Arts Desk

Fan Death Records to D.C. Bands: “Stop Sucking”

fandeathIt's hard to deny that Sean Gray and Christopher Berry have some bragging rights. In the last year their label, Fan Death, has put out a number of noisy 7-inches, 12-inches, and cassettes, including music by Drunkdriver, FNU Ronnies, and Ringo Deathstarr. In terms of productivity, they've outpaced just about every other D.C.-based label. More importantly, those records have made it out of their basement and into distro bins around the world. Last year the label's annual concert series, DNA Test Fest, packed out the Velvet Lounge. But most of the bands they release and book reside in other cities—Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Austin. Turns out, there's a reason for that.

Yesterday All Our Noise posted a mammoth three-part interview with Gray and Berry. Among the topics discussed: the label's humble origins, why they moved this year's DNA Test Fest to Baltimore, and how they came to release Clockcleaner's Hawkwindesque, 15-minute cover of Negative Approach's "Ready to Fight" (performed, of course, while opening for Negative Approach).

Also covered at length: The general suckiness of D.C. music. Gray and Berry let loose, calling out D.C. bands for their careerist attitudes, Brooklyn-centric touring schedules, and wimpy songs. Names are named.

The haterade really starts to flow at about the 10:55 mark of part 1:

Here's a transcription of the relevant portion:

Gray: D.C. is a shitty place, with shitty bands, and a shitty outlook on life. I mean, it’s kind of sad in a way, there’s a lot of history here that everybody knows about. I don’t think it went down the path that I would have wanted it to. I think with D.C. there's this thing that bands want to make it...they think they can make it in D.C. because they’re from D.C. there’s that history there and that that’s an automatic foot in the door to whatever they’re doing. But even beyond that attitude portion of it, there’s just not good music. There are two good bands in D.C.

Berry: Screen Vinyl Image and Lotus Fucker.

Gray: You can’t name me another D.C. band that’s been remotely as good as those two.

Berry: And you can’t tell me that another D.C. bands sounds like those two.

Sean: I will flat out name you who are garbage bands in D.C. If they want to tell us that we’re a piece of shit label that’s ok, too.

Berry: US Royalty.

Gray: The Dance Party. And this guys is really nice–really nice dude–but I hate his band Ra Ra Rasputin. That band, garbage. The thing with D.C.–these bands think, they don’t go outside of D.C. They don’t have any sense of perspective. They think if you play New York and D.C., if you go back and forth you’ve kind of made it.

Berry: There’s nobody playing in Philly, nobody playing in Boston. People are trying to get known media-wise in D.C. by D.C. media. We don’t really care about that, we put out what we want to listen to. And because what we put out is good, we don’t have to have an angle.

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  • more

    amen once again...

    midnight kids v. HR

  • Boner Pills

    I had no idea that sucking at your instrument, and trying to be as musically agitating as possible made you superior... and I had no idea that all the "talent" in DC was so whiny and insecure about the songs they write. There are good bands in DC and good bands in Bmore... and for every one good band in DC there are ten horrendous ones. And for every one good band in Baltimore, there are ten horrible ones.
    These two assclowns are eventually going to become a parody of themselves, especially the dude on the right who is just doing this label thing till he gets that Mythbusters callback.
    Had no idea that a location had anything to do with how good music is... if it sucks, it sucks (unless you want to be ironic like these two basement jedis. If it's good, it's good (unless your a DC music snob that still thinks dance punk is awesome).
    anyone defending any band on here or publicly slamming another band, is missing the point of music all together. And these "label heads" are quite possibly missing the point of their own artists music. If I were on this label and heard these clowns talking like they shit gold, I would be bowing out of that deal as fast as possible.

  • carol bui

    oh, man - I am gettin some wine and popcorn for this shit. thanks for posting this, aaron!! just when I was starting feel bad for being a hermit for the last year or so...

  • hey, steve from MDR!

    you've inspired me to get some yogurt for this party. fuck the wine. fuck the popcorn. it's PROBIOTICS time!! it'll make my vagina nice and fruity. dc can have a taste if they want, I'm heading out to the OTHER washington!

    -carol bui

  • carolbui

    aw, man - it looks like I missed the boat. I'm the only no-lifer on this comment board now. bye!

