Band: The Spinto Band
Home Turf: Wilmington, Del.
Watson Says: "Our biggest new signing in 2008. The first time I ever really listened to them was on my evacuation from New Orleans back to my parents' place in Corpus Christi — my little brother (Park the Van graphic designer Corey) had made a CD of his favorites. They're seizing the moment in the current business model of the independent music world. They were invited to play the YouTube Live thing, with 40 million viewers watching. Instead of being reserved about what you can do to promote your music, they're just like, 'Let's go for it, let's make a bunch of crazy videos.' It's helpful for us and their fans really love it."
Tasting Notes: "Fun indie pop, but it's not corny. So much of that stuff can be a quick write-off, but these guys are smart. And they're f***ing tight, too."
Odds & Sods: "Two of the guys are brothers, and their father, Stevie Hobson, was the guitarist for the Sin City Band. Dad jumped onstage for (a recent) encore and played two classic-rock covers."
Band: The High Strung
Home Turf: Detroit
Watson Says: "Hardest-working band in America. Their next record, Ode to the Inverse of the Dude, will be coming out in April. It's exciting for us because it's the first time we've gone out and hired a 'name' producer, Dave Neufeld (Broken Social Scene, Los Campesinos!). They tour constantly and have done things as fun as leaving their bus on the steps of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — with the keys in the ignition. Their last van they left with the pink slip and the keys, and they posted the location online where you could go and pick it up."
Tasting Notes: "They are incredibly high-strung. Their early works were pegged as 'this garage band,' but I never really saw it. I just saw them as more like a three-piece Kinks or the Who. There's so much big, classic arena rock in this tight little indie-rock band. They have a lot of fun with it."
Odds & Sods: "(Frontman) Josh Malerman is an incredible author. He writes horror novels. Hopefully Park the Van will venture into the book world."
Home Turf: Cambridge, Mass.
Watson says: "(Tulsa's) EP last year, I Was Submerged, blew us away with the amount of acclaim it received: (Rolling Stone's) David Fricke, the (Chicago Sun-Times') Jim DeRogatis. They're currently in the studio with (producer) Brian Deck (Modest Mouse, Iron & Wine)."
Tasting Notes: "Without a doubt the spookiest music on Park the Van. Tons of reverb. Carter (Tanton)'s got a really huge voice and a knack for minor chords and melodies that just surround the songs. A lot of Park the Van is easily identifiable by its '60s influence, (but) a lot of Tulsa reminds me of early R.E.M., My Bloody Valentine."
Odds & Sods: Tanton's 2005 solo album Birds & Rain was the second record ever released on Park the Van.
Band: Floating Action
Home Turf: Asheville, N.C.
Watson Says: "This was a demo in the mail, the first time I [released] something that I didn't seek out. Not to pick favorites, but (Seth Kaufmann is) one of the favorites for a lot of people. At a recent Dr. Dog show at Webster Hall — the biggest show they ever played in New York City — (singer) Toby (Leaman) announced from the stage that Floating Action was the best band in the world."
Tasting Notes: "Incredibly refreshing. Traditional American soul, calypso, a lot of African and Jamaican music (influences). [Kaufmann] is a classically trained violinist."
Odds & Sods: Floating Action plays the Circle Bar Holiday Soiree with the Peekers.
Band: Golden Boots
Home Turf: Tucson, Ariz.
Watson Says: "Another band I found out about through Dr. Dog. (Co-founder) Dimitri (Manos) once made a Park the Van logo out of a tepee (in place of the signature orange parking cone). They're our first new release of 2009. And they have a great album title: The Winter of Our Discotheque."
Tasting Notes: "They're a lost clan of Arizonian sound shamans. Really one of our more far-out bands, psychedelic with a heavy Western influence. These guys are tapeheads — they love experimenting with sound and volume."
Odds & Sods: Golden Boots recently toured with Magnolia Electric Co. and did some shows with Cat Power.
Band: R. Stevie Moore
Home Turf: Bloomfield, N.J.
Watson Says: "This is something new for us: We're doing a collection of digital exclusives with R. Stevie, Special Needs. I found out about him because of his huge influence on Dr. Dog. A lot of people refer to him as 'the godfather of home recording.' He's self-recorded something near 400 records. There's also something you might call the 'Martin Lewis Beatles hoax': This journalist, Martin Lewis, was doing a story on lost and rare Beatles recordings and in his article cited two R. Stevie Moore songs as lost Beatles songs."
Tasting Notes: "You can't do it. On Special Needs, he covers 'A Whiter Shade of Pale' and 'Me So Horny.' R. Stevie himself is a huge fan of classic '60s and '70s pop, but he can do it all. He just loves music and the endless combinations that are possible. He was Ween before Ween was Ween."
Odds & Sods: "R. Stevie's dad (Bob Moore) was one of Elvis Presley's preferred bass players."
Band: Pepi Ginsberg
Home Turf: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Watson Says: "We saw Dr. Dog open for Wilco at Millennium Park in Chicago, and afterward Scott (McMicken) gave me Pepi's album Red, which he produced. Her song 'The Waterline' is probably the best song I've heard all year."
Tasting Notes: "She's got a voice unlike any other. Her influences vary — a lot of Joni Mitchell and Patti Smith, and a ton of Bob Dylan."
Odds & Sods: Pepi is the first female solo artist on Park the Van.
Band: National Eye
Mates: Up to 10
Home Turf: Philadelphia
Watson Says: "They were supposed to play in New Orleans Sept. 4, 2005. That show never happened. The band used to have a bunch of different songwriters and vocalists — four different singers. They now have just one singer, but still multiple songwriters. I think their most recent album, The Farthest Shore, is one of the richest productions we've ever released."
Tasting Notes: "To me, there's a lot of mid-era Pink Floyd, Leonard Cohen and the less-eccentric Flaming Lips."
Odds & Sods: 2006's Roomful of Lions was Park the Van's first release post-Katrina.
Band: The Capitol Years
Home Turf: Philadelphia
Watson Says: "Another treat for us. You come into Philadelphia and work with Dr. Dog, the Teeth, National Eye and the Capitol Years — I think that was the first time people were like, "Oh shit. This label's taking all of our guys!" (Singer/songwriter) Shai (Halperin) just started recorded new songs again, so hopefully we'll have something again from them real soon."
Tasting Notes: "Heavy Zombies influence, but there's something a little more haunting about where Shai's coming from. He's a genius at writing amazing pop songs, a tremendous songwriter. He's someone (The High Strung's) Josh Malerman and I talk about at length during late-night phone conversations."
Odds & Sods: The Capitol Years have performed with Daniel Johnston's backing band.