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Thursday, February 22, 2024

WHY WE DID IT: 12 Hour Edition



You could just LISTEN to what I'm about to write, but you're already here so why bother? 

Matador had to buy out our contract from Jade Tree, who we owed a second album after Hidden World. That whole year was a crash course in the business of music for us - phone calls with lawyers, contracts an inch thick, greed, pressure. You sign your name on a piece of paper and it determines how the next few years of your life play out. I'd never had a career, I never earned a salary. I still haven't ever signed a contract for a job.  I've signed record contracts with three labels, and thats what they'll be able to find of me in a hundred years.

Jade Tree walked away with almost twenty grand in lieu of getting another album from us, and promptly stopped being a label a few years later. That amount was added to what we were about to owe Matador the minute we signed the paperwork in 2009 - an amount that we are still working off in 2024 (please by the Chemistry repress lol).  We were still playing basement shows in Pittsfield and sleeping over night at airports to get cheaper flights. At the FU fest in maybe 2007, I had 15k in cash in my hand from the door, from the merch we sold, most of it owed to other bands and to pressing plants. I felt like a millionaire.

It was getting to be the business. I'm trying to put myself in the mindset of why we came up with the 12 hour show back then. On tour for the DAVID repress a few years ago, Robin told me that she thought I had Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Brigitte used to always tell me I needed to "come from a place of yes" instead of from a place of you know what. I think in these stark categories - black and white. I try and fight that urge for the songs - I want them to be about understanding. But we are different in our lives from what we put down in the booklets, in our songs.  We imagine the world as against us - their world vs ours. Hidden World - that was a secret, that was the blackness underneath the world that we imagined ourselves to live in. You think that way when you are younger, trying to make sense of the world around you by fighting through it.

We never really trusted anyone at Matador. We obviously wanted to put the albums out on their label, we wanted the cash, the exposure, we were going for it. It stank of success, and we just stank. It's a great label full of wonderful people, but we never trusted that side - I think we imagined ourselves to be taking advantage of them in this punk way or whatever. You know what I'm talking about. We weren't really trying to work together, we were still trying to work against it, like all the songs we knew.

Matador shared this huge office with all the other Beggars labels - Rough Trade, XL, the other one, 4AD, down near the tunnel to New Jersey. We'd be going there a lot - Damian would walk out with a box full of records every time, I'd be trying to flirt with Brigitte while she was working, Jonah would be outside looking for somewhere to park the van.  They had these "FAT" meetings they called them, some acronym - to come up with ideas on how to sell the albums.  It was just these people who loved music, trying to do right by the bands - I didn't trust it. It's naivety, its fear. I was 28, still just a kid, a bit autistic, trying to put walls around the world around me to help understand my place. 

In school I'd often have to leave group presentations, whisper to the teacher in the back that I wasn't gonna say anything because I was so nervous. Just a scowl on my face, from fear. That's a lot of punk. Ask why you burrowed down so deep away from everything.  I was afraid. I'm smart enough now to have come up with ways to negotiate these sorts of adult situations, to be charming, to be funny - it's a front, we all know this. It's hard.  In 2008 I was in the back room of the office with like, 25 people? I'd met Chris, Patrick, maybe Miwa, Nils, Brigitte, Claire. A room full of people trying to make my dreams come true, can you imagine?  It was like in a movie - me scanning the room with my special glasses on, trying to keep a safe distance from the aliens, trying to stay safe inside the categories I was constructing in my head.

I thought - All you people - you work in this office, you have these boring lives - that's you. Us - we're pirates, we travel the world in our little van screaming - we're not like you.  I said we'd play a show that lasted 12 hours long, we'll pretend we're like you for a day. Just rudeness, a stunt, or like a dare even, like a toddler would pull, or someone trying to tank a relationship. Try and accommodate my difficulty, try and normalize this behavior. Everyone in the band I think thought it was a stupid idea, but the label was into it. They wanted to help, you know, they wanted to accommodate what we were trying to be. They probably understood what that was more than we did in 2008.

Everyone put their notebooks down and started getting to work on the idea. Dean and Gabe started to scour the LES for a place to have the show - the first idea was the Russian and Turkish baths on 10th - can you imagine.  Someone must have had a friend that worked at Rogan, because a clothing store didn't jump out as an obvious possibility, but it was perfect.  This old beautiful corner building, it looked like the first shop ever built in New York. 

It was in the glare of CBGB, which we could count as our past - Ian booked us there with Forward, Tragedy (the drummer tried to pick up my girlfriend from the van as we drove away), one of the most insane shows of all time. Me and Josh drove down to see one of the Kraut reunions, I sat on that crows nest thing for the entire show. 2009 and we were a block further along the Bowery.

So we set off into our camps - the band needed to figure out how to play music for that long, and the label had to figure out how to sell the idea, which ended up just saying that all these celebrities might show up. That felt like something we'd do ourselves. I think Seal was on the flyer? Seal didn't come. There was a fridge full of free Vitamin Water, there was free beer. People came. Katy Perry reviewed one of our songs that month I think in the NME? She didn't like it. The Municipal Waste guy did the same thing. He didn't like it either.  Damian was on the cover of NME, we tore up MTV on that cycle. We put a motorcyle in the bathroom in the basement and Damian almost lit it on fire. We were going for it.

 We invited friends to shore up some of the time - Vivian Girls played, I can barely remember what else. People came and did cameos, that's been covered.  We aren't an amazing live band - we barely practice, we don't live in the same country anymore. We just play really fast for people who move really slow. We're like a train going by you so fast you can't see the details - all you see is the marvel. 

I think we opened the show with Crooked Head - we made Jonah play the drum intro for maybe 10 times as long as it was meant to. The rehearsals for the show were just like "that'll eat up some of the time", and "Get Jonah to do his part longer". I've long said Jonah is a pure Newtonian object - once you push him in a direction, he'll just travel along that axis to infinity unless something gets in his way to send him careening in a different direction. I met Jonah at a hardcore fest in Streetsville in 1999. He bumped into me maybe during a Drowningman set, so I picked him up and threw him - he's still hasn't landed.

They got MOBY to show up. I'm gonna skip the music part - he thought we were Youth Of Today. I stood next to him outside during a break while he was being interviewed by Rhapsody, and he was telling them about the first time he saw us, at the Anthrax Club in CT in the late 80s. He thought he was filling in for Porcell. MOBY EXPLAIN YOURSELF.

I used to make fun of Vampire Weekend a lot on this blog when they were coming up (I switched to WAVVES I think a few years later). Ezra came and did a Blitz song with us for maybe the perfectly inverse reason as the reason we were doing the show in the first place. He called the audience nerds, wearing a vintage rugby and docksiders, and it was great, he disappeared down the Bowery. J came and ripped a guitar solo for 25 minutes straight (tell your children this). If we had booked the show in 2015 I would have lobbied to have Phish come do a song. We were trying to be Phish, but we had no chops.

The label got us this trailer van that we parked around the corner that we could go chill out in. Imagine needing a lunch break. They filled it with pizza.  We set this thing up like we were going to D-Day. We were doing an honest day of work for god's sake. That was the point - but WE were the point, without realizing it. It was this stunt, to try and shine light on a working day. Imagine filling that with a show? Imagine trying to fill a work day with some useless musicians? And we're still talking about it, 15 years later.




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