Getting Fluent with Fluence

http://www.andthentherewasone.net/release/dawn-2/I’ve used both Audiokite and Reverbnation to “crowdsource” get feedback on my songs. It’s a good way to get unbiased reviews from people who aren’t particularly concerned about hurting your feelings or maintaining a good relationship with you (love you friends and family!). The bonus of these kinds of services is reach. You get a lot of feedback for relatively little money. This broad scope is also part of the limitations though. You can source a review from up to 1000 people on Audiokite (the service I use regularly) but only a small portion bother to write comments. I typically choose the 100-person option and I have never received more than 20 written comments. The rest if pure numbering. The comments themselves reflect a big variance in what the reviewers are paying attention to as well. Some will be paying close attention to the technical aspects of the recording: production, instrumentation, tone, things like that. Others will be more concerned with vocals or lyrics. Yet others will care more about the overall feel of the song and not care that there was a pitchy note or too much reverb. You have zero control over that, and if there is that much going on with the few people who leave comments, imagine how much that affects the others who are simply using the numbering system and not bothering to leave more feedback.

This is where Fluence comes in. As Sameen Shaw said —because when can I say no to a Person of Interest reference—”There’s a time for a scalpel, and a time for a hammer.” Fluence is your scalpel. shaw

Here’s how it works in a nutshell: you create an account, set up your profile, upload a song, pick some people to review it, wait for them to do so, end scene. Fairly simple on the surface, so I went forth and tried it. Turns out I had already created a profile some time ago and had also uploaded a song, “Dawn“, but had never promoted it. You see, promoted is their term for actually selecting what they call curators to check out your work. You can upload content and maybe someone will stumble across it, but promoting it is the only way to make sure it gets in front of people.

The song was already there, so I went ahead and used it for my first go. When you start to promote it you have several options that you can set up. There’s a description box where you can put as much detail about you, your song, whatever, as you want. There’s also a dropdown where you can specify what you’re looking for from a curator —feedback, promotion, or both— and a toggle switch allowing your reviewer to share your content on social media. This is all fairly straightforward.

Next you determine to whom you would like to send your content. This is where it starts to get tricky and is probably my biggest beef with the process.

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 11.50.03 AM

It’s best to do your homework prior to starting this because it will help you immensely. You can go through the Fluence site and research people and create a list that you can then select on the right, or you can search by a number of different criteria using the box on the left. The list of curators on the page changes as you enter in your search terms. You can also set a budget. Let’s take a quick detour to discuss pricing on this site. In fact, let’s look at what we know about the curators.

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This is what you see below the search boxes. I’ve blacked out stuff because I don’t know what the terms are of revealing curators or any of that stuff and I don’t want any trouble. What I know about this curator from this output  is her social reach (calculated using Klout; her’s is 49), how much she charges per minute with the maximum I can expect to be charged being $35.82, her relevance to what I typed in the search box, areas of interest and expertise, her ratings from other people she’s reviewed, and how long it takes her to respond. Based on this I can make a pretty good guess as to whether or not she’s someone I’d want to send my content to for review. That’s the basic stuff. If you’re going to make Fluence really work for you though, you have to do some strategizing. That means using their actual Fluence profile page to get more info.

The profile link takes you to the curator’s Fluence page where you see this same information as well as their Twitter feed and previous reviews. This is important because it lets you get a feel for what you’ll be getting if you go with this person. If you’re going to spend $35 for someone to listen to your music, you’d be pretty disappointed if they left you a 3-line review. You also don’t necessarily want to go with someone who’s going to go all Simon Cowell on you, so you can get a feel for the tone of their reviewing style. An important thing I learned from doing this with one of my influencers was that she was really looking for specific info in the description section of the song. I’d originally only written down the lyrics and a brief description of what the song was about, but after reading reviews she’d made where she frequently lamented the lack of information about the band I went back and edited my description to include more information about myself.

