Music

The Wierd Records Social Club

by

The title of brooding post-punk quartet Blacklist’s debut CD nicely
sums up their darkly romantic worldview, but Midnight of the
Century
also serves as a rallying cry for the band’s fledgling
NYC-based label. Founded by Pieter Schoolwerth in 2006, Wierd
Records—spelling intentional—specializes in music as
lyrically ominous as it is sonically austere: Though some dismiss it as
a mere revivalist tribute to ’80s goth rock, the imprint actually casts
its net far wider, hailing international phenomena like France’s
guitar-driven Cold Wave (derived from Joy Division and the
claustrophobic, steely production of Martin Hannett) and the
synth-based Minimal Electronics movement.

“In the U.S. and England, it’s an uphill battle for people to even
find this music,” Schoolwerth explains. “Because the original Minimal
Electronics and Cold Wave bands never made it here, this music is just
incredibly unfamiliar.” The label head, a respected visual artist by
day, has taken it upon himself to introduce Americans to these dark
sounds via a small but burgeoning family of contemporary acts,
including Miami’s Opus Finis, Martial Canterel, and, of course, fellow
Brooklynites Blacklist. Midnight eschews either genre’s formal
trappings: While Blacklist did offer a faithful cover of seminal Cold
Wave band Asylum Party’s “Pure Joy in My Heart” on an early EP, the
full-length’s icy sound and quaking bottom end is counterbalanced by a
more inviting, anthemic impulse, epitomized by surging lead single
“Flight of the Demoiselles.”

The band largely owes its existence to Schoolwerth, who, along with
future Blacklist drummer Glenn Maryansky, began Wierd as a series of DJ
nights at the Southside Lounge in 2003, providing a regular social
outlet, an escape from art-studio solitary confinement, and a chance to
share his enviable stacks of rare vinyl. What began as an informal
weekly ritual for a handful of Williamsburg residents eventually
morphed into a series of elaborate events staged throughout the
city—everywhere from painting studios to proper rock clubs to an
old World War II ship anchored in the Hudson—and featured live
performances from artists who shared Schoolwerth’s vision. At one such
party, Maryansky met Virginia transplant Josh Strawn, Blacklist’s
future frontman. Wierd even played host to the band’s very first show
in 2004; both Strawn and Schoolwerth credit a community “driven by live
performance and supporting your friends” for the band’s development.
“It’s everything that the Internet can’t be,” their label head
explains. “Flesh and blood, which is very rare in this day and
age.”     

Strawn hopes that Midnight, Wierd’s most accessible and
rock-oriented release, can serve as a point of entry for those curious
about the label and its musical roots. “Instead of taking all these
little weird things I like and making something really weird,” he
explains, “it’s kind of an interesting thing to me to try and take all
that weird stuff, send it into the center of the universe, and hope it
changes the orbit of everything.”

The Wierd Party is held every Wednesday at Home Sweet Home; it
hosts Blacklist’s CD release party May 27