For its latest audio compilation, Esopus invited 12 musical acts—including Jens Lekman, Richard Swift, Dirty Beaches, and Basia Bulat—to create new songs inspired by a customer-service experience in their past. The CD will appear in Esopus 19, which hits newsstands the first week of May.
Not surprisingly, the majority of tracks on the CD explore the darker side of customer support. Black Pus’s Brian Chippendale based his noise-rock rant “Pay My Bill” on several “ultra-frustrating attempts” to settle his Verizon bill online. Milwaukee-based Jim Schoenecker (Volcano Choir, Collections of Colonies of Bees) created a spellbinding song inspired by the all-too-familiar telephone-support line, “Sorry, the computers are slow today.” Dirty Beaches’ Alex Zhang Hungtai decided to craft his own, appealingly homemade version of hold music for “Please Hold,” and Jens Lekman based “Regarding A Package” on a series of phone conversations with Australia’s Customs Service related to macabre fan mail he received while living there.
Several musicians chose to create songs relating to their own checkered pasts working in customer service. Toronto-based singer-songwriter Basia Bulat offered the wistful “White Rose,” which references a period of time she spent as a 14-year-old holding a job as a cashier and “customer-service specialist” at a local garden center. In his hilarious track “The Food Poisoning,” the Shins’s Richard Swift recounts the devastating results of a “parting gift” given to him by the manager of a fast-food restaurant at which he had just quit working. Philadelphia-based Literature’s power-pop gem “Boring” is an apology from the other side of the counter, inspired by band member Kevin Adickes’s time working in an independent video store as a snarky teenager.
Contributors to the CD include both emerging talent, like up-and-coming rapper Cakes Da Killa, pop duo Pastimer, and electronic producer Taliesin, as well as more established musicians such as Lekman, Swift, contemporary composer Dag Gabrielsen, and the New York–based experimental trombonist/composer Jacob Garchik.
Earlier Esopus themed compilations have featured music inspired by Craigslist “Missed Connections” listings (#2), subscribers’ imaginary friends (#4), black-and-white films (#12), television shows (#15), and subscribers’ irrational fears (#17). Past contributors include Stephin Merritt, Neko Case and Carl Newman, Sam Amidon, Cloud Nothings, The Mountain Goats, Kimya Dawson, Frightened Rabbit, Doveman, El Perro Del Mar, Grizzly Bear, Busdriver, Atlas Sound, Lee Ranaldo, Low, Wye Oak, The Ruby Suns, Owen Pallett, Dirty Projectors, Andrew Bird, Autre Ne Veut, and more than 200 other artists working in all genres of music.