Thursday, June 30, 2011

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The UK / Life Advice For

So here's the deal: Every time we go to mainland Europe we get in some shit. It always ends with someone threatening me, either with violence or with the vague menace of being labeled "uncool" forever. So we decided to take a break from the part of Euroland where people are hard to understand and revisit the part where they (sort of) speak English. We're headed to England for the first time in a minute and will be joined by our friends in Tigers Jaw. Should be fun.

December 28-January 11, we'll be in jolly ol' and doing our best to sidestep being stabbed by hooligans. I'm most looking forward to Ireland. Never played there, but I like anyplace where I feel like the most handsome man in the room and that's how I've always felt in Ireland.

28 Dec. Canterbury, UK @ The Chantry Social Club
29 Dec. Kingston, UK @ The Fighting Cocks
30 Dec. Bury St Edmunds, UK @ Old Maltings
31 Dec. Secret Show
01 Jan. London, UK @ Purple Turtle
01 Jan. Southampton, UK @ Joiners
03 Jan. Stoke, UK @ Harry’s Bar
04 Jan. Leeds, UK @ The Well
05 Jan. Edinburgh, UK @ Studio 24
06 Jan. Glasgow, UK @ 13th Note
07 Jan. Dublin, Ireland @ Mercantile
08 Jan. Huddersfield, UK @ Sleepers Bar
09 Jan. Manchester, UK @ Kro Bar
10 Jan. Norwich, UK @ The Marquee

Shifting gears, since getting a Twitter account we've noticed that most of you don't understand that the internet is a social situation. Instead, many of you treat it like a bathroom with a closed door. So here's a quick tutorial on how to use the Internet in a less embarrassing way.

Friday, August 20, 2010


"Branding is a t-shirt." Several times this past week I've visited the home of the branding expert I mentioned in an earlier blog post. I assisted in crafting a licensing strategy for a children's brand my company had entered into business with. The branding guy repeated "branding is a t-shirt" several times during our meetings. I laughed a little each time.

Shirts are bullshit. They are the sad efforts of a baby to stand out from other babies. And, for that reason, they are perfect branding tools. T-shirts proudly display what you lack in life. They announce your personal brand to the world by co-opting the logo of a like brand. If you're wearing a Behemoth shirt, we can safely assume that you resent attractive people. If you're wearing a Marilyn Manson/Slipknot/ICP shirt, it's clear you don't have a father, or you don't have a father that doesn't molest you when drunk. If you're wearing a Lady Gaga shirt we understand you lack the filter that distills good taste from mass appeal. T-shirts are how you cut to the chase. Why have a conversation with someone who doesn't share your interests when you can fly a flag to attract only those in your tribe?

As a band, we've resisted t-shirts as a marketing tool. We don't put much effort into our "look" as people and it seemed corny to put effort into what would ultimately be other people's looks. We make them to put gas in the tank for tours, but anyone who owns one can tell you- they are functional and nothing more. They typically feature a photo of the band. Always seemed reasonable to me because that's what bands do- be bands. Putting an image of other shit on a band shirt enforces the persona the band is trying to generate. I had always sort of hoped we didn't need a persona. A branding expert would say that's foolish as hell, and I would have to concede that point to him now that I know better. But I still can't see fit to craft an image using a product I only use to wipe cum off my belly. So our shirts have gone up in quality, but they will likely always retain the following message "you are buying this because you like the band. No one will think you are cooler or more interesting for purchasing this item. You could wear a blank shirt and just give us $12 if you want to cut to the core of this whole thing."

Mike at Hellfish asked us if we'd be interested in doing a webstore. I tried to convince him that we don't sell many shirts and it may not be worth his time. But he likes what we do and we appreciate that. So here we go. I like this shit. I may like it more without our name on it, but this is how it works. "Branding is a t-shirt."

Friday, August 13, 2010

You're Doing It Wrong.

First, for those of you complaining that the Caroline Corrigan download didn't work, check these.
Read the previous post for some background on those.

