Unless you are in Metallica, U2 or the Rolling Stones it seems that being a musician means being in a constant state of ebb and flow. Some keep at it through the ebbs and flows while some swim to shore and never get back in the water. I respect either choice but I totally understand the former. For us it's not about money or fame. It's a drive to want to create and perform the music that is you. For those of us, giving up is not a choice.
Their career was flowing & I was just jumping in the water.
Back around 1991 I was going to church at the time. That church happened every Saturday night. That church was Headbanger’s Ball on MTV. One night I saw a band called Last Crack. The song was called "Energy Mind" (VIDEO). Even the title was cool. They really didn't sound like anyone else at the time. A little grungy, a little moody, a little experimental. They had an enigmatic frontman named Buddo. The guitarists, Paul "Pablo" Schluter and Don Bakken, had there own unique sound that was a little different than what was happening at the time. The rhythm section of Todd Winger and Phil "Philo" Buerstatte played odd rhythms that still made you groove. They were all around great musicians. I bought the CD and really enjoyed the band but they never really broke through to the masses. At that point I had no idea where they were even from. I just new they rocked.
A few years later I was playing in a band called Motormouth. We ended up being managed by a gentleman from Madison, WI. I found out he also managed Last Crack and to my surprise they were from Madison. That's when I learned that you don't have to move to LA to "make it". By this point they had split with there original singer and drummer and had a new lineup that was equally amazing. Their new singer, Shawn Brown, was outstanding and original in his own way. I was given an import version of an album called "Runheadstartscreaming" (VIDEO).
Side note: Around this time I had one of my first "holy sh*t" moments in a band. I was playing the Paramount in Madison and looked up to see Don standing there about 10 feet in front of me. I just remember thinking to myself the whole time "Don't suck, don't suck, don't suck".
My career was flowing & theirs was ebbing.
Eventually the second lineup would fracture and they would go on to form offshoot bands that I would play shows with over the mid 1990s when I was a member of Diggin Ruby/LeSonic. I would end up moving to TX and by the mid 2000s I was playing in the Burden Brothers and my "career" was going fairly well. I had heard that Last Crack had reformed with their original singer but hadn't heard much more. At some point the Burden Brothers ended up doing a show at SXSW in front of 1000+ fans and after the show I decided to go to the bar to grab a drink. I look to my left and see Pablo and I'm like "Aren't you in Last Crack?" Then I noticed most of the other guys there as well. I asked them what the hell they were doing there and they said they had just reformed and did a few SXSW things that weren't great (which is usually the case). They asked what I was doing and I told them I had just got off stage. They said they caught the end and it was great. A little small talk and we went our ways. It was a very surreal moment knowing that guys I looked up to were now on the other side of the situation. I remember leaving that conversation feeling bummed for them having to trudge it out all over again. But I also thought it said a lot about their belief in what they do and reinforced my "never give up" mentality. I couldn't wait to hear what they did next.
We both ebbed and flowed. A lot.
Years would pass. I left TX, the band, and relocated to Nashville. I played in a band that did fairly well regionally. We opened for many national acts but I just could never get complete back in the flow. Unfortunately for Last Crack, Philo passed away a few years ago. Chris Havey (who is a monster on the drums) returned and they continued but also seemed to not get back in the flow. We were both, in theory, just treading water, holding on, trying not to drown. They released a live DVD/ album that is great. They just kept moving. So did I.
My career is starting to flow after years of ebb & theirs is flowing again.
Over the last 4 years my "career" has ebbed more than flowed but I've never given up. Only recently have things started moving again and time will tell if I will get in the flow again. Lights of Marfa is working hard and pumping out music like I had hoped we word for years now. As always I'm optimistic and not stopping any time soon. As for Last Crack, in the last year I started to hear buzz again from their camp. Recently it was announced that they had signed to EMP Label Group, the U.S.-based label of MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson, to release a new record. It is called "The Up Rising" and was released a few weeks ago and is worth a listen. (NEW VIDEO) (SPOTIFY) (APPLE MUSIC). It actually charted on Billboard. They are back in the flow.
The Ebb & Flow of Rock & Roll
The lesson to learn is that most musicians don't have the fame and fortune but that doesn't mean they aren't working their hearts out between many ebbs and flows. The amount of pure joy followed by absolute disappointment is beyond words. Most people don't have the stomach for it to even stay in the game for 10 years. I salute all of the guys and gals out their still following their hearts and laying it all out there. If you're in an ebb, don't give up. If you're in a flow, enjoy it but remember what it feels like so you can fight to get back when things begin to ebb.
Cheers to Buddo, Pablo, Don, Todd & Chris for doing what they do and still being an inspiration $% years later. I'm glad they are back and wish them nothing but success.