Back to the budgeting then. You can set a budget, and Fluence will select some curators for you based on that and your search criteria. From my experience, this part needs a little work. First off: when it selects curators for you it tells you “We’ve selected x number of curators with max cost of x”, but it doesn’t immediately show you the curators it chose. Instead you have to press the button that says “Add Selected to Order”, and then click the button that says “Review Curators”. I think the option to review the selected curators should be obvious and not require two clicks. Secondly, it has suggested curators for me that have zero to do with my search terms. Once it selected a daytime tv actress whose areas of expertise and interest did not include music at all.

Once you work your way through and finally get your curators all sorted, you submit and then you wait. Curators have ~2 weeks from the date of your submission to get back to you. If they don’t, you’re not charged for their portion. Also if a curator starts to listen to your song, for example, you only get charged for the amount they listen to, so if they bail on it 30 seconds in you’re not forking over the full amount.

I chose 4 curators for “Dawn“. I received my first review very quickly—within a day—which was great! Another criticism comes up here though. My reviewer suggested I get a “radio plugger” (a term I’d never heard before), and said that if I needed some suggestions he could help. I did need suggestions but it was unclear how I was supposed to communicate this to him. I initially reached out on Twitter; no response. I then noticed that I could rate the review and leave feedback. This was a neat, if hidden, little gem because it allowed me to see how the curator shared my content (if they did), and how much time was spent with the track so I could tell if they actually listened to the whole thing or not. I was able to leave my thoughts about the review, and I tried asking for more information on radio pluggers here. Still no response. Finally I waded through his previous reviews and saw that he had said much the same to a lot of other people, and in some cases had gone ahead and listed the names of the radio pluggers he recommended, so I was able to get that info. The lack of a way to communicate with your curator is a difficult barrier. I understand the reason for it—certainly curators don’t want artists bombarding them with personal requests and inquiries—but it’s frustrating to be offered more info and have no way to get it.

The second review took a lot longer to come, and the other 2 never came at all. That is also frustrating. I’d love to know why the curator didn’t listen to my submission. I don’t know if they thought it sucked and didn’t want to bother, or if they were too busy.

Fluence is a pretty cool tool, especially if you put a decent amount of time into learning about the curators before you submit your content. My next go around I’m going to experiment with building an actual list and working from that. Fluence will be my scalpel, and Audiokite my hammer.

So, I’ve shared my experience. Do you have any experiences with crowd-reviewing sites (or Fluence) to share? Do you think services like these are worthwhile?

Keeping My Nose Clean on Social Media

twitter comment

Whenever I’m on Twitter I scan the list of trending topics to see if there’s anything interesting going on that I might want to engage in. Often I see a name or subject with which I’m unfamiliar and I’ll click it and read the related tweets to understand what’s going on. I saw “David Blatt” was trending, and so I clicked out of curiosity. It didn’t take me long to get the gist of it: he was the head coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers (my hometown basketball team actually), he was just fired, it was unusual and had a lot of people upset and confused. I don’t follow basketball so it didn’t really ping my interest, and I was this close to hitting the “back” button when the above tweet caught my eye.

Here are the things I found wrong with this tweet, in no particular order:

  1. The weird jump to link to this something racial. Do you know someone who is constantly stretching to make unrelated things “prove” their point of view? Yeah, that.
  2. The “woo lordy”. Some might see this and go, “What? What’s the big deal?” I see it and see a dude mocking black people. I don’t think white dudes tend to go around saying “woo lordy” in sincerity. Really.

Now I could give this dude the benefit of the doubt but his Twitter account is littered with all kinds of ‘tard language— “Bradytard” (as in Tom Brady), Kobetards (as in Kobe Bryant); he says things like “No white players. SMH I’m sick of my people being discriminated against.” (in regards to the NBA All-Star games); and he called some other dude a “cowardly faggot”.

I read this tweet, read up on this guy, and debated. Do I reply to his tweet and tell him how shitty his comment was? Do I quote retweet and say how shitty it was, albeit indirectly? Do I create a tweet that mentions his comments but not his name? Or do I just move on and let it go? Then I remembered something that I had learned a long time ago (a long time ago being like, maybe a year or so ago). When I decided to be serious about my music career, I started researching using social media as a musician: the best ways to get followers, how to tweet or post about, what to tweet or post about. One piece of advice stuck out. I’m gonna paraphrase, but it was essentially this: Don’t get involved in contentious, polarizing, or controversial topics. Maybe one day when you have 10K followers and are famous…maybe then you can be opinionated about something other than music. Until then, you can’t afford to alienate any of the 300 followers you have.