Ok, now onto something else. Here's some advice from the heart. We're trying to make the world a better place. I understand sometimes we can be a little snarky or seem mean-spirited, but try taking a broad view and realize we're looking out for everyone here. Shitty bands with poor etiquette don't just make my touring life harder, they make all our lives suck balls. This year Attack Attack will have better attendance at their shows than almost any legit band you can name. This is your fault. Bands and audience have failed utterly. The genres you hold so dear are dying because you did it wrong. You who thought it was appropriate to put 6 bands on a bill. You who don't care about your bass tone because "this is punk." You who are more interested in being ON a stage instead of what you're DOING there. You failed and you suck.

But there's still time to change, if not for the sake of dead genres, than at least for your own sense of responsibility. To that end, here's some advice.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Value of Teamwork.

Something we talk about a lot within this band is how the expectations of people outside bands somehow transmute the inner-workings of a band. It's funny that it works that way, because if you extrapolate the concept from the specifics and apply it elsewhere you can see how detrimental it is. A 5 year-old has an expectation of a rocket. Now imagine the rocket scientist father of that 5 year-old started to bend his designs to fit the expectations of his son. That's how bands operate. They bend their design to fit the listenership. It doesn't always have to be a sound either. Sometimes they keep the same haircut their entire careers because their persona is tied to it and that persona is now expected of them. Sometimes they pursue a musical direction for several albums before they realize that they were only doing it because the music press seemed to want them to.

That shit is beneath us. We're musicians, of a sort, and music isn't for fraud-ass cowards afraid to break the expectations of others. It's for big-dick swinging assholes who are confident they know what's best and only pursue ideas that excite them. To that end, we're throwing away the idea of a band as a concrete form. Please don't look for a classic line-up from us. We don't care about that shit. Take that Gainesville "friends forever" nonsense and pound it up your ass. I couldn't get in a van with some scumbag I didn't like; it's a given I'm friends with my bandmates. But if the ONLY purpose of the band is to be tight bros til death- please start a bowling team instead. Tight bros will be there when you get home. You can smoke weed by the powerlines or whatever the shit you do together when you get off tour. Being in a band is about making music. So to that end, we're expanding our definition of ourselves. End of a Year Self Defense Family is a group of collaborators who use the EOAY banner to express ideas they think are appropriate for it. Some of us work entirely independently from the others with no simultaneous collaboration. For example, we have a well-regarded house musician remixing some of our tracks now. He's a member. Some of us aren't even musicians in the traditional sense of the word. Gee Vaucher was an artist for Crass. She is a member of Crass. Likewise, not everyone in EOAY needs to be playing the triangle on stage to be important.

If you need to look at it any sort of way, think of it like The Avengers. There are close to 100 members of that organization, active, inactive, and MIA. It gets a little confusing until someone yells "Avengers Assemble!" at which point it becomes very clear.

Caroline Corrigan is a member. She has her own band and her own projects that need her attention full-time, but she's an EOAY reservist. We recorded some of our songs with her vocals in place of mine as a fun exercise and a trial run for our upcoming duets record. The results have gotten mixed reviews. Most people love it and suggest it clarifies the intent of the original recordings by showing where melody SHOULD have gone. Other people think it properly shits on my voice and undermines my value as a "vocalist." Here's how I feel: We're not a well-established band, even in the scene we play in. I know that. But EOAY has been playing music for longer than most people realize and my contributions to that, past, present, and future are not something I question. If someone who hates my voice hears Caroline's or Tom Sheehan's (look for that soon) in place of it and loves it- it doesn't wound me. I've always wanted this band to sound good above all else and if there was a means for me to project my passion for the project into a person with talent, I would do that.

The above probably read like someone describing a dream. That is to say, boring and lacking application to your life. Enough already. Let's cut to some new music. Caroline singing my words and doing a very lovely job:
Pass it around.

