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?
The air is dry and it's not quite cold, but it's warm enough, and with this much people, no matter where you stand, there's a lukewarm vibe in the air. There are those here for some supreme elitist vanguard and some anticipating being floored. Half the room is sober, while the other half, myself included, are very much under the influence. All of a sudden, it washes over you. The building of the strings' quick frequencies and rising low ends. For two hours, you stare at a moving picture with focused musicians sitting in front of the visuals. They gain speed and grace and power into individual twelve minute grueling processes that exert forces of intensity, felt in anguish, afterthought and dreams of hope that pass through much of the crowd. The crowd not pushing through me to get somewhere out of focus, but the ones in awe stood still, slightly leaning in intrigue.
I stood there, leaned against the folded up benches underneath the staircase. It's a straight line to the stage. It's cornered, but the mix stage left is directed in front of me like a megaphone to the face. Again, there's a violent wash. Each song a new stream of conscious. I thought about the past, the anxiety about the future. I thought about the bridges burnt. I stood in a venue next to old friends I hadn't seen in some time. But time is relative and it passes. You think about the pockets of life. Your adolescent lack of responsibility through your rebellious teenage years and then learning more in the rapid time it takes you to go from drinking illegally to legally responsible for your own worth both physically and mentally. The friends on the couch next to you in one phrase of years, and the ones next to you in the next few phrases in the overall composition. Empty bottles, forgotten numbers, new friendships and a new day to experience each one when you get to open your eyes from rest. There's just as much beauty in the minor keys as their are in it's more vibrant counterpart. The truth is, I don't sleep much anymore.
After the burn of a cigarette, applause and the segue into the next climb of the mountain, I thought about the power music has without words. Words to interpret. The shifting of meaning in a line that means something completely else. There's a manipulation of a feeling through each movement of the hands, the quiet, loud, quiet, overbearing shift that channels grand opera house symphonies through tubes and more conventional and familiar instruments. There's a difference between sitting down to learn how to play a specific song and just sitting with your instrument trying to blossom and wither the music and motions inside your head and through your nerves. Words may not yet come, but in time, your lips are a steady hum and another frequency.
As those minor chords began to tower into a dark sentiment, I couldn't help but think of failure being the step before knowledge. The dark before the dawn. The anxiety of your next move and how its rush can build a small plant of hope. We live in a time of a cut throat society of survival. There's a good amount of ideas, but many rushed in the face "first-dom" culture we now socially live in, with cases of intellectual theft growing in numbers. Ideas where financial gain is a must, and social, educational and healthy priorities take a back seat. Twenty eight minutes, hours, days, months, years later and we live in times of InSecurity.
Music is a form of escapism. Like a good book or movie, it has the power to make us think past its intended mark. Interpretation will always be king. The thoughts we carry because of music is what's important, it's what gives music its truest and purest form of value. We're sanctioned by it. What we miss as critics and diehards alike is that we put the emphasis in judging the piece of art and not what the piece of art does to us as a stimulate. On the surface, there are a few records in my collection that the most highbrow bone in my body would scoff at, but there's a story as to why I still own a copy of it at a time where most would believe physical media has no real value.
I thought about all of this. As I sobered up during the final minutes of one of my favorite songs - and trying to take in what I just experienced - I was overwhelmed. There has been so much on my mind lately, that it all kind of came together in this sort of nuance of musical yoga and meditation. Back in the day a piece of candy was a tenth the price you pay for it today. Comics were a dime, and not part of some hoarders collection on a reality show. People sent postcards and traveled to see friends....now we have the automation of digital telegram at the precise moment we want to connect a feeling of laughter, pain, uncertainty, anxiousness and joy. We can see and hear each other in opposite rooms, across miles of wiring - without travel! We have the power to build a thriving empire of ideas, but nothing grand comes without adventure...
...or at least a Micheal Bay budget in the figures of say a Bad Boys 3.
- Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Austin, TX. October 3, 2012
My relationship with Code Orange Kids started with a t-shirt. A t-shirt a friend wore all of South by Southwest in 2011. It was a special year. A lot of special shows happened in small spaces, dupstep bars and pizza shops with an open window. Then a few months after I heard Embrace Me // Erase Me, I was on board. It was as violent as Trash Talk and contained a visceral snarl all Majority Rule and Converge. Then came Cycles, twice as long as the former and coated in new tricks, blends of harmony, sharper changes. Of all the passion and forward thinking that was brewing in the hardcore scene at the moment, Code Orange Kids stuck out. Within a year, four young kids, one a long time member of AbsolutePunk, were the biggest buzzed about hardcore band almost a year after seeing that shirt. In 2012, I watched as they tore a pizza parlor apart. Beer on the ground, miscommunication that almost started a fight, and a thrown mic, and me telling drummer Jami Morgan to put some fucking pants and t-shirt on after blasting through an intense 15-minute set.
As I housed the band this past South by Southwest, they were planning studio time with Kurt Ballou, and you could read the excitement across their faces. It's an excitement I've seen in a lot of faces as of the last few years. It's warming. They talked about ideas, about how this industry should work, and what they're going to do, and what's probably going to happen in reality. As I was sitting across the room from them, sick as a dog, already exhausted from two days of the festival, the band was gearing up to leave for something like their fifth show of the week, only beaten by my other roommates for the week, Former Thieves.
Here we are months later. So much short running releases, now Code Orange Kids had to showcase an LP. Holding someone's attention for 15 minutes is one thing, try at least 30. On Love is Love // Return to Dust, the band have taken the best elements of their two songs off their split with Full of Hell and melded them into magnificent long form. Hearing "Liars // Trudge" out of context of the album says a lot. It didn't sound right on first listen. But follow it with the harmonious "Colors (Into Nothing)" featuring Adam Mcllwee of Tigers Jaw and it's drainage into the harsh textures of "Nothing (The Rat)," and "sense" is clearly made. Writing a group of songs that flow together is one thing, but having them connect into the body of an album is few and far between these days.
A lot of people want to call Code Orange Kids the next Converge. I can see that. I feel like critics will cite Jane Doe in their work in upcoming reviews. I can hear and feel that. The final three songs of the album cement that notion. But I've been wondering who will ever take the next step after Fear Before the March of Flames really deconstructed brash hardcore with The Always Open Mouth. It hit me when I heard "IV (MY MIND IS A PRISON)" earlier this year. It's more than apparent in the thread and dirty needle of Love is Love // Return to Dust. 2012 has been an amazing year for hardcore, and this is the way it needs to be capped off. There are bands giving new harmonies to the genre in albums like Our Home is a Deathbed and Blame & Aging and I've Lost Everything. Then you've got hammers of anguish and hurt in I.V. and You, Me, and the Violence and the upcoming Real Spite. Somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, along with Mountain Man's II and Sohns' Ripe/Rot, lies Code Orange Kids' debut full-length. It's emotional, it's unforgiving and most importantly, it's thought provoking and contains forward thinking in a genre that is often scoffed at for its misogyny and violent behavior shown by some that ruin it for many. The challenge has been set by a number of bands this year and 2013 is going to be the next big step. Native. Former Thieves. Caravels.
