Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Why we all will soon be hermits

I have to maintain a blog for one of my media classes, and this was such an intersection of two of my interests, I stole it and re-posted here. Enjoy.

Promoting your music to the masses can take a lot out of a band. Going it alone is tough -- lots of money, time, and effort. There are all sorts of tools out there purporting to help you, including this interesting little idea: stream your live shows. It's been done by the big guys, sure, but why not the little ones? Well, I'm looking at it right now and trying to figure out if: a) people would use it, b) how much it would cost, and c) am I smart enough to master the tools they provide.

While I'm promoting music services, here's just another little interesting one. If you've ever wanted instrument lessons but didn't have the time, now you can take them over the Internet. Ay yi yi. WorkshopLive takes you through the impersonal world of online tutorials.

Both are great ideas and will probably help a lot of people. But I can't help thinking -- if we watch live shows strictly online rather than supporting locals and if we take online tutorials, and if the Internet is constantly creating more jobs, could we live our entire lives without ever interacting with someone else face-to-face?

Today's ramblings

Kill them with kindness: a new promotional technique. But luring more people out to shows takes hard work -- people are busy, people don't have money to check out relative unknowns, etc. But still, we've got our old standbys (pray they never leave us) and we're constantly working for more. That's my mission for Dec. 9.

I've been considering a project for awhile that would just be done in my spare time. Essentially, it would be collaborations with friends, akin to the one MK and I did posted here. Anyhow, it would just be for fun and to see what happens. But apparently, I'm not the only one thinking duet. Read this nice Slate piece.

In other news, one of my favorite songwriters, the stalwart Ron Sexsmith, has signed to Kiefer Sutherland's record label. This is a guy who Paste named one of the 100 greatest living songwriters. The Globe's Joan Anderman gets the sentiment right in this post on the oft-entertaining experiment, the Sound Effects blog.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Once in a blue moon, you find what you never wanted to find

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Q & A with the Metro

One other thing. Last week, I said that I would write a bit more about The Boston Metro article when I found the time. Consider it found.

Now, I know that Dallas Mavericks' owner/media conglomerate/all-around rich bad boy Mark Cuban has paved the way to making the media quake in its boots, by posting criticisms and full interview transcripts on his blog since he feels the media doesn't focus on the things he considers important. THAT IS NOT WHAT I'M ABOUT TO DO. Quite to the contrary, I think the Metro writer did a great job. She asked some preliminary questions through email just to get the background of the group and all, and I thought that some of my responses to these questions, which didn't make it into the article for obvious space reasons, were somewhat helpful in understanding the group and this blog (I plug the blog a couple times).

So, I thought you may enjoy reading the full background conversation. Again, this is not to call out the Metro -- and if this is any sort of a problem, I would not hesitate to remove this. Afterall, I couldn't do that even if I wanted to (I don't want to): I'm not powerful like Cuban, they don't have to interview me, and I have no beef. So, here it is, an intimate email conversation with The Boston Metro:

Metro: Who in this band is from Texas and how much of a Texan influence does your music have?
Glenn: The only member native to Texas is Scott. Mike and I both grew up there, but we were born in New York and Oregon, respectively. I moved to Dallas from Oregon when I was 9 years old, and so I think that I got most of my "music education" from the south (by which I mean, education in listening, because I've never taken proper lessons in anything but the drums). Being around that culture, I always kind of shunned country music, at least more so than welcoming it. When I was in sixth grade, we had to fill out personal information sheets on the first day of school and they asked what kind of music I liked. "Anything but country," I wrote, and I meant it. I can remember going to the enormous Texas State Fair and seeing country acts perform, and just being really turned off by it. Later, I would come to realize that's because almost all of this new "Nashville country" totally sucks, and it's a shame that Nashville is tied to it in title, because it's a sweet town. But that's neither here nor there. Anyhow, the good country, although I didn't realize until later, was always around the house in various forms -- my father played banjo and, of course, there was a healthy record collection. As my tastes broadened, I fell in love with the sounds of fiddles, pedal steel, and all things twangy. Later, as a big fan of getting a diverse range of sounds, that worked its way into my songwriting. So, in Cassavettes, our music doesn't come off as definitively "southern" or "Texan" or "country," because it isn't. It just has elements and flecks of the music we love and listen to, because after all, music is about absorbing what's around you. So you find these elements and sounds that have always been in our lives, and we're just trying to use them to tell our story.

