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.


  1. Well, if you firmly believe this is God's calling for your life, your part in God's plan, then you must keep going; it will be hard, but He is faithful... 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17. Prayers for you, for wisdom and hope. :)

    Just to let you know, though, the music that TCC has produced thus far has been an immense blessing to so many of my friends and me...bringing friends (back) together, and regaining hope in life--but I'm sure you know that already, but yeah--a reminder that even the albums that have been out for quite a while--God still uses them to impact our lives. :) Thanks for what you all have done so far, Matt! I'm sure God is not even nearly done using you yet!

    - GazelleTrek

  2. I like GazelleTrek's point about TCC's music thus far. The albums that are already out there are 'hits' for a lot of people. Vagabonds, The Silver Cord, Seattle Sessions and Albatross may not have 'taken on the world' but they sure have taken over lots of little worlds. Listening to any one of those albums is like listening to good memories for me. I imagine a rekindling of the hope you all first had would be something truly amazing, both for the process and the final product. But even if the 'band marriage' wears thin with the years, even if there is a messy divorce, from the hard work you guys have already done you'll still have custody of quite a few ear canals.

  3. Yeah, I completely agree.
    The Silver Cord is my favorite album by any artist, and I've got at least 500 full albums on my iPod at the moment. Not to be rude or anything, but you seriously underestimate the impact your music has had on the world around you. CD sales aren't everything, not even close. You've changed the world for the better, TCC, and whether it all ends here or keeps going to produce more music it is a beautiful thing. It's what we all strive to do, isn't it?

  4. Hey Matt,
    How 'bout you be a little humble and don't expect your music to "change the world."
    Just do it 'cause guys love it.

  5. Hey Will, thanks for reading. I don't know where you got "change the world" as I didnt say that once. I'm just trying to eat and maybe procreate with my wife some day. I'd say thats a pretty humble existence.

  6. It seems to me that your fanbase has grown with each album. Maybe the "success" that you guys are looking for to pay the bills is just around the corner. Maybe people have been less willing to spend money on CD's because of the shape of the economy. I don't know. I hope that passion for making music returns with those other guys, but regardless of what happens, I strongly believe that TCC has been "successful" in terms of the lives that have been touched.

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  8. “But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
    “And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
    “And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
    “But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
    “And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”

    There are many times in my life that I wonder how I got where I was, what decisions led me to this place and fear replaces faith. My eyes lose sight of the goal and I become discouraged. I read this recently when I was worried about something specific and I was reminded...again.
    "Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter?

    What greater witness can you have than from God?"
    When we have that confirmation from the Holy Spirit we know our job is to GO and DO.
    It's what you've done and will continue to do because you understand where you are supposed to be. Don't lose sight of that- I'd hate to think of TCC not being whole but, whatever it was you were called to do must continue and the Lord will give you the strength you need to do it.
    I can't fathom the sacrifice made by you and your family but I know I speak for many when I say thank you for doing it.
    My prayers are with you.

  9. Some follow up to your last post, I see you've overcome your bout with "writer's block"! All I can say is that I'm glad I finally got to see TCC live before it bites the dust! Actually there are very few bands in existence, that haven't gone through some kind of personal change and some don't last beyond a year or two, so count yourself lucky in that respect! In a business that is so over saturated with talent as music is these days, it's very hard to stand above the crowd! If you want to draw attention to yourself, you could always do a cover of Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga or pose nude on the cover of Rolling Stone!(Or in your underwear!)Or you can just take the talent God gave you and use it to the best of your ability, even if you have to set out on your own as a solo artist! Don't be such a whiner, why should life be any easier for you than it is for the rest of us! Besides it's easy to procreate on Welfare!

    Personally, I like the Rolling Stone idea the best! In underwear of course!

  10. Matt,
    Yeah, I guest I was just paraphrasing the whole "change the world" thing, but it's what I hear in these posts that talk about you being let down by your fame level, like "Living the dream" or "Jesters (tour log #5)." It makes me wonder if you're the same guy that wrote the words "you might see me on the corner with a cup some day, and I'll smile and wave, and say 'God bless you for your change today.'" I guess I just feel like album sales shouldn't mean that much to a band like yours.

