When the pre-orders and tour for the recently released Circa Survive album were announced, I sent a text to Colin Frangicetto saying how I was excited to see him here in town again, and what a hell of a line-up the tour had backing it. In his response he told me about how he enjoyed my column on the package deals and wanted to know if he wanted to sit down and talk about art and music. Well, yeah, of course. So months later, we had a chat after the show. Since Frangicetto and I have a pretty agreeable sense of where music stands between art and our love of the physical medium, the interview came out great, but not a lot of new information and just sort of how we currently stand with a way to open even more discussion. But something happened during the interview that caught my attention more so. As we stood outside the bus discussing the absence of labels and the work put into the special packages of Violent Waves, there were two attendees who had been waiting around to get the band's autograph. He paused, talked a bit to the two and a few minutes later we finished the interview.
Now, I'm not putting Frangicetto or his band on a pedestal, because anyone in any band on that level of success ever could and have been that gracious. But there's an intimacy to the whole meeting that makes the dollars spent on music that much more special to someone. Even on Warped Tour this summer, some of our site's tabloid greats graciously welcomed photographs and autographs traveling from their equipment breakdown back to the bus and even vice versa. Now, the bigger you get, the harder that becomes. But interaction in some form is everything. In interaction lies some substance of integrity. Even if that interaction is between the conveyed message, thought, or idea executed on an album and the interpretation of the fan thereafter, we lead ourselves to believe that there's a bout of integrity within the "art," as some of us put it.
For those with dollar signs and ways to manipulate any art in a bastardized way of making lots of money and degrading the whole thing, it's entertainment. It's the Clear Channel way. Sometimes you just get bought and sold even when you're part of the elite bundle of money makers. I commend bands like Circa Survive. They went through the system, learned a few things and came out self sufficient. I say bands "like," because they're not the only ones to do it. As I commented in the aforementioned column Frangicetto and I discussed, mewithoutYou took a similar and still successful route this year as well.
As much as we try to couple the terms "art" and "integrity" together to give us a warm sense of comfort and satisfaction, any type of art, whether it be film, music or graphic, has the ability to get bought and sold for profit to eat, sleep, live and repeat. As I was working on finishing this column last night, I was sidetracked by yet another column (last article, scroll all the way down) by Kevin Dunn. For weeks, I feel like I haven't heard the end of it. Whether it's been discussion amongst close friends about how I feel about the situation or the hoards of editorials and tweets for and against both sides. Dunn's column caught me. First off, it's very well put together. He brings up some very vibrant points of punk culture and the buy and sell lifestyle of what "punk" is and what it isn't. That's just in the first two paragraphs. But if you know your history well enough, you know that the Sex Pistols were put together and managed by a boutique owner, Blondie became a hit radio band outside the dirty clubs of the Northeast and if you're around my age and reading this, you know that some of the first images of "punk" were and still are a bit unclear. Once anything has been taken notice by a larger minority, the majority will eventually gain curiosity and figure out what it is, and bam, you are now a marketable audience.
"Punk" has always been that taboo market where the elitist trust fund crust kids will argue for hours how those suburban middle class losers don't know what that "sacred" term really means. Punk was once part of the counter-culture, and now there are so many various forms of "Black Flag" satire t-shirts, it's about as counter-culture as Disney's Joy Division t-shirts. But I know the real point trying to be made in the "Buzzmedia buy-out of all things punk on the Web." There are the unpaid and the underprivileged that are deemed "staff" on these websites. Well, I'm one of those people. In fact, in two hours I have to be at my part-time job, which sucks so much that tomorrow I have an interview for another one. I should be at Austin City Limits this weekend, but financially it wasn't an option. That's okay, for the most part. I say "for the most part" because it's tough, stressful and sometimes depressing. But what I've learned in the past few years is that freelance writers and musicians are the poorest ones in this industry. If you think bands make little to nothing, then writers are making less and still hold part-time positions. They don't tell you this in college. They don't tell you this at the job fairs. You have a choice to enter the reality of signing an office card for Becky's birthday at the cubicle job because that's the American dream we can't detach ourselves from, or watch At the Drive In's first ever reunion show.
That credit card commercial was right. Some things are priceless. Not sure why now my credit card can get me closer to hooking up with Alicia Keys, but times change I guess.
At the end of the day, someone took a chance on me and continues to do so. Equal Vision and Atlantic took a chance on Circa Survive. Circa Survive used those outlets to learn and grow as artists and almost ten years later they've figured out how to make each lesson a prosperous one. Success doesn't come over night in this industry. It may take ten years for some of us to hone our craft and finally make a living off our talents. Mine is still growing. I'm still experimenting. I can sit here and be mad that after three years of service and what I think, or at least most of you have told me, has been quality work, the "internship" should be over. But who else has offered me a paying gig for my services? Has anyone who has complained about how I get used reached out to say, "Hey, here's a paying gig you may be interested in." No. We just sit and complain about how art, writing, intellectual property and all those things aren't raking in the big bucks.
I could sit around complaining (which I do enough of), or I could spend my time in sharing my wisdom - or lack of - through a vehicle of communication that has been given to me, and by some strange account, hasn't been taken away. You can buy and sell punk all you want, but you'll never truly change anything, catch people's attention or bury your roots deep until you find that vehicle in the system to use. Early in the interview, I think Frangicetto hit the nail on the head, "As an artist, you have to realize that sometimes your portals of communication are going to shift and change due to technology and lots of people wanting it a certain way." All four of those sites wanted to grow and make the thing they created become a full time thing. It's no different then when a band signs to a bigger label.
What can I get out of this deal to further this piece of property I hold dear?
I just want to write. Frangicetto wants to make music and paint. My friends are upstairs right now recording demos on a laptop. Somewhere, right now, someone is jamming out to the new Deathgrips record for free and before the label that gave them the money to record it even heard it. Too many people talk about how the system fucks people over, but this week I realized how much I selfishly use the system for my own needs. It may not be stealing credit cards to book tours like punk bands back in the '80s, but it's a start.
Print is dying, but zines are making a comeback. CDs are dying, but some people want a limited packaged vinyl. Somewhere in between lies the Internet: Digital music that both parties can agree on and up-to-date jackassery on pages of Tumblrs and music blogs alike. A couple of car ads aren't going to bastardized that. Is it free labor? Yes and no. I'm certainly to the point in my life where the benefits don't pay for my college debt, but it's the decision I have made and choose to live with. Jacob Bannon said something that really hit me in an interview with Pitchfork a week ago, "I don't regret the decisions or direction I've chosen, but I feel it's important to be self aware."
When you become self aware, you grow. You gain success. Here's to the future. Maybe it's all the post-rock, instrumental music this week, but I'm as excited as I am fearful for that future.
Now who wants to buy a EMI/Capitol subsidiary with me?