Friday, October 29, 2010

Tour Log #8: Window Dreaming

Winding through the hills on our way to Northern California, it's easy to forget that these hills are just protrusions caused from explosions in the earths molten core. At any point an earthquake or a volcano could wipe us out. Yet still man, in good faith, builds roads through hills and mountains, houses on fault lines, towns in tornado alley. We seem to have this God-like complex that the things we build are permanent. From our vast cities and infrastructure to grass huts, towering buildings to small communities, we will all disappear. The earth is wild, moving, unaffected by our meager attempts to manipulate and inhabit this terrifying wilderness. Yet here we are, in all of our ingenuity and proclivity for survival, acting as though tomorrow we couldn't slip out of tangible consciousness into the vast beyond. Eternity. That horrible "beyond" that is somehow reflected in the wildness of our own earth. Creator and creation are in many ways one. Tomorrow Southern California could break off into the ocean and kill all the celebrities, then we would not only be without California, but the bulk of the entertainment industry as well. Just think, a world without TMZ. But we don't think, we just live.

Driving is a perfect example of this. Every day we get into a few thousand pounds of machinery and then hurl ourselves down curving paths at speeds excess of 60mph, faster than any land animal, and we do this with thousands of other motorists, weaving in and out of traffic, without any concern for the consequences. We're all one slip of the wheel, one unchecked blind-spot away from death. And it's not like we're staring it in the face... we're not even recognizing it. We just zoom around listening to music or texting or day dreaming with our toes hanging over the edge of a proverbial cliff, and at any second we could slip off.

Speaking of which, these roads are terrible and it's getting hard to type this. You'd think a big blue state like California could use some of that massive tax revenue to fix the pot holes!

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Seven-Year-Itch

They say married people tend to get restless at around the seven year mark. Apparently that's when the honeymoon is officially over for everyone. Sadly, too many couples are inclined to become unfaithful with each other because of this restlessness, and it comes at the cost of their marriage and well-being. I don't necessarily believe this for my marriage, because I'm inclined to believe we have something unique both situationally and relationship-wise, something that will hopefully keep us going to around the 70-year-itch mark. However, I've been feeling something of this restlessness in regards to the music/band portion of my life.

I've often viewed my band as a marriage between five people. In order for us to maintain a healthy band, we all have to put in equal work and maintain a high level of commitment. We have to strive together for common goals. We have to want the same things and work towards those goals. This is not unlike a healthy marriage. If one person isn't pulling their weight it throws the whole dynamic off-balance. When we're off balance we lose focus, start playing the blame game, get bitter, and ultimately stop striving towards those goals we once had in common. Being in a band has taught me a lot about compromise, patience and biting my tongue... all of which have proved extremely helpful in maintaining a healthy marriage. 

The Classic Crime formed in late February of 2003. We are currently in our seventh year of writing and playing songs together. Our lives up until this point have been defined by this single task. We've hoped and celebrated and struggled and fought through situations together without even one member change. We formed under the common goal that we felt this was our calling, and that we would do this until we just couldn't any more. I think our dedication and passion at the beginning are almost entirely to credit for how long we've stuck this out together. It was everyone-all-in with equal share and responsibility, with hopes that if we invested ourselves fully that the best lay ahead of us. Each of us took ownership of our music and the process. We dropped out of school and worked part time jobs so we could practice daily. We spent our time writing and re-writing, demoing, gigging, struggling like every local band does. When we were with friends we'd have guitars and play songs, we'd spend hours every night just free-styling music. It wasn't a chore, or a job, it was what we loved to do so we lived it. I can honestly say that without that passion and love for music there is absolutely no chance that I'd be sitting in a van right now with the same five guys. You'd be hard pressed to find a five-piece band in this day and age that has made it this far fully intact. We are fully intact, but it feels as though the glue is wearing out. Maybe it's that seven-year-itch.

Albatross didn't really take us to the level we'd hoped, and neither did The Silver Cord, or Vagabonds. I've always believed we are blessed to do this, but you can imagine the daunting task of setting your hopes high just to have them fall short time and again can be wearing on your senses. We have all lived in poverty for these seven years, and I've watched the steady decline of hope in my band mates. First goes hope, then joy. People get less and less excited for shows and tours and songs we're writing, because the chances that it will change our situation are slim. We no longer hope for the best because we no longer want to get crushed. We preempt disappointment with lower standards. We reassure ourselves that everything will go terribly wrong in the off chance it doesn't and we're pleasantly surprised. If that sounds depressing it's because it is. It's no way to live.

Somewhere along the way a trend set in. Something clicked, and my band-mates started slowly divesting in our music and our goals as a band, and started investing in their plan B's. I don't blame them, it's only wise to have a back-up plan when you look at how record sales are trending these days. So they started picking up steadier jobs and going back to school, accruing more monthly bills to try to maintain some semblance of normal life. Because of these things we tour less, practice less, and we rarely write songs with all of us in one room. I can tell they still care about our band and our fans, but they do at less of a capacity because of their other investments and obligations.

