Update 8/17: Tender Loving Empire’s Jed Overly has offered an additional statement, which can be found at the bottom of this piece.
Portland, Ore.-based alternative rock band The Domestics have found themselves in hot water today after a publicity stunt gone wrong has been traced back to them and their label, Tender Loving Empire (TLE). A series of mysterious tapes labeled “Trump/Comey Recordings” shipped anonymously to a number of music industry professionals, many of whom were Jewish, with return addresses for the KKK, Westboro Baptist Church and Info Wars.
According to a statement from TLE and Silver Morning Management, 63 tapes were sent to media representatives to drum up press for the band’s upcoming album, Little Darkness. The packages also contained a link to a website that featured audio from the album interspersed with audio of Trump and someone speaking in Russian. As for design, the website only displayed a Russian flag, closeup of a person’s eye (later discovered to be part of the album artwork for Little Darkness) and an email address that included the album title along with “xkeyescore,” an NSA tool that The Guardian calls the “widest-reaching system for developing intelligence from the internet.”
According to The Domestics’s statement, the tapes were sent mostly to “right-wing media” in an attempt to troll them.
In fact, frontman Michael Finn called Paste audibly shaken to discuss further. “I’m a little bit of a mess at the moment and wanted to call you and put a voice to it,” he says. “The idea, in its original incarnation, was just to get our record out to people in a unique, different way.”
Finn also clarified that the idea came to fruition in discussion with TLE’s Sync-Licensing And Operations Coordinator, Jed Overly, after Trump tweeted threats to former FBI director James Comey and that the packages were sent before the tragic events in Charlottesville, Va. took place.
However, many of the music-industry recipients of the tape are Jewish and—understandably, given our current political climate—were alarmed to be receiving mail that appeared to be sent from an anti-Semitic group.
After breadcrumbs were followed and the tapes were eventually traced back to The Domestics, the band and TLE each put out a statement explaining the marketing campaign’s intent, which can be read in full below.
As a viral marketing project, 63 tapes were mailed out. The tapes were labeled “Trump / Comey Recordings” and contain some poorly found audio of 45 and Comey discussing Russia. On the tape there is a web address that leads to a website with an email address. Our goal was to get people to email us at that address, at which point we’d send them the band’s upcoming album “Little Darkness” in advance of the 9/1 release date.
Our intention with the project was to troll the right wing media into briefly thinking they were getting the actual Trump / Comey tapes. We had hoped that right wing media would write about it wondering what it was, and in turn be writing about a viral campaign the band was pulling off.
The vast majority were mailed out to right wing media sources (Info Wars, The Blaze, Rush Limbaugh) to troll them. We also sent some tapes to local music media in Portland, a couple student newspapers in the Northwest, and a few music industry non media contacts. We did not send any tapes to national music media.
There is a rumor going around that these tapes were only mailed to Jewish music writers, this is definitely false. Religion has absolutely nothing to do with this project or who we sent the tapes to. The band, label, nor anyone else involved ever took religion or ethnicity into account with who the tapes were being mailed to. Both the label head, the band’s manager, and many people involved with the release are proudly Jewish.
The tapes were mailed out before the tragic events of Charlottesville. Given the current political climate, we can see how people could be put off by this project without knowing the facts about it. Our intention was not to offend anyone by sending them a tape, it was to pique interest in the band’s upcoming album.
Tender Loving Empire and Silver Morning Management
The day after Trump made that threatening tweet months back teasing that there might be tapes of his conversations with Comey, we got a call from one of our good friends at our label asking Leo and I to sit down with him to hear out a viral marketing idea he had come up with.
TLE had purchased trumpcomeytapes.com and his idea was to create a fake Trump / Comey cassette tape to send out to select contacts, and along with it a trail of breadcrumbs for a curious mind to follow. We knew people would fairly immediately know it was not an actual highly classified tape of the President and former FBI director, but the hope is it would be weird and timely enough to cause them to dig a little deeper and eventually be led back to our new record, which is exactly what happened.
Today it blew up, and our inbox was flooded with emails asking if we were behind the tapes and for our comments. There was talks of reports being made to the FBI about these actually being the real tapes, which was hilarious and exciting for me to witness. I also got two emails that suggested somehow Jewish individuals in the music industry were specifically targeted in the distribution of this tape which is totally not the case. The tape was sent to about 60 different outlets, mostly in right wing media to troll them. The mysterious packages were marked with the return addresses of Info Wars, The KKK’s headquarters, and The Westboro Baptist church in hopes that any tape that bounced back in the mail would end up flooding the mailboxes of these bigots.
The claim that we could have intentionally targeted Jewish individuals with this made my stomach churn so I wanted to clear that up immediately, especially in light of all the devastatingly sad hate, racism and violence that has infected this last week.
Much love, from The Domestics
Additionally, the band alludes to a disconnect between them and their label with regards to the return addresses. Finn says, “The element about the return addresses being marked from these different hate groups is actually something that was made known to me very recently,” later clarifying that he found out this morning. “No one in the band had any role in the decision of who to send it to, when to send it, packaging, or really anything. This was really with our permission, exercised by the label.”
He continues, “I wish the return address hadn’t even been put on it. It was just such a small part of the big picture of what we were trying to do. It’s caused a lot of confusion and understandably so.”
A PR representative for The Domestics denied any knowledge of the tapes and deferred to the band for comment.
Email statement from Jed Overly:As a Jewish African-American, I can clearly say that the Trump-Comey Tapes were not targeted at people of the Jewish faith or any faith or race for that matter. It was never my intention to alarm or frighten people. Our sole objective was to pique interest in The Domestics. No one at The Domestics, Silver Morning Management, or TLE knew about the chosen return addresses. I had made a last minute decision to change return addresses and thought it was obvious that this was a gag, and I could not have been more wrong.
To anyone that has been offended, I am sincerely sorry. This campaign is in no way representative of the band, their management, the company I work for, or myself. The Domestics are an awesome band of good people who create great music. I hope people can see that my intent here was the result of trying to get them heard and gain fans; not to scare anyone or associate them or myself with hate groups.