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'You say you wanna revolution' 

7-inch vinyl revival puts new spin on ATL rock scene

With reporting by Holly Lang

 

Unless you've been living in a hole (or watching too much VH1 Celebreality), you probably know Atlanta is experiencing a minor rock revolution of sorts. The ironic thing is that the momentum behind the march forward is due in large part to something as bass-ackward as a revival of 7-inch vinyl records. Like indie rock's version of the hip-hop mix tape, these instant vintage recordings have become the hallmark separating underground music fans from mainstream followers. While vinyl has been gaining popularity with audiophiles across the nation over the last decade, the 7-inch resurgence, in particular, has become an Atlanta phenomenon.

"It is definitely a local thing with the 7-inch singles," says Harry DeMille, owner of Wax 'N Facts, the popular Little Five Points record store. On the glass counter near the store's cash register sits a small bin of local 7-inches, the contents of which regularly change as new records are released and sold. Local labels such as Die Slaughterhaus, Stickfigure and Ponce de Leon Records keep the bin stocked. But the most prominent of them all is Rob's House Records.

Trey Lindsay and Travis Flagel are the two unassuming twentysomethings who own Rob's House Records. The label has released more than 22 7-inch records in less than two years, and that number will creep to 30 before the summer ends. Originally funded out-of-pocket, Rob's House is now self-sustaining – a testament to the surge in 7-inch popularity.

Taking its lead from Die Slaughterhaus, Rob's House started just two years ago to release a Black Lips single. The label actually lifted its quirky name from the label printed on a 2003 release featuring the Orphins and the Liverhearts (Lindsay's old band). Neither band was signed at the time, and some guy named Rob was the only friend inside their immediate circle who wasn't a renter. Since everyone agreed that the release should have a permanent address on it, Rob's House was born. Two years later, Lindsay and Flagel resurrected it. Since then, the label has spurred local bands and labels (especially those rooted in garage and punk) to release the classic single-format vinyl – a throwback, in most cases, to the era that triggered the younger crowd to start playing music in the first place.

"There are lots of pluses with vinyl. For smaller bands, it makes recording much more affordable," Lindsay says. "It sounds better, [and] it's collectible, where CDs just aren't." The bookish, seemingly shy Lindsay, an architect, is a relatively clean-cut counterpart to Flagel, a rowdy man whose tattoos creep up his neck and down his arms. While Flagel, who manages the Black Lips, tours the nation, Lindsay manages the Rob's House homefront. As a consumer, he's attracted to the technical merit of vinyl's sound – a more crafted tone nearly impossible to reproduce electronically.

For others, the appeal lies within its exclusivity. Registered iTunes users far outnumber those who own record players nowadays. As a result, 7-inch singles are less likely to appear as downloadable MP3 files on sites such as LimeWire or music blogs. Even those who don't own a record player find appeal in collecting 7-inches, according to Stickfigure Records owner Gavin Frederick, who believes it's a testament to the beauty of a single.

"More and more music consumers who do not own record players are purchasing the vinyl version of their favorite records because they want to own the real thing, and there is more there to enjoy visually with vinyl," Frederick says.

Although a 7-inch isn't much larger than a CD, its cover often conveys a DIY theme. Many of the covers are handmade, such as the recent Ponce de Leon Records release by Hubcap City. Band member Bill Taft – along with label owner Chad Radford (a contributing music writer for Creative Loafing) – physically made each cover using stencils, photographs, glue sticks, paper and other materials. Taft then glued small crack bags filled with either fake bloody bandages or Belgian waffle mix (used to mimic cocaine) to each cover. The release exemplifies the DIY aesthetic driving the local scene.

As listeners continue to embrace the 7-inch – be it for its exclusivity, the appeal of its cover art, the sound quality or its inherent nostalgia – Atlanta's rock scene will continue to rise from the ground up.

Pivotal Atlanta 7-inches

Some Soviet Station: "Some Soviet Station" (Moodswing Records, 2000)The much-loved band's single was as well-received as it was, and is still found in the collections of many of its devoted fans.

Black Lips: "Ain't Comin' Home" (Die Slaughterhaus, 2001)A signal to the end of the old and the beginning of the young and new, this release marked a split in the Atlanta scene and a shift in what everyone would soon want in a band.

Anna Kramer: "Anna Kramer" (Rob's House, 2005) One of the charismatic acts that sidesteps the usual 7-inch punk or hardcore genres, Kramer's 2005 release captivated many listeners with her pure voice and lovely style.

Snowden: "Black Eyes" (Stickfigure Records, 2005) Now one of Atlanta's flagship bands, Snowden's "Black Eyes" bridged the gap between its two longer releases, offering up those dark, danceable songs all the kids love.

Carbonas: "Carbonas" (Rob's House Records, 2006)Icons of Atlanta's punk revival, the Carbonas' single brings to life all we love about cocky rock 'n' roll.

Mastodon: "Capillarian Crest"/"Crystal Skill" (Relapse Records, 2006)A preview to 2006's Blood Mountain, this limited-edition single is coveted by the most hardcore of metal fans, and brought the 7-inch to an international audience.

Hubcap City/Deerhunter: "Hubcap City"/"Deerhunter" (Rob's House, 2006)The two popular experimental acts banded together to create several of the more interesting minutes recorded in the last few years, creating a split that quickly sold out.


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