Friday, February 24, 2012

Trakan, The Band Version 11.0

Chicago 2/24/2012 - Introducing the band, left to right: Roxy, Claire, Trakan, Freddy, Chris, Matt (photos by Rob Gaczol).

Ok so I know what you're thinking – why the hell would I not be writing about the CD Release show that brought over 100 people to the wine bar this past Monday night?

Well because I need to catch up in the story, silly. I've been busy making a CD, man. Takes a lot of time! I'll get to the "show" stuff. Patience little sparrow!

See, the thing is that none of these stories moving forward will make as much sense unless I introduce you to the band I'm currently working with – how we got together and how the project was born and such.

(I also lied in the last blog – I still owe you the story of the actual pre-release show. This weekend, you'll be all caught up. Promise.)

First let me introduce Matt, who's playing guitar, bass, keys, and sax on this promotion - like a contortionist sometimes. (I bitch when I have to put on a capo, but I make all these guys/girls in the band swap instruments almost every song. Man, I have to hand it to them. Amazing multi-instrumentalists each of em.)

Anyway, Matt told me last week, that by his count, I've had eleven different lineups in the project's two-record history (yeah btw I still call em "records" – I'm (just barely) old enough to have owned a record collection, so I'm allowed to say "record" I think).

So as de facto "band historian" (Matt's been in eight of the eleven lineups by his count), I'll introduce Matt first. Matt's the dude who encouraged me to carry my guitar to my cubicle one morning years ago, and at corporate quitting-time, drag the guitar onto a commuter train to play an open mic over on Halsted and Diversey. (I can't remember the exact year. I'll ask Matt. He'll know.)

And that's how my project was born. I played an open mic one evening – showing off three songs that would eventually end up on Opening Soon Under New Management (OSUNM). I think the songs I played were Emotional Genocide, Fisher Song, and Chronic Dylsexia. I got some really nice feedback (which I liked), so I returned every week for a few months, until one night, Matt called from a club where he was playing, and where he had run into an old classmate, Noah – the drummer who helped me mix/record OSUNM. A band fell in place (version 1) while I wrote the rest of OSUNM.

Toward the end of that OSUNM run however, I ran into an unpleasant and unexpected hurdle - the lineup started fluctuating, and became really transient.

As a rookie "band leader," this surprised me and I didn't always handle it well.

The way I make sense of it now - people leaving the project during its promotion - in retrospect, is that I was/am an indie artist who's relatively unknown. I don't make a lot of money doing this as you might guess, so with no real money to pay ringers, the musicians I tend to work with all have day jobs, sometimes other bands/dreams, families... you know – real adult priorities and stuff. This is a time-gobbling hobby for most of us down here.

And it takes a lot of work and practice to be any good. In a lot of cases, asking folks to "work" toward something (something that leaves you tired at the "day-job" the next morning after rehearsal or shows) gets old after a while for most musicians I've worked with.

After the novelty/honeymoon/getting-to-know-each-other period wears off, I can only imagine there is a lot of "why am I killing myself for this dude's songs?" and "what's in it for me?" Or maybe they just don't like me or the songs. Who knows - probably different reasons for each person that's left.

But the problem for me has been this - for whatever reason, there's this window – sometimes as quick as three months even, that eventually closes, and at that time that musician "moves on."

Meantime it takes years to write, record, mix, package, and promote a CD or record when you're doing it all mostly alone.

So when that window closes, usually somewhere in the middle of any one (or all of) those phases of production, well it sets you back. And it sucks at that moment.

And now you need to find a new musician who's available, interested, talented, reliable, and plays the instrument or sings in the range you need.... you have to hope that person remains happy (without money) while they learn the songs... and you have to hope that when you get to know each other better, you don't want to kill each other. More still, you then hope they're still in the country and/or sane and/or not in six new projects when the thing's finished.

It's a chicken/egg thing in some ways too - how do you find people who will work hard enough to get good enough to make money, without the money/reward that encourages them to work hard enough to get good enough to make money?

It really is a miracle any bands or records ever happen when I take a step back.

All I know is that this week, I'm blessed to have not had any aneurysms thinking and worrying about all this while putting this thing together, and blessed for having the right band at the right time, for this promotion.

Thanks, my awesome and talented band-mates. I love you guys. Hopefully we can do some more cool things together while we can!

Meet the band here: Roxy, Claire, Freddy, Chris, Matt... and meet me, Trakan, at the website.

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