Wednesday, May 1, 2019

You can help us make a new album.

If you’re reading this, you probably know that Shearwater has always lurked on the fringes of what’s sometimes called “the music business”; and that the rise of streaming services, and by the decline of physical sales, have made it hard for bands like us to keep making and releasing music. 

We’ve worked with some excellent labels over the years—but we’ve never escaped the cycle of needing advances to pay for the production of albums that never recoup from sales; we haven’t seen any profit, for example, on any of the albums we’ve released since 2005.  And making an income from streaming royalties requires an audience in the millions, if not tens of millions— a goal I don’t expect we’ll ever meet. (I’m not sure, to be honest, that it’s a good goal in the first place.)  

Possible idea of what a new Shearwater LP might look like
Hypothetical cover image from City of Salt by Kahn and Selesnick

But our new album will be different, because we’re no longer under contract. So we’re asking our friends and allies to help us make it. 

We’re trying to raise $50k to write, record, mix, master, press, design, distribute, and publicize a new full-length Shearwater album, for release in late 2020—an effort that will take months of work by many people. You really can help.

Record-making costs less than it once did; but to create an LP that meets the standards of our best work, this is the minimum we need. It would let us work with our friends and heroes, and grant us the most important freedom of all: the freedom to make missteps, and correct them.

If we can raise more than this, the quality of the record will improve, and new sonic adventures will be possible. (For an idea of what this means, scroll down to the bottom of this page, where we’ve used our crystal ball to predict the album’s reviews based on its budget.)

But above all:

Thank you for reading, listening, and being here. 


Perks we’re offering to encourage your support:

[Note: if these numbers seem steep, bear in mind that this isn’t an album pre-sale; it’s a fundraising effort to make the album in the first place.  If we can raise enough to make it, there’ll be a more traditional pre-sale later on.] 

$25 – Incorporeal Music – a 24-bit, lossless digital download of the new album before its physical release in late 2020, made available to you before anyone else. (Image by Kahn and Selesnick, from City of Salt.)

$50 – Incorporeal Music, Metaphysical Artifact – a digital download of the new album, plus access to an exclusive Instagram page documenting the making of the record in late 2019-early 2020.

$75 – Ones and Zeroes Complete – all above, plus access to a personal video diary by JM from the new album sessions.

$100 – Indelible Artifact (CD/Vinyl LP) – all digital incentives above, plus a signed CD or vinyl LP  of the new album (your choice). 

$150 – “Drowning World” Poker Deck – all digital incentives above, plus Kahn and Selesnick’s beautiful, limited-edition panoramic poker deck, which inspired their album cover for Rook.  This is no ordinary deck; each suit can be laid end-to-end to form a panorama of K&S’s whimsical vision of a world under water.  All gone!

$200 – Jet Plane & Oxbow: First Edition LP – all incentives above (ie. all except the K&S poker deck), plus one of the last few copies of the limited first run “Loser” Edition of Jet Plane & Oxbow on beautiful colored vinyl. US Edition. Sealed. All gone!

$200 – Shearwater plays Lodger LP – all incentives above (ie. all except the K&S poker deck), plus one of the last few copies of the Shearwater Plays Lodger (2016) vinyl LP and a tote bag from the Berlin Trilogy performances in 2018. All gone!

$250 – Standard Immortality* – all digital incentives above, plus *your name listed in the album credits as an Executive Producer, a signed, personalized vinyl LP or CD of the album upon its release,

$275 – Deluxe Immortality* – all digital incentives above, plus *your name listed in the album credits as an Executive Producer, a signed, personalized vinyl LP of the album upon its release, and one of the last physical copies of Missing Islandsa collection of demos and outtakes from  Rook, The Golden Archipelago, and Animal Joy

One-off physical items (which include all digital perks above, your name in the album credits, and a signed vinyl copy of the album):

$400 – The Last Golden Dossier – The last unclaimed copy of the Golden Dossier, a 75-page unbound book we produced to accompany The Golden Archipelago (limited edition of 300). It’s an intricate collection of images and artifacts from around the world, sealed in an envelope decorated with handmade rubber stamps designed by Nicholas Kahn. Signed & numbered. All gone!

$400 – Beyond The Last Golden Dossier – Update! Since the last copy sold out almost immediately, a friend of the band has donated his personal copy of the Golden Dossier to assist the campaign. All gone!

$400 – Beyond Beyond The Last Golden Dossier – Update! Since the last last copy sold out almost immediately, another friend of the band has donated her personal copy of the Golden Dossier to assist the campaign. All gone!

$450 – Berlin Trilogy Grab Bag – A commemorative tote bag from our 2018 live performance of David Bowie’s 1977-79 “Berlin Trilogy” of Low“Heroes”, and Lodger for WNYC, containing a program from the shows, a download code for the entire set, printed sheet music we used for the instrumental songs (transcribed by Emily Lee), the harmonica JM played on “A New Career In A New Town,” and one of the last sealed vinyl copies of 2016’s Shearwater Plays Lodger.  

$500 – Hand-typed Lyrics by JM –  A complete, unique set of hand-typed lyrics from the new album, typed on the same Smith-Corona Coronet Super 12 JM used to make the credits, lyrics, and other ephemera from The Golden Archipelago.  Guaranteed to include unique, authentic typographical errors and corrections in pen.  Signed and numbered—and limited to five copies. 

$500 (CD) / $750 (LP) – The Complete Island Arc Box Set –  A few years ago, we made a set of 100 Complete Island Arc “digital box sets”. At the time, a few people asked for a physical box set too. We finally made a handful – 3 CD and 1 LP. They include the hand-made wood download code plank, the segment of Rook master tape, and most importantly the bonus recordings included in the 2016 limited edition of 100. See our website for the full contents of the digital bonuses package.