What happens if I respond directly to this guy? Given his track record, he fires back and says something nasty. Maybe he even takes a pot shot at me about my music. Maybe his followers decide to dogpile me because mob mentality rules online. Now I have a bunch of unwanted, negative attention on my social media account. Not a good look, Stevie. mouth-shut

So I close Twitter and move on.

The problem with this approach is that it feels like I’m not being myself—not being true to myself. I don’t mean that I want to go around trolling people and engaging in Twitter wars, but it seems so wrong to not be able to be vocal about the things I support and talk about the things that matter to me for fear of alienating a small fan base—or worse, gaining the wrong kind of attention. This guy was a small nothing, and even if I weren’t trying to amass followers for my career it was probably best not to engage because nothing good would have come of it. But what about Big Somethings? What about issues that I care about?

The funny thing is there are some issues that are “safe” because they don’t polarize people as much. I can go on a tirade about factory farming, or complain about the lack of Rey toys in the Star Wars line, but if I chime in on the Oscars thing or come out swinging for Bernie Sanders? Look out, especially if it’s a trending topic. Charlotte Rampling was hot the other day because of her take on the Oscars thing. If I chimed in calling her a racist, someone would have lit into me. If I chimed in defense of her, someone else would have lit into me. It takes nothing to have people circling the wagons on you. One day Linda Perry was trending because she said Lady Gaga didn’t deserve an Oscar nod for “Til It Happens To You” because she didn’t actually write it. It was apparently a well-known fact that Diane Warren had written it and Lady Gaga had simply…added to it in some way. Lady Gaga herself acknowledged that the song was pretty much done by the time she’d gotten her hands on it. It seemed pretty petty and weird to me that Linda Perry would bother to go all in on Lady Gaga about this, and so I responded to an @Huffpostgay tweet asking what people thought:

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Seemed innocent enough, and I was serious. I wanted to know what motivated Linda Perry to go on a mini-rant on Twitter about this. Next thing I know I have two random people (one a Gaga “Monster” and another a Linda Perry fan I guess) having a little back and forth with my name in the mentions. They must have been all of 13. Seriously, one of them started out their response by calling someone “dummy”. I’m unsure whether it was me or the other person, but you get the idea. Can you imagine if this had been in response to a question about the Black Lives Matter movement?

So, as a small independent musician I keep my mouth shut and pretend like I have no opinions on hot button topics i the hopes of not offending anyone and hurting my burgeoning career. I’m excited for the day that I am so famous that this becomes my way of life.

gardenoffucks

j/k

-Stevie

SoundCloud: The Road Ahead

ILLUSTRATION - The Soundcloud app runs on an iPad in Berlin, Germany, 17 March 2014. Photo by: Ole Spata/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

ILLUSTRATION – The Soundcloud app runs on an iPad in Berlin, Germany, 17 March 2014. Photo by: Ole Spata/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

SoundCloud has not often been, in my opinion, the kind of music service that people wrote articles about. I thought of SoundCloud as a place where creators without “homes” (no labels, no A&R, no fame) went to share their music. Before the CDBabies and Distrokids and Reverbnations of the world made it possible via the push of a button (and a nominal fee) to put your music on the same platforms as “The Big Artists”, SoundCloud was where you sent people when you wanted to share your songs. At least, this was how saw the service. Over the last year though SoundCloud has been in the news quite often, and not necessarily for good reasons. There were licensing issues. On Twitter I saw rumblings from DJs and Producers about the Berlin-based company taking down remixes and such that they’d done due to copyright problems. There was talk of ads and changes being made that would hurt the little musician. And frankly, my own experiences with it made me question whether or not I really understood what the service was about.