    Back to the "change the world" thing, maybe I said it cause you've changed my world. Yeah, it's true. I'm a huge fan and my life wouldn't be the same without TCC. Maybe I get annoyed at these whiny-ish posts because in my book, there are no bigger bands. It's probably from my sub-conscience emotions feeling hurt that this band that I love, who's albums I have memorized, who's songs mirror my soul, doesn't think that my fan-ship is worth much 'cause I'm only buying one of every album.. I know you don't think that, but I don't know if you realize that you do have fans, good ones; even if they are few and far between, they're real.
    And when you get done with an album and can say you really like the way it sounds, why do you care how many it sells. I don't care about the numbers from Albatross, it's the best debut I've ever heard.. I know that bands are supposed to care, but to be honest, I hold you to a higher standard than that. You talk about setting your hopes high and being let down. Does that hope depend on sales, or the impact it has on the souls of it's listeners, cause you guy seem to be living proof that they don't necessarily correlate.

    I guess what I'm saying is make your music and leave the rest up to God. I think you said it the best "True success is so selfless so drown in the lyrics of your life and give up the air that you breathe..."

    from fan to hero,

    p.s. long live tcc!!

  11. Will-
    I can't thank you enough for your fanship. I know what I've put out there as an artist has changed the way some people see things, and for that reason I am so humbled and thankful. The point of posts like these are to be honest and "lift the veil" so to speak. People think we are rock stars and want what we have, but I want to share the truth that this yoke isn't easy. I will always make music, for the sole reason that i believe it's my calling, under the title of TCC or another, but I don't want to let those who read this assume that I am special, or that I have been blessed with material gain in any way. My family and I have made major sacrificesto allow this to happen, and it's my hope that people at least see the true side of things.

    I love what I do, but it's an existence I wouldn't wish on anyone. I hate fame, truly as a human I long for the reassurance of my path through stability, even though it evades me. I'm not complaining, just giving the true story of our lives in hopes that we can bind the myth of "rock star" or "success story" for good.

  12. That may be peachy keen, Will, but the man is trying to put food on his table. I think it's okay for discouragement to hit. They are making sacrifices for the sake of their music and on the road for who knows how long.
    I'm not trying to be a pill, I'm feeling oddly defensive tonight. I am a huge fan too, and I have been inspired by the lyrics as I belt them at the top of my lungs, demanding that everyone love them as much as I do.
    Matt (& TCC), thank you for your words, your songs, your time. I wish there was more, as a fan, that I could do. You know, besides telling everyone about this rockin' awesome band that everyone should know and love. I'm working on it.
    Ready? Set? Go.

  13. Yeah, I hear ya. And I do love the honesty that you put out here..
    Let your family and band know that we really appreciate the sacrifice.

  14. I’m very sorry for the teasing tone of my previous comment, your concerns are valid, the point I was really trying to make is that success in this day and age is fleeting at best. We are a society suffering with “attention deficit”, meaning we are easily distracted by the next best/big thing. We jump from one band wagon to the next in a split second, hoping to fit in with the now “in-crowd”. We follow artists because of their outrageous behavior, looks or choice words in their lyrics, or because the people we want to identify with do, not because of the true value of what they have to offer. You’re a success one day and a “has been” the next. Some artists that fall from grace want to climb back up, so they set out to reinvent themselves (hence all that silliness about covers or Rollingstone magazine). So, as some of the others have pointed out, what would signify success, to be a commercial success with a large, though perhaps less sincere following or to have a smaller, more sincere and truly appreciative group of fans? Maybe you were meant to be the latter in whatever form you present yourself as an artist, TCC or solo! Either way, God has a plan and some of us will be here for it all!

  15. I am saddened to read this but can appreciate you sharing it with us Matt. While I don't have a "leave it up to God" message like most on the board, I encourage you and your band mates to have a true discussion on the future of TCC and set the right expectation for the future. It's too hard (and sometimes too easy) to keep a good thing going when the necessary steps towards keeping it great aren't being taken on a daily basis. Just like a great Rock group (Stones, Beatles) and even Business/Corporations, you will have your ups and downs and it's how you deal with conflict that can truly separate you from the average. From a loyal fan standpoint, I can attest your music is unique and exceptional and those CDs will stay as close to me as my Pink Floyd/CCR/Nirvana/etc.. collections. My one point to make out of this diatribe would be that you guys were young when you started (and still very young) so your expectations and life situation has changed considerably with time. What would you like to see different? A higher level of recognition? A different label/management? What are you willing to do to keep this great thing going? I think the answer to those questions can help you shape the necessary steps you have to take to achieve your goals :)

    - Alex M.

  16. Ilove your music, I love your passion for it, I hate to see you discouraged, and yet it is a true rite of passage as an artist. I run to your music all the time, and know all the words, and feel myself lifted up when my legs grow tired. I catch the energy of your music and lyrics in my body and it spurs me on. Seriously.

