where is my mind?

i thought it was probably time i did an update on what’s going on with the band and some of my current topics of thought about music and moving ahead. you can keep up with some of this by following varnish on myspace or facebook, and i’ll post much more frequently to the twitter if we get more followers.

for those who missed it, the big announcement this week was that we’ve found a new drummer. whilst i’m truly sad to have lost ben to academia, i think we’ve found someone cool in aNdi pUzL. it felt right having her behind the drums, so let’s hope my feelings are on target. i really hated trying to work without a drummer. sure, we can set down beats with a machine. but that doesn’t have the same energy or presence. i had never taken ben for granted, but my appreciation of him only increased over the six or so months i beat my head against the drummer hunt. i know you can do rock with a drum machine, but i feel pretty safe in saying i’m always going to want a warm body behind that kit. so, welcome, aNdi. you won’t be taken for granted here.

and, for all of you, this means that there should be shows again soon. i know that aNdi is working to learn all our songs and to come up with drums for a couple that hadn’t been nailed down yet. now we just need to hope we can get everyone else’s schedules back in synch. i have really missed playing with my boys. (hmz…now that there’s aNdi, i guess it’s not just my boys anymore, is it? that will take some adjusting. but she is kind of half boy, so maybe she’ll forgive my habit of thinking of the rest the band as my boys…)

the other thing that you might be wondering about is the cd. some complications and changes in people’s lives slowed down the process. i just feel really lucky that we got the drums all down before ben moved. so, in case you haven’t heard it elsewhere:

  • this will be a five-song ep, titled “each to each.” anyone recognise that reference?
  • all of the tracks have been recorded, partly at the famous london bridge studio and part at the soon-to-be-famous soul kitchen studio.
  • mixing is done. (if you’re anywhere near seattle, i recommend mark clem of soul kitchen studio without reservation. part of why i’m eager to move on to the next recording is to work with him again.)
  • we have an appointment set with the engineer we want to use (ed brooks of rfi)
  • i’m still sorting out the cd booklet/art and distribution. unfortunately, loss of my day job has slowed that down. but i’ll work it out

i was hoping we’d have the cd ready for you in the fall, but life conspired against us. however, we did decide to post the tracks for your listening pleasure on our myspace or facebook. i hope you’ll agree that this has been worth the time, money, and effort. if we get a miracle in the next week or so, i’ll see if we can’t make it available for sale in some way by Christmas.

which nicely segues into my next topic, which is what i’ve been thinking about as concerns moving ahead with music. i’ve actually been reading quite a bit lately about how social media is helping musicians move ahead and pay bills without having a record company.

i won’t lie; i want music to pay my bills. i’m not going to compromise my artistic vision to do it. i’m not going to make music i don’t believe in or let my music be used to promote something i don’t like. so, for me, that means i won’t be selling out. but, just like you, i have to pay the bills. and trying to fit in a day job and music on top? yeah, i’m going to do that as long as i have to, but it’s basically like working a couple jobs. and, like you, i’d rather not have to do that. so that means that i do keep an eye on ways to let my music pay bills.

someone once asked whether my goal was to make music i loved that touched people or to make money and be known. and i responded, “can’t i have both?” it won’t have been a waste if i only get the first, but i wouldn’t mind giving up the corporate rat race and being able to give all those hours to music instead. to know that the money i pay the mortgage with came from doing something i love and believe in.

so, how to do that…

the old model, of course, is that we work like crazy, hope a record company finds us and gives us a contract, and then spend our lives playing that game. in case you don’t know how that game goes, you get money from the record company. you use that money to record, set up the tour, whatever….and then you don’t tend to see any more money until you’ve made that amount via sales and such. basically, you’re living on a loan. and i hate being in debt. (which isn’t to say i wouldn’t go this route. i’ve just not got the rosy perspective on it i did as a kid.)

