Here’s the second installment of Hard Times, Go! We wrote most of these songs quickly over the last couple months. Our routine was pretty simple, Brian V would take the train back to Bellmore on Tuesday nights. I’d pick him up at the LIRR station and we’d head back to my basement to record drums with 1 or 2 microphones. I’ve got my father in law’s old drum set down there now. Bri’s got it sounding pretty good. We’ve been collaborating for a while now and the process is really natural and easy. We have faith in each other’s instincts. Some of the tracks came together without having to think about it too much. For “East Coast” we literally set up mics and pressed record without any discussion about what we’d play, and ended up recording the entire basic instrumental track in one take.
Every new set of songs still feels like a gift to me, that I’m able to experience the process, and I’m always grateful to have the chance to make music. If the first EP felt like fall, hopefully these songs feel a bit brighter and optimistic. Springtime always makes me feel like anything is possible. Even if it’s only for a little while. I hope you’ll listen to these songs on warm summer days, driving down to the beach, or drinking beer in the sun with your friends.
We’re working now on finishing up the rest of the album and will have more news soon on the full length Hard Times Go release. Thanks for listening.
All the best,
If you’re like me you’ve been following the whole discussion that started the other day with Emily White’s NPR blog post and continued with David Lowery’s reaction, and countless others. I was pretty moved by Lowery’s post, and it got me back to thinking about the subject of free culture, and how we value music. It’s a subject that’s always fascinated me and probably always will, even if the dialogue about it around the internet can get a bit exhausting.
As a music fan, I decided I would no longer illegally download anything 3 or 4 years ago. For me it was a personal decision. At the time, it was probably more for selfish reasons than anything else. I had initially bought into the whole free culture mentality pretty wholeheartedly. I remember when Napster happened it felt like a revelation, like a weird dream that was too good be true. All my friends were music obsessed like me to begin with - compulsive media collectors. We rationalized downloading in the usual ways - screw the big corporate record labels, etc. In my mind, it was a paradigm shift. Maybe intellectual property had been a good thing, but the world had changed and there was no sense in resisting it.
But then a few years into it I started thinking back to how it had been before, and realized that I missed the way it used to be. This new way of consuming music, where you have access to everything all the time, and are always staring at the skip button on your ipod wondering if there is a better song you could be listening to, was by comparison, relatively joyless. I realized that if you have no investment in something, there is no reason to be committed to it, and it becomes disposable by definition. I care way too much about music for that to be the case. I decided I would rather purchase the music I could afford, even if it was only ten records a year. I could spend time with those records, invest in them, own them. I could make them a part of my experience, and a part of who I am. Of course there’s still lots of great free music to download, and I do pay for spotify but for me that feels more like listening to the radio. But buying a record and giving it the time to listen is still the most rewarding part of my experience as a music fan. Maybe the reason to buy music is just because it feels good to buy music.
As a recording artist, my feelings are a bit more complicated. Sure I lament the bygone golden era, where you could dream of breaking through and scoring some big record company advance like the one Bruce Springsteen sings about in his song “Rosalita.” But I had seen the dark side if that fantasy with some close friends of mine a decade ago now, and it was never really what it seemed. They made a platinum selling first album and got dropped when they delivered the second. So it goes. I think the point is, the music business was never that great to start with.
I came of age as an artist in a sort of weird in-between time. We made our first record in 2006 and posted it on our website as a free download. It was reviewed on a bunch of blogs and ended up being downloaded 50,000 times in the first year. The thought was, give it away for free, build a fan base and get enough exposure to get picked up by a label. For a bunch of different reasons it didn’t exactly work out. I think we were still sort of relying on old conventions. The record industry wasn’t making any money. They weren’t going to place any bets on a band like us.
Did the internet ruin our chances? Or would we never have had a chance at all without the internet? There’s no point in asking the question. The truth is that without finding an audience the way I did through music blogs and stuff, I probably wouldn’t even be playing music anymore. There is no sense in looking back to the old ways. The paradigm has changed. The older generation of musicians doesn’t necessarily have to like it, but for those of us who want to continue to be artists it is our responsibility to find a way to navigate it.
That can mean a lot of different things. Mostly it means letting go of preconceived notions of what it means to be a musician. It might mean figuring out how to make cheaper records. It might mean having to keep your day job. It might mean cultivating an audience of people who can support you, and finding a way to work within the means your audience can provide. We certainly need to be adaptable, and let go of any sort of sense of entitlement. We also have to change the way we look at our own success. I used to let the fact that I still have to work a day job feel like some sort of failure. But when I was a kid, I just wanted to write songs and make records. And with the technology that is available I can make pretty much whatever kind of record I want, and reach an audience that is potentially unlimited. It was important for me to let go of the notion that my creative success correlates with the amount of revenue my music generates. I’ll put the songs I write up against anyone else’s work, proudly.
Anyway, when I did stop downloading the leaks a few years back, something kind of remarkable happened. I started making money selling downloads of my own music. Maybe it’s karma? Whatever it is, I’m truly grateful to have that support, and I think without it the prospect of being able to continue to make music would have been much more difficult. I also have seen that our fans appreciate having the opportunity to support us, and the whole relationship we have is more rewarding. This is an amazing time to be making music, and everyday I feel blessed to have the chance to do it.
And it’s silly to be mad at Emily White. She’s just the messenger. I think she was brave to be so honest. She’s just admitting to doing what everyone else is doing anonymously. Sure, she comes off sounding a bit like a spoiled kid, but in her defense, she does start her article off by saying “I’m almost 21, and since I first began to love music I’ve been spoiled by the Internet.” After having a few days to think about it, there are some parts about Lowery’s response that feel a bit bitter and heavy-handed. But he makes some really important points that I hope we can all keep in mind. What is most important is that we can’t separate the music from the people who create it. If an artist creates something and we download it without permission we are stealing from them. This is an action that has very real and direct consequences in their lives, and in their ability to continue to create art. I hope we can keep this sense of awareness and keep a healthy conversation going. So come on. Stop messing around on the internet and go buy a record!
I heard this Father John Misty song on the radio this morning. For the second time. I drive up to westchester on Monday mornings, and I usually listen to Alisa Ali and the Alternate Side on WNYE. I was familliar with Josh Tillman’s solo work a little, an I knew he had also played with Fleet Foxes, who are a band I like in sort of a passive way. I guess I figured Tillman’s new project would be more singer-songwritery, and not the kind of music i would typically seek out and get into. Anyway, when I heard this song last week, it totally stopped me in my tracks. I heard it again this morning and it bowled me over again. It’s been a while since that has happened with a song. The melody is so haunting. The production is so confident and loose. And I love the way he says “Jeeeesus Christ, Girl…”
This is the kind of song I like. Anyway, it got me thinking, it’s a good thing I’d heard it on the radio. I’d read about Father John Misty a bunch on blogs, I even follow him on twitter, and yet I can’t really if I would have gotten around to listening to any of his new record if it didn’t come on through the speakers of my banged up chevy cavalier. My drummer Brian had even mentioned him to me. I had a million reasons to check it out. So backwards really. Why do I need to know what a guy says on twitter without even hearing his music. So i guess I wrote this blog for the people like me, mindlessly floating around the internet passively, silently. Fucking listen to the tune! Download it at soundcloud, and get the LP at Insound. Play it loud.