Metro: What made you move to Boston?
Glenn: I moved here for college in 2003. I go to Northeastern, and study journalism. Mike and Scott moved up here at different points, for the distinct purpose of starting Cassavettes. They can tell you about their reasons for doing so, or you can read a long history I posted on my "daily life of the band blog" here:
The blog URL is Maybe you'll make it in there! (EDITOR'S NOTE: She did.)

Metro: What do you do aside from the band (Do you have other jobs)?
Glenn: Well, I go to school and I've worked my way around the journalism industry a bit. Balancing a band, school, relationships, and work is very difficult. It can really take its toll on you sometimes. In fact, I wrote a piece for the Boston Globe on that last year. But there are so many redeeming factors to playing in a band you love with people you love, that it really mutes all your complaints about time and effort.

Metro: What do you love about your band?
Glenn: First and foremost, I love the people I'm in this band with. These three guys are like brothers to me. We've been through some times together, like Scott almost leaving to move back to Texas earlier this year, and we've perservered -- a testament to everyone's devotion to the ultimate goal. Also, without a bit of insincerity, I love the people who support us and come to the shows. The thing about a playing in a band is that sometimes it feels like a company or corporation, like work. It gets so serious with managing money and time and personalities. I've had to start making Excel spreadsheets and it makes me want to shoot myself. But the people you play with and for make you remember why you're really making music and why you love it. It's a feeling, or a vibe, or whatever you want to call it. As I say, I try to employ an Andrew WK-like philosophy in this group and make sure that the audience feels like they are part of the band. It's a community of friends and love and it's supposed to be fun. That's how I see it, anyhow. There's no better example of the love between band member and audience member than our July 11 one-year anniversary show at the Middle East. We had a huge crowd who was deafening from beginning to end, and we had candy, cake, and little kid birthday hats for them. It was, as we say, emotional.

Metro: What do you hate about it?
Glenn: There's nothing to hate about the band. It's a great group of guys, they are my best friends, and I've been very pleased with our progress thus far.

Metro: Has Boston been responsive to the alt-country genre? Do you know any other bands who are alt-country in Boston?
Glenn: Well, I'd be reluctant to label us alt-country. We sort of have that thing going for us, but sort of not. As in, if you played our record for someone at Lost Highway or something and told them "Listen to this great alt-country band," they'd probably laugh and say, "They ain't alt-country" and then also think to themselves, "What the hell is alt-country? It's been around a long time and still no one can define it." Whatever we are, Boston has been great to us. We have amazing friends here, there are a bunch of excellent places to play and some of the people on the business side have been too kind. It's really incredible, considering we're coming from Dallas where if you don't sound like Drowning Pool or a straight-up country band, you generally get ignored. Although, lest we not forget the Old 97s, Toadies, and Polyphonic Spree, amongst others. As far as other bands in Boston doing this kind of music, there are a good many. My personal favorite is Three Day Threshold, fronted by the affable Kier Byrnes, who has been so helpful in mentoring us. They are a lot more country than us, though, and a lot more punk. Also, there's Frank Smith, Tennessee Hollow, the Johnny Mazcko Band, Jake Brennan, some of Christians & Lions stuff, Kieran Ridge Band, etc. All great folks.

Metro: What attracted you to performing this type of music?
Glenn: Not to sound contrived, but this wasn't a conscious decision to perform "alt-country" or whatever it is. As I said, I never learned to play instruments properly, except drums, so this is kind of what my personal raw songwriting sounds like. I had opportunities to learn music, but I was always very firm on the somewhat strange idea that lessons may ruin my creativity and musical individuality. I've always counted it as a blessing that people tell me my songs don't sound like anything they can particularly put their finger on. Perhaps it was stupidity or laziness on my part not to learn the craft I was pursuing, but I'm happy about where I am and where the band is right now. I've slowly incorporated elements and sounds from my songs that I've always wanted to, and I'm very pleased with how Cassavettes has come along so far.

