R friend at Maplemusic sifted through a box of rejected cd’s, held “She Could Be” aloft and said “this cover is great, let’s just use this. Who the fuck are The Feminists?”
And then Maplemusic, because they care about promoting their artists, sent out this new release to music writers across the country to review. These writers included one Ferdy Belland, who writes for the Nerve magazine. So this album that ripped off our record cover was sent in the mail right to Ferdy, who showed it to Grief, who showed it to me.
On one hand, it was strangely gratifying to know that some of our ideas are good enough to be stolen. On the other hand, it was depressing to think that it was our graphic design that was good enough and not the music.
We picked up Mike. “Here”, I said and handed him the cd. “What am I looking at- MOTHERFUCKER!” he yelled. “Where did this come from?” We brought him up to speed.
It’s not like this is a great tragedy or anything. It’s just kind of demoralizing. We take great collective pride in being a DIY band. We like to do everything we can ourselves. We’re control freaks and we like making stuff with no one looking over our shoulders. This self-sufficiency has evolved as we have gradually woken up to the fact that no one is going to help our band do anything. So we work, very fucking hard, with very little resources, to push the band forward as best we can. And it’s irritating in the extreme to watch some very big record label with an embarrassment of resources casually swoop down and snatch one of our good ideas (in this case a labor-intensive research project), slap it on somebody elses’s record and promote the bejezus out of it.
We thought long and hard about our record cover and we deliberately chose something that expressed the mood of the album and included a fricking essay about the history of the picture and its taker. Maybe the picture had some sort of resonance for this other band too. Anything’s possible. You’d think if it was incredibly meaningful they would have included a photo credit. Or an essay. And that irritates me further…the fact that it was probably just a quick, casual decision that meant nothing.
Ah well. We’re back in the studio recording the next record. We may send the template for the new cover to Maplemusic and ask them if they’d like first dibs.