Sunday, April 17, 2016

For the Lovers, The Dreemers, and Me

There is nothing better than hearing good new music for the first time. It doesn't matter what it is or how you hear it, when you instantly connect with a new artist, even though they created the music, it becomes yours.

The Black Angels recently caught my attention. I think it was on Austin City Limits, or maybe KEXP's YouTube Channel. They have this echoy psychedelic awesomeness going on that hits me in just the right way.

The Black Angels. Photo by Gina Pina from Austin, TX. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Whatever the music happens to be, when it's the right thing for me at that moment, when the notes catch my ears, something unlocks within me. It's like when I am jamming and I find a groove and ride it for as long as I feel it.

For certain songs by certain artists, I get that feeling back every time I hear them. Like anything by Donovan or The Kinks or Tommy James and the Shondells. I could listen to their albums on repeat for a month and be ready to re-up the next month going.

Variety is good, too. Like most music lovers I know, I go through phases.

Lately, there has been this local band, The Dreemers, who my wife, a couple of our closest friends, and I happened to catch at Pork Rokr last summer. It took the band a while to set up (which I image is a bit of a challenge to do on a front porch), so there was this sort of slow-building of suspense. We had not heard of them before, but when we saw them listed on the map of performances around our Highland Square neighborhood, something about them drew us in that direction.

We had seen some good performances that day by a variety of bands, and even though we did not know exactly what to expect, we had high hopes. The band of high school kids who had just performed on the porch next door had just finished a respectable "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and we sat  on curb, the sun bleating down high overhead. We waited patiently, discussing how my friends and I should start a folk rock band called Peters, Charles, and Peters. I would be Pete Peters, Adam would be Charles Charles, and Josh would be Charles Peters.

As soon as The Dreemers started playing, the four of us were hooked. They have this twangy surf-rock, Talking-Heads-meets-The-Akron-Sound vibe going. We talked about them for a while after that, and last night, we, minus Josh, went to see them perform again, this time at this cool little art collective gallery space called Hive Mind. Two other Akron-area bands, Hard in the Pink and Birthday Noose, also performed.

The Dreemers at Hive Mind on 4/16/16. Photo by Sarah Gott.

It was an all-around great concert in a very intimate and low-key setting. The three of us had a great time, and everyone else there seemed to be enjoying the music, as well. We will definitely be going again.

One of the reasons we went last night, in addition to our love of the band and music and going to shows, in general, is because I will be reviewing The Dreemers upcoming EP, "Is, Is," for The Devil Strip's May issue, and I had to remind myself what I will be in store for when I sit down to listen to it. The EP comes out on May 13, when the band will also have a release party at Jilly's Music Room.

I have this feeling that this is going to be a great summer with a lot of amazing new music to experience and share. I can't wait!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Take It Away, Freebird

What It Means to Be An Artist in the Age of Hyper-Capitalism

Photo by

As is prone to happen, lately I have spent many hours lying awake at night, my mind racing through all subjects.

I try telling myself that I won't be solving all of my issues and all of the world's problems at 4 a.m., especially when I have to get up in two hours to get ready for work, but my brain is not always very reasonable, so I put on music and hopefully that works. I try relaxation techniques, and maybe that does have an effect, but it takes a lot of concentration, and I can't always settle my brain down for very long. Some nights, I hardly get any sleep.

One issue that my brain has been tossing around especially a lot lately has been my pursuit of publishing and selling books, and in particular how I feel like I have pushed myself towards emulating the multitude of hucksters that you see out there, particularly on Twitter, that push their wares on unsuspecting and mostly uninterested multitudes, all in an effort to sell books.

Do this, and this, and this, the marketing gurus command from their digital pedestals, and you will make some money. This is how so-and-so author makes a living off of his/her publishing, they claim, and so can you.

As readers of this blog have witnessed, I have tried on several different pieces of this advice from these online "experts," but like trying on pants at a thrift store, most of them did not fit for one reason or another.

While I have learned a great deal, and certainly what not to do and what doesn't work for me, I have not yet figured out what actually does work for me specifically. When I write, I like to push boundaries. I enjoy expressing my thoughts and feelings in ways that are uniquely me, and I don't want to compromise.

Maybe it is just irrational stubbornness on my part, and maybe I will never be successful due to it, but, yadda yadda I consider myself an artist, and as an artist, I have decided that I need to do what is best for my art, and that means trashing most of the marketing bullshit and committing myself to doing it entirely my own way, for better or worse (of my bank account).

While I don't plan on getting rid of my social media or this blog, I have considered it. I have even been so disenchanted with writing lately that I have even considered giving up on it entirely. For those of you who know me, or who have read this blog for a while and feel like you know me, then you know that is a pretty big deal, but rather than taking a flying leap off of the precipice, I am seeking my own path, and at the very least returning to writing fiction solely for my enjoyment of it. 

I have a job, I have a cool writing gig, and those things are what I need to be focusing on right now. I am happy to share my writing with whoever wants to read it, but I am not going to go out of my way, or do anything that I feel compromises my integrity, as an artist, in order to sell books.

That cheapens it and takes the fun out of it for me, and I would rather enjoy it for the sake of doing it rather than trying to cater to someone else's ideas of how it should be done.

For those of you reading this who think I am making a mistake or whatever, you can just buzz off. It's people like you who are the reason why it is necessary for me to take this step.

Besides, on the grand scope of things, it doesn't really matter. There are more important things happening in this world and in my life right now. Self-publishing doesn't have to be done a certain way just because some people have done it that way and have sold a bunch of books because of it.

In fact, just because someone else has had success with a particular approach, it doesn't mean that way will work for everyone, and if you look at the number of books that most self-publishers actually sell while trying to do it that one way, then maybe you will see that what works for the people who are selling books isn't the best way for everyone. Not everyone has the same idea of success (queue "Freebird").

That's why I have to decided to make my eBooks free, or at least leave all of the ones that I currently have free, still free, and then some, possibly.

Of course, I will still have to charge for the print books if you want to buy them online or through a store, but I will also always give away as many as I can afford to buy at a time (to people I see in person). I feel like I would rather have people read read it and give it a chance than have unrealistic expectations about who will buy it or not.

It might seem a little silly to some, but that doesn't make it silly. Especially if my goal is to gain readers.

I can't guarantee I will always give all of my books away in this manner, but at least these ones. Probably also the updated version of my short story collection, and my flash fiction chapbook. They are short and sweet.

I don't know if people will want them, but it will be one less thing to worry about and one hour closer to a full night's sleep.