The more they divest the more I have to invest. But sadly, I can't do it all. I still believe that music is my calling, and I won't go chase down the comforts of civil life at the cost of my purpose. Because of this I became responsible for writing and demoing 80% of The Silver Cord and 90% of Vagabonds. I don't like the extra responsibility, I actually prefer everyones input, I prefer the "everyone-all-in" mentality more, but the show must go on, and the bulk of the work-load in the last few years has rested on my shoulders. Somewhere along the way this became a job. It feels like the flare and the excitement are limited to tracking new music, and the rest just boils down to business. It's less "let's take on the world together" and more "I hope Matt writes a hit so I can quit my day job." 

I know that may sound snide, but the truth is this marriage isn't as healthy as it once was. The hope is gone. You could ask the majority of my band members and they would tell you, "If it happens it happens, if not, well, at least I have a back up plan." And I don't blame them at all. I have no bitterness. I've had that feeling before as well, but now I have this itch to create, move, grow, expand. I have no backup plan. 

I've been itching for the passion we once had, the excitement that comes with be a part of something greater than yourself. I don't want a solo project, because it can only be as good as myself... I want to be a part of something where everyone brings 100%. Maybe it's TCC, maybe it isn't.

Maybe this is the Seven-Year-Itch. I can't tell you what will come of scratching it, maybe we just make a great record with TCC, everyone-all-in. In our down time I've been producing and writing music with people who do it because they love it, and it's inspiring... I long to be surrounded with people who don't see music as a chore or a Plan B. People who make music because it makes them feel alive, not because it's expected of them. Maybe we can tap into that again. I hope so.

I don't know if the honeymoon is officially over for us, or if it's a seven year cycle and we're entering a new, better one. What I know for sure is that if I'm going to make music I want it to make it with people who are as dedicated as I am to not only the finished product but to the calling on their lives.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I think its probably safe to say that most of us identify as underdogs. I'll bet if you asked any number of millionaires most of them would probably admit that at some point in their life they felt disregarded. They might tell you they were poor or struggled through some hardship to get where they are today. They would probably give you some story about them triumphing over adversity or earning their success against all odds. I think we all like to cheer on the underdogs because we identify with them, we see ourselves as those who haven't been given the same advantages that others have. We all want the little guy to do well, after all it's inspirational. It gives us hope. There's a reason why this is the premise of every Disney movie ever made. 

Those of you who know a bit about me know that I grew up with constant exposure to Bible teaching. In Sunday School we learned the stories of the ancient heroes; David defeating Goliath, Moses leading the slaves out of Egypt, Gideon and his small band of men defeating a massive army. The men and women we read about seemed larger than life. However, as I got older I started to realize that these people weren't superhuman... they were just human. They were deeply flawed. They were underdogs, and the Bible doesn't hide their shortcomings, it almost highlights them. Moses murdered a man in Egypt and lived in exile in the desert for forty years before God spoke to him and told him of His plan to go back and free the slaves, and even then Moses was incapable of speaking up so God sent Aaron to be his mouthpiece. David was the youngest of his family, a simple shepherd boy with no military training. All he had was a rock and a sling, yet God used him to kill the giant and defeat the Philistine threat. David also became an adulterer and a murderer when he was King, he failed miserably but the Bible still says that David was a "man after God's own heart." These guys were just like you or me, and yet probably a lot worse, but God used them for great things. God loved them. Rahab was a prostitute and a Gentile (even worse in those days) and God used her to secure a victory for Israel. The theme that runs through all of these stories is that God tends to use those who are cast out, disenfranchised and overlooked. He tends to take those from humble situations and sends them into significant, purposeful, legendary roles. God identifies and chooses the underdogs for great things.

The Bible says that God does this so that man might see His Glory reflected in the lives of people. It's still happening too. A humble Albanian nun felt God calling her to India where she became known as Mother Theresa, lover of the sick, abandoned people in the slums of Calcutta. A black kid from segregated Georgia became Martin Luther King, Jr, leader of the Civil Rights movement. Without these people our world would be much worse, yet they weren't born with a silver spoon. They were born in probably less desirable situations then you or I.

Being a person who believes we were all created in the image of God, I can't help but see God's trait of "rooting for the underdog" reflected in our lives. The Bible says that in heaven the "last shall be first" meaning the poorest, most disenfranchised people here on earth will be like kings in heaven, especially when they suffer for God's sake (Good's sake). This serves as good motivation to humbly serve your neighbor, or to "bless those who curse you" as the Bible says. 

The "underdog theme" is strong throughout the Old Testament and New, culminating in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus, a child born of the humblest beginnings was a carpenter, and served the lowliest of society until He ultimately gave His life so that every person, bad or good, got the opportunity to experience Heaven. He came and served as a humble servant, and the Bible says He now reigns as the King of Heaven. He's the ultimate underdog story.

Thematically, the Bible is so perfect yet so backwards from practical thought, and so different from any other religion in that sense. But it resonates. For some strange reason we all love the underdog. We all tear up when we watch Rudy (if you don't you have no heart). Perhaps this is why the radical idea of endless servitude, rejoicing through suffering, and sacrificing everything even to the point of martyrdom struck a chord two thousand years ago. Deep down it just rings true. Those who have prestige don't see their need for Jesus so they exclude themselves, but the little guys, the sinners like you and me, the underdogs, we cling to the promise that we are forgiven and loved, and that someday we will fulfill our potential and be made complete.