Look forward to future collaborations, both with Caroline and with the dozen other members of EOAY SDF who each offer some weird shit to our increasingly weird idea of a band.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Pioneering Mysterious Guy Indie

A large part of my job is writing marketing strategies. Some of the time I'm just there to correct language, other times I'm relied upon for content generation and new ideas. As anyone who reads my posts here can tell you, I'm no more than a novice copywriter. I'm even more green in the world of marketing. It's something that interests me, but only in the same eyebrow-raising, "that's sort of neat" way what marine biology or Korean pop music does. I don't have any desire to make it my life. But it is my job and, as I spend a large amount of my time working, I resolve to be as good at it as I can.

This week was educational. I spent it in a small, but beautifully decorated, Huntington Beach home working alongside a man who considers branding his life. If you aren't familiar with that term, good for you. It's a word that people use to cull those who don't know from those who know. It's jargon, and all jargon is built to establish exclusivity. Branding is the creation of an identity for a product, service, company, or person. It can start with the birth of a logo or "brand." More and more often, it starts with esoteric idea mapping that has more in common with new age spirituality than simple mission statements or trademarks.
If you've played a role-playing game with a character-generation element, you've had experience at the current idea of branding. You've been forced to ask yourself what separates your character from other characters and ask yourself why the world needs your character. Then you delved into the basic elements of branding: you designed a unique look for your character based on the traits of his/hers you'd like to advertise to the world. Just take that approach and apply it to grape soda and you understand branding. In a way, the concept of branding is in your genes. If you grew up in the Western world, you inherently understand branding the same way you understand three-act structure. It's so much of what you encounter, it feels inborn.

The man I spent the week studying under is good at his craft. He's part of a company that has managed to sell a very simple idea as an exclusive brand. Some of you reading this likely have some of their products in your closet. While I worked with him I did my best to absorb the strategies he'd propose and apply them to my personal ventures. My band, my comics, my persona. What became clear in short order was that so many of the bands appearing on people's radars are there because of clever branding. What also became clear is that I'm not built for it.

Let's take some of the key elements of branding and look at how bands have implemented them.
- A recognizable logo that conveys some of the feelings the brand is supposedly imbued with.
The best example of this is The Misfits' Crimson Ghost.
Appropriated from a from a horror film serial, the image carries exactly what the band hoped to convey: a lighthearted sort of danger.

The Social Distortion skeleton is similar. It's a death icon, but is instilled with a youthful "live fast, enjoy it" vibe.

The Integrity skull, pinched from a Kent Williams comic book cover, is much darker in tone, complimenting the band.
In each case, the listener (read: consumer) can infer something about the band before having heard them. This idea informs their listening experience and draws out characteristics that fit with their initial beliefs. That is to say, is the band creepy/cute/serious/etc because they are fully that thing OR because the listener believes they are before the music starts?

Another important branding tool that bands employ is a consistency of product. People coming to a new town will justify wanting to go to The Olive Garden over a local family-owned restaurant by saying, "I just want to know ahead of time what I'm getting." People don't want surprises. By and large, they want familiarity and franchises exploit that fear of the unknown by providing not just a like scenario, but an identical one. Fucked Up has used a consistent aesthetic (while, to their credit, changing their sound). The uniformity of the design elements on their records has given the band the appearance of meticulous planners, something they cultivate as part of their band persona.

This idea of consistency as a desirable trait is demonstrated in the use of genre names and record label specialization. "Grind" comes with a different set of expectations than "jazz" and only a fraction of that difference is musical. Actual musicians understand that genre has no bearing on what sounds good or sounds bad. But the average music consumer is not a musician. It's someone looking to align themselves with a tribe. They crave an identity and alienating music separates the listener (at least in his/her mind) from the dominant culture. Instant identity. "Hardcore kid" or "punk" or "deadhead" or "raver" or "juggalo" or a million others. More pop up at the convenience of advertisers, i.e. "shitgaze." It's all the same idea. People align themselves with a tribe and cultivate the persona that it allows for. Genres tell that group member what to extol or what to damn. It has almost nothing to do with music. Likewise with record labels. Ever wonder why they have very specific roles in the music world? Why one label only puts out metal and another only puts out pop punk? You don't actually think label people are one-dimensional cartoons only capable of liking one thing for the duration of their adult lives, do you? Labels maintain their identities because the culture of the label appeals to a tribe and the tribe becomes loyal consumers. It's risky for them to venture out of that because the people who align themselves with what the label has done up to that point will view change as a betrayal.

