The capacity for self-deception is nearly boundless in people with an object they pursue with enthusiasm. This has led me to make some very questionable choices in chasing dreams. And there is nothing I’ve sought with greater vigor than success in music.
In my younger years, I considered success to be “making it” in rock n roll. Now, when I say “making it,” I mean a very specific mode of achieving that goal. To wit, getting “discovered,” getting a record deal and having all my dreams come true in one fell swoop. Considering that this happens, and this is how it happens, to approximately 86% of all bands in the modern world, it hardly seems like an unreasonable expectation. You know. I know you do. Everybody knows somebody in a band who is just sure that their jams are gonna be the ones. The ones to do what? I don’t really know. But they just have to be heard. Everything else will take care of itself. Armed with this vague but certain sense of self-assurance is how I proceeded.
Presentation, however, is often key. Flashback to 2009ish. Laurence and I, along with our friend James, had badges to attend the music industry seminars at the SXSW music festival. One of the seminars we attended was a demo listening event judged by music industry luminaries. Now, “Eureka” means “I’ve found it.” And yes, I did say “Eureka” to myself when I discovered this event. This was our chance. Surely, finally, someone would hear our genius, immediately hand us bags full of money and make me the honorary mayor of Fantasyland. I would probably get a white sash with my new title emblazoned on it.
So, we had just been armed with umpteen hundred demos, including some hot new cuts we had recorded at Candyland Studios, freshly mixed. Among these was our slow burning masterpiece, “Sea Song,” complete with full narrative and two anti-choruses before exploding in a catharsis of epiphany. We had but one song to choose for listening, and I chose that one. It was a masterpiece, after all, so why not?
I took my place in the auditorium. One of the panel members, I will call her Hellcat, which may or may not have been her name, announces that the panel will only listen to the first 90 seconds of the song. Oh boy, great. Wouldn’t you know it, our slow burning masterpiece is the first one selected. The puzzlement on the panel’s various faces was obvious as a minute and a half of Faulkernian narrative and in jokes passed across their incredulous brains.
There were, in regrettable point of fact, meaner responses, particularly from Hellcat, but I will always recall the response of Tom Zutaut, a man known me—no doubt wearing my prized authentic hand-me-down Motely Crue “Dr. Feelgood” tour t-shirt—for having signed not only the Crue but also Guns N Roses. He said, and swear to you that this is almost verbatim, “I feel like I’m in Manchester, England and it’s 1982 and I’m listening to Johnny Marr and Morrissey before they learned how to write a hook.” Did I mention that they made me stand while they said this to me? They did. It was worse than in 2nd grade when I was the only person to get the first division problem we were ever given in math class right and my teacher made me stand for that, too.
We were not signed. We were not discovered. And our band broke up driving home from Austin. So, I hope you like our hooks.