"I can't get that sound you make out of my head, I can't even figure out what's making it…" - Brand New
"Take apart your head…" - Built to Spill
"It's like Brand New took Built to Spill's 'I Would Hurt a Fly' and made a whole album out of it." - my best friend on The Devil and God Raging Inside Me when listening to Perfect From Now On this week. It was a total "Oh fuuuuu. You're right!" moment when he said that. While the album pulls on many influences, there was even an old argument among friends who took a grudge when The Devil and God came out, saying Brand New ripped off Colour Revolt, who at that time were gaining momentum alongside Manchester Orchestra's popularity. Brand New would later take out Manchester Orchestra on their first major U.S. tour since releasing The Devil and God. Then behold, months later, Colour Revolt were opening shows for Brand New. It's a wonderful cycle. Where is the hate if Brand New learned a few tricks from Colour Revolt, isn't that the most exciting thing about music, artists feeding off each others ideas? There were so many reviews comparing the album to The Smiths and The Bends. Where was the Built to Spill write-up? Where was the Perfect From Now On shout-outs most of us missed? Why the hell didn't Pitchfork man up and just say it was great record? At least a 6.7 dawg!
Then there's my "hyphy" review of Basement's upcoming swan song, colourmeinkindness. Maybe I went a little overboard with the references, but after seeing comments like this, I sort of didn't disagree. There are times on colourmeinkindness where someone's going to go, "Maaaan. That's so radio sounding. They sold out." What the hell does that even mean though? I know I've said it a lot about a lot of really good records. Why? I grew up on the radio. I grew up on MTV. I grew up in the suburban South. There was a point in my life when NOFX's Pump Up the Valuum was the heaviest record I owned. Before that it was Insomniac. Before that it was Sixteen Stone. Before that some AC/DC record my dad would play. Back to Black I think.
The point is that unless your older sister was a hip college student or you grew up in such outcast lifestyle that you knew everything before it was big, then you started with the gut of society. As we grow older and discover new music, some of us also grow a tendency to shift towards shitting on everything and anything, and we act like we've always been in the know about certain bands. There's another branch of elitism that is even more annoying. That branch is one where allusion and/or influence is seen as either "been done" or "not as good as when band X did it."
I mean, Simpsons did it.
Where does that thought process come from? What separates a great rock song on the radio from a DIY darling? It's like we'll make up genres just to separate our personal catalogs, another division of what's better or more savant than the other. The funniest and truest thing anyone's ever said to me was that chill wave was just "Blink 182 songs with a flanger." Look, I know you're tired of hearing "We Are Young," just as much as I am, but it's a damn good pop song. It's like we're sitting here dissecting specific elements to walk around with our noses up instead of being open to new music, letting our guard down and enjoying a song or album for its surface value. So what if it sounds like a more obscure band? I get it, Refused pulled elements from a lot of American hardcore acts. Look dude, they just wrote a better record. Just live with that. None of those other bands suffered, and everyone has their place in history. It's not like Refused have never been quiet about their influences either.
There is nothing more annoying to me than when someone's ego gets the best of them and I hear things like, "Yeah, that band's not as good as this band. They did it first," or "Psssh. Sounds like a (insert band/album) rip-off record." Really dude? Did music just fucking stop for you in 1997 on some small label? You must lead a sad existence. I would have never gained the musical background I have now if it wasn't for being open to everything - for the most part. I'm looking at you Ke$ha. Maybe being around some of those people in my life helped me. Maybe we need the elitist bourgeoisie to keep the past intact, but there's a line of subtle snobbery that closes off a sense of openness to new music, that's where my gripe lies.
Last week I went to a screening of the KARP documentary that Bill Badgley from Federation X put together. The documentary is really eye opening for many reasons, the main one seeing the effects of individual friends coping with becoming a steady growing band. One of the most interesting side elements is how KARP were influenced by The Melvins, how fans were calling them the next Melvins and were okay with it, and then in a full-circle event, bassist Jared Warren ends up playing as The Melvins' bassist decades after KARP's inception. Everyone is okay with this. They should be. When the Q&A followed, there was a discussion about it. Someone brought up that The Melvins were influenced by KISS. Have you heard the cover of "Goin' Blind" off Houdini? Again, most people are okay with this. Again, they should be.
Music is a wonderfully cyclical thing. Young bands like Title Fight, Basement and Balance and Composure are harnessing a time right now where the Internet didn't exist. There was a time when The Melvins could play with The Smashing Pumpkins, and no one went, "That's crazy. Why would The Melvins play with those radio dudes?" It didn't matter, and it shouldn't matter now. If Jay-Z wants to curate a festival with a bunch of indie bands, why is that so weird? Why do we have to even look at it in the light of "This large hip-hop mogul is getting Vampire Weekend to play his festival? That's crazy man!" Again, my best friend on Drake this week, "Yeah it's just M83 beats." That's not a snobby revelation, he's a big Drake fan.
There are a lot of bands and albums I scoffed at when I first heard them. Some of those bands and albums are my favorite now. There is a lot of music I'm probably missing out on now still because I sometimes harness that elitist irrelevancy within me. That's me, and that's my critical tendencies. This is a call to action to pull my head out of my own ass more. This is me asking everyone to just be open to the past and present equally. Without that, the future of music is doomed. We might as well just curl up in the fetal position and rock back and forth about how we'll never get another Jawbreaker record, when bands like Make Do and Mend are writing the perfect angst for the next generation. Just as much as we should respect our elders and learn from them, our elders need to always recognize "the new beat" of future generations as well.
Gatekeepers are an important thing in this industry. All the way from the hyper-press to the managers and PR outlets behind them. You - the fan, concert attendee, vinyl collector, message board griper - you are the biggest gatekeeper of all. You hold the real power over who gets heard, how much they get heard and how much support can be put behind a band to move from the house show to the 300-cap venue to the direct support on a stadium tour. You have that almighty power, no matter what other "hype machine" out there tells you differently. It's your money, it's your tweets, it's your conversations among friends.
Then there's the middle man. The label. The person doing all the work to even get this "thing" out to the public. In 2012, some might say that a label may be obsolete. Who needs a bank loan, when you can ask the public for a pre-order of charity? Beyond the monetary value of what a label consumes and distributes lies a "home." A label is supposed to be a community. It's supposed to be a co-op for not necessarily a similar sound, but like-minded bands. For a bastardized term, a label is a company that believes your band can supply quality goods for the greater output; it overseas how well that product comes out. In an overly driven digital world both legal and illegal, pushing people to buy physical copies of anything is sometimes selling a ketchup popsicle to a lady in white gloves.
