Nevermind The Mainstream, Here’s Agent Orange

Saturday, 05 February 2011

It's funny how times have changed in punk rock. There was a time when, unwilling to wait for something to happen to them, a clutch of bands took matters into their own hands and made their careers exist of their own accord. They cobbled together their own records and often either self-released them or released them on small labels. They booked their own tours and manufactured their own merchandise to sell from the side of the stage at shows, and they did it tirelessly – so much so that record buyers and labels began to take notice, and a new set of working values were founded following that old, time-honored wisdom, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” As time has passed and bands have come and gone, that ethic has faded a bit; now, because some groups get signed to a major label for their first release, they're only too happy to let said label handle the business of how their band should operate. That might be all well and good for some bands, Agent Orange remains happy to number itself as one of the groups disinterested in playing that kind of ball. “Well, it's not like I'm opposed to the possibility of a record deal of some kind, I've just never seen a label that I thought would really stand behind us,” clarifies Agent Orange singer/guitarist Mike Palm. “That's something that has eluded us, to be honest; I had hoped to find a home for Agent Orange where we could be prolific and could release all kinds of new music all the time, but it just never really worked out that way. I'm not sure why that is – but I've always tried to keep control of the band; it's a DIY sort of thing. That said, while I'm not opposed to working with other people or labels, I want to make it as easy as possible and with downloads getting the attention they are, it seems like the right time for us to keep to that DIY attitude and just do those things that we think would benefit us best.

“At one point, our label situation got to the point where I thought it would be a good idea to shift the focus of the band to live performance and just tour all over the world and play as many shows as we can,” continues the guitarist. “That really is the perfect, most instant connection that a band can make with their audience: you play a song, they hear it. There's nothing in between that way.”

So, with that mindset established, Agent Orange dropped its' unified head and hit the road. The band has played innumerable shows around the world in the last five years and done it in such a manner which could only be characterized as tireless. Agent Orange's touring itinerary was so constant, in fact, that when the band did look up to see where it was, the bandmembers discovered that much of the music business and the way it operated had changed; not only that, it had mutated into a form that the band found far more potentially exciting for them. “We ended up being busier than ever in the last five years; and touring's great and touring is fun, but we've come to the position now where the industry is changing, and it's actually changing in favor of how I envisioned releasing new material would go, as far as the internet is concerned,” says the guitarist of the promise that his band has discovered recently. “Recording something doesn't have to be this enormous project that takes months and months to get out to stores. Now, we could record a couple of songs over the weekend and have them up online by Monday – it's an exciting time to be able to think about each song standing completely on its' own instead of worrying about some big and involved project.

“It's easy enough to get songs out online, but the added bonus is that the reaction against digital music has been a return to vinyl so, when it comes to the format of how the music is delivered, there are more options than ever!”

With an obviously bright outlook on the band's own future in the music industry, Agent Orange has started moving to capitalize on the current climate with the same fervor they'd previously reserved for the road. The band's first new release in years, the Halloween single, was pressed onto 7” vinyl and has been distributed by the band itself, as well as digitally by iTunes and received remarkably well by both fans and the rock press but, according to Palm, that single will only be the beginning. “Part of the problem we've always had has been writing and recording a full-length album is that it's this big, involved project but, with the way things are looking right now, it would be possible to record a single  really easily and then just move on to the next one,” muses Palm at the possibilities Agent Orange now has at its' disposal. “It's an exciting time to be able to think about each song standing completely on its' own instead of worrying about some big and involved project. We do have some time off coming up – I'm not sure if we're going to get a lot recorded or not – but we're definitely working toward that and it would certainly be worthwhile so a recording is going to happen, one way or another, this year.”


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