  • Grant

    Get stuck in the rock'n roll hotel, the 930 club, sonar, velvet lounge or whatever DC/Baltimore club you want to go to. Real music, underground music, is going on under yalls noses.

  • Discord Records

    Hey gu... Wait. I'm in the wrong room...

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  • dan o.

    as someone who grew up in the dc suburbs and fucking FLED to baltimore the minute i turned 18, fan death dudes speak the TRUTH. unless you're flag-pin wearing motherfucker or a toothless bike courier, anyone musically inclined living in dc is setting themselves up for NOTHING. dc sucks FOREVER. see y'all in hell, you 850-for-an-efficiency-paying MOTHERFUCKERS.

  • Mt Pleasant

    I love it that they complain about bands that no one cares about, that's called a "straw man" guys.

    I laugh at the guy who moved to Baltimore from DC. $850 for an efficiency? Dude, if you pay rent and don't own your own house you're an idiot. You are paying money to a LANDLORD. What a sucker! In 2004 my house was worth more than a million dollars. Get that in Baltimore.

  • Money Money Money Moneayyyyy

    How much does talent cost in DC?

  • john crum

    i feel like these two guys are comparing two different music scenes which just makes the comparison non-applicable.

    they are obviously more into diy hardcore/punk versus indie/pop.

    two completely different music scenes.. for real.

  • BYTGIRL69_420




  • jason

    dc music is not good on the whole.

  • JGraphx

    Two things:

    1. As I was reading this article, I wondered...'Wait, is the City Paper journalist who reposted this who I think it is?" I scrolled back and, sure enough, Aaron Leitko. Of course!! That dude should be sandwiched RIGHT inbetween those two on the sofa. Dude is the biggest music snob ever (just read his stuff for Pitchfork.) No wonder he's reposted this interview. Wherever island we're all talking about sending these two clowns who run Fanboy Death or whatever,we should certainly not forget to send Aaron as well. People like this aren't just hurting our scene, they hurt music.

    “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have never tasted victory or defeat.” T. Roosevelt

    2. I think we can all agree that Steve Lambert is a waste of space. I encourage all bands to boycott playing any of his venues (Rock n Roll Hote, DC9, Red & Black.) He rips bands off and is laughing all the way to the bank aparently.

  • Ryan

    I play in a DC musical duo (Bluebrain) -- (I realize we were spared a mention on this thread, not because we're any better than the bands that got hung out to dry but because we aren't as popular and, luckily in this case, not enough people know about us to pass judgement. But I'm sure we'd be right up there getting torn to bits if we were.) I'm identifying myself here because I don't agree with the anonymous nature of the posts and feel people should own their words. The one place I'll side with the Fan Death guys is that they are personally standing behind the things they are saying, unlike many commenters facelessly hurling insults on here.

    After reading this article, I went to check out some of these Fan Death bands and, to be honest, they aren't half bad. Nothing too original but I enjoyed listening to Ringo Deathstarr and would certainly check them out if the opportunity came up. (However, some of the artists they mentioned seemed to espouse some extreme racism. Music aside, fuck these guys for helping to put anything like that into the world and fuck them if they share those views.)

    But speaking strictly to their criticisms of DC music, I ask them...why? The bands they are tearing down are so far from what they do as a label musically. Why waste time deriding something that has no relevance to what you are doing? And while I haven't heard enough of the music of the band's they talk about, if people enjoy them (from what I can glean from this thread, it's mostly good-times-party-music) why knock it? These bands are selling out big venues and people seem to be loving it! It would be different if these artists were somehow negatively affecting what Fan Death is trying to accomplish. But these two are admittedly unassociated with the city of DC and share nothing musically with the bands they mention, so why bother talking about them? The only reason I can think of is to get attention which, I guess, they've achieved now. But ultimately I don't know how this is a helpful discussion.

    I'm personally glad there is a new surge in DC music and hope to see even more spring up in this next year. Thank you to all the bands/DJ's/MC's that love this city enough to put themselves out there.

  • heroinsucks

    It is 100% horseshit to make music for people to have a "good time party" to. Stop being such ultimate pussies, listen to Negative Approach.


    BE GLAD YOU ARE A RICH KID OR EXTREMELY BLESSED BY SOME HIGHER FORCE. really lame to see your facebook, twitter, golden nuts, and your dad's old high-miled LEXUS.
    BALTIMORE IS BEST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!EVERYONE KNOWS!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    pointing out your "class status" is cromag.