[A note on the “test pressings” below: A “test pressing” is a standard, 12″ vinyl LP produced by the pressing plant from, sent to the band for final approval before the full run of LPs is made as a quality control measure; in short, they’re the first vinyl copies of the albums to be produced, and have a blank center label.] 

$500 – Shearwater Plays Lodger Test Pressing – JM’s vinyl LP test pressing of 2016’s live performance of Bowie’s Lodger. Mastered by Greg Calbi. Signed. All gone!

$650 – Winged Life Test Pressing – JM’s vinyl LP test pressing of 2004’s Winged Life, first issued on vinyl in 2011. Signed. All gone!

$1000 – A New JM Instrumental – JM will compose and record a unique 5 minute (or more, at his discretion) instrumental piece for you, delivered to you as a digital file—and you may choose up to three adjectives to guide, inspire, or confound him.  (JM wanted to call this “Musical Dunk Tank”).

$1000 – Animal Joy Test Pressing – JM’s vinyl LP test pressing of Animal Joy.  Mastered by Greg Calbi. Signed. All gone!

$1200 – Jet Plane and Oxbow Test Pressing and Tour Posters – JM’s 2x vinyl LP test pressing of Jet Plane and Oxbow.  Mastered by Greg Calbi. Signed. Includes a JPOB European tour poster and an art-print poster from our show at Vera in Groningen, NL.

$1500 – Framed Rook Premiere Poster – A silk-screened, limited edition poster by artist Mark Pedini from the  2008 Austin premiere of Rook, in a museum-quality frame hand-built by Sam Sanford.  This is the only extant copy of this poster, to our knowledge.  Signed by  Mark Pedini, and by JM. (Pictured here without frame; poster dimensions ~22″x ~22″).  All gone!

$1500 – Live Recordings, Demos, And First Editions: Smash and Grab – This is a 32-disc  stack of live recordings, demos, and first-edition copies from my personal archive, from radio sessions, board feeds, etc.  I can’t vouch for all of these performances—the thought of listening to them fills me with dread—but I’m certain there are  gems in there; and these are the only existing copies of this material.  This package also includes signed, first-edition copies of Buteo Buteo (my 2004 handmade solo release), Shearwater is Enron (instrumental music by the Golden Archipelago lineup), and Bursera graveolens (demos from Palo Santo). (Note: This is for your ears only; you may not publish or otherwise release it; see FAQ). All gone!

$2000 – The Island Arc Guitar – My nylon-string acoustic guitar, bought in Tasmania in 1997 and used to write Palo Santo in the Galápagos in 2006, Rook in 2008, and The Golden Archipelago in 2010.  Played on Palo SantoThe Golden Archipelago, “A Wake for the Minotaur” (my duet with Sharon Van Etten from Fellow Travelers), and a few non-SW releases.  It’s a fragile, humble instrument, but it’s been a true friend for 23 years, and many thousands of miles. Also includes a CD copy of Missing Islands: a collection of demo recordings and outtakes from RookThe Golden Archipelago, and Animal Joy. All gone!

Plus one truly bonkers option:

$150,000 – A Fateful Choice  

(“Two Streets” Image by Kahn & Selesnick, from City of Salt. )

For this amount, we will write, record, mix, master, and press TWO full-length albums.  We’ll then send both to you, and you will choose the one we release. The other will remain only with you, for the enjoyment of you and those in your presence. 

There are a few restrictions: you may sell your single copy if you wish, but SW retains publishing and master rights to the songs and recording, and if you or anyone else leaks the album to the internet, we reserve the right to sell it ourselves in any format.  But so long as you keep it close, we won’t. (See the FAQ for more details.)

Last but not least: fake (but likely) reviews for a new SW album, by budget:

$10k –  “Meiburg & Co. sound frantic and disorganized, as if everything was done in a great hurry.”

$20k – “A serviceable Shearwater record is welcome enough, as far as that goes; but does anyone really need it?”

$25k – “Once again, Shearwater’s reach exceeds their grasp.  You can hear them straining to pull off something grand and remarkable, but it never takes flight.”

$30k – “There are glorious ingredients in this album, but they often fail to cohere; as if too many big decisions were made at the last minute. You wonder what might have happened if they’d been able to take it further.” 

$35k– “Shearwater sound as if they forgot to step back and consider what they were making, until it was too late.”

$50k – “The album bears the marks of work and risk, of time and care, of surfaces buffed to a high gloss, considered, and joyfully roughed up again. Absorbing, fascinating, powerful.” 

$75k – “Achieves a depth and breadth of sound (and vision) very rare in pop music these days.”

$100k – “Shearwater were always a promising band, one that seemed as if they were about to do something extraordinary.  Friends, this is that album.”  

$150k – “Some bands treat orchestral textures as a crutch, or ponderous filigree, but Shearwater make them an integral part of this singular album”.

$200k – “The grand gestures finally connect. Shearwater conjure entire worlds and landscapes, enveloping and surrounding the listener, and consistently (and happily) surprise. Magnificent and fearless.” 

$250k –  “This album is not for everyone; but some listeners will want to be buried with it.”

$300k – “Meiburg sounds strangely abstracted, as if he’s become a little too unconcerned with the cares of this world.”

$500k – “The wildly successful crowdfunding campaign for this album raised hopes (and eyebrows) everywhere. But where did all that money go? What the hell is this album?”

$600k – “Two words: AIR Lyndhurst”. 

$750k – “I honestly do not know how to describe this record.  Is that a good thing?”

$1000k – “Dear God. This album broke me. Someone, please, make it stop.”

Contribute to making our next album here.