Local band Squares takes the DIY route to growing success

It comes to no surprise that Minneapolis-based band Squares is taking a do-it-yourself route, what with the Recording Industry Association of America’s report that shipments of recorded music have fallen 11 percent in the 2009-2010 year.

The band self-recorded their debut EP “Deep Breath” at their Uptown apartment living room, designed the CD cover and printed it in the basement of their building.

Equipped with a dark room converted from a closet, band member Brian VanHout produced 100 album covers in two hours using his self-made screen printing press. He creates the band’s T-shirts, press kits and posters. In addition to the bands marketing efforts, VanHout, who has worked in construction and carpentry, makes his own acoustic and electric instruments which include a ukulele, mandolin and a bass.

Squares also has an amp upholstered by VanHout named “Lizzy” that sits in the corner of their basement under the words “Don’t be lazy” written on white sheet hanging from the wall.

“Overall we’ve spent about $500 on our EP,” says Luke James Friedrich, lead vocalist and songwriter of Squares. The total cost includes recording the EP, cover design and printing costs, as well as sound mixing.

Friedrich has experienced production costs from $350 to $1,000 a day at professional recording studios. So far, the band has sold 100 EPs for $5 per record — a break-even proposition so far.

Friedrich says the goal of making music is to have people listen, even if it means letting some people download the band’s tunes for free. “If people come to our shows,” says Friedrich, “then we are happy.”  

That’s not to say that the band wouldn’t like to be picked up by a record label. Friedrich said labels are the key to marketing and promotional efforts, but he says he would never compromise the subject matter of the songs to be picked up by a label.

“Now, you mostly have to rely on yourself anyway,” says percussionist Adam Rucinski. His wife, Angela Rucinski, designed the bands EP cover.

Squares is developing their first full-length album, which they plan to self-produce much as they did their EP. Friedrich says the hardest part of making an album is writing the music, but when all is said and done, the album should be completed in a couple of weeks.

Alexandra Sobiech is studying journalism at the University of Minnesota.