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…”
My name is Pato Smellman and we are on the 20 tour. It is so ohesome! I feel we have stumbled into an amazing way of touring!! Every stop, without fail, surprises me. I knew that we were going out to see big fans, new and old, but I didn’t imagine all sweet adventures and great people it would bring. I mean… gosh!! We have played underneath rocket ships, in beautiful houses, rad barns, cabins, park sheds, backyards, workshops and on back porches. We have rocked with generations of Grabowski’s, Kepner’s, Merydith’s, Smith’s, and Rankin’s. We’ve been fed very well even though we have two vegetarians and a gluten-free warrior. AND… people buy us freaking delicious beers, provide amazing baked goods, let us wash clothes AND ARE JUST AS STOKED AS WE ARE!!!!! It’s unbelievable. I feel very privileged to be in so many different places where every single person is in a fantastic mood and very happy to see each other. Thank you so much to everyone who has had us play for them. We are extremely lucky to have people in our lives so down to help us chase dreams.
- Briefly describe the four shows we played on the boat. (The who, what, when, and where)
We were fortunate to play on all the days of the cruise. The first one was in a big theatre. There was floor seating which consisted of benches lined up. There was enough room between the benches to properly rock out. There was also a balcony seating area which provided a great view from where ever you were seated. The show in this room was great. We were all amped to be rockin on a boat. The crowd was great we had a bunch of people that knew us and came to support. We also had many people wander in during the show which was awesome. Made many new fans the first show!!
- What was your favorite show to play and why?
The second show was my favorite show ever! Of all shows we have played this one was the most excellent. It was on the top deck of the ship which was called the “Lido Deck”. When we were setting up the sky got very dark and ominous. We knew rain was coming but continued to set up. All the equipment had been up for about 20 minutes and then the rain came. It was furious. Strong winds and cold rain drops were pounding the Lido Deck. The rest of the boys were mysteriously gone and I could see the ship’s crew needed help covering the gear and sound system. I jumped into action. The crew and I tried to pull tarps over the drums, amps, huge speaker towers but the 50 mph winds had different plans. Despite nature’s wrath we were able to get the kit and amps covered but the speaker towers were posing a bit of a problem. The traps were acting as sails and took all six of us to hold down. At one point one of the crew members was 25 feet in the air on a speaker tower getting abused by the elements when the front house sound man came down and yelled, “You are gonna kill yourself. Get down from there.” At that moment I felt like a real sailor, getting pelted cold rain, lashing whipping tarps to the lido deck, getting yelled at by a salty sea sound man…. best part of the cruise. It was surreal. It poured for about half an hour then the skies cleared. Well maybe not cleared but it stopped raining. The skies 360 degrees around the boat were gray and the clouds in front of the boat were especially dark. Sound man said go time so we ripped the tarps down, swept the puddles off stage, and plugged in. The show was so insane. The rain had stopped but not the wind. The seas were rough and the boat was swaying side to side, sometimes very violently. It was a heavy set. It had to be heavy to put up some kind of fight against Poseidon. We were scheduled to play an hour and a half but about 50 minutes in Bonesaw called out the god of the sea as he played opening riff of “tasteless gravy”. It was our last song. Rain came back to join the fierce wind and we were done. We rocked that 50 minutes so hard, against rain, wind, and waves. Best Full Service show to date.
- Who is DJ Soulman and why is he awesome?
DJ soulman is awesome because he uses his music to hype. He comes in on the mic every once and a while but for the most part he is just spinning and mixing great danceable tunes. His energy is contagious. The crowd can feel his love for what he does and gives him the love back. AND he is freakin sick and mixing the song transfers were seamless and very impressive.
- Who are the Raspler brothers and why are they awesome?
Adam and Peter Raspler are the two brothers that manage 311. They are really sweet men. They have been managing the band for a long time now and are still at the shows with their fists in the air and lips movin to their favorite lines. They fuckin love 311!! They have been managing the band for so long that if they missed a show or were not all about the same songs anymore no one could blame them. But no, they are 311’s managers, friends, and their biggest fans. That is so cool. The whole scene was amazing to be a part of.
- Explain any experiences you may have had with Venus Williams.
The second night at the 311 show Venus was sitting in front of me. At one point, I think it was Chad’s solo, we both sat down to enjoy the beats. Afterwards Venus stood up and I couldn’t see anymore. I chuckled to myself that my view was being blocked by Venus Williams. Haha cool.
- Explain any interactions you may have had with the guys in 311.
I didn’t have much interaction with the 311 dudes. But Chad did make a point to come introduce himself and meet us. I found that extremely admirable. But the whole cruise felt like a huge boat full of 311 family. Everyone was so nice or positive as 311 says.
- What was it like playing on equipment that was not yours? (The bands— besides 311—had to use equipment that was provided by the production company, “Sixthman Productions”)
After playing with sixthman’s gear I decided I am going to fix my stuff when I get home. Gosh their stuff sounded great.
- Describe what it felt like to be on the behemoth that is the Carnival “Destiny” cruise ship
The cruise felt like a mall that swayed back and forth. It also gave Hoag an excuse for all his stumbling around. “It’s the cruise not the brews!”
- Say a thing or two about the other bands.
ALL the other bands were so nice. Sometimes when we arrive to clubs on land bands are a little stand-offish. We are guilty sometimes of this but it didn’t apply at all on the boat. All the bands were like a big family going to each other’s shows, late night pizza rendezvous, and dance parties. Very pleasant time.
- How did the screening of “TAKEOVER!” go?
The screening could not have gone better. It got delayed a few times but I think this helped attendance. It gave us time to meet peeps and spread the word. People laughed harder, and cheered louder than I had imagined. Parts of it made me blush and laugh at myself. Hoag did an amazing job. I think what he made with mooger’s shots is the best product that could have come out of all that. He didn’t need 20,000 dollars and months of time, just an ipa or two, a month of devotion, and a pirated copy of final cut. You are the best Hoagman.
- Talk about some of your favorite cruisers. Make an All-Star team.
Brett and crew. You are forever our medicine man. we will take you where ever we go. You are awesome brother.
That dude with the huge tattoo across his chest. The biggest fan we made. He rocked a headband and our shirt majority of the cruise. Didn’t know him before the cruise now I love him.
That dude that use to have dreads but now wears that bandana. Always ran into him and got hugs.
Mr. Sunburn. This man got fried the day before the cruise but still partied everyday and went on to the island. Chilled in the shade on the island but was there. Great company.
Mike and Mike. Got on the wrong shuttle so glad they did. Ya’ll rock.
Hash man? don’t know who you are or where you are form but thanks bra.
Sixthman crew. Such a great production crew. So nice and helpful.
- How much did you sleep?
No time. Two of the four nights I think Hoag, Chito and I were the last 3 people awake. Got to live it up. We can sleep when we are not on a huge amazing boat in the middle of the Caribbean.
- How did we end up throwing an orange off the back of the boat on the last night?
I am not sure how we ended up throwing the orange off the boat the last night at 3 in the morning. The orange was a great addition to the party that night. It was getting so much love during the dancing. I heard there was a banana throwing party the night before but we missed it. This was our fruit throwing party.
- What was your favorite moment?
My dinner date with Chito. It was an amazing day then Chito and I made our way to the band dining area. We were blown away by the amount and quality of food. Filled our plates then went and ate at a very romantic table for two. Great moment!!