but new models are emerging. there are quite a few of them, and most of them take advantage of this lovely internet we’re all using. your fans follow you on myspace, facebook, twitter, your blog. they buy your music online, whether as downloads or ordering a physical cd. maybe they subscribe to some plan where you send them a song a month. you connect with your fans in a more personal way, until you get so huge it can’t be done, via the conversations you can have on all those online spaces. and you hope your fans then use email or chat programs or whatever to send links to their friends who might like you. and the love grows. i even think that (and i know some of you will blast me for this) people downloading for free can help. granted, at this point, i’d love to see a little money for every song of mine you have a copy of. my spreadsheet of band expenses versus band income still shows that i have spent thousands more than i’ve earned. but i do know that there are bands i’ve decided to love and follow because i got sent an mp3 by a friend who thought i’d dig them.

so, we’ve got good songs up. we’re making more good songs. i’m pondering how to get that music into more ears. how to create a relationship and community with all of you that is mutually beneficial and, hopefully, includes me paying some bills. because, honestly, if i can pay bills with music, i don’t have to do a day job. which means i have more time to make music. which means i can make more music available to you. i’m not just trying to sell you on this; i’m sincere. i say this as a huge music lover. i honestly can’t imagine having survived certain things in my life without music. if someone hadn’t made sure that bands i loved were paying the bills and making music, so that their songs could get to me? yeah, i really, truly might not be alive now. and i’d say that thinking my music could do that is vain, except that i have emails and messages where a few people have, in fact, told me how one or the other of our songs has gotten them through things.

and really, there’s a lot of music to be made. at the time i write this, i have lyrics for 125 songs. all written in the last 35 months since i started writing again. (have i talked about why the writing stopped? basically, i was on birth control pills for a while. and one of the things that got put into a coma–i always say killed, but it clearly didn’t die–was my creativity. horrible. i look at notebooks from that time…well, the notebook. i went from writing like mad to eking out only one or two things over the course of years. ugh.) so, yes, loads of songs to be made. i fear i’ll never have the chance to let all the good lyrics, much less the mediocre ones, become songs you can hear. varnish are working as fast as we can, but we only have so much time.

which means i have also been looking into side projects (so far, all single song things, not second bands). it’s a bit mad, really, because that’s just adding one more thing to my schedule. the options i have are moving ahead far too slowly because of that. complicated by the fact that most my current options are in other countries. fortunately, technology will help us work around that a bit. i’ve got one song done with a lovely mate, and i really just dig that we could do it all online and on our computers. that’s going to have to do until i can afford to build a recording space in this house (or afford more hours in the studio) and get people to fly out here. though i am also looking at local options. i have one idea that will involve working with different people for each song, and that includes some local victims.

i mentioned community in terms of artist and fans. but i’ve also, as i look at side projects, been thinking of artistic community. those of you who follow me other places online have probably noticed that i make note whenever johnny’s main band, post adolescence, are playing a show. that’s one perk of treating other musicians and artists as community. yeah, johnny is my best friend, so that’s a bit different. but i think if we get to know each other and if we support and promote each other, we all win. i think it also opens opportunities to try out side projects. to expand our repertoire. to meet other sorts of artists and learn the other artistic talents of the musicians we know. i’m not just about community with other musicians, by the way. i really think we are all improved by exposure to other kinds of art. and, at least from my perspective as a musician, i’m going to need to have other sorts of artists to take pictures, design covers and merchandise, and so forth if i’m going to do all i want.

i tend to be a solo sort of person. i love my alone time. i don’t need lots of social interaction to be happy. varnish have made good music without community. and there’s a part of me that loves that sort of path in a theoretical way. but now i’m looking around and pondering…i know lots of talented people. musicians, writers, jewellery makers, painters, digital artists, dancers, and so forth. i’d love to see us lift each other. see how we can inspire each other. (i have a song i wrote after discussing a piece of jewellery with my talented friend birna, for example. so i never know where i’m going to find words.)

so, there’s the update on where the band is and where my head is. i’d love to have you join us places online. i’d love to hear your thoughts on community, either with fans or other artists, and other things i’ve brought up here. i’d love to know what you think of the songs. love love love.