May 11, 2006

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Dreaming about Alaska
Brand new local label signs high school band
By Richie Victorino  rvictorino@hippopress.com

Dave Leshinski of Londonderry believes that you learn best by doing things hands on.

Leshinski is a business major at the University of New Hampshire, Durham, where they teach him all about ethics, planning and other business … stuff. But they teach him that stuff from books. And that wasn’t hands-on enough for Leshinski, who started up a record label, Reverie Records, with two of his longtime friends.

Still in its infancy, Reverie Records has signed its first artist, Call Her Alaska, to its label. Leshinski and his partners hope to sign on a few more bands by year’s end.

The birth
For what seemed like years, Leshinski and his friends Ben Bishop and William Donahoe talked about starting a label. They were in a band, Model 15, and learned firsthand how difficult it is for a local band to find gigs and get a record deal. They wanted to help.

But their epiphany didn’t actually happen until they went to a Call Her Alaska show at Stark Regional High School in Weare (where singer Taylor Parnell goes to school).

“We all just turned around and looked at each other and said ‘We could do this,’” Leshinski said. “We saw something in [the band] and we wanted to be a part of that.”

After that epiphany things started rolling quickly. It helped that Leshinski and his buddies knew the guys from Call Her Alaska (they played music with Parnell), so it wasn’t hard to convince the band to sign to the brand new label.

But it takes more than desire to run a label; that’s where Oliver Smith came in.

Smith is a Portland, Maine, man who guides these inexperienced 20-something kids in the right direction; he’s like their business professor on this endeavor.

“Oliver’s the business-savvy guy. We’re the music savvy guys,” Leshinski said.

Real-world learning
Leshinski, Bishop and Donahoe are all college students (well, Bishop is between art schools) who use their natural talents and interests to their advantage.

Leshinski is a business major and handles the booking and promotions for Reverie Records. Donahoe’s major is advertising; he focuses on the Web design. Bishop’s love is art so naturally he takes care of graphics and merchandise (like making T-shirts for Call Her Alaska).

The stepping stone
Reverie Records wants to do everything it can to help small bands become bad-ass rock stars. As far as perks, Reverie Records purchases the merchandise for its bands, books the bands’ shows and offers studio time at Ty Studios in Milford.

But the neat feature about Reverie Records is it’s willing to let go to the little bands it loves so much. Since Reverie Records is an established record label, this means the bands signed to Reverie are able to send their demos to larger labels like Warner Brothers.

“Warner Brothers, or any large companies, don’t accept unsolicited material,” Leshinski said. “You have to be with a label or have a lawyer behind you. Not that we want to get rid of our bands. But we know we’re basically like a stepping stone.”

Call Her Alaska
“The hardest part of all of this has been trying to classify what it is we are,” said Call Her Alaska guitarist and singer Taylor Parnell. “At one moment we can be acoustic with a cello and mellow drums. The next we can be punk and fast. I’d say we’re indie-eclectic, alternative ... Whatever we are, we’re still a rock band.”

A song like “Stiletto” places Call Her Alaska above your normal high school rock band; it’s an acoustic, simple, radio-friendly, catchy song that doesn’t rely on heavily distorted instruments to make up for musical inexperience.

“There’s just a feeling I got with Call Her Alaska; Parnell is just awesome,” Leshinski said. “When you listen to a song for the first time and it just stays with you for the rest of the day, that’s how it is with Call Her Alaska for me.”

The band currently has a demo they sell, for $5, Hear Call Her Alaska: Check out the band’s music for free at myspace.com/callheralaska or at purevolume.com/callheralaska.


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