On the road with a little help from friends

Kickstarter campaigns are turning into the indie musician’s best friend.

The latest in grass-roots fundraising for artists, it’s an online platform that lets fans provide the financial backing for a band’s or artist’s recording projects.

The simplicity of internet marketing and a PayPal account is a great aid for any young musician with the drive and the will to put out a record but not the cash to make it happen.

Back in the day, recording projects, tour travel and merchandise were handled mostly by record labels. But with the slow, sweet, rotting demise of the corporate side of the music business and large record labels, that money has to come from somewhere. It may as well come from the fans.

And the fans can be rewarded for donating to their favorite artist’s projects, often in the form of rare recordings, merchandise or early copies of albums before they hit record stores or iTunes.

Portland, Ore.’s Bottlecap Boys is one of thousands using Kickstarter to fund its art. The group’s campaign helped it acquire and remodel a school bus, which is serving as the band members’ home for their six-week summer tour.

The Bottlecap Boys will make its Durango debut Saturday at The Balcony. Members include Lucas Borsten on guitar and vocals, Ross Becker on mandolin, Mike Raley on bass and Adam Willumsen on fiddle.

For a band that formed less than a year ago, Kickstarter lived up to its name.

“We met and exceeded our Kickstarter goal of $8,000 for our 35-foot tour bus,” Borsten said last week from Portland. “We knew since we were going to be on the road for six weeks this time, we needed something that would be reliable and sleep five people and get us around safely from place to place. We didn’t have the funds to do that on our own, hence Kickstarter. It happened to work beautifully thanks to all of our friends.”

Their “reward” for their backers is an advance copy of their debut album, which they’ll record this fall in Oregon.

The Bottlecap Boys’ story is a familiar one for many bands. Two members meet in college and start dabbling in songwriting. They graduate, move to Portland, surround themselves with other great musicians and start a band. Play shows, as many as they can, wherever they can. Venues, bars, street corners and farmers markets become their office. And all with little concern about classification; they were just a band using bluegrass instruments to make music even though it’s not the genre that drives the musicians.

“We definitely all appreciate it, and I’d even go so far as to say we love it. But I don’t think that’s been any of our fundamental starting points,” Borsten said. “ ... But this is what happened based on the instruments and based on the songs written. I still have a bit of a hard time classifying what we do, but we all appreciate folk and bluegrass.”

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at Liggett_b@fortlewis.edu.

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