Tuesday, one of the finest labels to exist closed down production. Hydra Head owner Aaron Turner posted a long farewell on the label's blog stating that Hydra Head's demise was imminent and that it was time to shut down the operation, sell off all the physical stock, repay debt and call it a day. In a industry of consumerism such as this one, one can't blame Turner for his actions. He hasn't exactly shelled out the most accessible music over the years. Take Old Man Gloom's latest, and strongest release to date. It's an album heavier, more progressive and more experimental than most. There are times on NO where even I scratch my cranium, trying to find some understanding. But Hydra Head's catalog is one large crate of just that. From Botch's We Are the Romans, Coalesce's Revolution in Just Listening and Jesu's self-titled to early Piebald and Converge releases. Few got it at the time, but many yearn for it now. It all came from a label that believed in the music when it hit the ears for the first time.
Then there's Hydra Head's packaging as well. If you own a piece of Hydra Head vinyl, you know it's durable. The sleeves are made from tough stock. The artwork and layouts speak volumes about the record within. It's hard to listen to Pelican's Australasia and not think about that melt of yellow and orange background that floats on the cover. There is detail within the grooves of the record as well as the package which protects it. Before vinyl was this cool new resurgence (that's not a hip jab, I'm stoked so many people are into it!), a lot of labels put a great deal into the physical medium, and Hydra Head is one of those kings that did it for years before vinyl was the "it" thing again.
Along with Dischord, Touch and Go and Kill Rock Stars and the now defunct Level Plane, these labels seem like relics of the past more than contemporary contenders with the likes of many greats today bringing back not only tangible goodness, but a feeling of community among their rosters. Beyond that community, again, there is a sense of style and a mission statement. Whether it's the powerful force behind Sargent House's climbing success or the smaller labels such as Topshelf, No Sleep, and Run For Cover that started in a dorm room and are now moved into actual warehouses. There are still little guys like The Ghost is Clear and Flannel Gurl producing their own small worth of music they believe in. Then there's Third Man and Paper + Plastick, working on physical mediums no other have thought of yet.
To the people who say that the physical medium is dead, I say it's just beginning. To the people who say interesting music doesn't exist anymore, stop being stuck in the past. There is a platform for both to coexist. To people who say that labels can be bypassed, that's up for argument, but there is no concrete small case in my eyes. Though Hydra Head Industries and its subsidiaries are now a moment in time, it is certainly petrified and everlasting. Contemporary labels - and the ones you want to start - should take a look at the core of what Hydra Head turned itself into. If you're signing bands for them to be the "next big thing," then you might as well subsidize out to the majors and take the beaten path. In 2012, you just have to believe in the music you're putting out. Listeners will attach themselves to that. They will attach themselves to the work put into your product. They will spend the money on quality, and they will trade in and sell the bullshit later down the line.
I may have not liked everything Hydra Head put out. I don't like everything my favorite labels now put out, but there's an integrity behind them that keeps me coming back, at the very least, to see what it is they are offering. I know the bigger message here is to support your favorite labels and put money back into them so they can help out the bands you love so dearly. That's a given. Hydra Head, again, didn't boast the easiest roster to understand, but I'm offering advice to the other side in this. Not the consumers. This is a blueprint for the producers. You can put a ton of money into viral campaigns and advertisements. Like certain bands, it's time to stop thinking in the now, and thinking about longevity. Though we're talking about a now defunct label, 15 years and a hell of a resume that will certainly last well beyond this moment of grief. That's a definition of longevity some of us tend to forget: constant refelection after demise.
Thank you Hydra Head. I'd play you that crappy Sarah Mclachlan song, but it never got pressed. Maybe one last thing to look into before you shut your production down for good…
So it's coming up on three years (or something) that I've been a staff member here. It's crazy to think of the things that I've accomplished in these three years: the friends I've made, the things I've written and how it's gotten stronger but not quite to the point of excellence, and the challenges I've given to myself in each field of interviews to reviews to even this run down old blog. Pushing myself and pushing myself and pushing myself. It begins to tear, creating exhaustion and a rundown engine of sorts. This is being in a touring band. This is pushing your bands on your label that aren't selling as well as other bands, yet you still believe in their talent and poise. This is the hustle of the industry.
I hate it. I loathe it. I breathe it through my inbox every goddamn day.
This past week there's been a heated discussion about the workings of this site and other sites, for which we have partnered with to craft a larger community of news, ideas, features, thoughts, anguish and joy of our love of music. The right selection when we get in the car, or we want playing when we attempt to nervously land that kiss we've been thinking about all night. It's a sense that runs through many of us, but when I talk to many - I feel like it runs through few so deeply. Those people that I think it effects the most are the people I work with. It runs through our "Voices" sites. There is a wall called the Internet, and we're all sitting here yelling at it. Sometimes it talks back. Whether we tend to agree with it or not, we also tend to believe what it says most of the time. That's a scary thought for many reasons I can neither condone nor explain fully.
As one of those "free writers" for which half my networks know nothing of my lack of pay - nor do I think they care, because let's face it, at the end of the day it's a job to pedal. That's why you get paid, and I understand that. But through the muck and negative (a lot of which has been tossed around the social feed as of late), there is opportunity. Opportunity to be a complete ass clown of an opinion strewn across pages and pages of utter bullshit and contempt of uneducated and unmovable fandom alike. Every time someone questions my fiber to continue doing what I do for "free," I think of my friends in bands who have shitty part-time jobs like me; I think of my networks who have worked their way up from nothing; I think of the kind words I've been given - hesitant if they were in vain of personal gain - and just smile.
Writing for a huge publication used to be king. Then someone said, "Fuck it. I'll start my own." The variable that people tend to forget that separates one blog from another is content. Content is fucking king. Content is the fucking Walter White Jr. of this industry. It shocks, intrigues, stirs shit up and never backs down from its stance on or off of a contemporary and/or historical topic. When you're the master of your own domain (pun intended), you can run free and see what works and what doesn't. In the fast paced world of the Web, shit changes every day you're not paying attention. This is a game of chess you should plan on losing if you're not keen to a sense of surprise or uncomfortable feeling.
The truth is, I'm not sure what's next for me. I'm not sure if it lies here within the confines of AbsolutePunk or somewhere else. But no matter the location, I'm determine to make you all think. I'm even more determine to push my writing further. To question my own convictions on music, while testing your patience to hold a conversation without lashing out with your heart, instead of finding an understanding between the layers of the mixes. Lester Bangs died at the age of 33 taking three drugs and (supposedly) listening to the Human League's Dare. I wonder what his last thoughts were on the record, the song, the moment in time before his last breath. Was it understanding or was it nothing but more questions? Can I beat that? Can I write my best by the time I'm 32 and mix it with four drugs?
