Sitting in the sun room at the home of Momsaw and Dadsaw in Philly, PA, after a hearty breakfast of eggs, toast and OJ, a nice little workout in the basement, and some quality time with Daisy the dog, I realize being a part of Full Service means more than just another group of guys to play music with and sometimes hit the road on tour. This band, whether it found me or I found it, or a bit of both, truly feels right, it’s that thing that I’ve known in the back of my mind for years that I would eventually come across, the reason I spent more time during college in my room practicing bass than practicing Spanish, why staying healthy and active always held more appeal to me than playing Xbox or WOW, why I knew Austin was where my life was urging me to go. Although there was no job lined up, only a few friends in town, and about 1200 miles from what I called home, something was pulling me to central Texas, the “Live music capitol of the world.” After two and a half months of searching craigslist daily for competent bands needing a bass player and networking as much as possible within the music scene there, I began to wonder if what I was looking for would come along, and if so, how long would it take? Two more months? A year perhaps? Five years? Regardless, the city was beautiful; the people, the scenery, the springs, the biking culture, it all felt so right, and with eventually landing a job as a bouncer on 6th street to pay my bills, the only thing left was to find that right band, the one to make me know without a doubt that I made the right move, that the feeling in my gut that it was all going to work out as it should was valid and that my steps of blind faith would be warranted and rewarded.
By now you’ve probably heard the story of my meeting FS and how it seemed to be impeccable timing for both parties. How our lifestyles and rock and roll souls seem to align as the planets do in those eerie sci fi tales of the reawakening of the beast from its slumber to challenge the cosmic king and potentially put an end to all of humanity in the process. This seemingly perfect alignment will potentially shake humanity in a similar way, but should be more of a universal rock and roll revelation, awakening the masses to their recent digression in musical taste and allow them feel the truly harmonious vibrations of quality music as they were meant to be felt.
That being said, I feel incredibly lucky to be able to join forces with Bonesaw, Hoag, and Smelly in their lifelong endeavor to feed the world its musical sustenance, and cannot begin to convey my admiration for what has been done already. Seven studio albums, playing shows with 311 (idols of mine as well, as the first cover band I ever played in was heavily influenced by the likes of PNut and Chad Sexton), filming a DVD of the ingenious touring idea known as Takeovers to get the music to their ideal fan base, intimate acoustic shows at fan’s houses.. all of this speaks very highly of the integrity, determination and grounding of this band. Grounding in the sense of being on the same level and connecting with fans, knowing that when a band puts themselves on a pedestal above the listeners, there grows this impassible gap, this distance between musician and audience that causes the fan to always feel inferior. Full Service connects. Honestly, warmly, wholeheartedly and genuinely. That is what being a band is all about, and that is the way to make REAL fansaws, ones that are friends, ones that want your company because they truly enjoy you as people, not just because the music shreds. Although the music definitely does shred.
Being halfway through my first toursaw, I can say that the people I have met thus far have proven to me what I already knew, that this is a very unique band. The fans and friends I have had the pleasure of meeting at various club shows or in their living rooms filled with delicious food and beer and laughter have had nothing but amazing things to say about the guys. No other band has ever connected on the same level as Full Service, and these folks are truly a part of the FS family. They have become friends, not just fans. If you see a show, there will probably be a part during the set where Bonesaw says how these shows should be like family gatherings. People should be friends, know those around them and embrace the company as well as the music, and then the music stops temporarily for a time to turn and meet someone you don’t know and make a new friend. The band also takes a moment to introduce ourselves to an unfamiliar face to make it a familiar face. This is what Full Service is all about. Music, friends, family, kindness, and oh yeah, sports. That last one will be saved for another entry however. For now, I will say that I am blessed beyond belief to be a part of this family, and the acceptance I’ve received from many loyal fansaws already has been amazing. I’m looking forward to meeting the rest of you!
Every year growing up my family spent two or three weeks together in August renting a house on Nantucket Island (a slow moving 2 ½ hour ferry ride out off the coast of Massachusetts) and that’s where the majority of our most treasured family moments happened. We celebrated every one of Hoag’s birthday’s there from when he turned one year old til about 28! Over all those years going through the stages of childhood, adolescence and adulthood we learned all the secret spots on the island and fell in love every year with not only the physical places, but with the memories tied to them.
A few years ago my parents fulfilled a life-long dream of actually owning a second home (or in this case, a portion of a second home) when they went in on a house on Martha’s Vineyard with my Uncle David. Martha’s Vineyard is the other gorgeous and unique island off the coast of Mass, several times bigger than the 12-mile-around Nantucket and with a much different vibe, culture and even geography. These last few years we haven’t gone to Nantucket anymore. (We did try one year to do both, but it’s just too expensive and makes no sense aside from the hard tug of our sentimental feelings for Nantucket and the friends we don’t see there anymore.) Now have wonderful family experiences every year on the ‘new’ island.
