"I liked the fact that some of The Very Most have beards. Beards are cool," wrote Kevin Dunphy from Dublin, Ireland. Facial hair, it turns out, was only one of the reasons he wanted to put out their music.
Dunphy runs Indiecater Records--originally a download-only label--which released the Boise band's newest CD, A Year With The Very Most both digitally, as well as the label's second physical offering.
Yes, some of TVM do have beards, the prevailing facial appellation of the indie music set. But they more than just look the part. The Very Most, with frontman Jeremy Jensen at the hairy head, has a knack for creating sweet, addictive indie pop.
Thirty-three-year-old Jensen began making music under the moniker TVM in around 2002, employing a semi-rotating cast of musicians to play with him.
"It's funny to think about that," he says. "We were named 'Best New Band' from Idaho in The Boston Phoenix in 2008 when we'd been a band for six years."
It isn't hugely surprising that it would take someone outside of Boise awhile to hear about TVM. The glut of music available online now means a band is almost required to get out and to be seen not just heard in order to stand out and build a faithful fanbase. But like many musicians in their 30s, Jensen has a job and a family, two things he'd rather not be away from for long. They try to get on the road, playing places like Eastern Idaho and the Tri-Cities three or four times a year, but that's about as far as they go. Knowing an extensive touring schedule wasn't in the cards, Jensen got creative--and tenacious--about introducing The Very Most to a broader audience.
With TVM's second record, Congratulations Forever as a marvelous example of their shiny, mirthful indie-pop, Jensen began farming TVM's tunes out to music blogs everywhere.
"I began shopping some of our songs around to mp3 blogs, because that seems to be the way to get some--for lack of a better word--buzz about a band," Jensen said. "You get picked up by an mp3 blog and hopefully that means you get picked up by a bigger one, and maybe get reviewed on something like Pitchfork." He chuckled and added, "That's not likely but that seems to be the path [a lot] of music promotion takes."
Jensen, who seems a bit reserved in person, wasn't shy about pushing TVM songs.
"I sent messages out to probably 400 mp3 blogs," he said. "It took awhile."
The perseverance paid off. Dunphy, who started Indiecater in 2008 as a result of his music blog MP3Hugger.com, had written about TVM's "Good Fight Fighting," a track he adores. Jensen e-mailed Dunphy to say thanks and the two began corresponding regularly.
"We got on very well," Dunphy wrote, "and we found out we shared a similar taste in music so things just took off."
Between e-mails and instant messaging, the two of them came up with the idea to release TVM songs with a seasonal theme.
"It just seemed like a more interesting way to come up with a small batch of songs each new season that would eventually become a full record," Dunphy wrote. "It also gave me the freedom to see how good TVM really were and the opportunity to drop them unceremoniously before the record release if they didn't come up to scratch (joke)."
All kidding aside, the result is the summery/autumnal/snowy/flowers-blooming A Year With The Very Most, in which each season is a three- or four-track release. TVM started with Spring, the opening track just 15 seconds of little bird tweets followed by four tracks including the up-tempo "Today Is Even Better," replete with handclaps, jittery tambourine and sweet "la-la-la-las" under Jensen's airy voice. Summer roars in with a 12-second rainstorm and the Beach Boys-like tune "A Mid-80s Lower Middle-Class Family Summer Road Trip," a particularly poignant track in light of the loss of Jensen's mother last year in a tragic car accident. Autumn crinkles in with a short intro of leaves being raked and brings tinging keyboards, a chorus of "Ah-Wee! Ah-Wee!" and kazoos in Jensen's love letter to his favorite piece of apparel, "Sweater." Winter blows in and brings with it the solemn notes of "It's the Best Thing," as well as an islandy version of "Away in a Manger" that would be a welcome substitute for the ones most often heard pouring out of store PA systems during the holiday shopping season and has an adorable accompanying video.
The meaty compilation of songs was a kind of turning point for both Indiecater and TVM. Dunphy decided to release A Year With The Very Most on physical CDs and Jensen--with some encouragement from his wife--rounded up his bandmates (including his musician brother Elijah) and headed off to Ireland to celebrate the CD's release there. The TVM shows were well-attended in the Emerald Isle, and the band even garnered a handful of interviews.
There will no doubt be as much enthusiasm for A Year With The Very Most here in Boise during TVM's CD release show, with Finn Riggins, Spondee and Floomdorm on the lineup. TVM will also debut their new video for "Autumn Air" by local auteur Jason Sievers.
Not to put the cart before the horse, but it won't be long after this release that fans on both sides of the ocean will be chomping at the bit for more. Dunphy indicated that more is definitely in the works.
When asked if he had any suggestions as to what TVM could do to improve, he had but one: "I wish they could record a bad song so as to give the competition a glintof hope."