One of my co-workers is in his Fifties. While we were discussing a song playing over the speaker, he brought up a point when thinking of who the artist was: He not only remembered when he heard the song, he connected it to a time in his life and how old he was. He told me that's how he remembers music, by remembering the time in his life. That's his documentation. That thought hit me hard, because I sometimes think I'm the only one who thinks that as well. I work in an industry of hip denoucers. I work in a "buzz" time and "best new music" of sorts. I'm not that person. I'm just a sixteen year old kid who thinks NOFX's Pump Up the Valuum is the best fucking record he's ever heard - and it's damn funny too!
But now I sit here listening to Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band's 13 Blues For Thirteen Moons. That's far apart from my adolescence. That feeling of discovery and excitement still embeds itself in each new record I hear though. As I grow older, I always tend to think in the aforementioned mindset. To put it bluntly, that's the coolest fucking part of music. That's why I get up and write and put together features and shell out reviews for "nothing." I do it because I want people to be as excited about something as I am. I want people to connect to a sound, a destruction and a bloom of something special.
This is one of the most exciting times in music, and I'm truly grateful every day that I'm somehow a part of it. As one of my favorite bands once said, "The best things in life are free."
There's always something to be said about an album filled with love, loss and regret. But writing sad lyrics and connecting them to a core audience of apathetic, moody, hormonal teenagers is like handing out free coffee on a cold day. There's a warmth we'll attach to under the grey of clouds and somber fixation of the short term depression we all feel when it comes to relationships. Big spoiler: No matter if it's a grade school flirt to an older long term run that fell apart, music and sadness are the perfect cheap beer and cheaper shot.
In the '90s, bands were king at constructing atmospheric, Seattle drenched sadness so thick you could pour it over pancakes. It pulled from the pop scene of the '80s greats of The Cure and The Smiths, but gave it a filthy background - a softer alternative to the nastier grunge scene. The Power of Failing, Diary, Water and Solutions, You'd Prefer An Astronaut, Comfort and many others. Then there were the larger outfits of Bush's Sixteen Stone and Eve 6's self-titled. The raw vigor either became pop friendliness for the radio or melodic punk groups such as The Get Up Kids and early Weezer records. If you don't think that the Blue Album is emo's first big notion of mainstream success post-Songs From the Big Chair, then you're fucking lying to yourself.
Beyond the three year hat trick of Control, Deja Entendu and Futures, it's hard to recall a record that has as much heart between it's riffs as the counterpoint of its lyrics. Last year's Separation may have come close. Just wait until your first listen of Basement's final testament, colourmeinkindness. It's the album Filter wished they wrote after Short Bus and a reminder that this "scene" and "emo" thing the media and ignorant quo has somehow pinned down all stems back to the alternative roots of our youth. The time when we didn't have a "free" archive to roam or large sites to "stream new music." There was the radio. There was MTV. There was a cover of Rolling Stone.
There are moments on colourmeinkindness where the vocals blend in with the rest of the instruments, a leveled playing field of harmony against harmony against harmony. While Title Fight's "Head in the Ceiling Fan" isn't a great snapshot of what the rest of the band's upcoming album has to offer, it's amazing to me that these younger bands are pulling from a time I can barely remember, but as I listen to these records, I suddenly recall them all too well. colourmeinkindness is a sonically driven album in the vein of HUM and Far (the ending "Wish" is the closer of the year thus far), but rocks a mood like a Sub Pop back catalog (the heavily SDRE driven "Covet") and at times a radio hit worthy of an opening spot with the Foo Fighters next to Make Do and Mend (the intense guitar work of "Spoiled") all blend for one of the most mainstream sounding, underground rock records I've heard in...well...a long time.
It's too bad Basement called it a day. colourmeinkindness should go down as 2012's best swan song.
When you grow older, the more you delve into the musical spectrum of what you think is special and what your friends are stoked on and what your favorite labels and media outlets shove down your throats with each passing day and... well, it can become tedious to dig through the dirt of it all. You see people get excited about something, then you listen and it does nothing for you. It's an ever passing moment that we all share, especially in this industry of fortified gatekeepers. It's why message boards are king: the argument and the political push and shove of our love of our favorite musical moments.
Today I got a listen to Hostage Calm's upcoming album, Please Remain Calm! and that aforementioned thought that has haunted me for awhile has now turned itself on me and my personal consumption of music. I'm not sure if it's because I hear something new every day to the point of being overbearing, but just because I'm the media, doesn't mean that what I'm about to say doesn't necessarily apply to you - the fans - because it does. As you grow older, you start to pluck bands out based on the taste that you've acquired over the years. I like noise. I like chaos. I like the control of it all. I like music that feels like it has an emotional hinge of uncertainty in its take-off and landing. As weird and obscure and name-dropping as I tend to get sometimes, it only follows how much I'm subconsciously looking for a new high to land in my inbox or through word of mouth with my friends.
In that, I tend to forget my roots sometimes. I tend to disarm myself from the shelve of records I've either sold because I grew out of the style or sit collecting dust or as a saved MP3 file on my external drive. Listening to Please Remain Calm!, I remember when there was no image. There were no MySpace pages. There were no forums or news sites. There was great storytelling. There were hooks worthy of the greatest Bass Masters. There was a feel of urgency, defeat and understanding to a record that carried through every listen and it meant something to you, and no one else. A band sounded like something new to you, not like something "going on at the moment" that everyone else is hooked on. Hostage Calm stand apart with their new record not just for the way it sounds and the progression they've taken, but because it's some of the cleanest and honest storytelling since The Wonder Years' Suburbia and its homage to The Weakerthans' Reconstruction Site before that. It's the simplicity of Through Being Cool, swagger of Life in General and confidence of Everynight Fire Works.
Please Remain Calm! is a record that reminds me that good music doesn't have to be found in the avant-garde or noise or thirteen minute dream-pop and sludgy shoegaze that I've immersed myself into these past years. As much as I hate myself for becoming an elitist shithead in this business, Hostage Calm has reminded me that I was once a kid with angst that just needed a good song to relax me. Now that I've turned 26 this past week, I still recognize a part of my angst that hasn't yet left me. As daunting and uncontrollable as life can sometimes get as the responsibilities stack up, we all need something to settle nerves, to give us hope, to understand we're not the only one who feels down sometimes when we're surrounded by ignorance. Hostage Calm reminded me today that 26-year-old me is still as scared of this world as 16-year-old me once was. Sometimes you just need someone to say, "I understand, and it's going to eventually be okay."
