Three years in and we’re already on a reunion tour! Or maybe we’ll call this repeat business. Either way, the summer of 2015 was booked almost exactly the same as 2014. Festival of Voices in Tasmania followed by a stint in Europa Park.
The one difference this time was that Maria would be back in North America while I explored down under. So after bidding her (and our little apartment on Granville and Davie in Vancouver adieu, I flew to Myrtle Beach for a few days (to look at a property) then boarded a plane to Sydney. We spent a few days there taking in sights and doing some press for the Festival of Voices. That was part of the enhanced return trip–our group would do a promo tour for the festival in advance and even remix a song about Tasmania.
Cue one of the most significant cluster fucks of our illustrious careers. We had spent the last couple of weeks bouncing demos over email and getting pretty vague critiques. “More like Flo Rida” or “More commercial vibe.” We later learned that Aaron had received some pretty clear direction from the organizers after negotiating the idea, but did not pass along the information. We were shooting in the dark. Meanwhile Jamal made 8 bars of an African EDM beat (literally what he named the track) for Australia, Aaron got our buddy Mark to write some music (albeit to the words of Billy Jean–I presume he got as much direction as we did), and I wrote a few full songs.
When we arrived we got to speak directly with the people who organized it and they liked what I’d written but wanted to tack on the original choral version at the beginning. Artistically I think it’s not a great beginning, but the song was for Tasmania, not the hallowed tomes of music theory. So please, take a listen, skip the first 15 seconds, enjoy the pop music:
So now who gets the money? The group? Aaron? Even split? Or since I wrote and recorded the whole song, should I get it? Well, No. To all the above. Here’s the thought. Aaron organized it–he gets a “Finder’s” cut. The idea was sold because group exists, so some goes to the group. All the guys recorded on it, so we each get a little something something. And whoever made the thing earns the rest. Now, in this case, Fredo did a fair amount to help me produce it (and he even recorded a couple demos of his own), so he and I split the rest. This logic took us 2 months to discover. Long, slow sigh.
We also discovered that the group was getting paid unevenly…to the tune of Aaron making 2.5x what everybody else made. Now, if this was a group where he charted the arrangements, did the taxes and accounting and legal, recorded the group, acted as a manager, ran the workshops, hosted the website, wrote the songs, and booked the gigs, Ok, cool. BUUUUUUT, that all falls on the rest of the group (except most of the booking). That said, other guys have done the booking and we pay 2 other people to assist in that process. THAT said, we still think it’s fair to pay whomever books the gigs an agent or “Finder’s” cut. It is simply unwieldy and a slippery slope to determine an hourly wage for everybody’s work, and ownership in a group like ours is best served by an even split. As we have grown, the even split has become unfair. But I always go back to my favorite example. Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio – on a handshake – split their performance and songwriting earnings 50/50. The point is none of us can exist without the other. We are all in this together, and our values are the same. Five minus one equals zero. It’s funny math, but the truth if you look to have a future as a band.
Let this be a lesson to my future self.
The workshops in Tasmania were fun, though a little less intense and frankly less rewarding because of that. We spent our nights back in our palatial rooms either recording or rehearsing or eating at Cargo; the days were spent teaching or filming the music video for the Tasmania song. They took us from Hobart to Launceston as the Festival has spread, giving us the opportunity to see the Tasmanian countryside. It’s very peaceful down here–a corner of the world to really rejuvenate.
After nearly a month there, we flew to Melbourne for a nearly worthless few days. We frankly wasted a bunch of money, but did get to connect with some friends. I got to see Loz, Amelia, Emilia, and Dan, and we all got to see some footy and see the McKenzies from last year’s workshops.
Germany came next where we somewhat anxiously crept into the country. Aaron’s dealings with Thomas and Katja were tenuous at best. We had become very close companions with them during our previous visits, but in organizing this trip, it apparently crossed the line into business and out of friendship. But in their typically kind manner, they brushed it under the rug. Naught but during a beer drowned conversation at the After-Park Lounge with Thomas did I hear any inkling of resentment that we hadn’t called or texted. I felt defensive after sending postcards, a video, texts, snapchats…and Thomas empathized. As we learned, however, you are held to the standard of the company you keep. Choose your friends wisely.
On August 8th we opened for Marlon Roudette in the heat of his big hit “When the Beat Drops Out.” It was a hell of a night…I basically remember raiding his dressing room for beers. We drank all of ours :). They’d opened up an artist-only lawn, too, and we spent a few weekends there (though I clearly remember elbowing Adelka after I won beer pong–total accident but I felt like an ass. I think it was the booze, but it started an emotional breakdown. Thank god Chris was there, and thank god Paul knew where to get some weed!).
The shows were fun, outdoors at the Italian stage. We had some fans show up daily, which was surprising and an honor, and it became almost a comfort to see them. We sold out of our merch there and got creative with t-shirts and buttons and pictures and old albums. Fredo (typically by himself) would set up the merch table and hustle out after a show. He is a hard worker, and I have tremendous respect for him. Somebody with his talent could have become a jerk very easily.
But as usual, we partied with our friends at night and worked out during the day. One of the highlights was that my mom flew out to Germany to see a few shows. We did all kinds of sight-seeing too. From Zurich to Strassburg, up and down the autobahn and through Europa Park, we did everything! In only took a few days, but she even rode Blue Fire and Silver Star! I’m proud of her (not just for that–she’s overcome a lot in her life).
Towards the end of our stay, we flew out Rob Dietz to help us get our shit together and just hang. He was helpful and a nice addition to the crew. He’s a good guy and generally knows how to talk to us. I hope we work with him more, but I know that at the end of the 2 month tour, we were too tired to get the most of his time. C’est la vie.
The last day was another #ExchangeAdventure. We had booked a hotel in Frankfurt to fly out the next morning and we’d all packed up. Aaron’s organization of the rides, however, left all of us but him without a seat. So unwittingly we’d packed up for nothing and a bag of his clothes was left in Jamal’s care. No heads up. No goodbye. So we cancelled our reservation and hung around EP for another night. #smh #morethantwiceasmuch
Somehow it all shook out and in our scheduling we found that flying to the US by way of Australia (with a 10 day layover) was only and extra 200 bucks! So I flew to Perth to see Maria. It was a really good trip, though short. We were walking through King’s Park and heard a squawk near the ground. A baby rainbow lorikeet had fallen from the nest and appeared injured. We asked the ranger and they suggested we take him. The vets were going to put it down (as a pest in Australia) so we took him (or her) home and built a cage out of egg crates and sticks.
The next morning we got him some food and found a person who wanted to take him off our hands (though we had grown attached and eventually decided to keep him). Maria would wake up early to feed him as she nursed him back to health. My biggest contribution was trying to get him to repeat the Hunger Games melody! We built him a much bigger cage and he started to flap his wings as he grew bigger. We eventually named it Mango…half because of his colors and half because of the androgynous SNL character of the same namesake. After all, it’s very difficult to determine the sex of a bird like him…or her. It.
We had a really good time and this time was one of the hardest to say goodbye. It’s so hard navigating the long-distance thing, but we think there’s something here worth fighting for. I can’t wait to see her again, whenever that may be.