John Ferguson had an idea as he neared completion of a new recording with his band, Big Fresh. The album was reaching the finish line at roughly the same time as records by Attempt (the prog-flavored pop-fusion troupe he also plays with) and Italian Beaches. In short, all three Lexington bands had new music to promote but no affiliation with any kind of record label to issue their work.
“Since we all found ourselves finishing up projects at the same time, our thinking went in terms of, ‘OK, what do we do now? Do we look for labels, or how are we going to get this out there?’” Ferguson said. “All of us have a healthy dose of the do-it-yourself aesthetic in our music pasts. So at some point, we just looked at each other and said, ‘Hey, why don’t we just form a label and put some of this stuff out ourselves?’”
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Thus began Desperate Spirits, a local label that will celebrate its inaugural vinyl release, Attempt’s new album, “Personal Fables,” with a Saturday performance at Cosmic Charlie’s. Attempt is the creation of veteran local artist Trevor Tremaine (although proven hands Ferguson, Dave Farris, Dave Cobb and Nick Coleman will flesh out the stage version of the band Saturday), but Desperate Spirits is largely Ferguson’s undertaking.
“I guess you could call it my label in terms of I’m the one taking the financial risk by putting the stuff on my credit card,” Ferguson said. “But I do have friends — Trevor, in particular — who are helping to spearhead the logistics of the label. We’re trying to do everything properly as far as we’ve got our business license, bank account and a real website with a store. Our goal is not to make money but more to promote all of the projects we already had going anyway. If anything, it’s an umbrella name for us to put out these things.”
Ferguson doesn’t see Desperate Spirits becoming the sort of commercial enterprise that wants to take on outside bands. Being somewhat exclusive helps him focus on the bands he says exist within “our very intimate little world.”
“This is definitely not a label where we’re looking to sign bands,” he said. “Given all the people that we play in bands with, we all have enough projects going on that we can put out original music every couple of months. Right now, I’m playing in five bands. Trevor plays in three. Dave (Farris) plays in, like, 15. It’s a very incestuous little scene with a lot of output.”
How does all this play out for Attempt, a project begun as what Ferguson calls “a very singular vision” from Tremaine? Simple: You gather local pros with like-minded interests to flesh out Attempt to a full band lineup.
“Attempt is very much Trevor’s baby. But those of us that are in his live band, … we’re all kind of kindred spirits in that we love where he’s coming from. There is a whole lot of Frank Zappa in there. There is a whole lot of Todd Rundgren. There is ’70s jazz fusion and Steely Dan, that kind of thing. There a hodgepodge mixture in there.
“Trevor basically made the album in his garage, which he should be proud of. It doesn’t sound like a professional record from a high-end studio, but it also doesn’t sound like a four-track recording.”
Ferguson said Big Fresh’s album should be ready for release by Desperate Spirits in May. As with most of the intended releases on the label, formats will be limited to vinyl and digital formats. No CD versions of recordings are planned.
“We’ve also released an online album digitally about a month ago in response to the political climate right now,” Ferguson said. “The compilation is called ‘White Power is for Dummies.’ All of the proceeds are going to the Anti-Defamation League. We’ve had about 21 local artists contribute to the compilation, which is getting a lot of exposure. Currently, we’re working on another online compilation focusing on all-female artists to raise money for Planned Parenthood.
“So we’ve got a lot of irons in a lot of fires right now.”
Corky Siegel at WoodSongs
One of the great, though underappreciated pioneers of blues harmonica, Corky Siegel, will be performing at Monday’s taping of the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, 300 East Third Street.
Siegel established himself in 1966 as half of the acclaimed Siegel-Schwall Band, although recent decades have seen him exploring symphonic and even chamber settings for his blues adventures.