The minute you pick up an instrument, you're immediately a rock star in your own eyes. It's the dream (no matter who tells you otherwise) that any musician would hope to live: Play music for a living. It happens to only the smallest percentage of all musicians (probably somewhere on par with a high school star making it to a professional career), but year after year and band after band, more people put their ticket in to run the course. They sign on to ridiculous hopes and dreams of an industry that has been brought out back and beaten with its own shoe over and over for the past decade. Like bands, labels come and go, leaving impacts for specific generations and niche listeners trumpeting praise and worship for years on end. You know many people like this - just not gatekeepers who see themselves as an authoritative figures on the subject. Everyone has that friend who's like, "You've never heard _______ ? Dude, you gotta hear _________, it's the essential record that never got big. Such a shame," and so on.
Most of my friends are those people.
Then again, most of my close friends play in bands. Hell, I've played in bands. It's fun. On the outside, we rally around the belief that our friends can be that next band that everyone wants to talk about. There's a part of us that wants to say, "Yeah, I saw their first show," or was thanked in the liner notes of the big hit record. Even if you're not playing in a band, there's a superficial connection that not many others can relate to "since the beginning" or whatever. Shoving all the ego aside, friends can still be fans. We're supposed to be, because without fans, a band (or to bastardize it, a business) has no room to expand into that rock star dream I previously spoke of. Living in Texas, there's no shortage of great unsigned acts, and in living in Austin, there's no shortage of indie-best-new-something either. It only increases the bitter apathy, and your warrant in wanting your friends to exceed is heightened.
A couple of Sundays back, I stood in a room with about 1,000 people watching a friend play with his band for the last time. Wait, let me rewind. I met Henry back in 2010 during South by Southwest through Moving Mountains. I checked out his band For Hours and Ours and was blown away. Great live show, underrated sound. With more touring, For Hours and Ours should have been big. Then there's that phrase we repeat far too often - "should have been big." We as close friends use it just as much as industry executives trying to figure out why a band with the right look and sound and run of direct supports flopped on their first headlining run after months of sponsorships and financial support. It's a question we forever ask ourselves about countless bands across the years. As I watched For Hours and Ours' close friends storm the stage during their final song, I couldn't help but be overwhelmed by the feel of the room at that moment. I see dozens of shows a year, attend festivals and see some amazing "Oh shit, did that really happen?!" moments - but there was a unique energy felt for that full hour up until that one final drag and burn after years of investment. There's something more past the community and past the friendships and interpersonal feelings toward the moment. There's the subjective feeling of success on filling a room, whether it's your first show, first tour or last celebration remembering all of it.
Everyone in the room knew it was over. Like a time of reflection during a life changing event we have been tied to, we can't help but think of the better times and acceptance during a personal strife.
The thing is, if you put your all into it - every week you went on the road without a shower, the room of five kids and the room of five thousand, the countless planning between part time jobs to do a tour and the positive attitude and humble feeling you had behind each small goal you slowly (or for some, quickly) reached - you succeeded. Maybe you didn't financially. Maybe you'll pass down your gear to your kids, or sell them to a young kid on Craigslist who is about to venture out into the last decade or handful of years you just lived. There are the tours that should have been and opportunities you didn't miss, they were just out of your control. The true success lies in the groove of your first 7" or the production and honesty of a few demos you put up for free on Bandcamp. You accomplished more in a short time than many will throughout their whole life. Be proud.
An interesting topic was brought up through my Twitter feed a few weeks back. With the excitement of Texas is the Reason's reunion, most will forget how small the band's catalog is. Same can be said for Desaparcidos. Another for all your sweater bound prayers to the sappy gods for an American Football reunion. Small catalogs. Large impacts. Think of how many bands have done that? Rites of Spring. Minor Threat. Operation Ivy. These are bands who you can fit whole discographies on one disc - that one disc changed a landscape. I'm surely not saying that you should think small, you just should think "now," the moment, the initial creation. That final string you pluck in the studio could be your last, or it could be in crowded room filled with connected memories.
It's 2012. While we care more about how homophobic a chicken sandwich is than the education system, gas prices and the overall state of the economy shelling out student debt that doesn't even out with job growth - everyone has an equal and fighting chance. You just have to do it. It's as simple as that vintage Nike ad. Wait, is that still and ad? In all seriousness, this is our time. I think Patton Oswalt, although addressing the comedic community, made a point in his two open letters this week: "And since this new generation was born into post-modern anything, they are wilder and more fearless than anything you’ve ever dealt with." There's no telling who will write the next great song or album. Millions attempt each year, only a few come close to an accomplishment on a large scale. If you write a song your close friends enjoy in a mix of the bigger bands you look up to - that's success. If you wind up selling out of your first record and see if going on eBay for an outrageous amount one day while sitting at your six figure desk job - that's success. Picking up a guitar and being a rock star shouldn't be a goal of most in 2012. It's knowing you have nothing to lose and not much to gain in this current industry. Not everyone gets a final show. Not everyone gets a final practice. Not everyone gets to even release and record something past a few local opening slots...
...But everyone has a fighting chance, and as Juicy J put it via Twitter a few days ago, "It's aug 1st 2012 ,if u not where u wanna be in yo life....keep hustlin."
I'm not sure if I want to do this anymore. The moment money crossed my mind, I had to take a step back. Maybe I need to step away for a bit. I don't know. I wish I had more to say. I wish I had more to say lately especially.
Music, right now, is really good. We're going to be okay.
I'll be behind the scenes for a while after my next column. A few reviews. Not much more unless the moment strikes me.
Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, seriously, thank you.
The higher difference between a well written song and that of a math problem or riddle appreciated by few and held high among the majority that scuffs it. Where does the tangent of entertainment end and the construction detour of rhythmic changes and noise begin? Is there a middle ground, and if so, is that where all the best music lives? Does that make it harder on any artist to find that ground? To not be too liberal as to shove away an audience or too restrictive to never expand and try new avenues within their maturing skills? Who's to blame for that? Is it an audience whose core is made up of like-minded individuals who aren't always open-minded? There is always room for anarchy in our most anxious of nerves and methodical undertones of violence - physical anger asserted after mental frustration. We love to watch shit blow-up and the idea of minor destruction never completely leaves our subconscious after childhood. We think about it our every day actions: laughing at a person fall over, watching the news, all those blooper shows. What is it about some ambiance and noise that is attractive to some, and repulsive to others. But if you layer the sort of annoyance in a lush tune, you can sometimes sell it as artful pop? Or again, should that be in the consideration of "best music" found on a specific medium of measurement between harmonic and apocalyptic. What's harder to count? What's harder to hold - tension between bars and measures - or a constant rhythm across a bright chorus? Because of the subjectivity of music, there's no real answer - but I'm beginning to think we overlook the value of one song's point versus a "new favorite artist" (often read: hype machine) who is exploring something mocked only years earlier for something that's not that forward thinking still to people currently. Anyway, I'm sitting there eating a burger - drunkenly scrolling through social feed - and in seconds I'm watching Refused - almost a decade after hearing them - on a major Late Night show. It's all on my fucking phone. I had an aneurism, a hobo revived me for some change to get a burger.
