Signing Story: Agriculture

Date Signed: January 2023

Label: The Flenser

Band Members: Dan Meyer, guitar, vocals; Leah B. Levinson, bass, vocals; Richard Chowenhill, guitar; Kern Haug, percussion

Type of Music: Ecstatic Black Metal

Management: N/A

Booking: N/A

Legal: N/A

Publicity: Stephanie Marlow, [email protected]

Web: agriculturemusic.bandcamp.com

A&R: N/A

Los Angeles-based metal band Agriculture can count all the shows they’ve played on the four band members’ fingers and toes. That makes it easy to remember their worst concert. “Our guitarist Richard [Chowenhill’s] amp stopped working halfway through the second song,” guitarist-vocalist Dan Meyer recalls of the gig. “It was the worst possible timing.”

Even worse, Jonathan Tuite, founder of experimental-music label The Flenser, was in attendance, at Meyer’s request. Agriculture’s frontman wanted his band to join that label more than any other. Meyer was sure they blew their chances that night. But, ironically and remarkably, Tuite saw past Agriculture’s technical difficulties at the show and signed them anyway. Needless to say, it was both a surprise and a dream come true for the quartet. 

“Jonathan [has released] some of the more left-field, interesting metal that has come out in the last decade or so—Bosse-de-Nage, Botanist,” Meyer says. “We felt like it was a natural fit for us.”

What distinguishes Agriculture from other black-metal bands is their full embrace of joy. The emotion is so omnipresent in the band’s material that Meyer devised a name for their sound: “ecstatic black metal.” 

The new band’s idiosyncratic tunes caught the ear of Ignat Frege, drummer-vocalist for Wreck and Reference, which shares rehearsal space with Agriculture. Coincidentally, Wreck and Reference previously issued material through Flenser.

Frege told Tuite he’d be wise to sign Agriculture, Meyer said. So did Alex Kent, guitarist/vocalist for Flenser band Sprain, which had toured with the newcomers.

Tuite signed Agriculture to a deal involving only a reasonable amount of touring—not enough to burn them out. That recommendation, combined with a guarantee of artistic autonomy, brought joy to Meyer and company. “We wanted someone who knew what we were doing,” Meyer says. “We didn’t care as much about nitty-gritty stuff like royalties.”

The Flenser deal includes two full-lengths, one of which the band completed before the signing. That, too, pleased Meyer, who has no idea what Agriculture’s second record will sound like. “We don’t want to have to go shopping again after this one,” he added. – Kurt Orzeck