Mary J. Blige, Bjork, Foo Fighters, John Legend, Common, Bon Iver, Sleater-Kinney, St. Vincent, Chvrches, Feist, Laurie Anderson, Estelle, Elliott Smith and members of The National are among a stacked group of artists (full-list below) donating mostly unreleased music for Seven Inches For Planned Parenthood, a new box set of 7" singles to benefit the reproductive health care organization the Trump administration is pushing to defund.
The project also includes comedians (including Sarah Silverman, Janeane Garofalo, Tig Notaro, Aparna Nancherla and Margaret Cho), writers and activists (Margaret Atwood, dream hampton, Dr. Willie Parker and Heather McGhee) and the work of visual artists (Angela Pilgrim, Shepard Fairey, Mark Fox, Rashid Johnson and William Villalongo among others).
As part of the initiative, Seven Inches today released a comedic video short with John Legend, St. Vincent and Galifianakis in which the trio rehearse/butcher a cover of Minnie Riperton's classic "Lovin' You" (below). The short is one in a series of videos promoting the cause and which will include a video with the band Chvrches directed by actress Kristen Stewart.
In the coming weeks, music from Seven Inches for Planned Parenthood will be released in batches digitally and made available for pre-order in their entirety in both 7" vinyl and digital formats. Each single includes unique artwork accompanying two sides of music, comedy and/or spoken word to benefit Planned Parenthood, which annually provides reproductive health care to 2.5 million women, men and young people at some 650 health centers across the country.
The idea for the Seven Inches originated with The National's Matt Berninger and the band's manager Brandon Reid in the immediate aftermath of the fraught U.S. presidential elections.
"The day after the election was very hazy," Reid tells Billboard. "We were throwing ideas back and forth and started to think about immediate things [Trump] was going to attack and it was frightfully clear Planned Parenthood was on the top of that list. Many of us in music business are transient, don't have health insurance and rely on Planned Parenthood so we got the idea off the ground."
The duo reached out to their network of creatives and music industry contacts including two who proved especially pivotal to the campaign and who coincidentally also happened to be named Brandon: Brandon Stosuy, director of Kickstarter's lauded Creative Independent series (and former Pitchfork editorial director) who helped curate the set; and Brandon Minow who organizes and produces events for Planned Parenthood.
Stosuy recalled Berenger telling him they didn't want the initiative to be "too indie rock," but rather wanted a similar aesthetic to his Creative Independent project which features a wide-ranging palate of musicians, artists, writers, poets and comedians often discussing the essence of inspiration. Here, each artist would have equal sway in the project.
"The first person I asked was Bjork," Stosuy recalled. "Once she said yes it gave us a little more legitimacy with other people. Then we could be like, 'So we have Bjork, Sarah Silverman and Zach Galifianakis,' those were the first three we had. And from there people realized we were serious in trying to do something and it became easier to curate."
Meanwhile Reid worked on the National's two Women's Protest/Inauguration shows, including one at Washington, D.C.'s 9:30 Club under the banner of All Access with 16 reproductive rights groups where he made a number of contacts. He also reached out to others, including Minow, Sleater-Kinney's Carrie Brownstein, whom he had worked with on an episode of Portlandia, as well as a friend married to the daughter of author Margaret Atwood. "Every day I would get an email or call from someone like Elliot Smith's estate," Reid recalls. "The support right out of the gate was amazing."
The ad hoc volunteer work group/collective would come to include a number of people from the music business and beyond including: Reid, Grant Manship and Shaun Gibson from Straight & Narrow Artist Management; The National's Berninger and his wife Carin Besser (a one time New Yorker fiction editor who helped bring in writers); Stosuy from The Creative Independent; Grandstand Media's Kate Jackson and Dana Erickson; Brandon Minow, Elizabeth Bawol and Sara Adland from Planned Parenthood; Mark Flanagan of L.A's Largo (curating comedians); John Solimine and Jen Lobue at Spike Press Illustration and Design; entertainment lawyer Gillian Bar and Elizabeth Paw at Carroll, Guido & Groffman; Liz Dunster and Ken Brisbin from Erika Records; Jonathan Achtman from The Cardboard Box Project; Chris Mooney at TuneCore; Tara Beaudine and Hyun Joo Par at PS Business Management.