  • mistersmartyhoohahpants

    Whatever, I was naming names and starting flame wars over worthless bands when these turds were still in short pants. They're so behind the times.

  • viral shit bag salesmen unite

    i love this thread...i'm sticking hundred dollar bills up my ass with wonton soup as lube while reading these comments...oh fuck this is awesome...

  • lucas

    have to say that clockcleaner is one of the worst bands ever. terrible fucking show. even worse record. take off that stupid fucking hat, asshole.

  • tikate

    most of their bands suck live, but four fins of the rocket are some garbage. good job endorsing that you suck.

  • tikate

    i like their songs but it's true "have to say that clockcleaner is one of the worst bands ever. terrible fucking show."

  • Head-Roc

    these brother are on point. the dc indie bands lofted and lifted high by the clubs that have them playing there all the time suck. no creativity and no skill. theya are menace and something must be done.

    furthermore, the black punk and rock bands that are GOOD are being discrimanated against by the 'premium' venues in Chocolate City. this is the number one reason why wackness has been allowed to represent DC Indie music to the world.

    if you're out there and ready to get down with what's fresh and exciting in Chocolate City...

  • Head-Roc


    Just Read Steve Lamberts comments (#60). Let me tell you something about this cat...

    Steve Lambert books at Rock N Roll Hotel, Red & Black, and DC9. He's purposely lied to me and others to keep me off show bills.

    Steve Lambert told me in 08' i wasn't good enough to be paid for my peformances.

    Steve Lambert discrimates towards Black Artists especially... thats why i dont play at the places he books.

    ...and i dont know why so many people i know, do. :-(

    Oh, and I told Steve Lambert that he didnt know who he was Fucking with, and that i would run him outta Chocolate City.

    I can't stand a Predator.

    Holla Black!

  • Head-Roc

    In addition...

    Steve Lambert is a HUGE reason why DC Bands suck. He validates their wack shit by booking them. duh..

    Battle of the Bands, anyone? I tell you what...

    Steve Lambert's favorite wack ass DC Band, or Out of Town Band, vs my band GODISHEUS.

    Even if i like the band he picks, on that stage, GODISHEUS will tear into that band's ass as if to ruin their careers... so friend and foe BEWARE!

    The prize will be either his exit from the Chocolate City Music scene... or mine. Let's put it all on the line here.

    Somebody set that up!

    Holla Black, and Love!

  • Hilltop

    head roc-
    your band rocks. i dont know why you dont get booked more, that doesnt seem right. AND i have heard about lamberts shady bullshit as well (starting more than a year ago), that needs to change. A couple of things cannot summarily dismiss the whole of the DC music scene as having "no creativity and skill". This is shortsighted and detracts from your usual (and admired)speak for the people attitude. sure 99% of evrything sux to someone. but dont fall into that trap. also i would be shocked if comment #60 is actually steve lamberts. in the meantime i am looking forward to the lambert vs Godisheus closed caged deathmatch for supremacy of DC.

    oh, and i actually listened to drunkdriver and vinyls screen image, couldnt find any lotus fucker. but to call these the best bands is DC is simply retarded. this stuff is so niche, and really a heartbeat away from being total shite. BUT if thats what you dig, carry on. just dont pass judgement on the 99% of what you think is shitty. cause my 99% includes your garbage.

  • Loksrun

    There is great music in DC! The problem is the scene itself is terrible. I lived in San Francisco where there is a supportive youth culture that actually love music and support local bands. People don't show up to shows here unless one of their fellow interns is in one of the bands. The communities in DC are too transient for there to be a true music scene.

    That doesn't mean there are not sick bands in DC. Some of favorites include: Caverns, Imperial China, Drop Electric, Noon:30, Muhsina, .... I could go on.

  • voice of reason

    Clubs are a business. If your band has no draw you're not going to play a weekend in a good club. Write better songs, put on a better show, pound the pavement and earn a following instead of complaining on a message board.

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  • need the info

    EXACTLY is the best band in DC.

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  • Mediocore Record

    The only complaint I have with these guys is that it took them 4 months to ship a record.

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  • MeTalkPretty

    These guys have made so mouch money off their label they must be correct. Millions I tell you, Millions! Everyone else should stop sucking at making money and they'd understand. Now, if someone could just cook my fries.......