So it’s just days before my birthday, as well as the birth of Lights of Marfa. LoM was launched on 02.01.13. I wanted to have something that I really and truly would feel I am a part of and anyone that joins it would too. An equitable partnership. What better way to do that then to just start your own band. But with that comes many obstacles. Personalities, egos, opposing goals, kids, jobs, and just everyday life in general. I have a feeling it is worse than being a polygamist with 4 wives.
So I built it up. We wrote. We recorded. We played. People came. People went. By the fall of 2018 after several lineup changes I considered just dissolving the band. It was just Jeremy and I at that point and it seemed like it just wasn’t meant to be. But we stayed the course and we kept moving forward. Jeremy stuck it out with me to which I am eternally grateful. We just kept writing and working to find new pieces to our puzzle.
Enter Benjamin Hatch aka Hatch. Well actually, re-enter Hatch. We had talked at the beginning of 2018 but, as I mentioned before, life got in the way as it sometimes does. Just as I was about to give up I sent a Hail Mary email to him. Unbeknownst to me he had stopped checking that email and it took him a month before he saw it. He eventually responded and we reconnected right as I was about to hang LoM up for good. Immediately something was there musically. We decided to give it a go. We thought we’d just start by having a little fun dropping a Christmas tune. It was a great way to see how we worked together in a recording scenario. It went very well. So Hatch, Jeremy and I began writing. Our new song “Heaven Knows” is the first thing we finished. The first fruits of the new Lights of Marfa if you will.
I take pride in the fact that this group of guys has taken the true DIY spirit that the band was based on to heart. They’ve embraced it. We write our original songs ourselves. We record our songs ourselves and have our good friend Marshal Dutton (Hinder, Faktion) mix it. We film and put together our videos ourselves. We design our own artwork ourselves. At some point if we get too busy I’m sure we will have to source those things out but we will still be actively involved.
Currently it’s just the 3 of us. But it’s a very cohesive unit. We like and want the same things. And we have fun. That’s number one. Fun. This could all end tomorrow and being miserable is not how you should spend your time.
We are searching for the 4th and 5th pieces of the puzzle but we aren’t in any rush. We want it to be right. The wrong person can throw everything into a tailspin. We want a team player that is with us and not just out for himself. You would think that would be easy but it just isn’t. Especially in Nashville.
Despite outside appearances being in a band is not an easy thing. Especially a rock band. Especially in 2018. I started doing this years ago and at first I struggled. Then I struggled some more. Then, after many years, the hard work paid off and I was finally able to make a living doing what I love. Then things change. Now it’s a struggle again. It’s the never ending pursuit to create “art” that connects with people all while not starving to death and keeping a roof over your head. It is not easy. But I've done it once so I know I can do it again. It's just having the right team and it looks like we have a good start.
I guess I’m writing this because I just want to thank anyone who is still paying attention to what I am/we are doing and creating. Please stay tuned and hopefully you will hear more from us if all goes as planned. New music, new videos, new shows. It’s all part of the plan.
We will be launching a Patreon page in the near future to get you guys involved and hopefully help us keep this train on the tracks and chugging forward. More news on that soon.
As our 6th birthday approaches I’d just like to also say thank you to everyone who has been in this band for even just a minute. You shaped this band in one way or another. Thank you to my friends and family for always being supportive. Many heartfelt thanks to Jeremy and Hatch for helping fight the good fight.
Also a very, very, special thanks to my wife for putting up with my crazy obsession with music.
So, as an old bandmate used to say before hitting the stage… “Let’s go whip the mule’s ass!”
Hello everyone. It's been a bit since I posted anything regarding Lights of Marfa. We have been keeping our heads down and trying to write the best music we can. We have 6 songs mostly completed and several others in various states of completion. We also have a pile of ideas to sift through as well.
Tommy is getting ready to leave, for a week, on a backpacking expedition while the rest of us will continue to hone these 6 songs into their final versions. When he gets back we will step it up, knock out those 6, and get the next bunch started.
I have to say this process has been really gratifying and reassuring. Most of these songs were ideas I had brought to my previous band and, for whatever reasons, they were pushed aside. In my mind, I knew they had potential. I am not a prolific writer but I have written songs (decent ones if I must say so myself) in other bands before so I know I can write. But 3 years of having your ideas turned away can ruin your self confidence a little. Thank you to Tommy, Marcus, Dave for helping me bring them to life.
We are pretty certain we know which song we will record and release first. We have it narrowed down to a few producers that we’d like to work with and we hope to have it in your earholes by the end of April/ beginning of May. Keep your eyes peeled because there may even be a little video to go along with the song. Maybe even some new band photos as well.
