The way Alpha Rev leader Casey McPherson looks at it, promotion for a recording artist can be a hit-or-miss process, similar to sowing seeds in a field.
“Some of them may grow, and some of them may not,” he explains. “It’s important to keep that simplicity to it. Because we’re not marketing people, but we do know how to connect with people with [our] music.”
In mid-March, singer/guitarist McPherson and two of his band mates did their best to connect with airline passengers at 30,000 feet. As part of a new Southwest Airlines promotion, they performed acoustic versions of the latest Alpha Rev single, “Sing Loud,” plus the Texas band’s signature “New Morning” during a flight from Los Angeles to Denver.
“The funny thing is, even some of the people working at Southwest didn’t know about this promotion,” McPherson says. “We arrived at the airport at 6 a.m. in Austin, and we got home at 12:40 in the morning.”
That’s quite a long day — and a lot of effort — just to perform two songs. Asked whether going to such extremes is necessary these days for bands to promote their music, McPherson says he’s really not sure.
“I think I have to look at it like this: This is my job; I love playing music,” adds McPherson. “I’m no more special or more important or less important than anybody. But in order for me to continue to do this as my job, if I ever have an opportunity to make new fans with this music, I need to [consider it] — as long as it’s not compromising something that I believe in.”
McPherson believes in lineup flexibility when it comes to Alpha Rev, which he started circa 2005 following the dissolution of Endochine. On the band’s Web site, he has described Alpha Rev as “a collective of musicians — once you join, you’re never really gone.”
“I’ve been fortunate enough, being in a city like Austin, that all of the people who have played in Alpha Rev have been incredible musicians,” McPherson says. “Usually what happens with each record, there is a team that has either recorded the record or is playing the record live — or both. And so I usually establish that team for those moments. Sometimes it’s the same team; sometimes it’s different depending on what’s going on with everybody’s life. And then we’ll go in and do preproduction for the tour or preproduction for the record and establish those sounds and arrangements for that.”
Bloom, Alpha Rev’s recently released third album, features reworked versions of songs that previously appeared on the band’s City Farm: Roots EP.
“The label actually wanted us to do that,” says McPherson, referring to Kirtland Records. “And I was OK with that because City Farm was such a soft release. We did not release that record nationally; it was only [available] online and through mail order.
“I fell in love with a lot of those songs, like ‘Lonely Man,’ and I thought, ‘Well, the label wants these songs on the [new album] — I can go in and kind of relook at these tracks to fit them more toward the bigger tunes, like ‘Lexington’ and ‘When You Gonna Run.’ ”
“Sing Loud” qualifies as a big song, too — not so much for its message or sonic scope but in terms of it influencing when Bloom would become available.
“Once we determined that ‘Sing Loud’ was going to be the single … I [wanted] to wait on the release of Bloom and do it as a spring release,” McPherson says. “Because ‘Sing Loud’ is such an innocent, kind of spring-summer song, I really liked the idea of showcasing that song during that time of year.”
You can file that promotional decision under “seasonal seed sowing.”
— By Chris M. Junior
Alpha Rev on tour (schedule subject to change):
* April 17: Bijou Theater — Knoxville, Tenn.
* April 18: The Handlebar — Greenville, S.C.
* April 19: Center Stage — Atlanta
* April 20: Lincoln Theatre — Raleigh, N.C.
* April 23: Jefferson Theater — Charlottesville, Va.
* April 24: 9:30 Club — Washington, D.C.
* April 25: Bowery Ballroom — New York
* April 26: The Sinclair — Cambridge, Mass.
* May 1: The Intersection — Grand Rapids, Mich.
* May 2: Majestic Theatre — Madison, Wis.
* May 3: Varsity Theater — Minneapolis
* May 4: Park West — Chicago
* May 7: Bluebird Theater — Denver
* May 9: Cain’s Ballroom — Tulsa, Okla.
* May 10: Old Rock House — St. Louis
* May 11: Blue Note — Columbia, Mo.
Photo of Casey McPherson performing at SXSW 2013 by Chris M. Junior