I can't make this shit up.... well, most of it anyway.
There's a moment on "Silencer" where you can hear the anguish spew out of Aaron Weiss' vocals. It's hurtful and real. There are moments on Catch For Us the Foxes where i can't sit comfortably for a minute after the experience. When music crosses that boundary of overtaking any sort of senses, whether it be physically unnerving or mentally unhinging, I begin to wonder if there's a direct correlation between catching our thoughts off guard with a form of entertainment or our attachment to something we find solace in so much that we mentally absorb self-help pamphlets through the vocal counterpoint of instruments? I'm unsure. Today I was listening to a song and heard a line I never took notice to any of the other thousands of times I've listened to the track. I consciously know why I was responsive to the lyric, but how did I shut it out before? It's interesting to gather moss when dragging your body through the swamp of music we roam through daily, but I'm not sure how much of it we retain, or if we're ever aware of what we retain subconsciously parallel to what we block out for whatever reason. I often dwell on my inablities to tell you why I like a certain band or album or song because of the subjectivity behind it. That subjectivity lies in the connection felt or unfelt by the listener, the individual the "educated hype machine" against the grain of the day, hour, breaking life story none of us really take into account, but we all say we're professionals and music lovers at the same time. Then again, who wants to hear from a person with no feeling blabbering on about what is "savant" in style and glows in "mediocrity" from their point of view. Is seeing another point really going to change how I connected to a piece of art? Is it worth reading? For that matter, is it worth writing? I'm not sure. It boggles me sometimes as to the people who rely on other people's opinions, but more specifically - art and to a greater extent - entertainment.
Today I realized that as much as a brand or tour or marketing firm does their best to try and sell you a feeling, nothing is like the moment you're caught off guard by that perfect line against a note. There's a subjectivity and specialness about that moment that no asshole behind a computer or desk can write to detach that.
We're driving around trying to find donuts in Houston before we head to Austin on our day off. For the past two days I've spent my time in parking lots, the heat, the rain, the nightlife and the morning after hauling tents, boxes and setting up a 10x10 space to sell merch, and apparently give directions to the restroom and other tents for which I didn't have a mental layout of the park - but attendees still believe I could tell them where Chelsea Grin's tent is. I don't know! Go away. Listen to "Pump Up the Valuum" or "How I Spent My Summer Vacation."What the fuck is wrong with this generation?!
That's how I remember Warped Tour when I was growing up. There were no big print t-shirts with phrases like "YOUR MOM LOVES THIS SHIT" or "CAN'T SPELL SLUT WITHOUT YOU" in big bold letters across the front. We just had t-shirts with a small design across the front end or a band name simply printed on a shirt. The majority of t-shirts I saw in the last few days were dysfunctional billboards on the even more dysfunctional youth. It was truly boggling. As I wrote an "old guy" write-up two years ago when attending Warped Tour - my first time since 2002 - this year I didn't want to just attend, and when the opportunity came up to "work" for two days, ride in a van, sleep on a bench and wake up to a sick stomach and a Wal-Mart restroom at five in the morning - I wanted the experience of seeing the rigs drive in early to set-up, drive out, and drive in immediately after the last band is through to tear down while the rest of the artists and production crew grab a bite and a few drinks at the nightly BBQ following each day - which varies dependent of bus calls due to certain lengthy drives between stops. For two days I got to see the "behind the scenes" of a 2+ month tour across North America.
Just woke up. It's raining. Phone says it's nine. Pretty sure we have to be set-up by ten. This should be fun.Turning on Unwound. Changing my boxers.
While everyone has their opinion of what Warped Tour is and what they want Warped Tour to be, for the artists to the production crew to the caterers cooking at 6 a.m. and merch guys setting up tents and tearing down - it's a job. Thankfully, it's a fun one. You get to work next to your friends every day. Sure, there are those people that you care not to see because of your personal tastes in what music should or shouldn't be, but everyone eats in the same area and you just may find yourself having conversations with people you wouldn't normally pay any attention to otherwise. The thing is, they're still human and their opinions on music differ from their opinions on everything else. That's not to say there still aren't bands calling other bands out every day of tour while on stage, but I think it comes with the territory. That territory of subjectivity is where we find our brash behavior from generation to generation. For the kids who saw Quicksand and L7 and No Doubt, they laughed at the next generation of main stage acts and so on and so on through the years.
I've been sitting in this tent for two hours. You'd think by now I would have seen at least one(!) NOFX t-shirt. Has it really been ten years since I went to Warped Tour as a kid?
Then there were the "vets" this year. The bands that I grew up with and some who played Warped Tour when I was the "target" demographic: Taking Back Sunday, New Found Glory, Senses Fail and Every Time I Die. What's funny is, those are the bands that stuck and the bands I saw both days. I missed The Used and Anti-Flag (except one song waiting for New Found Glory.) They played in 2002, and I saw both bands then, but for whatever reason those bands didn't stick with me through a decade. That doesn't mean that their music is worse or better, it's just how I currently feel about something I once loved. Then it hit me as I was impatiently waiting for Anti-Flag to end to see New Found Glory, when I was going to Warped Tour in 2002, I was at an impressionable age that every new thing was cool. At 15 and 16, you're at your height of being impressionable for new, exciting music. For that demographic, Warped Tour is perfect. It's not that I have a disconnect with Warped Tour, it's that I reached a disconnect with how new and exciting music can be because I've become older and jaded to what I once loved and what I still love and what I love new every day. I watched Polar Bear Club and Title Fight destroy crowds just as Senses Fail and Every Time I Die did - but those bands, as good as they are, will never have a connection to me that the kids attending now will have to them. I've reached the line of being a partial elitist in my own right. I can recognize good music because of how knowledgeable my palette is, but I'm no longer consuming it under naive pretenses of angst and teenage revolution. The one band that bridges that gap for me right now, and during the weekend both times I saw them, was Make Do and Mend. It sort of angered me as to how small the crowd was for the band's set both days. Criminal. Absolutely criminal.
There are Vampires. Everywhere.
One of the best things I was able to see this year was the Acoustic Basement put on by ex-Therefore I Am's Brian Marquis. Slightly weird since it was set-up next to the Silent Disco (which for a few hours on Saturday was not-so-silent), but the larger tent was still intimate enough to experience something special among the circus of the tour. Sets by Marquis, Into It. Over It., Koji and A Loss For Words packed in crowds for shade and sing-a-longs. Marquis was there every day setting up, figuring out schedules and adding last minute additions as he saw the day fit. There was no production crew - just a man, a plan and an acoustic guitar. It was something special to see executed both days. Hearing about his special guests throughout the summer, I don't see why Ol' Lyman shouldn't ask him back next year - well, if Marquis isn't beyond exhausted by the end of the run.