Metro: Who are your influences and what about them do you like?
Glenn: Personally, I can say that my biggest songwriting influences are Neil Young, The Beatles, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Paul Simon, and Nick Drake. I like Neil's politics, amongst other things, but I just think he's had a really incredible career in terms of longevity and how he achieved that seemingly impossible plateau. He'll put out something beautiful one year, and the next, with everyone waiting for a follow-up, he'll release something totally different, or hard-charging. It's great. It keeps the audience on their toes, and keeps you interesting. He's very broad in songwriting range, and subject matter. When I was 15, I found my parents' copy of "Harvest" on vinyl, and just killed it, listening to it over and over again. Plus, even his new stuff is awesome -- a rarity in songwriters from his era still hanging on. As for the rest, I have different reasons for loving each of them and what I take from their songs, but I won't go on and on with explanations.

Metro: How many hours a week would you say you practice?
Glenn: We practice three times a week together, usually 2-3 hours at a time, at a little below ground bunker on Boylston Street. But as we were preparing to record our new record, "It's Gonna Change," a few months ago, we started practicing a lot. We cut a lot of the record primarily live, so we really had to have our ducks in a row. Meaning, we needed to sound like a well-oiled machine of rock.

Metro: How did you come up with the "Cassavettes"?
Glenn: I'll let one of the other guys field this question more in depth, since there are many legends circulating, but my take is this: A few years ago, I jokingly lifted the name from a Fugazi song mislabeled on my computer. Others theorize that we're huge John Cassavetes fans (we're not, though we've got no problem with him) or that it's some kind of combination of Cassanova and Corvette (also, not the case).

Pick me up, babysnakes

Everything's coming together nicely over the weekend. Mike celebrated his 22nd birthday by heading to his native New York City, but we all caught a drink together Friday night after a few of us saw "The Departed." I tell you, man, I liked it. But I got some questions still...

Anyhow, the big news is that we booked a HUGE show this weekend. Our biggest yet. But we are not going to announce until after our CD release show, so that we don't draw away from our own show. I'm really excited though. Maybe we'll announce this show ONSTAGE at the CD release. Speaking of the release, I made the invite today and already a good number have responded. I've got really high hopes for a sell out. In case, I didn't mention earlier, Matt Besser opted to do a show at Great Scott and we filled the entire bill ourselves: Christians & Lions, Mittens, and Hats & Glasses. It should be AWESOME. For the record, Andrew WK never got back to me, nor did 123 Party. Oh well, their loss, I suppose.

Also, our old pal Shred, who is a DJ over at WBCN 104.1 and does the local show Boston Emissions, invited us on to promote the CD release. We'll be playing live, the full band, at 10 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 3. Our goal is to fill that entire week with stuff to promote the show. We've got Dec. 2, 3, 5, and 6 filled thus far. We'll need to nail down a couple others. I'm trying to get us on Fox's early show; I'm going to call over there tomorrow.

Tonight, I'm going to see Dylan with Tara. I was listening to "Modern Times" this morning and I noticed for the first time that he namechecks Alicia Keys. WHAT? I pointed this out to Chris, who directed me here. Man, Chris is good for a lot. But what does it feel like to be Alicia Keys now? Holy shit, the most famous songwriter in history is writing songs about you. Yeah, holy shit.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

It's hard to stay upbeat

It better be worth it. Holy moly, it better be. So, after we got the CD promos in hand last weekend (by driving to Connecticut), after we bought mailing materials, after Chris and I snuck to a printer and printed hundreds of press kits and assembled them by hand (with some extra effort from Tara and Elyse), and after we made a production line effort last night (I tempted helpers by cooking them steaktips) to put everything together, including printing hundreds of labels and putting together the finished press kit (CD, press clips, bio/one sheet), Chris and I lugged (literally carried) two heavy boxes to the post office today to send out a massive promotion campaign. Now, this is paying dues. Putting these things together has been a HUGE pain in the ass, but this is the archaic "way it happens," and so I press forward. Once again, THANK GOD for Chris -- he doesn't even have to help. If he didn't, I'd be doing this alone, it'd take five times as long, and I probably wouldn't do a lot of it.

