The following is my response to this article that appeared in San Diego CityBeat (http://www.sdcitybeat.com/sandiego/article-12939-the-rise-and-fall-of-deadphones.html)
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Cuckoo Chaos made a series of bad decisions, decided they could no longer deal with the challenges of being a band, and then they gave up. So… why exactly do they get to “kick back in a cushy booth” at Turf Club while CityBeat slowly bumps its head on the bottom of the table?
I don’t blame them for quitting. Being a band is hard. It’s expensive. Your odds of “making it” are about as good as they are of becoming an astronaut or getting drafted by the Chargers. It’s pretty much impossible. Then, even if you do “make it”, it can be equally as difficult to turn your success into a viable way to support your life (food, rent, medical bills) in the long term, let alone your spouses and/or your children.
I take no issue with Cuckoo Chaos throwing in the towel. I applaud it even. Giving up the dream clears the way for more stable trajectories in life. Many great San Diego bands and musicians have followed a similar path, and in the end, it doesn’t take away from the music that was created and documented along the way.
What I do take issue with, is that this article is completely devoid of a critical look at some of the colossally horrible decisions this band made on their way to giving up. The lack of criticism became particularly troubling to me when a young up and coming musician friend of mine shared the article on facebook with the comment “everybody should read this”, like there are some great lessons to be learned from this slow reach around of a eulogy.
The article wants to leave you with the feeling that these guys reallllly deserved success, but they just tried too hard. They cared too much. Their intense passion and dedication did them in.
They spent years of blood, sweat, dollars and tears building up the name Cuckoo Chaos. They had a booking agent (a fancy one), label support, and a decent amount of fans that they earned one by one through a lot of hard work. Then they piss it all away because the singer broke up with his girlfriend and started listening to J Dilla? Face meet palm. I get it, we all get it… your feelings change, your outlook on life and music change, and suddenly you realize that you’re not the same person you were when you wrote those songs 4 years ago. But guess what, that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do to throw it all away and start over. Artistically it may feel like the right thing to do. Honesty in art is paramount. But when you’re trying to do the impossible, not being a dumbass is also important, really, really important.
The name change was a questionable move to say the least. If things weren’t “working” for Cuckoo Chaos, there were probably larger issues at play that can’t be solved with a simple rebranding. To their credit Deadphones is a way better band name, but still… they press the reset button and now they’re back at the starting line. So what do they do?They spend 10k on a record. Ten thousand dollars.
TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS.
As a studio owner, small label owner, and musician, I can tell you that 10k is absolutely not a “killer deal”. Ostensibly, Deadphones was a new band. A new band spending 10k on their first record is fucking delusional. If they had some kind of contract with their “powerhouse” booking agent, and/or their label, and/or another 10k saved up to hit the road for a few months, or something, ANYTHING guaranteeing they could hit the ground running and not be left out to dry… then a 10k recording budget could maybe, maybe be somewhat justified. Apparently, they’re stuck out in the cold holding the bill. That sucks. I feel for the dudes. They are good dudes that were in a good band that are now left with what I am guessing is a pile of credit card debt.
I’ve been there. Most of my friends have been there. These mistakes aren’t new. Unfortunately they are totally par for the course. The reality is they are really fun mistakes to make. Touring, making records, doing interviews, photo shoots, hanging out with Tim Pyles at the radio station, getting stoned at band practice, it’s all a fucking blast. That’s why we do it. It’s the siren song that has lead so many ships aground. It’s a calling that is impossible to pursue, and even harder to avoid.
Peter’s article did a great job of telling the story so many of us have experienced. Unfortunately it told it from the musicians perspective, which is inherently disconnected from reality. In our minds we are tortured artists up against the world. If we fail, we can come up with a million reasons why people just don’t get our revolutionary brand of retro-chillwave-electro-dance-pop-emo revival-grungecore.
In reality, while we may be following our hearts, and striving to create the most honest music we can, we need to be careful, and smart. Otherwise we are going to follow our hearts straight into financial ruin and imploded friendships.
To all the bands out there, be reckless with your creativity, not with your money. Come unhinged on stage, not at practice. Create the most painfully honest art that you can, but don’t be a dumbass. Be frugal, be nice to your bandmates, and cherish every nugget of momentum you amass like the validation of your dreams that it is.
It’s not gonna last forever, but fear not. If and when the magic is gone, send CityBeat an email and they’ll provide a nice puffy pillow on which you can lay your dreams to rest.