So in 2002, Trust Company played. 2001, there was 311. Somewhere in there Limp Bizkit played. Every year there seems to be a few "one of these is not like the other" bands. Excuse me? The bathrooms? Over there. No probelm.
Dead Sara. This is the "band's band" of Warped Tour. Every band talked about them, and after seeing them close out Saturday, I can see why. Dead Sara put on a set that's part Big Brother and the Holding Company and part '90s grunge. The band doesn't fit into the spectrum of most bands on the tour. It's strange to even take a gig like Warped Tour when this band should be opening for Queens of the Stone Age or Jack White. When I looked around the crowd, artists from completely different bands were in there watching something far apart from the look and feel of everything else going on most of the day. No matter what a band plays, it doesn't necessarily connect on the surface with what they listen to on their off(-stage) time. Dead Sara is the band of Warped Tour which trumps that stereotype for every other band on Warped Tour. It's different, but there aren't many people disagreeing the staying power Dead Sara can have past the summer festival and onto supporting larger venue and even arena acts in the years to come.
What is that on the radio? Is that "What to Do When You're Dead" right now? Are we almost to Austin? I'm definitely beginning to smell.Is the weekend already over?
Every year that we post Warped Tour announcements, threads will inevitably blow up with opinions of who should be playing and who shouldn't. When it gets down to it, there are still a few bad seeds here and there. Overall, bands are just looking to play. Some bands will gain new fans with the general crowds that Warped Tour caters to, and some of us older fuckers will come out and see a few bands we haven't seen in a while but still mean the world to us. What most of the public fails to see is the insane amount of work that goes into setting up and tearing down and getting to the next stop every day to do it again. You may have played last the day before, but you may end up playing first when you get to the next city. Some artists can afford the comfort of a bus while others take to Bandwagons and the benches of Green Vans. Hell, Green Vans is not only a sponsor of Warped Tour, they're also there to haul the crew around, as well as being the transportation in cutting gas for some vendors and bands alike. Warped Tour doesn't just breed new bands for the next generation, it also breeds new ideas for future tours both small and big in this industry to survive what's failing at some levels day to day.
Okay, Matthew Lillard just introduced himself to me. I've had one too many drinks.
I think Dr. Keith Buckley put it best last week, "We are all out here trying to get by. Some of us are better at it than others. Motionless In White gets up and puts on makeup at 10am if they have to play first. That dedication is admirable. The DJ for Mod Sun talked to me about the book I was reading. Champagne Champagne has been seen in our mosh pits!" There are a lot of preconceived notions as to what Warped Tour is supposed to be, but after spending a weekend behind the scenes and observing the wildlife of attendees and the dedication to make every set count, no matter the city or the crowd; no matter the side stage band or the main stage veteran; no matter the sponsored vendor or the D.I.Y. clothing company - Warped Tour is not so much a way to get your band heard, it's a lot of people just trying to enjoy the summer and hopefully radiate the fun they're having to everyone else in the parking lot that day trying to have the same feeling. It's a college of unlike-minded folks when it comes to music, all rooting for the same school, all trying to graduate and make the next big step. The unfortunate part is that not everyone will come out of it graduating to bigger tours, some may stay on the mid-level tour route and others may just disappear in years to come to "normal life" and the such. It's hard to tell who and when all that will occur. So, you just need to enjoy the days and the summer as it goes and maybe one day you'll be one of the ones to come back to the school as a special guest talking about how it was in your day. You'll grin and be happy to be in the moment you once lost your shit over (even with your own convictions towards how the "school" has changed.)
I bought a Thou shirt during Chaos in Tejas that I forgot to bring for the weekend. It says, "Punk rock ruined my life." Vans Warped Tour is a notch in that statement for some attendees and bands and production crew and merch guys and all the other outcasts that have embraced their own lifestyle of what they believe punk is. To some, Warped Tour isn't exactly the definition of "punk rock" on the surface. To that I say this - there are a lot of people who bust their ass for something they believe in to be a good time and want to be a part of. Whether that's not "VFW Hall" or "D.I.Y." enough for you, I watched a lot of people put their all into two days out of 2+ months worth of a nation wide touring festival. If that's not even a slight definition of hard work that goes into "D.I.T.," then I don't know what to say. Keep being your true punk self I guess? I mean, get fucked.
Last night I attended a stacked local show in support of Duck. Little Brother, Duck!'s current U.S. tour. During the band's set, an attendee - who, for argumentative purposes was a bit intoxicated - screamed out, "Sell me your music!" It's interesting to hear such a phrase in an age where no one gets money for anything, and everyone gets chicks, music, movies and most of their entertainment for free. The music fan wanted to give a touring band money. Think about that for a second. Think about the level that Duck. Little Brother, Duck! are at right now. Small touring bands don't pull much from merch, and the gas generally comes from the door or the bar percentage - and if lucky, a guarantee here and there.
The reason that fan's comment stuck with me the rest of the night was because of the news from Monday which Circa Survive had announced. After releasing their last album, 2010's Blue Sky Noise, on Atlantic Records, the band decided to take the route that mewithoutYou took earlier this year with Ten Stories and release their upcoming album themselves. While Violent Waves will be released in CD, digital and vinyl formats - well priced around your average record store pricing (the digital copy only $5) - the band released two "expensive" packages. One limited to 100 for $250 dollars and one limited to 11 for $750. Guess what, two days later I'm checking on them, and they're both sold out. But when announced, many were baffled at such a price for a bundle many of us couldn't begin to afford. Most bundles up to this point generally round out a little above $100 here and there.
As outrageous as people thought the prices were, they're really not as uncommon as some packages have been for Kickstarter projects over the years. This time, Circa Survive surpassed the investment and put up the front end themselves, looking for a bit of payback to cushion costs thereafter. Along with mewithoutYou, this may be the counter answer that naysayers against the idea of Kickstarter were hoping would eventually happen. It'll be interesting to see how many other established bands take stride in this direction. I say "established" because selling packages at those prices means you better have a damn good following. No new touring band is going to be able to pull off something like this model - it definitely takes a large fan dedication.
On Tuesday, before the show, I ended up taking an afternoon browsing the record stores around town and even stopping into Half Price Books to browse their $1.00 CD section. With a few purchases that afternoon from the trek, it made me wonder about "How much would I be willing to pay for this?" over and over in my head. Now, on one level it's because I have to make sure I have rent and then some extra in my bank account in a few days, but I also thought about how having backdoors like Mediafire and streaming systems such as Spotify has still changed the way I think about purchasing music. That in itself is very interesting to me. I wouldn't pay full price for Filter's Short Bus, but a $1 for a used copy? Sure. I wouldn't buy a first press of Converge's No Heroes at the prices I've seen on eBay or Deadformat, but $15 still sealed - I've got to snag it.
