Archive for December, 2012

Going Big. Going Home.

December 29, 2012

Things were rather dreary for a while.  The band was depressed, I was depressed, etc etc.  When so much of what you perceive to be your existence or success depends on the opinion of someone else, then yeah, you’re basically setting yourself up for misery, and that is exactly what we fell into.  No matter how much I try to be isolated and independent, at some point, sooner or later, getting our music out to the world does, in large part, require some assistance in any number of forms: radio, TV/video, mags, street press, blogs, word-of-mouth, buzz, whatever.  Of course, you can solve most of those problems by being so unbelievably, undeniably good that people will be forced by the absolute power of your art to spread the word for you, but as of yet, we have yet to create that.  As it stands, we create whatever it is we create and toil away at getting the word out in whatever fashion we can.  Sometimes things are good, sometimes they’re bad, and sometimes there is nothing at all.  That’s when it gets dark.

So we were all collectively bummed out for much of the past year, wondering what we were doing and where we were going.  Getting even a sliver of success can do that to you.  It’s not that we all developed raging drug habits and started dating B-list Aussie actresses.  Nothing quite as interesting as that.  Rather, we got used to people paying attention and assumed that they would continue to do so.  After all, if people thought that one of our throwaway songs was good….

….then surely they would like our other, newer, better stuff, right? And after all, aren’t we getting to be a much better live act?

Well, no and yes, and really, in the end none of that matters.  It’s not a science project.  Buzz is buzz and that is that.  You cannot buy it (not for long anyways), and you can’t fake it.  It can only happen when it’s the real deal and it is ON.  When you’ve got it, it gets under your skin and that same electricity you create onstage is with you 24/7….at least, until it wears off.  And then it hurts.  A lot.

So we’re swimming in this state of withdrawal, heavily addicted and starting to fray at the seams, but not quite coming apart.  We kept writing songs and playing shows but kept chasing something bigger and better, all the while suffering from sever highs and lows and confusion and doubt.  All of a sudden I couldn’t tell what was good or not, and my instincts, which had kinda sorta served me well enough in the past flew out the window.  I don’t have any hard data, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t finish a song for 10 months or so, getting lost in false starts and meandering blah that really didn’t go beyond a few opening arcane couplets and some weak chord progressions.  It wasn’t pretty.

So…we decided to go to America.  We’d been wanting to do it for ages and although no one said anything I’m pretty sure we were all thinking that we might want to have a last blast of fun before things completely fell apart.  Surprisingly, we actually managed to get our shit together enough to buy plane tickets, book a run of shows, and step on the plane.  We all left at different times, but we met in New York City and whatever was meant to happen…it happened.

We played in traffic:IMG_5544

We went bowling:133025_10151249789458126_1234063652_o 244183_10151249786943126_551534578_o

We played some music every once in a while:IMG_5180

Along with a bunch of other headaches and pains that go along with being a band on the road.  We went into a recording studio and recorded our latest single (more on that in the new year), all the while using trains, planes, and automobiles to get from point A (NYC), to point Z (Atlanta), where we all said goodbye and went our separate ways, each person (or group of people, since we actually had more Aussie friends/roadies/groupies with us than actual band members) off to finish their time in America as they saw fit.

As for me, I went to visit my parents & fiancé in Florida.  We drove to New Orleans and along the way stopped to snap this:

And now I’m sitting here in the dregs of Summer, a bit bummed out and staring at a nearly empty glass of beer resting on a cheap-yet-arty fleur de lis coaster that we picked up in the Crescent City.

The net result? A lot of memories, some new friends, some new fans, and most importantly: buzz.

Not from other people, but from within, the kind that turns us back into teenagers who have written their first song and are pretty well convinced that we’re the greatest band ever.  Soppy?  Yeah, probably, but I don’t much care.

And that’s what we got up to and that kind of gave us a new lease on life.  For the first time ever, I could see Australia in a different light regarding its status in the larger world of music.  After all, when one gets amongst it in the beast that is the USA it does make a large island with a small population seem somewhat….provincial?  It is what it is, both good and bad (and oftentimes great), but it is not the center of our existence, and that has made all the difference.

