The CD of Alex Stanton's album Care and Feeding — recorded solo under the name Townsppl — comes packaged in colorful cardstock. Follow the included instruction sheet and cut along the dotted lines, and you'll end up with an elaborate paper sculpture.
"Too often you get a CD and you copy it to your computer and then you put it on a shelf, or maybe you throw it away," Stanton says. Accordingly, the final step in constructing the sculpture involves cutting the CD in half. "I was trying to make something that was not throw-away-able."
But Stanton's interest in construction carries far beyond cardstock. After roughly three years of teaching guitar lessons, he's in the process of opening a 2,000-square-foot music-lesson space and recording studio in Squirrel Hill, which will be known as Sunburst School of Music.
In addition to one-on-one lessons, Stanton plans to start a program, loosely based on the School of Rock franchise, that would give students a chance to practice in a full rock-band setting. "I really started to get into guitar when I started playing with a drummer and a bassist," Stanton explains. "That became a big part of the mission: to get guitarists to play with other musicians."
Generally, parents have to drive their kids to suburban music stores for lessons; Stanton figures that his spot, "a music school that doesn't sell guitars," is an original, at least within city limits.
Though Stanton will soon have a recording studio at his disposal, he recorded Care and Feeding — which brings to mind the lush indie rock of Grizzly Bear or a more subdued Animal Collective — alone in his kitchen, later enlisting production help from Donora's Jake Hanner. To re-create that sound live, he's recruited a band of nine musicians, meeting with each of them separately to teach them their parts.
There is some overlap, at least philosophically, between Stanton's ambitious projects. "Both are about building things," he says. "Building a song to me is about trying different things, and if you think about business, it's kind of the same thing: a lot of trial and error."
More on Sunburst: www.pittsburghguitarlessons.com.