When I first started putting And Then There Was One content on SoundCloud I had every intention of interacting with the SoundCloud “community”. I made it a point once a week (on New Music Monday, which is now New Music Friday) to listen to new tracks in the categories of music I was most interested in, like Alternative Rock and Indie. I noticed a trend though. Week after week I would see some pretty well-known names popping up in the list. I can’t tell you how often a Chris Brown song would show up. It disappointed me because my intention was to use the service as a means of discovering random independent musicians—the little names. I was truly in it for the discovery and it wasn’t cooperating.

Fan Art: Robot Devil by dover19 from sodahead.com

Fan Art: Robot Devil by dover19 from sodahead.com

Now, after settling its issues with PRS, this NY Times article comes out announcing that SoundCloud has reached a deal with Universal Music Group. For what? Apparently so that they can join the already crowded field of music streaming services and offer content from people who already have content everywhere else. With the coming launch of a paid subscription-type service, it also gives labels the ability to put some content behind a paywall, making it exclusive content for subscribers only. From a that same NY Times article:

In an interview, Michael Nash, Universal’s executive vice president for digital strategy, said that the new deal would give Universal the freedom and control to experiment with SoundCloud, including making some material available only to paying subscribers.

It seems like SoundCloud is kind’ve a victim of its own success. Google the history of SoundCloud and you’ll find a lot of stories about how the service started as a place for creators to share their content, collaborate, and connect with fans and peers more readily. Features like the ability to comment at a certain section of a track are unique, or to add your tunes to a group (such as adding your songs to a Boston-centric group if you’re from Boston) are part of what makes SoundCloud such a great place to release music. Pressure from investors to make money and legal issues with content that isn’t always properly licensed (like mashups and remixes and covers) means a change in model.

It will be interesting to see what path SoundCloud takes. I honestly think there are so many streaming applications and services out there that another one is simply unnecessary. What could SoundCloud offer subscribers that other services don’t? What’s going to happen to the little folks as the labels get more involved? I went to SoundCloud today and checked out the Most Played Tracks across all genres for the week. Here were the top 5 musicians:

  1. “Real Friends” Kanye West
  2. “Wonderful” by Travis Scott (feat. The Weeknd)
  3. Another song by The Weeknd
  4. Fetty Wap
  5. Kevin Gates

The only name i didn’t recognize was Kevin Gates, and a quick Google showed me that the it’s likely only because I don’t follow hip hop. I’ve also noticed a propensity for the same names (especially record labels) to show up multiple times on a list. And for the first time since I started using SoundCloud, I got an ad.

I started using SoundCloud because I’d heard that it was a great, free mechanism through which I could quickly and easily release music—and get feedback as well. I recently threw up a pretty shoddy demo to test out a new song I’m working on. I wouldn’t put something like that up on Bandcamp or Reverbnation, and while I could put it here the commenting engine isn’t nearly as robust as SoundCloud’s. I also truly enjoyed being able to discover musicians. Through SoundCloud I found the likes of NoMBe, Kotomi, Dum Dum Girls, and Battles. I haven’t used SoundCloud for new music discovery in forever because I was so discouraged that the top plays usually belonged to established labels and artists.

I’m interested to hear how others feel about SoundCloud and where it’s going. Leave your thoughts in the comments section!

Peace,
Stevie

 

Switching Gears: New Pedals

I have been on an absolute tare over the last month or so with gear. I was kind’ve feeling the need for a gear refresh after I moved out of solo/acoustic performances and into a full band configuration, but I was trying to be practical and balance my desire for something new with the necessity for something new. I didn’t want to go out and plunge into debt for a lark, and I wanted to be sure that I knew why I was buying something.

Mustang iii amp

Mustang iii amp

I’d been playing out of a Fender Mustang iii for years with a good deal of success and having a ton of fun with the presets. Two thing bugged me though: 1) I was relying solely on the presets and not taking the time to orchestrate a sound of my own, which meant I wasn’t really familiar with what the the effects I used did, or bothering to tinker with them at all, and 2) switching between presets during songs caused the amp to cut out for a second. It was quick but definitely noticeable, specifically on a song I wrote called “One of These Days”.

