Sweet Wreath is a Birmingham music label, but the collective can’t be boxed into one city and certainly not one noun. The experimental sounds that come from the tapes, vinyl, CDs, and digital avenues that Sweet Wreath provides can only be created by a mindset that’s not focused on studio recording but the embracing of improv, merging unconventional minds, and finding new ways to shape perspective.
Jasper Lee, who could best be identified as the Creative Director of this audio collective, describes how the formation of such a free-flowing foundation came to be. Jess Marie Walker, Joel Nelson, and Jasper had formed the Montevallo-based collective flusnoix to merge Jess Marie’s audio and drawing skills, and the creativity came flowing in abundance.
“We were doing a lot of recording at my house. A lot of experimental improv jam sessions and we were getting some really good things recording. We had enough for two albums-worth of materials, and we decided to start our own label to put these out. We made the first two flusnoix albums in the summer of 2016, and put those out on tape and CD.”
These recordings were followed by a tour around Florida, New Orleans, and other Southeast touring essentials, and the group wanted to share this experience with additional musicians. Thus, Sweet Wreath was born.
The label was always meant to be collaborative, and the next release made this ambitiously clear. Titled “Mirror Water Mind” this album featured 15 songs by musicians including Janet Simpson with all proceeds benefiting the Cahaba River Society.
Another innovative concept by the label is a series of seasonal releases that are meant to provide a soundtrack to nature’s quarterly changes. 32 artists from 16 different cities were selected to “capture something about the essence of what summer feels like in Alabama, or what the fall feels like. Try to capture that in sound. Thematically what those seasons represent. Summer being more about lush growth and the plants growing everywhere and the hot, humid summer heat. Fall and winter being more about slowing down and things starting to ripen and eventually decay. And going into a hibernating period in winter. So the music reflected that.”
The first seasonal tape created, which centered around Spring, begins with an all-vocal female collective named Mother Harmony which partly inspired the series. They are far from the only unique talents Jasper and company have worked with though. Albums from bands like Double Vanities and Silica Gel give the nation a small glimpse of the beauty that can be made when one simply lets themselves create freely. As Jasper puts it, “The driving force is to provide a platform for pushing the boundaries of music and art around here.”
And pushing boundaries they are. Two of the next releases will be “Antique Sadness” by Johnny Coley, which Sweet Wreath describes as “lucid storytelling which unfolds like surreal front porch gossip surrounded by an unpredictable array of musical instruments and sounds.” A poetry book by Coley titled “Suggests Nightfall” will be released in conjunction with the musical release on April 24th. Sweet Wreath also combined recordings from protests this last summer and other events with sounds from Birmingham musicians like Mind Mirage, Carey Fountain, Lady Freedom, and The Phasing Octopus to create a beautifully inspired mix called “Take the Time”, which will be released soon with proceeds benefiting the important cause at Birmingham Mutual Aid.
As Sweet Wreath sees it - music, art, and mutual aid are all part of a Magic City collective that are unlike anywhere else. “I’ve always been inspired by the DIY culture in Birmingham. It feels really strong. The grassroots community here, not only in music and art, but in mutual aid efforts. I think Birmingham has a great mixture of things going on, and it feels different than other cities.” We’re thankful Sweet Wreath is capturing these collaborative moments as they happen all around us.