Wednesday, September 17, 2014

TMFW 54 - Such Great Stamps

In 2003, the "supergroup" The Postal Service released Give Up, its first and only album.  The group primarily featured Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie and Jimmy Tamborello, an electronic music artist who more commonly goes by the name Dntel.  It also included vocals from Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley on a few tracks. Give Up included the excellent song "Such Great Heights," which carried the record to platinum status.

Today's True Music Fact is a combination of two about the band's name.  First, "The Postal Service" is a descriptive name (as opposed to a facetious allusion or arbitrary phrase like TMFW 7 subjects Toad the Wet Sprocket and Three Dog Night).  The band used it as a reference to their method of recording the album: Tamborello would make music and send a DAT to Gibbard through the mail; Gibbard would then edit the music into the shape of a song, add vocals, and send it right back.  They corresponded that way until they had a finished work: in a sense, they were super-devoted pen pals, and their band name honored the unique collaboration. 

Second, almost everyone who hears that story thinks it's pretty cool.  But the real live Postal Service didn't quite see it that way.  In a lemonade-back-to-lemons PR move, the USPS sent a cease-and-desist letter to Sub Pop records, noting the infringement on their federally-registered trademark for "The Postal Service."  According to Sub Pop, the letter was "really polite," and the USPS understood that pushing too hard would be a dumb move.  So they made a friendly deal: the USPS gave the band a free license to use the name (and for a short time sold their CD on the website!), while the band agreed to do some promotion for the USPS and even played a short set at the postmaster general's 2004 National Executive Conference.


BONUS FACT: If you are new to "Such Great Heights," listen to it with a pair of nice headphones.  The stereo arrangement is delightful.

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