I found out that it was possible to play external effects through the amp and that helped me to decide on exactly what kind of gear refresh I needed. I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on a brand new amp if the one I was using worked fine, so instead I decided to start experimenting with different effects. The best part was that even if I didn’t use the built-in effects on the Mustang, I still had access to a few different amp styles, so it wasn’t as if I was going to be ignoring all of the features of the modeling amp, which would seem like a huge waste.

Now, I had very little experience with pedals. The only pedal I’ve ever owned was a Boss distortion pedal, a Mega Distortion MD-2 that I’ve had for years and hardly used. I didn’t really know much about what else was out there, so to get I started I relied on forums, details about the presets I used most on the Mustang, and this little video by Steve Vai.

With that in mind I tried out a few different pedals at Guitar Center and wound up buying the following:

The links I provided for these various pedals are simply the first hits from a Google search. I started off trying to purchase at Guitar Center but a computer flub (wherein I was prevented from using my GearCard) meant I couldn’t purchase right then and there. I next tried to hit some local shops (you know, support local businesses and all) but only two places within a 20-mile radius actually sold pedals. One place only sold Boss pedals (and only about 10 different models to boot) so the only thing I walked out of there with was a One-Spot and the tuner. The second place wanted $90 for a pedal I could get for $50 online. I wound up going through Sweetwater and Amazon to get the pedals I wanted.

Most of my choices were spot on for the first time out of the gate. I regretted the DS-1 though because it was ridiculously noisy and weak-sounding. I researched a ton of other distortion pedals but ultimately wound up hooking up my old Mega Distortion. It’s surprisingly beefy compared to the DS-1, and not quite as noisy. I also bit the bullet and bought a Pedaltrain Nano+ to organize my pedals. I played one show without one, and was a little dismayed at how difficult it was trying to wrap up my pedals while the next band was rushing to get set up. This is what my board looks like right now:

Pedaltrain Nano+ Setup

Pedaltrain Nano+ Setup

It’s a smidge crowded. I have to replace the wired pedal connectors with the little straight and offset couplers to get a little breathing room. Not pictured here is the Dunlop CryBaby Wah pedal I bought as an afterthought. Still haven’t figured out exactly how/where to use it, but I know I want the sound somewhere. Also not pictured is the Fulltone OCD Overdrive pedal I purchased and have to send back. I tried this out at Guitar Center and loved but, but didn’t realize it was an overdrive pedal and not a distortion pedal, so when I was looking for something to replace the DS-1 I bought one of these. Imagine my surprise when I figured out that the Mooer Hustle Drive was actually a knock-off of the OCD. I definitely don’t need two of those on my board!

I’ve reached a place where I’m pretty happy with my sound through these pedals for my solo stuff. I haven’t had a chance to see how it translates to the stuff that I do with Six Times Seven; we haven’t been rehearsing much because our drummer decided he was done with it. I do find that a little bit of phaser goes a long way, and I’m wondering if a flange wasn’t more what I wanted/needed. Also I’m digging the combo of the MD-2 with the Mooer kicked on for a little extra oomph during solos, but the MD-2 is still pretty screechy when the volume is high. I’m still learning my way around the levels and such as well, and trying to find out how to get them all set up so that clean or distorted don’t drop out when switching—something I found out is called “gain staging”. Im enjoying the learning process though, and I have to admit that I like more finer-grained control the pedals give me over the presets, like being able to keep the exact same sound and just dropping the Phaser out during a section. I could do this on the Mustang, but it would require setting up two presets, and again switching between them would still have that small but noticeable delay. Overall I’m pretty pleased with my purchases so far!

Scott Weiland’s Ex-Wife Has Some Words For Fans

From metalsucks.net

From metalsucks.net

Core came out when I was in high school, and it was one of the most influential “grunge-era” albums for me. There was something so visceral and gritty about it in comparison to the other fare of the time, even within that same genre. Nirvana spoke to my malaise and discontent; L7 was empowering to me as a young girl. Stone Temple Pilots though…that was like “adult” grunge. I still remember watching Scott Weiland slink through the video for “Sex Type Thing”, bare-chested and dangerous.