My parents are still self conscious that Hoag and I don’t like Martha’s Vineyard, which is anything but true! We love it… it’s beautiful, more culturally diverse, great ocean and beaches and also great locally grown corn on the cob! And how lucky are we to get to go there every year?! No matter what though, it’s not quite Nantucket. The unfair and unfortunate thing for MV, at least in how it relates to our lives, is that despite its relatively subtle differences, it is SO MUCH like Nantucket without actually being Nantucket, and therefore it will always be a comparison in our minds and hearts. In many ways they look the same, the water is the same, the beaches look similar, the weather and the food is the same… but it’s not the same. The only problem, really, is with my expectations; a small part of me is still expecting it to be Nantucket when we’re there.
I recently watched Beats, Rhymes and Life, which is a new documentary about the hip hop group (one of my favorites!) A Tribe Called Quest. The first half of the movie is all about how those guys came up in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Nostalgia is thick for the days of turning the dial on those giant boom-boxes fighting through static to find the music EVERYONE was listing to on DJ Red Alert’s radio show when Hip Hop was at its cultural and creative peak – the jazz music of the modern day. Tribe grew up out of the fertile NYC scene at the same time as De La Soul and a host of other awesome hip hop groups. Those days before the internet there was of course the downside for the consumer of less access to just about everything, but in the case of popular music, that kind of radio show was THE break a group needed. The channels to a wider audience for a new group were very well defined and clear. Profitable labels, A&R guys finding new talent and radio DJs all playing gate keeper before new groups were accessible to music fans (of any genre). If you were a new band trying to come up, those were the doors to go through, and everyone knew it. Now I’m not saying that there weren’t a million bad things about that biz model and the way things were, but that’s how the Tribe broke through … and how almost every band and group came up in the music business until the early 2000’s.
That picture of ‘how a band or group makes it in the music biz’ really hasn’t been relevant in 10+ years, yet it’s still what the majority of aspiring bands and certainly MANY in the music industry still have imprinted on their minds. Many of those bands that came up in that era are still writing and performing (and popular) today, and many of those behind-the-scenes music business people still hold the reins.
Bands still try to get a “single” on the radio and label guys still try to figure out a way to get things back to how they were then, when it was all so easy (and profitable)! In many ways the music biz – and what it looks like to be a “Rock Star” today – looks the same as it did in those early days of A Tribe Called Quest. There are still “Top 100” charts, still concerts with big crowds, still radio shows (even though DJs have no control of the playlists) … but it’s definitely NOT the same.
The lesson for me, in both these cases, has nothing to do with what’s “better” or “worse” because both scenarios are just the reality (and I love my ‘reality!’). The truth is that Martha’s Vineyard is an AWESOME place and I’m so blessed to be able to go there with my family every year! If I had spent every summer going there instead of Nantucket and the situation were reversed now, I’d have the same feelings about MV as I do about Nantucket.
But it’s also true that the sentimental side of me hasn’t quite let go of Nantucket and that nostalgia holds me back from fully enjoying or appreciating the new experiences.
Obviously what I’m getting at is that the same holds true for my music career and my band. I came of age musically in the height of the ‘old’ popular music world and still remember records, CDs, radio shows … basically everything pre-internet. That was my image when I got started with my own band here in Austin, and even further back when the dreams were first hatched with Hoag (then just “Dave”) jamming in our older brother’s room back in PA. I honestly do feel that Full Service has made a name for itself largely BECAUSE we are forward thinking and not paralyzed by viewing our career under those 90’s terms. The Takeover Tour and the 20 Tour, the new movie TAKEOVER! and the fact that I actually ENJOY being our manager are all just a few pieces of evidence to that. Just like with Nantucket, though, I still hold some of that nostalgia. . . I still hope that 101X or KGSR will play our new single (as if that’s even possible!). The bands I measure our “success” against are those that came out before the internet – like Tribe or 311 or whomever.
All of this, I guess, is just a reminder to myself – to make sure I don’t approach the music biz of 2012 with expectations or assumptions born of the music biz of my formative years. I have to not let ANY amount of preconceived notions of how the past was get in the way of taking full advantage of the present. The past was awesome! The present is even more awesome! Phife Dogg (from a Tribe) was only 28 when the wheels fell off of their group and essentially they were done as a band. I’m 34 and still in the thick of creativity with my band mates, still in the heart of the journey and adventure, still feeling more relevant musically than ever (and knowing that’s the truth).
This summer, I can’t wait to get up to Martha’s Vineyard with the fam! Though I still plan to go back to Nantucket many times in the future, I think I’m finally past letting those coming-of-age experiences detract from the new ones. And in our music career, I’m glad I had this little check-in with myself, glad I won’t waste even a little time trying to figure out how to fit the Full Service “square” into the music business’s conventional circle. Instead, I’m even more focused and motivated to make our square bigger on our own terms and let the music business re-shape itself to fit US!
POST SCRIPT: After finishing this blog post, i came across an awesome interview by Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins) from the 2012 SXSW conference. A perfect follow up!