Everything has taken a little longer than I would have hoped. Unfortunately we are not rockstars. We have to work to pay the bills which sometimes can make it tough to accomplish things as quickly as we'd like. On top of that we want to make sure everything is right before we come out half-cocked. Please stay tuned and subscribe to our YouTube page HERE.
See ya soon,
So it’s been a while since I posted on this blog and after months (and years) of searching I finally found all of the moving parts to get Lights of Marfa moving forward. Dave was first to come on board followed by Marcus. Then Tommy came along. He was that special ingredient we needed to kick things into gear and we shifted straight from 1st gear to turbo overdrive overnight.
For this group, the challenge is: How do we keep up with ourselves?
In most bands, at first, things develop very slowly and you have time to gradually book shows, find agents, record music, and save money to do all of those things all while building the songs. In this band we are ready to record music right now. We are finishing songs at an amazing rate. In just a few weeks we have 5 or 6 songs completed and an equal number taking shape. We’ll be ready to play shows in weeks. That means we need merch in weeks. What, in my experience, usually takes a band 6 months, we will be ready for in 2 months. Things are happening before we are ready for the next step. That’s a great problem to have as long as we don't get frustrated having to downshift from 5th to 3rd gear every once in a while just to catch up with ourselves.
We did discuss crowd-funding for a second, but as a new band we'd hate to start our relationship with our friends off that way. That means that now the real work begins. We are keeping it completely DIY, so it’s all hands on deck. We will self-book and self-manage for the short term. We will be hand-making most of our own merch to start (stay tuned for video of that process soon). We have several producers we are interested in working with for the first song (there will definitely be video of that as well). Our goal is to have a song available to everyone by the end of March and we hope to play some shows in April.
In the meantime, feel free to subscribe to our YouTube page for all kinds of video updates.
Light 'em up!!!
Is now the time to give up? I don't think so. Playing in a band feels like it did when I was a kid. "Making it" seemed unachievable back then but it was still worth taking a shot. It's very much the same now. The business has completely changed but the opportunity to make a living may be even better than it was in the past. That is, if you are willing to put in the work.
Starting a band is the same as having any other business; it takes more work than you think you can give. I see bands that rehearse twice a week for 3 hours, play once a month, barely scratch the surface of what is available for online advertising, and then they complain that the band is not going anywhere fast enough. If you opened a restaurant tomorrow you could not spend only 6 hours a week working on the business, only serve dinner once a month, never advertise, and expect the business to survive. Why would you think a band would be any different?
I still hear people talking about how if they get a deal they will "get a bunch of tattoos" or "buy a nice car" with the money. As if they will receive some kind of signing bonus. I am not sure if they are reading back issues of RIP magazine, but that sh*t isn't happening anymore. You need to be content with making music you believe in and maybe you will make enough money that you don't need to have a day job.
The opportunity to be rich and famous is, for the most part, long gone but it's a new frontier. Some others might see it as too daunting or another reason to hang it up completely and choose a different path in life. I see it as an opportunity worth taking. I choose to prove that even a 40-something rocker, living in Nashville, can make a statement and make a difference playing rock music.
So, in continuing with the funny shit I hear while trying to put a rock band together, here is another gem.
ME: "Our jam went great. We dig the same music. Would you be interested in working together, co-writing some tunes, and maybe putting a band together?"
THEM: "I'm totally interested. I think I'm going to keep my songs for my solo project but we can work on your ideas. Call me when the songs are finished and you find the rest of the band. Then I'm in."
Really? I get to do all the work? Sounds like fun. Not really my idea of a "group" effort. These are the same guys that want an even split once money gets made. What a joke.
Anyway, after hearing more and more of these absurd questions and statements, I have developed a requirement I call "The Nice Guy Rule". You simply have to be a nice guy or I won't play in a band with you. I will choose a decent player, who's a nice guy, over a virtuoso, who's a douche canoe, any day of the week. I could give a damn if you're the best thing since sliced bread and you've played with Zappa. If you're a knob, you're a waste of my time. You see, I believe that a really great person can practice their instrument and become a better musician. I also believe that if you're a selfish, cocky, shit human being there is no practice that can fix that. End of story.
I lucked out crossing paths with Dave. He's a super "nice guy" and a he's killer drummer. I'm glad to make some rock 'n' roll with him. Now the search has begun for a bass playing "nice guy". My normal method, in most any other city, would be to tell friends/musicians and maybe post on Facebook that I'm looking for a bass player. I reluctantly gave that a shot, over the last few weeks, and received several responses. Unfortunately they were all from IL and TX. Not one response from Nashville. After living here for 5 years it really wasn't a shock. It was just confirmation that other tactics would be required and it may take even longer than I had anticipated to find the right lineup in this town.