I’ll admit that I haven’t been as much of a fan of their later stuff, nor of Weiland’s solo efforts really. Purple was by far my favorite album of theirs, and Tiny Music… was the last thing I ever bought. They had all but slipped out of my mind by the time Shangri-La Dee Da came out, and I also wasn’t a fan of Velvet Revolver. Still, when I learned of Scott Weiland’s passing I paused and reflected and felt genuine sorrow. Another from an impressive pool of talented men who stormed on the scene in the 90s met his end. It was cardiac arrest, but it’s no stretch of the imagination that drugs had a hand in an outcome like that for a dude that young. His struggles with drug addiction were well-known even to someone like me who had ceased following his career.

I took to the internet to express my sorrow with countless others and that was that until a post showed up in my Facebook newsfeed. It was a letter from Weiland’s 2nd wife, Mary Forsberg Weiland, that Rolling Stone had shared. My friends—most of them female—praised the letter and I went to read it, expecting some touching, poignant remembrance.

As you may know by now, it wasn’t exactly that. It was an angry, regretful, sometimes bitter clearing of the air, and it’s main takeaway was “Don’t glorify this.” I had mixed feelings about the letter and had to read it multiple times to sort myself out. I deliberately didn’t read the comments (although I’m usually unable to stop myself from wading into that trainwreck) because I anticipated that a lot of what I’d read would be people haranguing her for not sticking to the script. Ultimately that’s what her letter was about though, how we glorify the bad boy rock’n’roll lifestyle, simultaneously saying, “He needs to get some help” while pouring through pictures of the wild behavior and craving more tales of debauchery and craziness. Look at Charlie Sheen, for Pete’s sakes. That dude made an entire second career out of going off the rails, and in between soundbites of celebs and fans spouting the same trite words of encouragement for help, he did a successful tour, went on talk shows, fronted magazines, and sold sold sold.

I get what she means, you know? Reading her letter I immediately thought about the statement put out by his ex-band mates in Stone Temple Pilots:

“You were gifted beyond words, Scott. Part of that gift was part of your curse.”

It struck me that that sentiment reads like we’ve come to expect creativity and genius to be tied in to instability and sickness; that his illnesses are part of what made him so good and was a necessary evil for him to be creatively successful. I’m not saying that’s what they meant, but when we glorify the artists in this way, tying their talent and success in with their demons, it does seem to say that this is inevitable, part and parcel. It feeds into this archetype of rock star as a damaged, tragic creature.

From her letter:

“Let’s choose to make this the first time we don’t glorify this tragedy with talk of rock and roll and the demons that, by the way, don’t have to come with it.”

Clearly this is the idea she’s fighting against too. Is it a valid point? Is this really a problem? Consider this: while searching for a pic to use for this blog post I came across this website called MetalSucks and an article about what Scott Weiland and STP meant to the writer. This is a quote from that post:

“How much of Weiland’s appeal can be linked to his ongoing struggle with addiction? How much of his success and the attention he got was because of the trainwreck element? On Weiland and the band’s own merits and talents I think they would’ve certainly done quite well for themselves, but Weiland’s off-stage shenanigans probably amplified their success. We’ll never know for certain.

This much I do know: whatever caused Weiland’s demons is the same thing that gave rise to his monstrous talent. Take those away and he would’ve been just another rock n’ roll dude. Such is the tale of so many rockstars who died way too young: Hendrix, Morrison, Joplin, Cobain, Brockie and on and on.”

This is pretty much what she’s talking about for a good portion of her letter. Not only is the writer considering that his off-stage antics were part of what made him and his band interesting, but also that his talent stems from his troubles. Without them, he’d have been just another mediocre rockstar. For that reason alone I support what she’s saying and double down with a “Hear, hear!”. I’m heartened that at least one person in the comments called him out on it: “I’ll go you one further and state that by perpetuating the stupid stereotype of the ‘mad/sick genius’ you are dissing actual talent and glorifying drug abuse, you utter twat.”