This is why it's so ridiculous to read people deny genres like "mysterious guy hardcore." To say it's made up is fine. So is punk, jazz, rock, reggae, electronic, and every other. There are just similarities used to group. It's up to the listener to determine if those similarities are such that they should be linked. But for many genres it has nothing to do with music and everything to do with branding. Mysterious guy hardcore is the ultimate expression of that. The fact that the people that listen to it are the first to deny it exists furthers the point. It's a means of talking about yourself without talking about yourself. "I AM NOT the most handsome man on Earth! I don't know why people keep saying that! It's crazy! Me? The most handsome man on the planet? Ha! No way!" Same idea as, "I don't know what you people are talking about. Mysterious guy hardcore isn't even a real thing. It's just hardcore. Maybe you forgot what real hardcore sounds like, that's why it's mysterious to you." Great branding tool. It has its limits because it relies on exclusivity and that reaches critical mass as soon as the REALLY uncool kid starts liking it, but in the meantime it's helping pay the rent of a couple manchildren label-heads.

Band branding crosses into personal branding when members search for visibility for non-band activities for the purposes of tying them to the band. This can be simple, like wearing ridiculous clothing or more involved, for example Courtney Love harassing Axl Rose on television or Pete Doherty's constant legal trouble. Punk music has a smaller platform for people to launch their band personas from, but evidence of this sort of branding is still everywhere. Every time you hear about a band punching someone in the audience or attacking a bouncer or inciting a riot, etc, ask yourself, "can I see this person doing this outside of a band context?" More often than not the reality is that they are not a crazed wildman and rather just a person who understands conflict = controversy = discussion = popularity. The most basic form of this is the "punk name." My name is Patrick Kindlon. Kindlon does not roll of my tongue well and I find myself repeating it when doing introductions, but otherwise it's an OK name. But Pat Servo might be better. Easier to remember; sexier. Maybe Patty Shitstorm would work even better. More dynamic; makes me appeal wild.

They write books about this shit. My friends that work at major labels are forced to read books on the topic and attend courses taught by branding experts. They're there to pick up skills in selling you a need. Some of them are very good at it.

I don't want anyone to read this and think that simply because I can't do something that I'm saying it's "wrong." That would be a strange word to use when talking about something with no moral repercussions. It's preference, pure and simple. Some people are comfortable marketing their band one way and others do it another. I respect anyone that is good at what they intend to do. Lungfish designed to make the best music I've ever heard, and they excelled at that. Marilyn Manson set out to sell black shirts to cutters. He's the best there ever was (sorry, Slipknot). What I've learned about myself over the past year is that I can't sell myself. I can sell any other product. I've sold products that don't compare to my band in terms of quality. My band is worth billions. But forcing people to agree with me on that idea isn't something I wish to spend my time doing. We have our little emblems and whatnot,
but they aren't adorning any beer coozies and I may be the only one with them tattooed on me. We act like normal adults trying to navigate life. We're piss-poor at trying to give off any vibe but "human." Consistency doesn't interest me at all. We'll write a ska record tomorrow if that's what suits us. Visually I might try to keep it somewhat consistent from now on. I like that part.

Someone might feel like I'm shitting on their band here or shitting on a fan for liking something. No. "I'm not judging you, I'm judging me." Knowledge makes some things uglier as it makes other things more beautiful. Learning about marketing has underlined something I guess I always knew: many of the decisions I believed to be artistic on the part of a band are marketing choices, whether they know it or not. Sometimes I respect it. I awe at someone who can enter into a punk band and have a plan with it. I was always just banging about making music. But someone else sees potential from the start. Whole of the moon. It's cool in a lot of ways. Just not where I'm at.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Steinbrenner / Jasta Connection.