Those kind of thoughts run through my mind all the time. I wonder if I'm bastardizing the price of what I pay for any type of media not only because of personal funds, but how much it's actually worth to me versus how much it seems to be worth to others. What Circa Survive and mewithoutYou have done is tap into their fan base to see how much people think they're music is truly worth. It's a risk that has paid off for now. While I know some of you are saying, "Well, the same can be said for Kickstarter," the difference here is that the product is already finished. The band put up the investment - not the fans. It's a reminder that there are enough people out there saying "Sell me your music!" to keep great music alive. While there's a lot of "free" out there, some people still feel connected enough to a band and their music that they continue to say, "Take my money. Please!"
Last night I got off the phone with one of my best friends who is currently out on tour for the second time in his life. This happened right after reading professor David Lowery's open letter to NPR intern Emily White, who, in a recent blog, proclaimed that she only purchased 15 CDs in her entire life, but obtained an iTunes library of over 11,000 songs. White is 20. My friend is 22. I'll be 26 in two months. Lowery, being a professor and ex-musician, is 51 years old. There is definitely a generational gap between all four of us. All four of us are involved in the business (or was), and to debastardize it to an extent, the "joy" of music. The four of us are also part of a greater consumerism, both financially and emotionally, of millions that hoard digital libraries, buy used CDs and flip them for new ones and/or spend way too much, or luckily at a steal, on OOP print vinyl or new, limited circles of wax.
To detach Lowery from the equation, the three youngest people mentioned do live in what he calls the "Free Culture movement," and i completely agree with that term. But at 26, myself and the older users and staff members of this site should remember going through the motions. I remember Napster on dial-up. I remember living through the downfall of it and the rise of Kazaa and Morpheus on countless others. I remember switching to Soulseek and ripping iPods in my early college years and then to the backdoors of Sendspace and Rapidshare in the later years. Yes, I have pirated a good chunk of music. In reading Travis Morrisons' column tonight, I also remember doing all those other things (with the exception of shoplifting. What?! My dad's a cop!). But I've also spent a good deal on t-shirts, concert tickets, CDs, vinyl, posters, etc. in that time. I love the tangible feel and ownership of something I find special, and even though I may not always have the dime for it, I generally attend the local record store at least once a week, if not twice and try to leave with something. Take that as you will and if you want to continue reading this op-ed.
For those that are 18-21, such as White, you came in at a time of music discovery when what Lowery describes as a "neighborhood" without an "antiquated police force" exists. More than just music, every form of media is digital and free. I just found out you can download comic books a few months ago! I thought video game emulators were one thing in my time, but that recent concept really blew my mind a bit. It's all free, why would you pay for it? The gas to go to the store only to find it's sold out, or the store doesn't carry it? You could order online, but there's extra for shipping. A simple Google search, and within minutes it's unzipped and in your iTunes. I could go to the store and buy fresh tortillas and meat and vegetables and cook tacos and invite my friends and share a good time. Fuck that! One of the best instant gratifications gained living in Texas is Taco Cabanna. Convenience reigns supreme.
That's my biggest problem with White's blog. Lowery touches on all the fiscal reasons why White is wrong, but I want to touch on the brightest red flag I had with her piece. This is going to come off as corny and lame (then again, a lot of what I say does, so take it or leave it) - there is nothing special in the "convenience" of either making music or consuming music. I say that in the most positive light too. Before sitting down to read both White and Lowery's blog entries, I watched Pitchfork.tv's documentary on Modest Mouse's The Lonesome Crowded West. Besides the information on the classic album's recording and meanings behind such Jesse Lacey covered classics as "Trailer Trash," the film makes old points on touring and promoting music without the vast space that is "the 'Net" and its ad-space virus which consumes sites like this and those lawless towns we loot from. All of the grain bands face daily only helps to create what I see as the best music in the end. The tension, anxiety, good times and bad, fear and letting go you hear in the most cherished records are generally reactions of going through the motions of making the music itself - especially lyrically, and sometimes (read: hopefully) instrumentally. (see also: 13 Blues For Thirteen Moons, Read Music / Speak Spanish, Kid A)
Like good satire, music has the ability to not only make us reflect on current trends and motions, the best music makes us grasp something deeper in the reaction to what's being executed. That's the thing that separates convenience from the people who should be in this industry: If something holds enough meaning to me, I want some sort of tangible item to remind me of that - especially when it comes to music. I will pay my water bill late for a copy of a record I've been looking for for sometime. I will drink less than stellar beer to own a copy of a CD or vinyl recently released from one of my favorite bands. I would sacrifice my credit - and have - to financially support something I believe in. I know that I'm not the only one who would do or does do this, and I know that there are people who are reading this thinking I'm insane. Well, so be it.
The economy certainly sucks. There just isn't enough money to go around that everyone can even remotely live a "convenient" life. I'm three years out of college living somewhere close to the poverty line trying to make it. My friends in bands are doing the same. Some of them you've never heard of, and some of them you might think are rock stars truly aren't. My friends who run labels doing their best to support their family of bands do well. But some rosters cater to a demographic of those 15-21 year-old listeners that share the tunes, and you have to remember that a pre-order goes a long way to put back into the label to sign more of "your friend's awesome band(s)" so they can truly see the same muck of business shit we all do.
I have no idea what to do about the financial situation of this industry. I can only give so much myself and still be able to work part-time and not give up my own dreams. It's not "convenient" whatsoever. It's an adventure, and the bands and industry people who live (or lived) through the years of "inconvenience" are generally the smartest. They know how things not only work, but how they work best. I'm not saying that White should quit her dream, because hell, she's on a great path. I'll say this, her demographic needs to think about the "convenience" of life catered to such technologies we've all been thrown into. Nothing I've ever loved has been easy to obtain or understood the moment it entered my life. There was no instant gratification, only days and months and years of appreciating something special that I once garnered. There's no "convenience" in true ownership, only hard work rewarded. I haven't been handed a lot of things in my life, so I know the work that has to be put into such ownership and confidence. A great band this week asked, "So what if everything that you ever loved more than anything was killing you this slow?" Well, this past year I've been on a deathbed of sorts. Some close friends have struggled as well. Just understand that big advances and trust funds generally don't make a lasting impact - quality music does. Go out and make a quality product and people will throw their hard earned money at your confidence and heart put into it. The people who matter will. They're the fans who will give your "new direction" a biting chance and take a plane or road trip cross country to see you reunite years later. People will put themselves through any number of "inconveniences" for any number of quality products - especially the comfort of music.