The parts of her letter that didn’t sit well with me were the perceived culpability of fans and others around him.

You might ask, “How were we to know? We read that he loved spending time with his children and that he’d been drug-free for years!” In reality, what you didn’t want to acknowledge was a paranoid man who couldn’t remember his own lyrics and who was only photographed with his children a handful of times in 15 years of fatherhood.

I’m not exactly sure what insight fans were supposed to have into his relationship with his children, and how we were supposed to change our behavior if we had it. There’s a really palpable anger in the letter that seems to be largely directed towards his fans and industry peeps on behalf of her children. As a mother there’s a level at which I can understand being angry at what essentially amounted to an absent parent, but blaming the industry and his fans for that absenteeism isn’t really honest. In the end it seems she’s angriest (most disappointed?) about the fact that we did not know him as a person, only as a rock star and an idol, and that we preferred him struggling.

I can’t imagine how hard it’s been for Mary Forsberg Weiland, Noah, and Lucy—both before Scott’s death and after. I don’t agree with the blame she lies at the feet of his fans, but I can understand her message of not accepting that this is the status quo, of not buying into the tragic rock star thing. You don’t have to be troubled, or addicted to drugs or suffering mental illness to shine brightly. There is no glory in that, it is not laudable, and it’s little consolation to the people who love you when it catches up to you. We as fans aren’t responsible for knowing what’s going on in the personal lives of our idols—like knowing for example what Scott’s sobriety status really was or what other mental struggles he had—but we can stop glorifying the tragic rock star image and buying into the idea that this is “normal” and some sort of rockstar litmus test.

You can read the entirety of her letter here if you haven’t already.

RIP Scott Weiland.

Club Bohemia: Debut for My Band

I’m so excited! Last night at Club Bohemia And Then There Was One played with more than one! There were three in this band in fact!

We played an 8 o’clock show at Club Bohemia, a little sub-venue downstairs at the Cantab Lounge. It was quite an eclectic show. We were up first with my brand of kinda alt-rock with a hint of pop. We’ve practiced 3-4 times with a huge week-long break between our last practice and this performance due to some scheduling issues, so there was some concern about how we’d pull this off. I’m pleased to say that we did a nice job. There were mistakes of course, but I was impressed with the way we communicated during the songs and managed to swerve back on course. I feel like it was the kind of synergy that a band that’s been playing together for a long time has.

Rollo Tomasi Quartet

They’re a jazz quartet and apparently regulars at Club Bohemia who play there once a month. They were quite impressive. I’m not a big fan of jazz but these guys were fun to watch, especially Jim Frey, the drummer. He has this small, low kit that he wails on, and his solos are kind’ve mind-blowing. Their entire swing was engaging because there were hints of other genres in there. Sometimes they’d get into a straight 4/4 rock groove, then switch into an R&B groove, then seem to lose any real hint of rhythm as everyone took their solos and went nuts, and then slide right back into that jazz feel. Here’s an example from another night at the same club.

Ghost Cats

They were a heavy rock band that my friend described as having “elements of Rage Against the Machine and arena rock”. Their sound is big, and their songs are epic; lots of sections and changes. The lead singer is a tall man, and he didn’t have a ton of room onstage to move so at first he seemed a little restrained. Towards the end he came off the stage and danced and thrashed in the audience and really livened things up! This is one of the songs they performed (although the footage is from a different venue).

Baeja Vu

Let me just say that when we went on at 8 there wasn’t much of a crowd. A few friends had shown up, a few members of the other bands were hanging around, but that was it. When the Rollo Tomasi Quartet went on the room started to fill. By the time Ghost Cats were on it felt like a bustling Saturday venue. There were a lot of college-aged people there, and it had a very different feel. here was energy and build-up in the air. It felt like people were actually there to see and enjoy music. When Baeja Vu went on it was as if someone lit a match to a stack of tinder. Suddenly everyone was on their feet, moving to the stage to get closer. I could have been at a big name concert instead of the basement of the Cantab. There were like seven people crammed on that tiny stage: drummer, guitarist, bassist, dude playing soprano sax and clarinet, keyboard player, and 2 frontmen. One dude was like a rapper or something, and the other was the hook dude. Their style of music was like hip-hop/soul/funk. They did a Jamiroquai cover if that gives you any indication, and if that doesn’t then how about the fact that the chorus of their first song said something like, “Fuck me I’m lonely.”. It was a feel good party band, and the crowd loved them. They announced that it was their first show, but I just don’t see how that could be given the turnout (these people were clearly here to see this band, not randos that wandered off the street) and the fact that folks in the audience were literally singing along with them.