Anyhow, this whole process has cost us over $200, just to mail the 131 kits we mailed today. That's not including what it cost to get the CDs printed (oh, another grand or so). But today, when Chris and I showed up with the two boxes overflowing with press kits, the mailing guy told us we couldn't strike a deal (something I was heavily relying on -- media mail, anyone?), and that all he could do was sell us FOUR DIFFERENT STAMPS ($1, 24 cents, 10 cents, and 1 cent) for us to put on ourselves. So, Chris and I did so. We assembled them all by hand -- tape over the outside, all four stamps, and finally putting the FRAGILE stamp on each of them twice. It took forever. Chris had class about halfway through, so I did a lot by myself. I kid you not, it took close to two hours of standing at a post office, sticking stamps onto 131 packages. That's, let's see, 524 stampings, 131 tapings, and 131 fragile stampings. Yeah, it totally sucked. But it's over.

The first batch of press kits is out of our hands and will soon be at 100 radio stations, some blogs, record companies, and everywhere else. Pray that this pays off. Or just know that I will be.

Side note, I just faxed Clay everything for moving forward on production of the actual album -- should still have it in hand for the CD release. Well, of course we will. But it doesn't matter. I'm a bit downtrodden by the lack of enthusiasm over new shirts at the show on Monday, after we busted our asses to get them in time for that show (figuring people would be more willing to buy the shirts Nov. 6 than on Dec. 9, when they'll buy the CD). We moved less than 10, and I had to really push to sell that many. Ay yi yi. Sometimes, it is indeed hard to stay upbeat.

Anyhow, tonight, I'll drop some promos off in various record stores and stuff, and then go to see our friends Slow Century at All Asia. Maybe afterward I'll go to see Drag The River at the Abbey. We'll see.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The biz goes the way of the buffalo

Our friend Joan Anderman of the Boston Globe wrote an interesting piece today on the way A&R has evolved for both major labels, down to artists like ourselves. It also talks about the effects of MySpace and the blogosphere -- we like that. Give it a read if you have a moment.

Also, if you can, check out the print edition Boston Metro today where there's a nice write-up by Terry Martinez on the band and our forthcoming record. For some reason, I can't find it on their website (which I linked), if anyone else can, please let me know. Perhaps I'll post a bit more about the interview and everything when I have a bit more time later on.

Hope to see a bunch of you at Great Scott for the show tonight with Cassavettes, The Young Republic, The Kieran Ridge Band, and Kunek! We're meeting up with Ryan to discuss web design for a new site, and also meeting with Shane and Kevin from the Milkhouse to discuss recording some songs that didn't make it onto "It's Gonna Change." You may recognize those two gents from recording the impromptu song I cut last week with MKF, available now for download and stream here.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Quick one

Dang, dudes, I keep forgetting to say that last week our friends at the Band in Boston podcast posted an acoustic version of "Seasons" that we cut at their studio a couple weeks back. On their Halloween episode this past week, which you can listen to here, you'll hear all sorts of good stuff, including Mike, Scott and I having a barnyard jam. I think "Seasons" comes in about 62 minutes into the podcast, so toward the end. They are going to post the full interview and jam session soon, though.

Also, quick note, Chris, Tara and I traveled to Norwalk, Conn., yesterday (total travel time: 8 hours, 30 minutes) to retrieve the promotional copies for the new album. Anyhow, they look good! We're hoping to send them out as soon as Monday, and in the meantime, just give them out all over town. Get that name circulating, you dig?

When I got back from the roadtrip, it was band time -- we did a really horrible practice, probably because I was so tired and irritable. This was so Matt could watch the Patriots/Colts game tonight, but it appears we're going to do another practice anyway. What a guy. Either way, I feel much better now. I just have to return Tara's mom's car.

Friday, November 03, 2006

With age comes wisdom, right?

