WASTE NOT "No more piles of CDs in the landfills," says Katrina Ford. "Let's just give it away."
It's not that Celebration (who come to the Middle East this Saturday) were ever a bad fit for 4AD. The echo-chamber organs, the tribal drumming, and the caterwauling vocals of Katrina Ford added up to a kind of desert-peyote and fringed-suede-jacket version of the more twisted stuff in the label's catalogue, from the Birthday Party to Blonde Redhead. Celebration made two amazing records for the label and toured their asses off with bands as diverse as Smashing Pumpkins and the Blood Brothers. It was the PR side of things that Ford, over the phone from her home in Baltimore, says the band — whose contract ran out with the label last year — are glad to be done with. "We had a great time with the label, and it really opened up a lot of opportunities. But as soon as our touring schedule was up last year, we hit on this free, exciting time of not having to do anything but write and create that finally had nothing to do with lawyers and offices."
When you listen to 2007's TheModern Tribe, it's hard to imagine anyone in the band who's not floating around on translucent wings, so it's easy to see why they longed to escape the banality of the biz. Rather than court a similar experience from another label this year, Celebration (Ford with husband Sean Antanaitis and David Bergander and a varied supporting cast) are chucking the whole sales model. "We're done with it," says Ford. "No more piles of CDs in the landfills, no more press circuits with journalists asking us what instruments we play and where we got our name from. Let's just give it away."
The new scheme, for your information, is based on tarot cards.
"We had 22 new songs, which is just a magical number in itself. It started to dawn on me that there are 22 major arcana. We had a song that fit exactly with the Magician card, and there were all these other little corollaries throughout the songs." Hence, a new official Celebration song gets released in conjunction with every full moon at celebrationelectrictarot.com, along with new-moon releases of homemade "soundscapes" to fill out the rest of the deck.
They've put out two songs since March, both recorded without old friend and engineer Dave Sitek from 4AD stars TV on the Radio, who'd helmed everything that Ford and Antanaitis had done together since they were Love Life together. "This is us really getting back to basics in our music careers," says Ford.
"What's This Magical?" buries a hyperactive synth string section under an elastic zither while Ford channels Blonde Redhead Kazu Makino's lilt and Björk's throaty hiccup. "I Will Not Fall" sounds more like a Sitek job — the fuzzed-out drums from the other side of the room, Ford back in her comfortable Siouxsie Sioux territory washed out like '70s lens flares. I'll take it. It's anyone's guess what the rest will sound like — but please note: the moon will be full for this Saturday's Celebration show at the Middle East upstairs with Neptune.
In the meantime, Ford and the crew are trying to learn some Web coding so they can make everything a full-blown in-house affair. (A friend is at the helm of the site for now.) "We're thinking about even getting an intern or something." And she goes on, "Everything has actually been more positive than ever since we've been working on this. People who want to talk to us seek us out and tell us they love it. And it's good to hear that. We're musicians — we need it."
CELEBRATION + NEPTUNE | Middle East upstairs, 472 Mass Ave, Cambridge | May 9 at 9 pm | $10 | 617.864.EAST or www.mideastclub.com