But…

Nothing comes up when Googling them. Zero info. No SoundCloud, no Facebook. Nada. I can’t find a thing about them. So there’s that.

It was a great night and a very good debut for us! Club Bohemia was different than I remembered it, but I’d love to be back…and maybe in a later slot lined up right before some big-drawing band like a Beija Vu. I’m looking forward to playing more shows and building our tribe!

Songwriting : Lesson 4

The Lesson

Last lesson we covered rhyming, so it makes sense that this lesson would go into rhythm.

We started off with a description of how to determine line length. Line length is determined by the number of stressed syllables. Stressed syllables are syllables with a higher pitch than the others. It’s kind’ve intuitive as it follows the natural cadence of normal speech. For example, in the sentence “Magnets, industrial strength magnets” the syllables “mag”, “dus”, and “mag” are stressed. “Do you dream of them at night?” has the stress on “dream” and “night”.

Multi-syllable words have obvious delineations when considering stressed vs. non-stressed syllables, but where is the stress in single syllable words? It depends on the job or function of the word. If the word is a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb it is considered stress. This is partly why the words “dream” and “night” in the second sentence from paragraph one are stressed. Single-syllable words that perform a grammatic function —articles, conjunctions, prepositions, and personal pronouns for example— are not stressed.

So what does this have to do with songwriting? Well, the idea is to craft your lyric rhythm to match your melodic rhythm. You want your stressed syllables to fall on your stressed beats. Melodic rhythm is the arrangement of your syllables without considering any actual chords or melodies. You’re just trying to match the rhythm, the beat.

The Assignment

For this assignment we were to either use a drum sample from the provided library or come up with rhythmic accompaniment of our own against which to speak or sing our lyrics, and to rewrite the lyrics and use different words in order to make the lyric rhythm match the melodic rhythm. This is what I came up with for “Bad Neighbor”. I found this assignment a little challenging because my time signature wasn’t standard, so figuring out where I wanted or needed the stressed syllables to fall within a measure was a little difficult. This is what I came up with.

Note: I decided to sing this, and this is a very rough draft. I was under a time crunch and pretty much just tried to throw this together using my laptop and its built-in mic, so not only is the sound quality crap, my vocals are off-key and not very inspiring. The end product will be much improved.

When I think of the blues, the first thing that comes to mind is this scene from “Adventures in Babysitting”:

God, I love that movie, and Elisabeth Shue is so adorably awkward.

Anyway, let me clear my head, because the blues, real blues, is what Scott Colesby brings to the table.

Scott Colesby is the man behind the alt/delta blues project So-Called Someone. A resident of New Orleans, Scott’s voice and playing embody everything I imagine the blues to be, not being a connoisseur of the genre myself. His voice is pure grit and growl, and he has a masterful way of playing guitar that makes it look effortless. Scott’s also very prolific—you can catch him doing Concert Windows, impromptu “Beer and Blues” sessions on Periscope, an open mic in his home of NOLA, or filming his latest vlog. The dude is hitting the pavement to get his name out there.

Scott recently released a four-song EP called “To Hell Or New Orleans”, which I believe was recorded entirely on his iPad. Two of the tracks have additional instrumentation in the form of drums, while the other two are just him and guitar. The EP is impressive, especially for being a DIY project, but I can tell you from experience that his live performance is where it’s at. If you ever have a chance to see him and experience his stomping feet in person, I’d do it. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a little something.

Links
http://www.socalledsomeone.com/
https://www.facebook.com/socalledsomeone
https://www.youtube.com/user/SoCalledSomeone/videos