I've been listening to a lot of Willie's "Songbird" this week (and reading about his save the horses campaign). I've got to say, the new album is awesome. Especially the title track. And a lot of late career albums often are just plain bad -- there's only a handful of modern McCartney tunes I can take. But there's something about the aging musician's wit that I find almost more appealing than their younger selves. Maybe it's that they are more believable in what they're saying. I can listen to young Willie, young Neil, young Bob (who's new album I've been swishing around this week, too, and who I'll see live next weekend), and you can tell these are conscious gents. Smart guys. But when their voices grow more worn, I just start to take everything they say as the truth. Perhaps that's naiive on my part, but I don't care.

I remember reading a review of a John Doe album a couple years ago (whose author, publication, and exact phrasing I have since forgotten), but it went something like this: "With age, Doe's voice doesn't grow more scratchy, but is warmer than ever." This is also a good point. Is it just that we know these artists like family, and we know they're older, so we believe them? Like how we don't second guess grandparents?

Either way, I love where Willie's going on the new album. He's making music with a great band, the Cardinals, and doing music for all the right reasons. How so? Well, it's not that he's starved for cash. And he's already a legend, so he's not even doing this for legacy purposes. He's making music of songs he loves because he loves to do it. That's what it's about. Like Willie said long ago, "The life I love is making music with my friends," or like Neil said more recently, "I keep my friends eternally/ We leave our tracks in the sound." Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. They are doing this because they can, and they want to.

This morning, I watched a CNN interview with longtime Washington Post satire columnist and author Art Buchwald, who is now 80 and dying from kidney and vascular ailments, but chose to forego further dialysis and see where it takes him. Doctors said he'd have three weeks to live -- that was in February. Since then, he's been visited by almost everyone he's ever known, at his hospice. So, he wrote another book, entitled "Too Soon to Say Goodbye."

Now, see, I'm not saying Willie's on the outs, or Neil's on his deathbed (though it was close, and thank God he pulled through), but these are guys that have been making music so long that if they up and quit today, their body of work would still live on forever. Like I said, they're legends. Now, whatever they do, it's just icing on the cake. So, I've come to appreciate the late-career album, because it just may be the most honest music. Music made for the most pure reasons. Music made, because, yes, it is indeed too soon to say goodbye.

Pressing on

I just posted to our MySpace blog about this, but I just discovered the following: Cassavettes has garnered a bit of favor in the press lately. Here is a live review from our Oct. 17 show at Bill's Bar with Alpha Juliet and the Colt Thompson Project. As I noted, just a minor problem, our name consistently appears with "the" in front of it. No big deal. A common mistake. Anyhow, if you don't feel like clicking the link, fine, I'll paste it below.

The Cassavettes have been attracting a lot of attention around town, having won the title of Best Local Band in the 2006 Boston Phoenix readers.. poll and having garnished a Boston Music Awards nomination for Outstanding Americana Act. These guys are turning heads and playing some big shows. Tuesdays are generally an off night but The Cassavettes pay no mind and their fans follow suit. A horde gathers in front of the stage dancing like it..s Saturday night. The music is tight and poppy, rooted in good ole ass kickin.. rock ..n.. roll. The riffs are off-kilter enough so that while it..s radio friendly, it..s not TOO radio an Elvis Costello, Tom Petty, and Mojo Nixon love child.

Also, keep an eye out on Monday, as a feature of Cassavettes will appear in the Boston Metro! We all did the email interview thing, four separate responses, yesterday. Not to be picky, but sit down interviews are more fun as we can play off each other a bit and follow up on points. Plus, then everyone has a fair chance to talk. But these journalists, as I realize, have a lot on their plates and sometimes just can't meet up. No big deal. I feel that. So, our solution in these situations is to just send back four filled out questionaires. I think it makes sense.

Hey, quick update, we got our new t-shirts in yesterday. Chris and I carried the enormous and heavy box all the way across the Fens to our shared abode, and then Scott, Chris, and I rolled the shirts. They look good. Comfy, too. Unfortunately, because of what they cost, I'm going to have to charge a bit more than our old shirts. These will be $15 each. Hopefully we move some on Monday!