FS is releasing songs thru the year of 2012 in groups of three-song “families” all under the title “Home Is Where The Yard Is.” Every other month a new family will be released digitally… and the first group features the new songs “Revisited” “Apples” and “Like a Pony.”
Download the songs for $2.00 from CDBaby or iTunes!
For the past two weeks I’ve listened to “I Hear a Symphony” by the Supremes 3 times a day. Once in the morning and twice at night (back-to-back).
I’ve been in love a few times, mostly with women, but also with songs. Not like “oh, I love that song”, but long-lasting, tumultuous affairs where every time I listen I’m completely washed over and rocked. For a while it was “In the Morning” by Nina Simone, then it was “Time to Get Alone” by the Beach Boys, then “Estranged” by Guns n Roses.
Anyway, now I’m on the Supremes’ song. The other night, when nobody at FSHQ was home, I danced around the living room singing along, and as the song ended I spun around to find our cat Jack sitting eye-level on the counter. It looked like he was concerned for me. I told him to loosen up.
My favorite part of the song is 2:00-2:13. When she sings these lines she is so dialed in. I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard a more expressive vocal performance than those 13 seconds. Her eyes are open, but she’s not seeing the wall or ceiling or whatever she’s looking at, she’s seeing something else entirely, something that’s not really there and that only she can see. She’s definitely in a “blossom world”, as they say in “Good Vibrations.” And I love that little arm swing she does right at 2:14-2:15. Check it out HERE. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yg-ercNIHQA
I’ve been doing nothing but music-related things lately. Rehearsing at the HQ, recording at Ohm, writing in my room, teaching lessons in the jam room, seeing my buddies’ band “Brass Buckle” at Jovitas, and watching that Supremes song on youtube. I feel like maybe I should make room for something else in my life, ya know…in the interest of balance and personal development.
Enter the “Zing” bow and arrow set. Long story short, my cousin Donna is a toy-tester (that’s a job, really) and she sent a big package of toys to the HQ. Included are two sets of soft bows and arrows by a company from Portland OR called “Zing”. I’ve gotten quite accurate with them, and I feel that it has given me the equilibrium that I need in my life, something non music-related. Although last night I broke a window in our living room. So it’s become somewhat of a hazard as well. Check out one of our great ZingBow sessions.
But really, there’s no escaping the fact that it’s music (and soccer in the backyard) every single day of my life. So let me bring y’all up to speed on the goings-on over here on Wilson st.
- First of all, Smell is really ramping up his side-project band “Smell and the Senses”. I’m not sure if I’m part of the band, but I did sing back-up on a beautiful track he recorded recently called “The Canopy”. I don’t know what his plans for releasing material are, or when he’s gonna start playing shows in town, but I’ll urge him to keep everyone posted.
- Sean is officially moved into the old Whale in the backyard. A bed, neon blue shag carpeting, two shelves, lots of big hippie tapestries, and electricity (drawn through a hole drilled into my room). You really gotta see it to believe it. WATCH THE VIDEO .
- The winter tour is coming up soon. We leave early Wednesday morning to get to Baton Rouge. Then I think it’s Houston, Austin, Dallas, and after that we leave Texas for some other states. (All the dates are posted on facebook and the website. I should probably check one of those sites myself). We’ll be doing most (or all?) of the shows with our old pals from Badfish, and it’s been a while since we’ve seen them so I expect much high-fiving and revelry in the coming weeks.
- The new album…Here’s the deal on the new album. We write a ton of music, some of it soft, some of it heavy, some of it loud, some of it happy, some of it a little bit sad, etc. And much of the time, songs come in groups according to the creative channel one of us (or all of us) is dialed into. We call these groups of songs “families”. They have similar DNA, if you will. So here’s what we’re going to do. Every couple months we’re going to release a new family of 3 songs. We’ll record maybe 8 families. Each family will only be available digitally, until we put all of them on a hard copy album that will be available at the end of the project. The name of the entire project is “Home Is Where The Yard Is”. So the first family will be called “Home Is Where The Yard Is (Vol. 1)”, then (vol 2), etc. We’ve commissioned friends and fans to draw/paint the album cover (a portrait of our backyard here at FSHQ), and we’ll unveil the chosen design in the coming weeks. “Home (vol 1)” will include the songs “Revisited’, “Apples”, and “Like a Pony”. Revisited is about pulling ropes and the knots just getting tighter, Apples is about a man sitting in his yard watching punk kids cause mischief, and Like a Pony is an homage to my late dog, Nessie. I know you all probably think it’s weird that I still write about Nessie, but I guess I haven’t gotten over it yet.
There will be a video announcing HiWTYi and previewing the first family of songs in the coming weeks, but for now, take a look at some of the studio sessions we’ve been involved in lately at Ohm here in Austin. The songs in this video will be included in Volumes 2 or 3 of HiWTYi. There’s also a priceless clip of Bonesaw bitching me out for being a jerk in the studio.
“You’ve given me a true love, and every day I thank you love…”