As we spiral further into the world of indie rock and leave our friends with fudgey, unwashed, asses in hardcoreland behind, I know it's my responsibility to maintain a party line. I'm supposed to casually insert references to powerpop records I've never listened to and only reveal my punk origins when needed to maintain credibility. I have to employ euphemisms for aggressive music, things like "noisepunk" and "smartcore" and a dozen others. And never, ever, am I to mention actual hardcore or punk music that came after 1986.

I'm going to break from convention for a moment and hope that I'm let back in the indie rock club after this transgression (that club allows for nicer hospitality requests on our rider). This blog post is about men of vision. It's about men of singular purpose and unmatched efficiency. This post is about George Steinbrenner and Jamey Jasta.

The connection may not be immediately obvious, but any inspection reveals these men were cut from the same cloth. Their goals and the resources they used to achieve those goals may have been different, but that doesn’t matter. In fact, the goal is the least important detail. If Steinbrenner didn’t own the Yankees (current estimated worth: 1.6bn), he would have owned the Redskins, or the Heat, or Manchester United. If Jasta didn’t establish Hatebreed as one of the longer-running American hardcore/metal acts, he would have steered another group of Connecticut heshers to the same end.

What links these two is their drive and invulnerability to discouragement.

Think about how many times during your life you are told you “can’t.” There are things, you are taught from a young age, that are outside your grasp. “Those things are for someone else,” you’re told. “Have something else. Something smaller.” Now consider how that permeates your thinking. Even the rebels among us who are willing to defy that constant “can’t” still relegate their challenge to smaller goals. They’ll step on the lawn when told to keep off, but they never think to buy the property and own the lawn.

My band recently released a record. So far, it’s received mostly positive reviews. I’m sure it will receive a few negative ones. As an adult and as a confident person, I respond to criticism in what I consider a constructive way. I analyze it for truth and based on my findings, I take it into consideration or I disregard it. Ultimately, what the band does is idiosyncratic enough that, if I choose, I can wrap myself in the blanket of elitism. I can deflect a sharp word with “they just don’t get it!” This is why you have so many bands praised by new music media (read: blogs) simply for adding things like vocal distortion. To offer criticism of something considered even slightly different opens you up to accusations of “not getting it.” For spineless sycophants trying to forge an identity out of music culture (read: most people involved in music) there is no worse crime. They’d sooner admit to child molestation than admit the new INSERT INDIE BAND WITH ANIMAL NAME OR NOISE BAND WITH CLEVER NAME is just trying too hard. Jamey and George have both received more criticism than any man not running a nation is likely to get in this life. Both of them did things that are straightforward and easily grasped. They didn’t have the luxury of cloaking themselves in snobbery. Instead, they smashed criticism and hammered through the ranks of doubters. They said, “I know better, because I know better.” I can’t help but respect that. Most people are hamstrung by fear. They’ll sabotage any opportunity for advancement to avoid new responsibilities or criticisms.

Success hinges on your willingness to do more than the 7 billion other people who want the same thing. People looking to excuse their own failings will search out opportunities successful people had and cite the differences between their lives. They’ll say, “so-and-so was born rich” or “he just happened to be in the right place at the right time.” This won’t advance the person saying it and it won’t hurt the person they level the accusation against. It’s just air.

The reality is that men and women who want things tend to get things and those who don’t either died too soon or didn’t want them enough. Some of our goals will take us more than a lifetime and we enter into them knowing we’ll have to continue that struggle on the next plane of existence. That’s fine. A person who truly wants things doesn’t expect them immediately. George Steinbrenner probably wanted enough World Series rings for each of his grandchildren’s digits. Jamey Jasta probably wants to own Viacom for the purpose of playing Biohazard videos on primetime television. George didn’t get what he wanted and Jamey may not. But both men are/were in the hunt.

My father called me the other day to discuss the passing of the longtime Yankees owner. He said it hit him harder than he anticipated, almost like the loss of a family member. “I have two heroes,” he told me. “George Steinbrenner and Nelson Mandela.”

Below is some video taken from our live-in-the-studio recording for The Waiting Room, a production of Panda Studios and 12 Gauge Records. On their site, you can find mp3's of the recording. Expect some announcements and a special gift or two early next month.