Matt asked Chris to take over the consignment search, so Chris is trying to find time to do that. If he can't, I can do it, most likely. Also, in an easy going, low/no stakes conversation last week, Scott effectively shot down the idea to release "Shine A Light" (which hinges on a refrain of "If it's always the lesser of two evils, who can we trust to lead us?" which I took from an oft-uttered sentiment during the 2004 presidential campaigns) on our MySpace the week of the elections. With election day approaching, in let's see four days, the idea is out the window now. Scott's point: he doesn't like releasing the first or last song off an album. This would be the last. Fair enough, I suppose it does take some punch out of the climax of an album, especially a full length (this I say because we immediately released the last song off the EP last year, "Research Blvd." but that may not count because it is an EP and had significantly less prepartion behind its release). Thus, our next track on MySpace will be the dual vocal-ed "Debts." Maybe I'll upload later today.

And to wrap up. Jaclyn submitted the final art to Clay the other day, and as I never let the girl rest, I'm now having her do a sticker for the front cover. Also, Clay reports that the promos are ready to be picked up, so a few of us are driving to Connecticut in Tara's mom's car to grab them. Then, we'll send them out early next week. Things are getting close to GO TIME.

I tell you, though, man, I am ready for this album to come out. Really ready.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Making music is what I'm all about

I realllllly haven't listened to much music this year. Well, that is, much NEW music. I haven't really gotten "into" anything. In years past, instead of getting each other Christmas/holiday gifts, my friends and I would all exchanges "year's best" mixes. A time-honored tradition, that, until last year, I managed to keep up with nicely. Last year, I made a mix but after reviewing it, I felt that I hadn't listened to enough new stuff to properly judge what exactly qualified for year's best (even if the mix isn't official and mostly acts as a time capsual, but all that is beside the point). Anyhow, this year, what I've heard thus far has been pretty good -- the Springsteen Seeger sessions especially, Neil's "Living With War," the new Willie/Ryan Adams/Cardinals collaboration I just got, and the long-awaited new Lemonheads disc. But come on, I already liked all of them. I haven't listened to NEW music in a long time, well, beside the bands we play with. So, as far as year's best on local albums, I could say Christians & Lions and Age Rings' new discs. We've got one coming out too, you know?

Anyhow, today was a fun one -- one for the ages. I was in the midst of doing all the things a busy bee does, including -- ay -- classes, possibly rescheduling tomorrow's band practice, a doctor's appointment, and firming up some t-shirt details, when all of a sudden, my phone rang. It was my buddy Shane, who had just freed up some recording time and wanting to know if Cassavettes wanted to cut some tracks. Sure, I said, since we have a few b-sides that didn't go on "It's Gonna Change." I checked with the guys, and sadly, they were busy. Matt had work until late, Scott is learning the bass parts to play a charity show (bless his heart) for his work's "Cheers For Children," and Mike I couldn't get a hold of. Anyhow, I told Shane we'd do SOMETHING, seeing as how the session was from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. and he was calling me with less than an hour before start time. So, I ran home and grabbed the guitfiddle, and then called up MK to see if she wanted to do a random session. She did, it being her first time in a studio, and she agreed to play some piano and sing with me. We did a song I wrote at 3 in the morning last night/today, tentatively titled "Like Secrets Beneath." I'm very pleased with it. I posted it to my personal MySpace, and it should go live in the next day or two if you're interested. Since it came together so hastily, I was worried that I might have accidentally lifted the melody from somewhere else, but I've been searching for a similar melody everywhere and can't find one. If you do, please let me know. These things happen, unintentionally, just from knowing songs and writing your own. Usually they are caught before recording, since you have time, but time is not something we had here. Anyhow, Shane and his bud Kevin (who mixed the song) operate a studio out of their basement and invited Cassavettes to come by and do those b-sides. BONUS!

A reporter from the Boston Metro emailed us last night to see if we wanted to do a story for next week for our Great Scott show. I'd love to, but with email interviews it's really tough to get everyone to respond. I told her that all four of us would respond individually to her questions and she can use what she wants. So look for that before our Nov. 6 show! Probably on Nov. 6...