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Picture Perfect

Baltimore-Based Label Makes Music Look as Good as It Sounds


"I'm really excited that bands trust me to make decisions on their artwork, Jeremy deVine says. "I'd never let a label make 'sthetic decisions for my band."

By Daniel Piotrowski | Posted 12/22/1999

Sometimes you move into a new place, even a rented apartment, and it just doesn't feel like home until you've got it the way you want it—set up the stereo, rolled out an old carpet, or painted the walls your favorite shade of blue. It's just that sort of attention to detail that led musician and artist Jeremy deVine to start Temporary Residence Limited, the record label he runs from his own narrow, CD- and record-cluttered two-story rowhouse in Hampden.

DeVine, a 22-year-old transplant from Louisville, Ky., says he was inspired to start the label by the contempt he felt for other labels' willingness to settle for inferior packaging for its releases. He watched friends' bands labor to write and record material, he says, only to see it treated by their labels as "just another piece of plastic.

"Bands write and record their music completely the way they want to do it," deVine says. "Then they completely give up their involvement in the artwork, but the artwork is first thing you see."

Temporary Residence started in 1996 by issuing singles and compilation EPs, mostly of Louisville bands. In the past year, the label has expanded substantially, doubling its catalog and releasing full-length recordings. Its roster is now the full-time home to an array of acts from across the country. San Francisco-based ambient-instrumental conglomerate Tarentel has three releases on the label, and mercurial Louisville rock band Wino has four. Underground legend Cerberus Shoal offers its backwoods-of-Maine sound collages on a new full-length. Three Louisville groups—the Loved, Nero, and Kilowatthours—also hold spots on the label's roster. Temporary Residence issues the work of only one Baltimore band, deVine's instrumental quartet Sonna.

Last year, deVine withdrew from the Maryland Institute, College of Art to work on Temporary Residence full time. The move has paid off in releases that are wonderful inside and out, but it also taught deVine a few lessons about the price of his obsession with doing it right.

"Five years ago I couldn't understand why labels didn't spend more time and money on the artwork for their records," he says. "Now I realize why, because I'm broke. But I'm really happy with it that way.

"It costs me anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 to put out an album. I couldn't fathom spending that kind of money with something that I wasn't completely obsessed with. Records aren't like cars; you don't pay them off over a five-year period. It's a huge chunk of your financial livelihood."

He says he's a little amazed by the degree of confidence his label's artists have in him. "I'm really excited that bands trust me to make decisions on their artwork," deVine says. "Still, to this day, though, I'm completely dumbfounded, because I'd never let a label make aesthetic decisions for my band."

Maybe it's the aesthetic decisions deVine makes that inspires so much trust. The ultra-glossy cover of the new Tarentel album conveys the smooth sonic landscapes the band paints. The muted colors of the Sonna EP's gate-fold cover intimate the band's hushed instrumentals. The drab colors and coarse texture of Cerberus Shoal's liner sheet illustrates the band's dry, layered sound. The psychedelic colors on the Loved's CD cover hints at the band's stylistic mishmash. Tarentel's 8-inch vinyl EP When We Almost Killed Ourselves earned perhaps the most interesting packaging job. The sold-out release, limited to 200 copies, was hand-lathed in New Zealand and packed with a screen-printed, 8-square-inch piece of plywood.

Temporary Residence's latest endeavor is Travels in Constants, a subscription-only series of 12 limited-edition CD EPs, all packaged in high-gloss cardboard sleeves. Subscribers have already received the first six discs, which include previously unreleased material from Tarentel, Sonna, Papa M, and Bonnevil (the new project from Dirty Three's Mick Turner). The second half of the series includes indie-rock heavyweights Low, Bonnie "Prince" Billy (aka Will Oldham of the Palace Brothers), and Mogwai. (A few subscriptions remain available until Dec. 31.) The series has already generated quite a bit of interest internationally: Subscriptions have been placed from at least 15 countries as well as throughout the States, according to Devine.

Temporary Residence's output in the coming year will include not only work by artists on its current roster but also releases from a crop of new bands. San Francisco's Rumah Sakit, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Bonnevil, eerie electronic artist Sybarite, acoustic six-piece Halifax Pier, and instrumentalists Lumen are all slated to release work on the label in 2000.

As the roster expands, the definition of a Temporary Residence band does too, but that doesn't bother deVine.

"As a label," he says, "all I am really concerned about is that regardless whether [people] like the band I put out, they know it would be well done."

(For more information about the Travels in Constants series, contact Temporary Residence Limited, P.O. Box 22910, Baltimore, MD, 21203; www.temporaryresidence.com)

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