All services for the project were donated and all proceeds will go to Planned Parenthood.
For expediency's sake the group chose not to work with a label and instead went directly to a vinyl production company called Erika Records run by Dunster and which Reid said is the only female-owned vinyl facility.
Many of the artists, including Chvrches, Estelle, Feist, Sleater-Kinney and the duet between John Legend and St. Vincent, contributed new songs for the project. Others like Björk, Helado Negro, and Bon Iver gave rare takes on previously released songs - or previously released songs that people likely haven't heard before.
Much of the comedy on Seven Inches is archival culled fom live sets recorded at Largo that few if any have heard. While the visual art was created specifically for the project.
When asked what his favorite tracks are Stosuy said the project was like "making a giant mixtape" and his favorite aspect was the pairings. He cited for example a spoken word piece from women's health provider Dr. Willie Parker that goes into a Sharon Van Etten track. And also a Margaret Atwood poem about Blackberrys that is the b-side to a Bjork song and goes into music by composer Nico Muhly. That particular seven inch also has cover art by James Merry, who designs Bjork's masks, entitled "Undifferentiated Gonads." "That one feels very complete," he said.
There are possibly several major artists for the series who will be announced soon once the proper clearances are made. If that should come to fruition, it could hugely help further boost the project's visibility.
Both Reid and Stosuy say the standing army of politically-minded creatives they've helped assemble may be used in the future for other causes and possibly even live shows.
When Reid looks back at what the group has accomplished in such a short amount of time he's incredulous. "Holy shit," he says. "We started a record a company in five months."
Complete List of Performers:
Aparna Nancherla, Björk, Bon Iver, Bryce Dessner, Chvrches (with film clip directed by Kristen Stewart), Common, Dr. Willie Parker, Dream Hampton, Elliott Smith, Estelle, Feist, Foo Fighters, Heather McGhee, Helado Negro, Janeane Garofalo, Jenny Slate, John Legend, Jon Brion, Laurie Anderson, Margaret Atwood, Margaret Cho, Mary J. Blige, Mary Lattimore, Matt Berninger, Meg Baird, Mitski, Nico Muhly, Pete Holmes, Sarah Silverman, Sharon Van Etten, Sleater-Kinney, St. Vincent, Tig Notaro and Zach Galifianakis.
Angela Pilgrim, Azar Kazimir, Domonique Echeverria, Hisham Akira Bharoocha, Jacqui Oakley, James Merry, Mark Fox, Megan Tatem, Molly Schiot, Penelope Gazin, Rashid Johnson, Shepard Fairey, William Villalongo
A statement by the "creative collective" behind 7-Inches:
Lawmakers with extreme views are working hard to shut down Planned Parenthood. If they succeed, millions of Americans will lose access to basic health services, including STD testing and treatment, birth control, and life-saving cancer screenings.
7-inches for Planned Parenthood is a response to this threat. This curated series of 7-inch vinyl records is being made by a group of people who believe that access to health care is a public good that should be fiercely protected. Do we know there's a joke in the name? We do. We hope the title evokes the rich history of 7-inch vinyl records as a medium for protest music and resistance.
Planned Parenthood will receive 100% of the proceeds from the sale of this 7-inch box set and streaming listens. We see this initiative as the start of something bigger, and hope it will inspire both contributors and listeners to continue to seek out ways to stand with Planned Parenthood and other institutions that are so vital to us all.
Seven Inches For Planned Parenthood IStandWithPP.org to find ways to get involved locally, contact their Senator and urge them to stand with Planned Parenthood, show their support for Planned Parenthood on social media using the hashtag #IStandWithPP, and share how Planned Parenthood has helped you.
Statement by Cecile Richards, president Planned Parenthood:
"We're incredibly grateful to have the support of so many artists and entertainers, many of them who have themselves relied on us for health care," said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement. "Planned Parenthood has been around for 100 years, and one in five women in America have turned to us for care. Planned Parenthood has stood defiantly in the face of opposition for a century, and we're not backing down now."
More information on Seven Inches For Planned Parenthood can be found on the web (7inchesforplannedparenthood.com), Facebook (facebook.com/7inchesforplannedparenthood) and Instagram (instagram.com/7inchesforplannedparenthood).