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.