This is the first post of a four-part series. Stay tuned for more.
My band released its fifth record in May this year. Five records, 10 years, numerous lineup changes, endless touring, god knows how many nights spent sleeping on floors in punk rock dude-houses, losing money, firing booking agents, fist fights with band members, alcohol and drug abuse, broken friendships, van trouble, and some SUPER shitty shows, sometimes for weeks on end. Ah, the life of a bottom-feeding touring indie rock band. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? The drummer and I started the band 10 years ago, when I was 24, and it’s been the focal point of our lives since then. However, our lives have changed drastically in the past decade; we’re in our mid-thirties, we both got married, and I have a two-year-old son. And we’re still doing this. The question is, why?
There will probably be free beer. So fuck it. Let’s go.
I could just say, “We’re dedicated to our music, man,” or some other worn out platitude, but the truth is a bit more complex. Every time I’ve thought about throwing in the towel, usually after a string of impossibly demoralizing shit happens, some tiny little cool thing will happen, and I’ll soldier on. It could be a cool review, getting put on a big bill, etc., and it will at least temporarily revitalize my outlook. A couple of things happened in the past two years that have kept me going to this point, despite becoming a father, which threw me into an existential crisis I’m only just coming out of and seriously put my desire to be a career musician in jeopardy.
For one, we got the chance to work with our dream producer in upstate New York, and make our dream record. The fact that he was interested in working with us was so completely validating that since then I have pretty much been unable to care about what anyone thinks of my band or our record. He likes us, and that’s all I need. Two, he took us under his wing and put us in touch with an amazing publicist, and as a result of her efforts our record has gotten a ton of rave reviews and coverage in some high profile publications, which culminated in a European record deal. Our profile has increased exponentially, and opportunities are starting to pile up, especially in Europe. The record is selling better than I ever could have imagined; we did a record release party in Austin and short promo tour to NYC, which went very well. The band is at the top of its game, and we’re heading to the West Coast next, but…
We haven’t been out west in four years. We have no presence there, no local band connections, no nothing. Why are we doing this? I’m too old for this. I’ve been driving around the US for 10 years and I don’t know if I’ve reaped any real reward from all that touring, except maybe an insider’s view on what living this lifestyle is like. And yet…
We kinda have to. We just released a new record, and we feel like it deserves the exposure the tour will give it. Also, there’s a massive publicity campaign behind the release, and to really get the most mileage out of something like that, you have to tour. Why run a huge, expensive campaign if you aren’t going to tour? You raise awareness of your music and create potential markets, and then don’t play them? Nope, we gotta tour.
But goddammit, I’m tired of it. I’m tired of sleeping on floors, tired of eating peanut butter all day, tired of playing to half-empty bars for 60 bucks. But then…
We’re still young (kind of), it’s beautiful country out west, we’ve got a critically acclaimed new record out, a kick-ass publicist spreading the word, and there will probably be free beer. So fuck it. Let’s go.
Stay tuned for Part 2.