I probably could have saved us all a lot of time and trouble and just called this post “How Sparky got his groove back” and added  the “Humpty Dance” for a backing soundtrack, but nah, you know me.  Why use one word when 1,000 will do?

We made you a souvenir.  Here is us banging away at the Bar East Ale House on September 22, 2012.  It’s not great, but if you’ve ever wondering what Royal Chant is like live this ain’t too shabby.  Consider it the most povo Festivus present we could scrape together, and apologies if you wanted something good, like socks.

Catch you soon in the New Year.  Stay safe, but make it a smashing one.

Love, peace, hugs, & kittens.


Desolation Rolling

December 14, 2012

Living in small town like Port Macquarie means that just about anywhere is less than 10 minutes away.  It’s not a bad way to live, but I do feel like a bit of a waster for using my van so much.  I guess I have a bit of excuse with so much music equipment, but I’ve yet to completely convince myself. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how I could be a little, probably even a LOT more green in my existence if I really, really wanted to.

So I’m driving somewhere, probably on some banal, pointless errand, or going to teach and slightly zoning out when Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row” comes on my iPod.  I keep it on shuffle most days, leaving it to fate to see what will cross my ears.  I hadn’t heard the song in ages, nor thought about it in the least for longer than I can remember.  I left it on, and of course I reached my destination before it ended.

The next time I got in the car I started the song from the top, and once again I was done before the song.  I kept that up for 5 days straight, for no reason at all, other than I liked letting my mind drift inside those words I know so well.  In high school I played this on vinyl nearly every morning as I was getting dressed for school, bracing myself and trying to create some ideal version of my 17 year old self.  Honestly, am I any different today?  Do I still “suit up” in my armor and get lost in some sort of fantastic projection?  Perhaps…perhaps.

I never talk about Bob Dylan with any one, nor am I a huge fan of reading other people’s thoughts on him or his songs.  Their explanations always seem so wrong, as I’m sure mine would be if I ever tried.  I never really understood the tie-dyed hippies who dig Dylan, mostly because they tend to talk conspiracy theories or about secret codes hidden in the songs, basically all the reasons that people roll their eyes when they see a hippie getting wound up.  Maybe it’s personal, or maybe there’s nothing to explain, not really.

I once read an interview with a director, (and God forbid, it may have been James Cameron), who said something along the lines of not believing in movies being “too long” as a set quantity, only that they “felt” long, and it’s a sentiment I personally agree with, especially when it comes to music.  If the listener notices the passing of time, or rolls their eyes and thinks “aw hell, another verse?”, then as a songwriter you’ve gotten it wrong, or wrong for that person.  That’s how “Desolation Row” feels to me.  I never notice that over eleven minutes have passed by the time the last harmonica note fades, and it’s like I’m waking up from a dream of sorts.

I’ve never tried to cover “Desolation Row”, (although I must confess that in my early attempts at songwriting I had a song that ripped off the chords, structure, and cadence), and if you asked me to sing the song without the words in front of me I doubt I’d get beyond the first sentence, but when it’s on I can sing along word for word, rather like when I was young and forced to go to church, and would marvel at everyone singing along to the hymns.  No one knows how the songs are supposed to sound, but once the organ got cranking and the choir rang out we’re all on board together and somehow it worked.  Kind of like that, only it’s Bob Dylan, not “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”, and I’m alone rather than standing amidst adults and wishing to be elsewhere.

I love everything about this song.  The words, his voice, the delivery…everything.  I have no doubt that I’m in the minority here, about Dylan the artist, Dylan the singer, and about this song especially, but that’s no matter.  I’ve always held Dylan close to my heart and I’m not here to convert or convince anyone, since there’s really no need for that.

If this is my last post of 2012, then I wish you all a happy holiday season, wherever you are across the globe, and smashing New Year.  With school out and few shows until January hopefully I can motivate my pen and find some use for the idle hours.


[ps–you’ll notice that this YouTube clip is named “Desolation Road”, not “Desolation Row”, and I suspect that was the only way to sneak it past the record label vultures who are ready to tear anything down they can find.  This one is safe, it seems, for now]