So, I chose to go outside of the box to find a bass player. I did a little search on Facebook and found several great candidates. I decided to just cold call (actually cold Facebook message) all of them. Several of them did not respond. A couple of them responded, seemed interested, but are in 3 other "projects" (*see definition below). The last guy to respond is a friend of a friend. He liked the ideas I posted in previous blogs, he has good gear, he seems like a great player, and he's a "nice guy".
The next step is a jam on Friday. I'm excited to see what happens and even more excited for the possibility of having 2 other "nice guys" to help in building the beast.
I'm proud to announce that after several jam sessions, some good laughs, and a few drinks, Dave Latimer has decided to join me in putting together this new rock band.
Dave is a Boston native but spent the last several years in Philly. Over the years he has played in several great bands from the Northeast like Hammersmyth and Dark Disco Club as well as playing on recordings by Dean Davidson. He's a killer drummer, but on top of that he's a great guy.
We are currently auditioning bass players and vocalists.
Any interested parties can reach us by EMAIL or hit me up thru Facebook.
Now let's see if we can finish building this beast.
I constantly hear 2 things in my search to put a new band together and I've been unsure how to respond until today.
1.) "Who does the band sound like?"
2.) "It's not 100% what I want to do."
I've thought about this, in depth, over the last few weeks. First, why does music have to be defined by comparing it to something else? Rock 'n' Roll is and should be undefinable. That's what makes it timeless and beautiful. Second, unless you write everything and pay musicians to back you up... it never will be 100% what you want.
When I think of exceptionally original or influential bands, they are undefinable. Led Zeppelin, Pantera, Rush, Mastodon, U2, Van Halen, Pearl Jam, etc. They are an amalgam of each member's personalities and styles. You cannot define them. Who do they sound like? They sound like Led Zeppelin, Pantera, Rush, Mastodon, U2, Van Halen, and Pearl Jam.
The most successful/original band I was in had 5 members with truly varied tastes. If you would have looked over our shoulders to see what was playing on our iPods as we drove down the highway you would have seen Talking Heads, Slayer, Willie Nelson, Smashing Pumpkins, and The Black Crowes. But we had a mutual admiration for AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, and all things 70's arena rock. Each guy added their ingredient to the musical stew and respected and welcomed the others' contributions. We didn't end up sounding like any of the bands we individually liked or even the bands we mutually liked. We ended up sounding like us.
So, after much thought, these will be my responses to the comments/questions.
Them - "Who does the band sound like?"
Me - "It sounds like me. If you join, it will sound like you and I."
Them - "It's not 100% what I want to do."
Me - "Goodbye"
Being in a band should not be an attempt to sound like someone else. It should be about being brave enough to sound like you.
I'm still working on putting together the new band. It has been a year fraught with frustration and disappointment but I have not giving up.
Nashville has proven to be a worthy adversary for a 40 year old guy trying to start a rock band (as if being 40 was not a big enough hurdle). Most people seem to have moved here to be famous or try to make a living playing music they really do not like and that they do not help write or get to record. It is unlike any other town I have ever lived in. No one just gets together to play and see what happens. To me the money should be the least important thing in the equation of making music or starting a band. That's just me. I'm not saying I'm right but when the first question that people ask when you try to set up a jam is "How much does it pay?" I personally think you've got it all wrong. I want to make a difference. I want to write music that moves people. I want people to leave a show going "Holy shit!!! Did you see that band!"
As much as it's been tough, recently a few things have started taking shape...
I found an incredible drummer who am super excited about working with. Time will tell... he is good and drummers are in high demand around here, so if he finds another gig I wouldn't blame him. Hopefully it works out because he seems like he's cut from the same cloth as me and is a really good guy.
I've also found 2 singers in the last 2 weeks. Both were great. I had a killer musical connection with one but unfortunately he was not "the guy" for several reasons. Sad really, but shit happens. The other is very young but has a real drive. He could end up being the right guy. You just never know.
Finding a bass player is a whole other situation. So far, the search has proven pretty futile but I know there is someone out there.
In the meantime, I have upgraded the home studio this week and the plan is to build a library of songs over the next few days, months, and years (if it takes that long). The hope is the right singer/lyricist will come along and finish what I started.
Sometimes I think 'Maybe I am the one that has it all wrong.' 'Maybe I'm the dinosaur that is not being realistic.' If I am, fuck it. I'm not conceding defeat just yet. I'm going to do this my way and I'm not gonna half-ass it. Anyone wanna join me? You know where to find me.