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It’s not that Scott Douglas doesn’t have anything to do. By day, he’s editor of Parks & Recreation Magazine, a bimonthly National Recreation and Park Association publication. When he’s not busy with his day job, though, Douglas likes to give himself “stupid little projects to do, just to see if I can do them.”
About three years ago, he came up with a project that, in hindsight, seems neither especially stupid nor quite so little: putting together a benefit record. His inspiration was the liner notes on a Saturnine CD, Pleasure of Ruins, in which the band offered to contribute to any compilation. The result is Wellspring, which features 12 tracks from 12 bands from the United States and Europe and benefits Bread for the City, a nonprofit agency that provides food, clothing, and legal and medical services for low-income D.C. residents. Among the acts Douglas managed to corral for the disc are the Mendoza Line, Barbara Manning and the Go-Luckys, Metropolitan, Cinerama, the Saturday People, and Bettie Serveert.
When Douglas set out to create a compilation, he says, he didn’t even know what cause he would champion. Then he remembered Bread for the City; he and his wife had given the organization a donation a year earlier.
As for the music, he started by hitting up groups in his CD collection. “I just wrote to them,” he says. He knew members from a couple of the bands: Saturnine, for instance, had played at his wedding. He courted members of the Mendoza Line at shows. “I would say, ‘I have x number of your CDs’anything that would guilt them into giving a song.” He kept his ambitions somewhat modest. “Yo La Tengo was about as big as I aimed,” he admits. “I wasn’t going to write R.E.M. or anything.”
Yo La Tengo let Douglas down easy; he says the trio told him they were very careful about what compilations they contributed to. The members of Luna, meanwhile, told Douglas that they were putting out an EP and didn’t have songs to spare. Other bands didn’t write back at all.
“My amateurness might have been a turnoff,” Douglas concedes. “I didn’t know who would put [the CD] out.”
Douglas’ big coup was landing Netherlands-based guitar-pop outfit Bettie Serveert. “That name had a certain cachet,” he says. “Once I got them, I was able to get, for lack of a better word, lesser bands.”
His next break came when he met Eric Tischler of the D.C. band the Hurricane Lamps. Tischler, who also runs the Sonic Boomerang record label, agreed to help Douglas distribute the Wellspring CD. Tischler says when he first heard the names of some of the bands Douglas had rounded up, his reaction was, What? They’re still around? He describes the disc as “a mid-’90s time capsule.”
“That’s not to say that [Douglas] is out of date,” Tischler says, adding that the collection is pretty “tuneful.” Tischler says he even followed Douglas’ lead and signed a few bands that had had early success in the Clinton era, such as Barbara Manning and Cinerama. He also organized a CD-release gig at the Black Cat.
If Douglas and his collaborators sell all 1,000 of the Wellspring copies they’ve printed, they’ll raise about $6,000 for Bread for the City, he estimates. The CD will be available in local stores, though Douglas notes that buying the compilation at the release party or from the Sonic Boomerang Web site will produce more cash for Bread for the City.
Douglas says making a benefit record was more satisfying than his last project, which involved running the length of the C&O Canal in a week. And he already has a new challenge lined up: “Moving to Maine without a job.” Annys Shin
The Hurricane Lamps, Metropolitan, and members of the Mendoza Line launch the Wellspring CD at 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 28, at the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. For more information, visit www.SonicBoomerangRecords.com or www.BreadForTheCity.org, or phone (202) 265-2400.