Record Label Spotlight: Communicating Vessels

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Over the last 20 years, HIP Video Promo has had the great pleasure of working with some of the most outstanding and iconic record companies within the music industry. Every Tuesday, we’ll go down memory lane and talk about some of our favorite record labels we’ve worked with in the past. This week, we’re continuing with the revolutionary Communicating Vessels.

Communicating Vessels is an American independent label founded in 2011 by Jeffrey Cain. Right from the beginning, CommVess was unlike any other record label the music industry had seen. For starters, their offices weren’t in New York or Los Angeles, or any other major music city. Instead, their offices were located in the historic district of Birmingham, Alabama. The dream didn’t come to reality until 2011, but it started in the 1990s.

After a decade of playing guitar in Remy Zero and dabbling in just about every aspect of the music business, Cain decided it was more important to create music than to come up with his own band name. From there, he left Mobile and started on his trek in creating an artist-built label. But after doubting himself and whether or not this was a good idea, in the summer of 2011, he released a two-part 7-inch vinyl series which featured Duquette Johnston, Sanders Bohlke, Preston Livinggood, The Great Book of John, and the Green Seed. CommVess, along with a few others, has had a large part in revitalizing the art and music scene in the South.

CommVess works out of an in-house studio and has encouraged their artists to tell their stories and share their emotions no matter how long they may take. This is something they still believe in to this day, and it’s perhaps another element that makes them stand out against the other record labels out there.  Throughout the years, Communicating Vessels has had its share of amazingly talented artists. We’ve had the pleasure of working with some of them here at HIP Video Promo. 

Up first on our list of Communicating Vessels artists is The Great Book of John. This indie-rock band’s sound is entirely original with its haunting vocals but with the spirit of Blues artists. The sound is hard to pin down, thanks to frontman Taylor Shaw. He embodies the spirit of an old, psychedelic soul, and it’s shown in the lyrics and the rest of the music. In January 2012, we promoted their video for “Simple Things”. The video follows our main character as he receives a box from a helpless man. The box holds a secret to his imagination, which the character isolates himself in trying to solve. The video captures the message of remaining faithful and keeping your head up through everyday battles. It’s a beautiful video and an even more beautiful message.

In 2012, we had the honor of working with Shaheed and DJ Supreme for the first time. This Alabama hip-hop dynamic duo have been shaking things up ever since 2007 with their Health, Wealth & Knowledge of Self and Scholar Warrior album releases. With the release of their third album Knowledge, Rhythm and Understanding came the winning of mtvU’s The Freshman Contest. In 2012, HIP worked with them on their video for “Right Now”. In this video, we travel to Alabama and are put right in the middle of the Bottletree Night Club. The sultry atmosphere and the lights of the underground are complementary to the song, and the lyrics take listeners into a music world they’ve never seen before. Five years later, in 2017, we promoted their “Glorious Day” video. The “Glorious Day” video shows Shaheed and DJ Supreme on a picnic in beautiful Birmingham. Friends and loved ones surround them as they kick around a soccer ball. It’s a warm reminder to not take things for granted and to cherish all the good days. 

More recently, in July 2020, we promoted the “Appreciate Life” video featuring Chali 2na. This video features the three rappers as they stand in front of industrial buildings and walls covered in newspapers. With flashes of live performances, it’s nothing but love and respect in this video. We next worked with Shaheed and DJ Supreme in August 2020 for the “1 TIME 2 MANY” video. This video takes a more serious turn, and it’s something that unfortunately still goes on in this country today: police brutality and demand for respect and fair treatment. The verses of the song echo the excessive force the police are using unapologetically. It’s tough to watch, but it’s important that we do. With each video, viewers take away an imperative message – which is how music should work.

Another Communicating Vessels artist we’ve gotten to work with is Sanders Bohlke. This Bon Iver inspired experimental rocker Mississippi boy has been making hearts melt all over America. His sound is like no other, taking bits of folk and indie rock and turning it into a musical masterpiece. In September 2013, HIP promoted his video for “Serious,” the sixth track off the album Ghost Boy. The video was shot in Jackson, Mississippi, on a scorching day. It video conveys the message of being frustrated and feeling lonely despite people being around you. It’s authentic and empowering, and the video is perfectly crafted for such a powerful song.

We also had the honor of working with Wray. This trio is made up of David Brown, Blake Wimberly, and David Swatzell, and although the band formed in 2014, Wray had been a work in progress for a whole decade prior. If you weren’t into punk rock, you will be after watching them. In June 2014, HIP promoted their video for “Apacheria”. This video is four minutes of strobing technicolor lights while the band rocks out. The crashed instruments and band shirts bring a personable element to this rainbow of a video. It might even leave you feeling a sense of nostalgia. 

The next Communicating Vessels artist we’ve gotten to work with is The Green Seed. In March 2015, we promoted their music video for “Gotchoo”. The video takes a little turn into normalville as we see the band members in various everyday jobs. Some work as infomercial salesmen, while others are seen stocking shelves in bodegas. Like the other Green Seed videos, this one packs a vivid and extraordinary punch. It’s another fun and fresh video we’re sure you’ll absolutely love. 

The most recent Communicating Vessels artist we’ve had the honor of working with is Future Elevators. Future Elevators have created a sound that is so air-like and dreamy that you expect it to sing you to sleep. But their music has created an entire vibrant and thriving music scene. In May 2017, HIP promoted their video for “Modern World”. The video transports us to the Big Easy, and we see the people of the city grooving to the music. We see multiple pairs of eyes as the flash over the screen and see how everyone perceives the world. 

In their only nine years of business, Communicating Vessels have made quite an impact on the music industry. They’ve also created a home away from home for their artists, a place where the artist is in complete control of their story and can take as long as they need to portray it perfectly. It’s an admirable and honorable thing in the industry! It’s no wonder why they’re one of the best in the music industry.

Written by HIP intern Rebecca Karaman.