  17. I love your Hope dude but its filled with doubt. How can God/your friends/yourself come through for you if your Hopes are filled with doubts

    On the East coast (far away from where you guys started out)over the past 4 months I have watched my random friends, 1: hear about TCC from and like TCC, 2: a month or two later proclaim TCC is the best band out there. They are not speaking subjectively. They are speaking objectively. Saying that, if all were to hear you, all would love you. Because all who have heard you, love you and TCC is now at the top of their list. You're so positive about this calling? (should be because of the lives you have touched and the serious music critics I am friends with that have put TCC at the top), then live that out with little to no room for doubts or your complex mind to loose itself.

  18. Hey Matt, we hear you. It sucks. None of this is ever fun to hear, but posts like this are good if they're true. Few of us, myself included, understand enormity of the sacrifice that has been made to make the stuff that's impacted us all in such huge ways. Thanks for doing it, we're glad you're still committed. As fans we would do everything we can to help keep it going... (yeah, I do actually buy multiple albums). I'm with Randomanda all the way. We are working on it- so hopefully this is only the beginning.

  19. Hey man, I know how you feel...kinda. My wife and I feel called to be missionaries, but right now, we're stuck living with family and trying to pay off student loans to get there.

    Somedays it seems really depressing, like we're never gonna make it and somehow we are failures. It's easy to look around at other friends our age and compare, but if we feel that God has really called us to it, then all we can do is hold onto it, keep working towards it and never lose faith or hope.

    We don't have a plan B either.

    As a side note, I think you should make a worship album.

  20. it would be awesome if everyone was still as focused. i would not say that they are less dedicated since i am sure they still have the same hopes for TCC as they did in the beginning but maybe have been slightly discouraged.

    i have always had a deep respect for bands that do not have member changes. i understand when there is one. but i can't imagine TCC being the same without one of you.

    once vagabonds came out i had the feeling that the next album is going to be the real deal for you guys. i say you just go and tour it like crazy. i know touring is rough but i think it would pay off in the long run.

    classic crime and emery tour together again? yessss....

  21. So I'm sitting here, it's 12:27 EST, and I can't even begin to tell you how this blog has opened my eyes. Yes, as everyone mentioned, God will help you through it, and yes, they also mention that you have a bunch of fans. They even go into your point of not having a plan B while the other guys do, and I guess what I am saying is that I can't see the world without TCC. I may not have been the diehard fan since day one, and I understand Matt that things have gotten rough. The thing I just can't comprehend is actually being in your shoes. I appreciate you letting us into your life, and I think that it is awesome that you and your wife are doing well. My first instinct was that if you are in it for the long haul with her, then why shouldn't it be the same with the band. I guess it's my ignorance, or my age, or just not coming from the same point of view. My point is, and I hope there was no harm in the words above, but my wish for you and TCC is that you are able to push through this rough patch. I will reiterate that The Classic Crime is and always will be my favorite band. I have Albatross, The Silver Cord, and Vagabonds, as well as merch from two of your shows. I've even started a page on FB, and gotten a ton of people to join your cause on FB. I've told so many of my friends about you, my mom even loves you guys and she is a tough cookie when it comes to music. Anyway, my point is, I want to do as much as I can, and support you guys as much as possible. I am a college student, and would love to come out to the West Coast just to see you guys all the time, and may just do that (if possible)... :-) As cliche as is will sound, don't give up! We love you guys, and I am sorry that there is an uneven balance right now for you, but in a sense, again cliche, but it makes your "marriage" with the band stronger. I hope that you are able to push past this Matt, and you know that you have your fans on your side no matter what!

    God bless you!

  22. Dear Matt,
    I just linked over to here from your most recent post from two days ago and all I have to say is this:
    You and your friends at TCC inspire me daily to become a musician, because I feel that is what God is leading me to do. I have spoken to many other pretty successful musicians and they all say the same thing as you: This industry is tough, its not as fun as people think.
    I look at the situation that you are in, or even bands like Paramore or Emery, and see that the people who told me that are right. I can not imagine what it is like to go through what you are going through right now, but I hope that at the very least I can learn from you guys so that if I do, I know what to do.
    I'm praying for you guys because, though I have not met you, you guys mean a lot to me.
    The only other thing I can say is, that when hard times come I like to read through Joshua 1:9 and the parts of Romans that describes how we are all chosen by God for His will.
    Also, I wish I lived in Seattle, because I would love to offer any help that I could, haha.

  23. Sometimes you imagine bands you love are much bigger and doing better than they really are because you're geographically so removed from them (i.e. the other side of the world).

    Anyway, I just bought all three of your albums in hard copy. I hope you all keep playing, after the fourth album, but if not I know God has greater plans for you.

    High level success in the music industry means selling out to a different agenda these days. A price anyone with a choice won't want to pay.