Aaron Dessner of the National and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver have started their own streaming platform called PEOPLE, an offshoot of Dessner and Vernon’s PEOPLE festival. The idea is that it’s an open streaming site for artists to post anything from demos to sketches to one-off collaborations.
The database contains music from members of the National, Bon Iver, Lisa Hannigan, Phoebe Bridgers, Nico Muhly, and many more. Among the projects are an EP from Vernon and Dessner’s podcast-scoring Big Red Machine, a compilation of National outtakes through the years called Songs Without Words, and a cover of “Memories” by Leonard Cohen with Matt Berninger on vocals. (Matt also has a project on PEOPLE called Long Count, originally conceived in 2009 – the “loose wool” guitar tone from mainstream breakthrough High Violet returns.) There’s a project with just Aaron and his neo-classical composer twin/bandmate Bryce called Red Bird Hollow. Each group comes with its own description; for example, the thinking behind Red Bird Hollow’s name and the concept: “no plan and simply play off each other like we did when we were kids… Red Bird Hollow is the creek behind our childhood home in Cincinnati, Ohio where we used to play.”
The website also contains credits for each project and images from the studio sessions. In an interview with the BBC, Aaron described it as “artist lead, artist designed, [and] artist driven [that feels like] a new kind of landscape.” Meanwhile, Bryce said in the Guardian: “Hopefully this will be an environment where new types of music, new types of collaboration can pop up that don’t fit in with a standard release. If it’s just National B-sides, it won’t be a success.” (He says this, even though some of their best songs are B-sides.)
PEOPLE as a collective is difficult to describe (offhandedly, Aaron said “it could be a newspaper” in his BBC interview), and the intriguing but typically vague and artsy copy doesn’t help: “PEOPLE is a steadily growing group of artists, creating and sharing their work. PEOPLE is non-hierarchical. It is produced and created by the artists, in full freedom. There are no headliners or bands, sponsors or brands, billing or program. It is brought to life by you and us.” The PEOPLE website, though, does manage to get across some information about the upcoming festival, which boasts 156 confirmed performers: “On the weekend of August 18th/19th we open the doors to perform across all stages and studios at Funkhaus Berlin. Inside and outside. There will be artists you have not heard before and ones you know every song of. The work itself lighting the way.” Essentially, it’s a weeklong jam session that culminates in a two-day festival of new music. If you’re curious and have the means to travel to Berlin, tickets are available on the collective’s website.
If you can’t make that, creative director Michael Brown calls Eaux Claires (July 6th-7th) “the American equivalent of the energy harvested at the Berlin event(s)”. Like PEOPLE, there is no announced lineup, though the good folks at r/eauxclaires have compiled a list of confirmed acts.
The National released Sleep Well Beast and recently announced a plethora of festivals (most recently including “There’s No Leaving New York”, inspired from the same compilation that begat “Big Red Machine” in the first place), while Bon Iver released 22, A Million back in 2016.
UPDATE: Justin Vernon also announced plans via his Twitter to release the stems for songs on the PEOPLE platform, as well as alternate versions called “addendums.”